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General Jan 28, 2021 | 8:46 AMby Colin McGourty

Carlsen to play 5th World Championship in Dubai this November

Magnus Carlsen’s 4th defence of the World Chess Championship title he won from Vishy Anand in 2013 will be played in the Dubai Exhibition Centre from November 24 to December 16 this year. The 14-game match, with a 2 million euros prize fund, is set to be held as part of Expo 2020 Dubai, a 6-month international event showcasing exhibits by almost 200 countries that was postponed from 2020 to October 2021 due to the pandemic. Magnus Carlsen’s opponent is still unknown, with the Candidates Tournament expected to resume in April.

FIDE today confirmed earlier reports that the 2021 World Chess Championship match will be held in Dubai, UAE, as part of Expo 2020 Dubai. What’s new are the exact dates, November 24 - December 16, and the venue, the Dubai Exhibition Centre, a space at the very heart of the Expo site.

If the pandemic allows the Expo to go ahead as planned (from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022), it should be a great chance to put chess centre stage. Mohamed Al Ansaari, Vice President of Communications at Expo 2020, commented:

Expo 2020 Dubai will be a global celebration of the very best of humankind, held in one of the world’s most welcoming and ambitious nations – what better place to host a thrilling showdown between the brightest minds in the world-famous game of chess.

FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich drew a historical analogy to the first ever International Chess Tournament, won by Adolf Anderssen in London in 1851, held as part of what could be seen as the first ever Expo.

The World Championship Match is an outstanding event, and we are proud to team up with Expo to create a breath-taking experience not only for the hardcore chess fans, but also for the wider audience. Ever since the first international tournament, held in London in 1851 as a part of the Great Exhibition, chess is strongly connected to the events epitomizing [the] human's mind progress and striv[ing] for excellence.

The Spanish pavilion at the Dubai Expo will also host the final of the World Online School Chess Tournament, a global event taking place on chess24.  

So far the only match participant we know is of course the reigning World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen, who will be playing his 5th World Championship match. He's won all four so far, though the last two both went to rapid playoffs. 

  1. Magnus Carlsen 6.5:3.5 Vishy Anand | 2013 | Chennai, India | Final report
  2. Magnus Carlsen 6.5:4.5 Vishy Anand | 2014 | Sochi, Russia | Final report
  3. Magnus Carlsen 6:6 Sergey Karjakin (3:1 in Rapid) | 2016 | New York, USA | Final report
  4. Magnus Carlsen 6:6 Fabiano Caruana (3:0 in Rapid) | 2018 | London, UK | Final report
  5. Magnus Carlsen vs. ? | 2021 | Dubai, UAE

Magnus was originally supposed to play the match in November 2020, but will now have been World Champion for almost exactly 8 years when the latest match begins. The Norwegian, who will celebrate his 31st birthday during the match, recently commented on how he prepares for matches:

The process of me playing a World Championship match is, I don’t think about it a lot, and then when the Candidates is on and the challenger is determined, that’s when I sort of start preparing mentally, and since that hasn’t happened the World Championship has been so far from my mind. The only worry is that when the World Championship does happen I will be an old washed-up man in my thirties rather than a man in my prime! But I guess that’s the price I have to pay.

Magnus still doesn’t know his opponent, since the Candidates Tournament was stopped at the midway point in March 2020 with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Ian Nepomniachtchi in the lead.

FIDE’s press release states that the second half of the event, “is due to conclude in Ekaterinburg, Russia, in April”, though the coronavirus situation has only worsened this winter and international travel is likely to remain extremely difficult until vaccines begin to make a real impact. Nothing has gotten any easier since we covered Wang Hao and Alexander Grischuk’s concerns last October.  

There’s breathing space before November, however, and Carlsen’s thoughts may gradually turn to the upcoming match. First up, however, is attempting to get out of the “deep funk” he described after getting knocked out of the Airthings Masters in the quarterfinals. 

Beating Alireza Firouzja in Round 1 of the Tata Steel Masters has so far proven a false dawn, since six draws and a loss to 18-year-old Andrey Esipenko saw him drop 17.7 rating points before he picked up a win over Nils Grandelius.

Magnus has three rounds to try and end Wijk aan Zee on a high, so don't miss the final weekend's action with live commentary from Peter Leko, Lawrence Trent and Jan Gustafsson from 14:00 CET on Friday. 

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