General Sep 11, 2020 | 11:36 AMby Colin McGourty

Kasparov & Carlsen to play for 1st time in 16 years

Garry Kasparov is back in action tonight in the Champions Showdown: Chess 9LX, where he’ll face Magnus Carlsen in their first competitive game since 13-year-old Magnus took on the legend in Reykjavik in 2004. The 10-player round-robin also features Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, Alireza Firouzja and reigning Chess960 World Champion Wesley So. Two days later the St. Louis Rapid & Blitz begins, with Nepo, Grischuk, Harikrishna and Xiong replacing Kasparov, MVL, Caruana and Svidler.

Magnus Carlsen and Garry Kasparov last played competitive chess back in Reykjavik in 2004!

The US city of Saint Louis returns to being the focus of the chess world this week, or at least the Chess Club’s events do, as all the action will take place online! First up is the Champions Showdown: Chess 9LX, a 10-player, 3-day event that has once again tempted the 13th World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov back to the chessboard:


He’ll be playing Chess960 (or FischerRandom, or now Chess 9LX), where the pieces are randomly shuffled on the back rank before the games begin, with the players given only 3 minutes to get to grips with the new starting position before moves are made. That should negate the opening knowledge gap after Garry has now been retired for 15 years:

In 2019 the format was matches, with Garry Kasparov impressing at times but losing 14.5:3.5 to world no. 2 Fabiano Caruana. Fabi is back this year, but as the event is a round-robin the big news is that we get to see some other blockbuster ties! There is, of course, Carlsen-Kasparov, the first competitive meeting of the two champions since 13-year-old Magnus picked up a draw but then lost the second game to Kasparov in the Reykjavik Rapid 16 years ago.

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then, including Garry coaching Magnus for a year in 2009, when they got to play a lot of practice games. This time it’s serious, though, with 20 minutes per player, a 10-second increment, and the full focus of the chess world’s attention!

How will Kasparov fare? Magnus told Norway’s NRK:

I saw clearly in the match against Fabiano Caruana last year that Kasparov is still capable of outplaying the world elite regularly, but he has problems finishing off the games. I still consider him extremely dangerous in individual games, but not one of the main candidates to win the tournament.

Wesley So expressed similar views to The Times of India:

He has got nothing to gain and he has been retired for 15 years but every chess fan wants to see him play. I will be surprised if he did very well but I can be wrong.

Wesley added:

The Carlsen-Kasparov clash will be similar to Michael Jordan taking on LeBron as they are two great players. It will be an interesting game.  

That’s not the only excitement to look forward to, however. We’ve seen an awful lot of Carlsen vs. Nakamura this summer, but now there’s Kasparov-Nakamura!

The Candidates Tournament is set to restart in November, and leader Maxime Vachier-Lagrave will also get a shot at Garry.

We have Chess960 specialists such as 3-time World Champion Peter Svidler, 2-time World Champion Levon Aronian and reigning World Champion Wesley So, who scored an amazing 13.5-2.5 victory over Magnus last year.    

If Garry Kasparov is the past, however, and Magnus Carlsen is the present, it’s very possible Alireza Firouzja is the future. The 17-year-old has had a quiet summer after beating Magnus in the Banter Blitz Cup final, but he’s going to get to play Garry Kasparov as well, even if the legend is now over three times his age!

When the pairings are published you’ll be able to see them and watch the games here on chess24 using the selector below. The action starts at 13:00 local time, or 20:00 CEST.

That’s not all, as two days after the Chess 9LX ends, on 15th September, the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz begins. While the Chess 9LX has a $150,000 prize fund with $37,500 for 1st place the Rapid & Blitz has a $250,000 fund with $50,000 for 1st place. It’s a 5-day tournament following the exact same schedule we’ve become used to for the Grand Chess Tour of 3 days of rapid followed by 2 days of blitz.

Most players, including Magnus and Alireza, go straight from one event to the next, but Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Fabiano Caruana, Peter Svidler and Garry Kasparov are replaced by Ian Nepomniachtchi, Alexander Grischuk, Harikrishna and Jeffery Xiong.

First, however, we have the Champions Showdown: Chess 9LX. Make sure to tune in live today at 20:00 CEST!

See also:


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