Magnus Carlsen faces his 2016 challenger Sergey Karjakin as the New in Chess Classic, the 5th event on the $1.5 million Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, kicks off on Saturday 24 April at 19:00 CEST. Other Round 1 clashes to watch out for include Nakamura-Mamedyarov, Firouzja-So and Duda-Praggnanandhaa, with the 15-year-old Indian prodigy making his debut on the full tour after qualifying through the Polgar Challenge. Once again it’s a cut-throat format of three days and 15 rounds of rapid chess to reduce the 16-player field to just 8 players for the knockout.
The full pairings are out for the $100,000 New in Chess Classic, which starts this Friday.
For one tournament only the games are starting at the late time of 19:00 CEST, since on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday the New in Chess Classic will be played on the same days as the Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg. The six-hour difference in the starting times should reduce any overlap, though as we’ve seen, games can run longer than six hours in the Candidates!
Ian Nepomniachtchi, Anish Giri and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who had automatic invitations to the New in Chess Classic as players in the Top 8 on the Tour, are of course absent, but that’s given a chance for other players. Polish no. 1 Jan-Krzysztof Duda, for instance, doesn’t see a problem with the late start time.
His first-round opponent will be one of the most interesting to watch: 15-year-old Praggnanandhaa. The Indian talent qualified through the Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour and now faces playing on another level entirely, but few doubt he has what it takes to climb towards the very top of the chess pyramid in the next few years. A few over-the-board rapid tournaments would be useful to improve his rapid rating, however!
After Duda he faces another debutant, England’s Gawain Jones, before the murderers’ row of tour leader Wesley So, Azerbaijan no. 1 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Sergey Karjakin. The latter of course played in the 2016 World Championship match, while before that he shot to prominence as the youngest ever grandmaster. He featured in many editions of the magazine from tournament sponsors New in Chess.
Sergey starts his tournament with Black against Magnus Carlsen, who is taking a break from his new careers as a chess streamer and commentator.
Magnus has so far won all four preliminary round-robins on the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, but has yet to win a tournament, with the top prizes going to Wesley So (twice), Teimour Radjabov and Anish Giri.
He’s not the only shark yet to have pounced on the tour this year, however, with his great rival in last year’s tour, Hikaru Nakamura, having failed to reach a final. Levon Aronian is always one to watch, while it must only be a matter of time before 17-year-old world no. 12 (on the live list) Alireza Firouzja begins to perform at 15+10 rapid chess.
We will of course have live commentary on every moment of the New in Chess Classic, in multiple languages, but the clash with the Candidates has also meant some changes. Peter Leko and Tania Sachdev will be back, but for the last four days. The Oslo team remains unchanged, with David Howell switching back from the Candidates to join Jovanka Houska and Kaja Snare.
If you’re wondering what’s happening to the Candidates commentary in the absence of Magnus and David you needn’t fear, since the greatest female player of all time, Judit Polgar, will be joining Tania Sachdev and, for Round 11, Vidit Gujrathi.
Vidit is another player who will be giving up commentary to play, as he also competes in the New in Chess Classic.