World Chess Championship Begins

Otis Adams

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World Chess Champion Magnus CarlsenChessBase

World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen will begin his title defense this week in a match that has been delayed by COVID-19.

Coverage of the match can be found on the NBC Sports network with commentary from American Grandmaster Maurice Ashley who will attempt to make the match coverage enjoyable for chess players and fans of all levels of expertise. The match can also be watched live or followed over chess apps such as Chess.com or Follow Chess.

Chess is arguably the world's favorite game with billions having played chess and over 600 million who play regularly.

The match will be played in Dubai with $2 million in prize money on the line.

The Challenger

Ian Nepomniachtchi, known by colleagues and fans as "Nepo", won the right to play for the championship in what was perhaps the most unusual FIDE Candidates in history.

The Candidates, which pits the strongest players in the world against one another in a round robin tournament to decide who will challenge the reigning world champion, began under protest as shutdowns were being put into place around the world in 2020. The tournament was paused, not being resumed until late April 2021, nearly a year later.

In spite of not being the strongest possible opponent for Carlsen by rating, Nepo has injected some intrigue into the match as he has had earlier successes against Carlsen. When the two were boys, Nepo defeated Carlsen in their first encounter at the 2002 European Youth Championship. Nepo would go on to win three more chess games against Carlsen, not counting chess variants like blitz.

Nepo, ranked fifth in the world, is a Russian grandmaster who has no fear of world champions. He holds a winning record over two former world champions along with the current one.

The Champion

Magnus Carlsen's true opponents reside in the history books. He is attempting to climb the ranks of the greatest chess players of all time in this, his fifth World Championship match.

Paul Morphy and Bobby Fischer towered over every other player in the world, truly being in their own class as the distance between their playing strength and that of the number two player in the world is not reckoned to be dozens of points, but hundreds. Garry Kasparov held dominion not only in his matches for the world title but by winning most of the tournaments he entered.

Carlsen's path to membership on the shortlist of all-time greats may look a bit more like Emanuel Lasker's. Instead of overwhelming the world of chess for a short time in man-versus-boy fashion like Morphy and Fischer, or frequently demonstrating his dominance in top tournaments throughout each year as Kasparov did, Carlsen has been a little bit better than everyone else for a long time.

Carlsen is not only the reigning champion of the world, but the perennial number 1 of his generation by rating. However, his nearest competitor, Fabiano Caruana, has at times narrowed the gap by about 20 points. In their match for the World Championship, Caruana held a tie after 12 games when the match shifted to faster games where Carlsen dominates. It was the second title defense in which Carlsen had to hold on and wait for the faster time controls to win.

Carlsen has hinted in a podcast interview that he hopes not to rely upon faster time controls to retain his title this time. He considers it a "good outcome" that Nepo survived the Candidates to face him instead of the stronger American Caruana or Ding Liren of China. Carlsen, who spent two weeks in a training camp in Spain before setting blitz records on Lichess.org prior to his title defense might be planning to push for an early win against Nepo.

Carlsen, the World Champion from Norway, is the favorite to win the match that begins this week. With a rating of 2855, he remains at the height of his powers at the board and still has years to add to his resume before submitting it for history's consideration.

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Author of Lavatory Reader #1: This Road, now available on Amazon. New Twitter @OtisAdamsWrites. Otis Adams is an award-winning writer with three books under his belt and two dozen awards boxed up in his closet for his screenplays and short fiction. He writes regularly on Medium.com and can be contacted at pithbooks@gmail.com.

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