Carlsen v Karjakin

Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin unlikely to meet before world title
Leonard Barden
Friday 15 April 2016 12.17 EDT

The battle lines are drawn. Seven months before their world title match, Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin have announced their tournament schedules, with only a minuscule chance of a direct clash.

Carlsen, the champion, plays on home turf next week in Stavanger, which starts on Monday (live and free online from 3pm) with a blitz tournament to decide the pairings for the main event and who gets an extra White. The 25-year-old has something to prove, since the weight of expectation for the national sporting hero triggered his below-par results in the previous three Stavanger events as well as in the 2014 world team Olympiad in Tromso.

Carlsen will then play the €150,000 Grand Tour blitz tournaments at Paris in May and Brussels in June, the Bilbao Grand Slam in July, and the 2016 Olympiad at Baku in September, leaving two months for his final preparations.

Karjakin will compete at Shamkir in Azerbaijan in May, in the Russia v China match in June, and finally at Baku. Theoretically the pair could meet at the 150-nation Olympiad, but the chance is small. Russia will be going for gold while Norway, even with the world champion to lead them, will do well to finish in the top 15.

Earlier. Karjakin withdrew from Stavanger, citing fatigue after his candidates victory and his need for preparation. Late tournament substitutions often pass without comment, but the Stavanger organisers publicly criticised Karjakin for his breach of contract, and a heated debate followed. Stavanger was on morally shaky ground, because it withdrew Karjakin’s 2015 invitation after he had won the 2013 and 2014 events ahead of Carlsen.

The Russian chess federation sent the withdrawal on behalf of its player, which could be interpreted as a sign that Karjakin will receive a high level of state support. In an interview a few years ago, Karjakin claimed that he had access to a dedicated chess computer, stronger and more sophisticated than commercial models, but that Carlsen had an even more powerful machine at his disposal.

There could also be some high-powered human aides on both sides. Karjakin has compared the strategic skills of the current world No2, Vlad Kramnik, to Carlsen’s and said he may enlist Kramnik in his team.

Uncertainties remain about the planned match site in New York. A team from Fide’s commercial partner Agon will travel to the US in the next few weeks to finalise the venue, rumoured to be Trump Tower.

Full article here.

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