Candidates Tournament 2016

Marketable candidate wanted for Magnus Carlsen’s world chess defence
Leonard Barden
Friday 4 March 2016 09.44 EST

The $460,000 world title candidates tournament starts in Moscow next Friday. Challenging for the global crown carries high prestige, and especially so for the two Americans in the eight-player field. FIDE, the international body, has announced that Magnus Carlsen’s 12-game championship defence against the candidates winner will be staged in New York, starting on 10 November.

It is 44 years since Bobby Fischer beat Boris Spassky in their historic match at Reykjavik and triggered a brief but intense chess boom, which has never since been approached. FIDE hopes that the personable and outgoing Carlsen, already a national hero in his native Norway, will attract major US corporate sponsors and become a sporting superstar.

The icing on the cake will be if either Fabiano Caruana, 23, or Hikaru Nakamura, 28, wins in Moscow. They are the narrow favourites in an open contest. Both learned their early chess skills in New York, and either would be a credible opponent for the all-conquering Carlsen.

Caruana is the highest rated grandmaster in Moscow and has a very respectable personal score (+5=10-8) against the No1, while Nakamura, though his one-to-one record against Carlsen is dreadful, is a confident, spiky character who would enter the match without fear.

FIDE expects that the title match will find a central Manhattan site with a built-in TV studio which will also enable spectators to watch the games through glass. The live and free internet audience was claimed at 1.2 billion for the 2014 Vishy Anand v Carlsen series in Sochi, and New York is expected to better that.

It could be a rosy picture, but there are caveats in the small print. FIDE has not yet named any individual sponsors for the prize fund, which judged by previous matches should be at least $2m for the overall event. This suggests that interested parties are awaiting the outcome in Moscow.

If the winner there is not an American but an Armenian, Bulgarian, Dutchman, Indian or Russian, it will be a harder sell. The last championship match in New York, Garry Kasparov v Anand in 1995, staged in the ill-fated World Trade Centre, attracted limited media interest.

In 1993 the title match was the best of 20 games, while New York will have a more media-friendly 12 with possible speed tie-breaks at the end. And there was no internet coverage 23 years ago, whereas now powerful computer programs enable any amateur to follow the games, understand what is going on and see who is winning.

Carlsen will be relaxed about it all. Whoever his opponent in New York, he will expect to retain his crown. And looking further ahead, what seemed a potential danger to him in the next few years from the 16-year-old Chinese champion Wei Yi has diminished.

Full article here.

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