April 2020 Update – Magnus Carlsen Invitational

Based on tournament plans for 2020, I should have returned from Grenke Chess Classic earlier this week. As many of you know, the sudden postponement of the 2nd half of the Candidates tournament late March marked the end of the physical elite chess calendar for many months. GCC was cancelled, and the Grand Chess Tour planned in Bucuresti, Paris, Zagreb and St.Louis has been cancelled.

The St.Louis leg in August may still take place on a stand-alone basis, the International Chess Federation (FIDE) hopes to resume the Candidates in the autumn, and Norway Chess is rescheduled for October. Thus far we know that a minimum of 4-5 months of elite events are gone.

In this time of crises people and most nations across the world are affected in such a terrible way. Elite chess is of course relatively insignificant. And, personally I don’t have any reason to complain at all. Norway is one of the least affected countries in Europe both in terms of illness and lock down measures, and the state has the economic resources necessary to help people and businesses in need.

Nearly all other sports events have been cancelled or postponed as well, and in Play Magnus and Chess24 we thought this would be the right time to launch a high level serious online chess tournament alternative to provide excitement for chess fans and spectators and activity for elite colleagues stuck at home. I was proud to announce the 16 days online event Magnus Carlsen Invitational (with 250k$ prize fund) featuring daily rapid chess matches. This time I’ve invited Caruana, Ding, Vachier-Lagrave, Nepomniachtchi, Nakamura, Giri and young Alireza Firouzja. We started playing last weekend, and despite the short planning, it worked out quite well already from the start, and it is only getting better.

We have distributed necessary equipment to all participants, and broad anti-cheating measures have been put in place. I really trust all the players involved, and the anti-cheating measures are primarily to provide credibility and protection for everyone against unwarranted suspicions.

I believe a larger number of games is an advantage in order to determine the best. In the initial stage of the tournament, all-play-all in 4 games rapid matches, totaling 28 rapid games for each. The top four will advance to semifinal matches May 1st and 2nd. The MCI final (match) takes place May 3rd.

All the rounds are broadcast live on Chess24 (for free), on TV2 Sport Channel and several other international TV stations and media outlets.

In the tense start last Saturday I played against short time control specialist Hikaru Nakamura. On a rollercoaster day every game was decisive. I won twice with white, got outplayed in the first game with black and collapsed in a winning position in the last black game. Winning the Armageddon play-off secured 2 match points against his 1 (Outright match victory earns 3 against 0 match points irrespective of the magnitude of the victory).

Some of you may have followed the Chess24 Banter Blitz Cup this winter. April 15th I played the final against Firouzja. My performance was disappointing, and he impressively beat me 8.5-7.5 in the end. I was happy to get revenge (winning 2.5-1.5) in our Rapid chess match in the MC Invitational round 2. I defeated Caruana 3-1 in the rapid match Wednesday securing another 3 match points, and for once I was really satisfied with my own play. I’m currently in the lead of MC Invitational with 8 match points (out of 9) ahead of Nakamura at 7. My next opponent is the Candidates tournament leader Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and we start game 1 of our match at 4pm, Friday 24th!