Magnus Carlsen to face Ian Nepomniachtchi in Dubai

The Tokyo Olympics were not the only sporting competition delayed by a year because of the pandemic. The world chess championship also paid the price for the Covid-19 and Magnus Carlsen was thus able to retain for twelve additional months the crown he has held without interruption since 2013.

The break is now over and the Norwegian will face Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi in a match scheduled for the opening ceremony on Wednesday, November 24, in Dubai, on the sidelines of the World Expo which has been held in the emirate since the start of the month of October. The serious things will start on Friday 26th with the first of the fourteen games scheduled for the program.

This is the fourth time that Magnus Carlsen has put his title on the line when, for Ian Nepomniachtchi, this game is a first. These great masters, both born in 1990, have known each other well and for a long time, because they have met on several occasions in the “young” categories.

At that time, which dates back to the turn of the century, the Russian, who started playing at the age of 4, often dominated the Norwegian. “Nepo”, as he is nicknamed in the chess world, had thus won over his rival in their first game, played in 2002 during the European Under-12 Championship. He did it again the following year at the under-14 world championship.

Surprisingly, Magnus Carlsen, who has dominated world chess for a decade, had to wait until 2019 to beat Ian Nepomniachtchi for the first and only time in the classical game. Facing the world champion, the Russian, fifth in the world in the latest ranking established by the International Chess Federation (FIDE), is undoubtedly the only elite player to have a fairly positive score (4 wins, 1 loss and 8 draws).

Read also World Chess Championships: Magnus Carlsen calls his title back

Results not as flamboyant as in the past

Can we therefore consider him as Carlsen’s pet peeve? And does that give it a psychological advantage? Probably not. Firstly because the Norwegian is considered a steel-minded Viking on the chessboard, secondly because the result of their confrontations of the last five years is balanced: one victory each and six draws.

On the other hand, if ever the match were to end in a tie and continue with a quick-game tie-breaker, as was the case during the last two world championships played in 2016 and 2018, Magnus Carlsen would benefit from a a definite advantage, as its dominance in this exercise is considerable.

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