Chess betting took center stage momentarily during the COVID-19 pandemic until FIDE postponed the remainder of the Candidates Tournament due to Russian travel restrictions. But online chess offers a nearly perfect replacement for the live game, and some of the world’s top players will be in action on the internet throughout April.

chess betting Magnus Carlsen
Magnus Carlsen is organizing an eight-player online chess tournament with a $250,000 prize fund that begins on April 18. (Image: Fredjonny/Chess24.com)

Chess24’s 2019 Banter Blitz Cup – which began way back in September – is now in its semifinal round, with World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen the overwhelming favorite to walk away with the title.

Carlsen Swats Aside Competition in Banter Blitz Cup

The Banter Blitz Cup started with 128 players competing in a single-elimination format. Each match – streamed online by both players so that observers can listen to them talk, analyze, and react in real-time – consists of 16, three-minute blitz games. The first player to reach 8.5 points (one point for a win, .5 for a draw) wins the match, with additional tiebreakers if necessary.

Earlier this month, Carlsen crushed grandmaster Nils Grandelius of Sweden 9-1 to reach the semifinals. He’ll now play Sanan Sjugirov of Russia, who advanced past American Ray Robson 8.5-5.5 in the quarterfinals. Eduardo Iturrizaga will take on SL Narayanan in the other semifinal.

With no other world-class grandmasters in the field, it’s hard to bet against Carlsen to win the Banter Blitz Cup – though you won’t earn much money by wagering on him, either. Unibet, which sponsors Carlsen and offers a fairly heavy menu of chess betting options, has Carlsen as a -2000 favorite over Sjugirov (+700). No odds are posted on the outright tournament market, though it would be hard to pick anyone other than Carlsen at virtually any odds: he has outscored his opponents by a combined 43.5-10.5 margin thus far.

Magnus Carlsen Invitational Bringing Elite Chess Online

Carlsen will face tougher opposition later this month in the Magnus Carlsen Invitational, an eight-player online chess tournament with a $250,000 prize pool that begins on April 18.

Chess24.com will also host the invitational and has yet to announce a full field for the event. But The Guardian reports that both Fabiano Caruana and Ding Liren – the No. 2 and No. 3 ranked players in the world, respectively – are participating in the event, as is Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who shared the Candidates Tournament lead when the event halted. Other world-class grandmasters will make up the remainder of the field.

“Chess is unique in the sports world as the moves are the same whether played on a wooden board or a computer screen,” Carlsen said, via The Guardian. “This is an historic moment for chess and, given that it’s possible to continue top professional play in an online environment, we have not only the opportunity, but the responsibility to players and fans around the world who need a distraction and when no other live competitive sport is being played.”

The tournament will pit the eight players in a round-robin competition. Each match will consist of four rapid games (15 minutes per side, plus a 10-second increment per move), with the match-winner earning three points. Should a match end in a 2-2 tie, the competitors will play a single Armageddon game, with the winner getting two points and the loser earning one.

Following the round-robin portion, the top-four players will compete in a knockout competition using the same format. The eventual winner will take home $70,000. Throughout the tournament, players will be required to be on camera in an effort to prevent any cheating during the event.

Without a full field, chess betting sites have yet to offer odds on this event, though they will presumably be offered given the strength of the field. In the meantime, Carlsen remains the -286 favorite to win the 2020 World Chess Championship – whether it eventually happens this year or in 2021.

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