Reigning World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen is building on the success of his first major online chess tournament by announcing the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, a series of four preliminary events and a final offering a combined prize fund of $1 million.
The tour retroactively began with the Magnus Carlsen Invitational, which Carlsen himself won over Hikaru Nakamura in the final on May 3.
Building on Invitational Success
That invitational tournament attracted attention from chess fans and bettors worldwide who were looking for content during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Carlsen, the success of that event – combined with the lack of live chess tournaments – make this the perfect time to launch an online tour.
“The Invitational was a lot of fun and we heard great feedback from the players, our broadcast partners, and the viewers,” Carlsen said in a statement. “While physical chess tournaments and sports are still either canceled or postponed, bringing an entire chess tour online is what I feel is right for chess now.”
The tour will consist of four events over the next four months, all hosted at chess24.com. The winners of each event will qualify for the Grand Final, which will take place from Aug. 9-20. Should any player win more than one event, the field of four will be filled out by players who qualify on points, with players earning 10 points for reaching a final, seven for making a semifinal, and three for each quarterfinal berth.
Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Schedule
- Magnus Carlsen Invitational (April 18 – May 3)
- Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge (May 19 – June 3)
- Online Chess Masters (June 20 – July 5)
- Legends of Chess (July 21 – Aug. 5)
- Grand Final (Aug. 9 – Aug. 20)
The next event on the tour will be the Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge, beginning on May 19. Normally a physical tournament held in Scotland, the Lindores Abbey Heritage Society is lending its name to the 12-player online event. The first three days of the tournament will feature a round-robin, with each player competing in just one game against each opponent.
When that stage is complete, the top eight finishers will move on to the knockout rounds. The quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals will each consist of four-game rapid matches, with an Armageddon game played in the case of a 2-2 tie. Unlike the invitational, however, each round will be played as best-of-three matches, putting much more emphasis on the knockout stages.
New Players Enter Rapid Challenge, Carlsen Remains Favored
Each of the top four finishers is guaranteed a position in the next event of the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour. That rule carries over from the invitational, as Carlsen, Nakamura, and Ding Liren are all taking part in the Rapid Challenge. Fabiano Caruana also earned a spot, but is unable to play, and will be guaranteed a position in the Online Chess Masters in June instead.
Iranian prodigy Alireza Firouzja is also back from the invitational. Eight new, world-class competitors have also joined the field, including former World Chess Championship challenger Sergey Karjakin. Also competing are top-10 players Alexander Grischuk, Levon Aronian, and Wesley So. The field is playing for $150,000 in prize money, with the winner earning $45,000.
As in the invitational, Carlsen comes into the Rapid Challenge as a substantial favorite. Online bookmaker Bwin lists Carlsen as a -118 pick to make it two in a row on tour, though Ding (+400) and Nakamura (+500) are certainly in the mix. Of the new blood, Grischuk (+1400), Aronian (+2000), and Karjakin (+2000) have the best chances to make deep runs.