Eight of the world’s best chess players will collide online starting Saturday in the Magnus Carlsen Invitational, with the tournament namesake coming in as the clear favorite to win the event.

Magnus Carlsen Invitational odds
Eight world-class chess players are participating in the Magnus Carlsen Invitational, an online tournament with a $250,000 prize pool. (Image: Chess24.com/Twitter)

Magnus Carlsen leads a field that includes the top five players in the world, as well as the world’s top-ranked blitz chess player.

World-Class Field Competes for Record Prize Pool

The tournament features a $250,000 prize pool, the largest in online chess history. The winner will take home $70,000, with no player leaving with less than $15,000.

World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen will be joined by Fabiano Caruana, Ding Liren, Ian Nepomniachtchi, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who are in positions two through five on the world ratings list, respectively. Also playing is 10th-ranked Anish Giri, and Hikaru Nakamura, the world’s top blitz player and fourth-ranked rapid player, who is also in the top 20 in standard chess.

The final player is Alireza Firouzja, who comes in as an unknown to all but the most serious chess fans. The 16-year-old prodigy is already ranked 21st in the world, and finished as the runner-up behind Carlsen at last year’s World Rapid Chess Championship. Firouzja will also take on Carlsen in the finals of another online tournament – the Banter Blitz Cup – on Wednesday.

Magnus Carlsen Invitational Odds

  • Magnus Carlsen (-134)
  • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (+600)
  • Ding Liren (+700)
  • Hikaru Nakamura (+1000)
  • Fabiano Caruana (+1000)
  • Alireza Firouzja (+1200)
  • Ian Nepomniachtchi (+1400)
  • Anish Giri (+2500)

Odds via Bwin

The Magnus Carlsen Invitational will see all eight players participate in a round-robin competition. Players will compete in four-game rapid matches, with each player getting 15 minutes for their moves (plus a 10-second increment after each move). In the case of a 2-2 draw, players will compete in a single Armageddon game in which White gets a time advantage, but Black “wins” in the case of a draw, to determine a winner. After the round-robin, the top-four players will advance to a knockout playoff to crown a champion.

Carlsen has dominated the world chess landscape as of late, and he enters his invitational as a heavy favorite to walk away with the championship. Online bookmaker Bwin posted odds for the tournament, with Carlsen a -134 favorite. Oddsmakers consider Vachier-Lagrave (+600) and Ding (+700) the most likely to challenge for the title.

Strict Anti-Cheating Measures in Place

Online chess can provide temptation for cheaters, especially with so much money on the line. While few expect any wrongdoing given the players involved, host Chess24.com will implement additional security measures, including cameras available to the organizers that broadcast the entire playing area from each player’s home, observation of each player’s computer, and the standard anti-cheating detection programs that are typically used on the site.

The tournament will feature commentary in nine languages, as well as pregame and postgame segments with the participants in an effort to make the event accessible to those who aren’t competitive chess players.

With the sports world largely shutting down in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, some sportsbooks have seen chess as one of many niche competitions that can provide betting markets. While European bookmakers have offered chess betting for years, it remains a rare sight in the United States – though William Hill did briefly post odds for the Candidates Tournament earlier this year before the event stopped due to the coronavirus.

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