Magnus Carlsen defeated Hikaru Nakamura 2.5-1.5 in a back-and-forth final to win the first-ever Magnus Carlsen Invitational.
Carlsen earned the $70,000 first prize in the online chess tournament, which came together due to the COVID-19 pandemic eliminating live chess events.
Carlsen Fends Off Nakamura in Back-And-Forth Final
The final saw the top-two speed chess players in the world put on a memorable show. Carlsen grinded out an even endgame – a trademark of the World Champion – in Game 1 to take the early lead, but was thoroughly outplayed by Nakamura in Game 2, knotting the match at 1-1.
Carlsen struck back with the White pieces again in Game 3 to regain a 2-1 advantage. White had won all seven regulation games in the tournament between Carlsen and Nakamura, so the American looked poised to force tiebreakers once again. But Carlsen held on against Nakamura to win the most significant online chess tournament ever held.
“It’s a big deal,” Carlsen said afterwards of winning the tournament. “I think the format has worked pretty well – lots of excitement, especially the semifinals. They were I think some of the better chess entertainment we’ve had in a long, long time, so I don’t know, it all depends on what other people think, obviously, but personally, I couldn’t be happier with how everything’s gone.”
Nakamura settled for a runner-up finish and a $45,000 prize. Afterwards, he congratulated Carlsen on the win.
— Hikaru Nakamura (@GMHikaru) May 3, 2020
“While the outcome was not what I wanted today, I feel that chess has been a big winner over the last couple of weeks,” Nakamura wrote on Twitter.
Chess Betting Continues with Online Nations Cup
Chess betting has been available at some European sportsbooks for several years, though it has never gotten more attention than now when the sports world is largely shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, some bookmakers are offering odds on several online chess events that are in progress or that are about to start.
Chief among them is the Online Nations Cup, which takes place on Chess.com from May 5-10. Six teams will represent the United States, China, India, Russia, Europe, and the “Rest of the World.” Each match consists of four rapid games between lineups made up of three men and one woman. The teams will compete in a double round-robin after which, the top two teams will battle it out in a “Superfinal,” with the team that qualified first having draw odds.
Online Nations Cup Odds
- China (+150)
- USA (+250)
- Europe (+300)
- Russia (+350)
- India (+2000)
- Rest of the World (+2000)
Odds via Unibet
Unibet sees Team China (+150) as the favorite to win the event. Led by Ding Liren, Wang Hao, and four-time Women’s World Chess Champion Hou Yifan, they bring a formidable and balanced lineup to the tournament. Their top competition will likely come from Team USA (+250), which can throw both Fabiano Caruana and Nakamura on their top boards. Team Europe (+300) and Team Russia (+350) also come in as strong contenders.
Most of the world’s top players are participating in the event, with the exception of Carlsen. Each team is splitting $24,000 for playing, with the winner taking another $24,000 and the runner-up getting a $12,000 bonus.
Unibet is also offering odds on Chess.com’s IM Not a GM Speed Chess Championship, a tournament just for International Masters – the rank below Grandmaster. The knockout event is down to its final four, with John Bartholomew (-200) heavily favored over Alina Kashlinskaya (+350), Gerg Shahade (+450), and Teddy Coleman (+900).