Magnus Carlsen showed that he’ll be tough to dethrone as the World Chess Champion after he won six games without a loss to put up an undefeated 10.5/15 score in the preliminary round of the New in Chess Classic.

New in Chess Classic odds Carlsen
Magnus Carlsen again earned the top seed in a Champions Chess Tour event, going undefeated in the New in Chess Classic preliminary rounds. (Image: Champions Chess Tour)

Carlsen took the top overall seed out of the round-robin portion of the New in Chess Classic, and will face No. 8 seed Teimour Radjabov in the quarterfinals.

Carlsen still looking for Champions Chess Tour win

The world champion has yet to win an event on the Champions Chess Tour, but has easily made the knockout stages of every event. In fact, he’s taken the top seed heading into the knockout stages in all five tournaments in the online tour this season.

“I feel like I’m starting to perfect the art of getting the first seed without too much hassle,” Carlsen said after Monday’s five rounds of play. “And, in general, I’m relatively happy with my play. It wasn’t sparkling by any means, but nevertheless, I think it was decent.”

Carlsen finished a full point ahead of Hikaru Nakamura and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, both of whom finished on 9.5 points to take the second and third seeds, respectively. Mamedyarov will be making his first appearance in the knockout stages of a Champions Chess Tour event.

Wesley So and Levon Aronian each scored nine points to take the fourth and fifth seeds, and will now face off against each other in a quarterfinal. Alireza Firouzja, Liem Quang Le, and Radjabov each scored 8.5 points to snag the final three spots, a half-point ahead of American grandmaster Leinier Dominguez Perez.

Championship candidates miss New in Chess Classic

Radjabov jumped out to a 4/5 score on Day 1 of the New in Chess Classic, then coasted the rest of the way, picking up nine draws and a single loss along the way. That approach generated criticism, but he points out that fans will get plenty of blood in the quarterfinals and beyond.

“The point is to qualify, which is anyway good for the public because we’ll anyway play the knockout stage, so there always will be a winner,” Radjabov said afterward. “That’s what I like with the system.”

Carlsen enters the quarterfinals as the -135 favorite to win the New in Chess Classic, according to Bwin. The bookmaker rates the world champion as a -500 pick to get past Radjabov (+320) in their two-set quarterfinal.

Outside of Carlsen, Nakamura (+400) comes into the knockout stages with the best chances of winning the tournament. So (+600) and Firouzja (+1000) also rate as likely contenders.

While the New in Chess Classic still featured a strong lineup, several players couldn’t participate due to the Candidates Tournament, which determined the next challenger for Carlsen’s classical world championship title. It was Ian Nepomniachtchi – no stranger to the Champions Chess Tour – who emerged victorious from the Candidates with a round to spare. He’ll battle Carlsen for the World Chess Championship in Dubai later this year.

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