Magnus Carlsen came into Norway Chess as the favorite to win the tournament for the third straight year, and he remains in that position after two rounds of play. But, the chess world will watch the six-player tournament with less interest in the overall result, and more attention devoted to the two clashes between Carlsen and World Chess Championship challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi.

Norway Chess odds Carlsen Nepomniachtchi
Ian Nepomniachtchi (left) watches Magnus Carlsen (center) play Aryan Tari (right) in the second round of Norway Chess. Nepomniachtchi and Carlsen will face off for the World Chess Championship later this year. (Image: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess)

Carlsen will defend his title against Nepomniachtchi in a 14-game match beginning on Nov. 24 in Dubai.

Norway Chess guarantees results in every round

Norway Chess began on Monday. The classical tournament features six grandmasters, including two locals: Carlsen, along with fellow Norwegian Aryan Tari. Players will compete in a double round-robin, facing each opponent once with both White and Black.

The Norway Chess tournament features a unique format that effectively eliminates draws. If a player wins a classical game, they earn three points, while the loser takes zero. In the case of a draw, the players return to the board for an Armageddon game.

In this tiebreaker, White starts with 10 minutes on the clock, while Black has only seven minutes to play. However, Black “wins” the game in the case of a draw on the board. The Armageddon winner earns 1.5 points, compared to one point for the loser.

Tuesday’s first round featured only two games. That’s because Nepomniachtchi ran late for the tournament due to visa issues, postponing his game against Sergey Karjakin. The two will make up the game on a later rest day.

Over the first two rounds, only Richard Rapport has earned a win in the classical portion of the Norway Chess tournament. He scored a victory with Black over Tari in the first round. That, combined with an Armageddon hold with Black against Karjakin in the second round, has Rapport sitting in the lead after two rounds with 4.5 points.

Carlsen, Nepomniachtchi face off on Friday

Carlsen also started with two wins, albeit both in Armageddon, while Nepomniachtchi won his first game on Wednesday, beating Alireza Firouzja with White in a tiebreaker to earn 1.5 points.

As usual, Carlsen stands as the clear favorite to win Norway Chess. Online sportsbook Bwin lists the world champion as the -250 pick to win in Stavanger. Nepomniachtchi (+350) ranks second, while Rapport (+400) has worked his way into contention with his fast start.

Norway Chess Odds (via Bwin)
Magnus Carlsen: -250 Ian Nepomniachtchi: +350
Richard Rapport: +400 Alireza Firouzja: +3300
Sergey Karjakin: +3300 Aryan Tari: +100000

For those who are more interested in previewing the World Championship match, Carlsen will meet Nepomniachtchi for the first time at Norway Chess on Friday. Carlsen has White in the first game, while Nepomniachtchi will get his White game against the champion in the final round on Sept. 17.

While the results of those games might nudge the odds for the 2021 World Championship, they aren’t likely to change the perceived favorite. Carlsen sits as a -350 pick over Nepomniachtchi (+230) in the title match.

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