Sixteen of the world’s top grandmasters will compete for a $30,000 first prize in the Opera Euro Rapid online chess tournament, with round-robin action starting on Saturday.
World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen comes into the tournament as a +150 favorite to grab the title, according to Unibet, despite the Norwegian’s recent run of mediocre form.
Carlsen Struggles in Wijk aan Zee
Carlsen bowed out of the Airthings Masters in the quarterfinals last December, losing a two-set match 1.5-0.5 to Daniil Dubov. He then finished a disappointing sixth at the Tata Steel Masters in Wijk aan Zee, in the Netherlands.
Carlsen faces a tough first-round challenge on Saturday. He begins with Black against American Wesley So, who beat Carlsen in the finals of the Skilling Open, the first event of the Champions Chess Tour. Players will compete in a total of five games on Saturday, the first of three days of round-robin preliminary play. Only the top eight will move on to the knockout stages.
While Carlsen headlines the field, as usual, there are plenty of other big names participating in the Opera Euro Rapid. Early tour leader Teimour Radjabov returns to action after winning the Airthings Masters. Radjabov enters as a +1400 pick to take down his second straight event.
Hikaru Nakamura stands as the +600 second choice to win the tournament, a familiar spot for Carlsen’s chief rival in speed chess. He heads a four-player American contingent at the Opera Euro Rapid, which also includes So (+1000), Leinier Dominguez Perez (+5000), and Sam Shankland (+50000).
Anish Giri narrowly missed out on winning the Tata Steel Masters last week. Now, he’s a +2000 choice to earn the Opera Euro Rapid title, and he’s already signaled his intention to go deep in the event.
— Anish Giri (@anishgiri) February 3, 2021
“Hoping to book a date with Magnus for Valentine’s Day,” Giri wrote on Twitter, referencing the fact that the tournament final wraps up on Feb. 14.
Three Making Tour Debuts at Opera Euro Rapid
Ding Liren should be one of the biggest threats to win the tournament. The Chinese grandmaster comes in as a +900 pick, and has shown he can play with anyone in the field. In last year’s Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, about the only thing Ding couldn’t overcome was a shaky internet connection, something that has hopefully improved in the time since.
|Opera Euro Rapid Odds (via Unibet)|
|Magnus Carlsen: +150||Hikaru Nakamura: +600|
|Ding Liren: +900||Wesley So: +1000|
|Daniil Dubov: +1100||Ian Nepomniachtchi: +1100|
|Levon Aronian: +1400||Teimour Radjabov: +1400|
|Anish Giri: +2000||Alexander Grischuk: +2000|
|Maxime Vachier-Lagrave: +2000||Leinier Dominguez Perez: +5000|
|Jan-Krzysztof Duda: +5000||Santosh Gujrathi Vidit: +10000|
|Matthias Bluebaum: +50000||Sam Shankland: +50000|
Three players will make their tour debuts on Saturday. Along with Shankland and Leinier Dominguez, German No. 1 Matthias Bluebaum (+500000) will take his first run at a Champions Chess Tour title, though he faces long odds as the lowest-rated player in the field.
Players will compete in 15-minute games with a 10-second increment throughout the three-day preliminary stage. The top eight players advance to the knockout stages, where they’ll compete in two-day matches consisting of two, four-game sets. Should the players split those sets evenly, they’ll play blitz – and potentially Armageddon – tiebreakers to determine a winner. The top eight players in the tour standings after the conclusion of the Opera Euro Rapid will automatically qualify for the tour’s second major in March.