The new online Champions Chess Tour gets underway on Sunday as a field of 16 grandmasters takes the stage for the Skilling Open.

Skilling Open odds
Magnus Carlsen tops a field of 16 grandmasters playing in the Skilling Open, the first event on the Champions Chess Tour. (Image: Chess24/Champions Chess Tour)

The Skilling Open begins with a full round-robin of rapid chess, after which, the top eight players will qualify for the knockout stage where they’ll play head-to-head matches until a champion is crowned.

Skilling Open Begins Road to Tour Finals

The Champions Chess Tour comes on the heels of the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, and will consist of 10 events. The Skilling Open is classified as a “regular” event, with a total prize pool of $100,000. Players will compete in the regular tour events to earn ranking points, which can qualify them for majors – the first of which will come in December.

The winners of the majors will qualify for the Tour Finals in September 2021. Each major features a $200,000 prize pool, with $300,000 up for grabs in the final event.

Skilling Open Odds – Tournament Winner (via Unibet)
Magnus Carlsen (-118) Ding Liren (+800)
Hikaru Nakamura (+900) Wesley So (+1400)
Levon Aronian (+1500) Ian Nepomniachtchi (+1500)
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (+1500) Alireza Firouzja (+2000)
Anish Giri (+2000) Sergey Karjakin (+2000)
Jan-Krzystof Duda (+3000) Teimour Radjabov (+5000)
Peter Svidler (+5000) David Anton Guijarro (+10000)
Le Quang Liem (+10000) Santosh Gujrathi Vidit (+10000)

That adds up to a lot of online chess over the next year. The tour kicks off with the Skilling Open, where the winner will earn $30,000. Players will compete in five rapid games per day over the first three days of the tournament, after which, the top eight players will move into the quarterfinals. There are no rest days in the nine-day event, with each knockout encounter taking place over two days. Several versions of live commentary are streaming on Twitch and YouTube through the tournament.

No Shortage of Challengers for Carlsen

The Skilling Open field features many of the world’s top players, as well as a few new faces who didn’t participate in the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour earlier this year.

Carlsen himself leads the way, and will be the favorite throughout the tour. The World Chess Champion won three of the four main events on his namesake online tour, then beat Hikaru Nakamura in a thrilling seven-match series to win the tour championship. Carlsen also holds the Rapid and Blitz World Championship titles, making him the clear pick in every event he enters, either live or online.

But there are plenty of challengers in the Skilling Open field who are capable of taking down the champion. Nakamura will pose the biggest threat, with a knockout matchup between him and Carlsen feeling almost inevitable at some point in the tournament. Ding Liren, Wesley So, Levon Aronian, and Alireza Firouzja are just a few of the other names who will also be battling for knockout spots and the chance to take down the first Champions Chess Tour title.

While each of the 16 grandmasters is capable of beating Carlsen in an individual game, he’s a clear favorite when it comes to the overall event. Carlsen enters the Skilling Open as a -118 favorite to win the tournament, according to online bookmaker Unibet. Ding (+800) comes in as the second choice, with the American contingent of Nakamura (+900) and So (+1400) also among the top contenders.

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