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23/11/2021

World Chess Championship 2021

Magnus Carlsen v Yan Niepomniashchi

 

The World Championship originally due to be played in 2020 was postponed due to Covid, but is now scheduled to run from 24th November to 16th December 2021.  The 2020 World Expo due to be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, was similarly postponed, and rescheduled for 1st October 2021 to 31st March 2022, retaining the designation “2020”.  The chess championship is being held alongside Expo 2020 at the Dubai Exhibition Centre.

 

The schedule for the event is:

 

Wed

24

Opening Ceremony

 

Sun

05

Game 8

Thu

25

 

 

Mon

06

Free day

Fri

26

Game 1

 

Tue

07

Game 9

Sat

27

Game 2

 

Wed

08

Game 10

Sun

28

Game 3

 

Thu

09

Free day

Mon

29

Free day

 

Fri

10

Game 11

Tue

30

Game 4

 

Sat

11

Game 12

Wed

01

Game 5

 

Sun

12

Game 13

Thu

02

Free day

 

Mon

13

Free day

Fri

03

Game 6

 

Tue

14

Game 14

Sat

04

Game 7

 

Wed

15

 

 

 

 

 

Thu

16

Closing Ceremony

 

Games start at 16.30 Gulf Standard Time, which is 12.30 our time.  There is supposedly to be live coverage of the games.

 

The match is for the best of 14 games (not the former 12) at a standard rate of play, with a speed chess tie-break if necessary.  The rate of play for the first 14 games is:

120 minutes for the first 40 moves (with no increment),

then

60 minutes for the next 20 moves (with no increment),

and finally

15 minutes for the rest of the game with a 30-second increment per move

 

The tie-break, if required, is to consist of

1) best of 4 rapid-play games

with 25 minutes each + 10-second increment per move from move 1;

then, if that is tied,

2) up to 5 mini-matches of 2 blitz games (alternating colours)

with 5 minutes + 3-second increment per move from move 1,

when the first to win a mini-match wins the championship;

then, if all five mini-matches are tied,

3) a sudden-death game where White has 5 minutes and Black has 4 minutes,

each receiving a 2-second increment from move 61,

with the provision that a drawn game wins the championship for Black.

 

The prize fund is 2 million euros (roughly 8.3 million Arab Emirate dirhams, roughly 2.26 US dollars, and about £1.68 million at current exchange rates).  If the winner is decided without a tie-break, then the winner gets 60% of the prize fund, and the loser 40%, but if the title has to be decided by tie-break, then the winner gets 55% and the loser 45%.

 

The defending title holder, Magnus Carlsen of Norway, has held the title since 2013, when he wrested it from Viswanathan Anand of India, who, as it happens, is to be the main official commentator on this 2021 match.  Carlsen subsequently successfully defended his title in 2014 in a “rematch” with Anand, then in 2016 against Sergey Karjakin of Russia, and in 2018 against Fabiano Caruana of the United States.

 

The matches of 2016 and 2018, were both tied after the initial 12 games, whereafter Carlsen was able to win in speed chess tie-breaks.  This reduced World Chess Championship matches to something approaching the tedium at which Karpov and Kasparov excelled in 1984-85, with Karpov scoring 5 wins to Karpov’s 3 wins, while 40 games were draws, leading to abandonment of the match due to adverse health impact.  (There were no speed-chess tie-breaks then.)

 

There are hopes that if anyone is likely to break the current trend for endless draws, then “Nepo” is the man for the job.

 

The challenger is the Russian Ян Алексaндрович Непoмнящий, from which traditional transliteration into English script yields “Yan Aleksandrovich Niepomniashchiy”, where the “ie” and “ia” are pronounced essentially as “ye” and “ya” in English “yes” and “yam” respectively.  (“Nyepomnyashchy” is arguably clearer to an English-speaker.)  The stress apparently falls on the “o”.

 

Russians sometimes need to write their names in some form of the Latin alphabet rather than the Cyrillic alphabet, and they are perhaps more likely to adopt a continental European usage rather than an English one.  Thus Mikhail Botvinnik rendered his surname in Latin-style letters as “Botwinnik”, following the Polish/German use of “w”.  For similar reasons, presumably, the challenger’s name is confusingly (if you are English or Scottish) being represented as Ian Nepomniachtchi.  It is hardly surprising that he is familiarly being called “Nepo”!

 

He is, incidentally, from a family of Jewish descent, and he reportedly won the chess medal at the 2009 Maccabia Games, which are a sort of worldwide “Jewish Olympic Games” occurring every four years, and sometimes ranking third in size among sporting events, typically after the Olympic Games and the Commonwealth games.  The playing schedule makes it clear that unlike Samuel Reshevsky he is not averse to playing competitive chess on the Sabbath (Saturday).