On Saturday the 24th of April at 19:00 CEST the 5th tournament of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, namely the New in Chess Classic, starts with a whopping three (!) Offerspill-players on the starting line. The event has a prize fund of $100.000 while the tour itself has a prize fund of $1.5 million - not bad!
Chess24 have written an excellent preview of the event already which includes pairings, schedule and everything you need to know about the tournament.
The 3-day preliminary stage sees the 16 players play each other once before the bottom 8 are eliminated while the top 8 advance to a knockout consisting of 2-day matches.
The prize fund is $100,000 with $30,000 for the winner.
As usual, the format is quite brutal with three days of preliminaries to reduce the field to only 8 players for the knockout phase. The time control is rapid where the players get 15 minutes for all moves, with a 10-second increment per move from move 1.
World Champion Magnus Carlsen faces his former challenger for the championship, Sergey Karjakin, in the first round of the event. Other highly anticipated encounters in the first round include Nakamura - Mamedyarov and Firouzja - So.
Offerspill grandmasters Johan-Sebastian Christiansen starts with the white pieces against solid Vietnamese number 1 Lê Quang Liêm, while Aryan Tari is up against tricky Santosh Vidit from India. Also, 15-year old Indian prodigy Praggnanandhaa makes his debut on the tour after qualifying through the Polgar Challenge - a tournament that included Offerspill's Jonas Buhl Bjerre.
The knockout match-ups consist of 4-game matches on the first two days. If the match score is tied then two blitz games with the time control 5+3 will follow to decide the match. If needed, this is followed by Armageddon where White has 5 minutes versus Black's 4 minutes, but in this scenario a draw counts as a win for Black.
List of participants
Top players such as Anish Giri, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave are playing in the Candidates and were unable to play even though they were all qualified through the overall tour standings.
In this preview we'll bring you a short description of the opponents waiting for our three players with a couple of key games, and ultimately some of our predictions.
Johan-Sebastian's first opponents are all very strong, starting with the aforementioned Liem Le before going up against the likes of Dominguez, Vidit, and Radjabov. JS will finish the first day of the preliminaries against fellow Offerspill member Aryan Tari! Should be plenty of action here, and rumour has it JS has been preparing quite a bit.
As you may know, his specialiticy is attacking play and deep opening preparation, but recently he showed his defensive resilience in the Swedish Premier League against an International Master - let's hope our man finds his form and provides the entertainment we have become accustomed to from his games.
Unibet gives JS a slim chance for a win with odds of 4.50 in the 1st round against solid Liem Lie who is a very difficult opponent to break down, but with deep preperations and some first round nerves this could be a big chance for JS.
Lindgren - Christiansen (0-1)
We predict a good start to the event with 2/5 points on the first day for JS.
Aryan Tari have also been preparing ferociously and will hope to replicate the solid result from the classical tournament Tata Steel Masters back in January. There he managed draws against the world champion Magnus Carlsen and future challenger Alireza Firouzja, and several other strong players.
In the first rounds Aryan will face Vidit, Radjabov, Jones, Aronian, and his countryman Johan-Sebastian Christiansen.
Actually, Aryan faced Vidit in the 2014 edition of the World Junior Chess Championship. Vidit was the highest rated in the tournament and only lost one game - against Aryan!
Fingers crossed for a replay of this gem of a game in the New in Chess Classic.
Unibet gives Aryan 4.25 on a win for Aryan with the white pieces against Vidit in the 1st round .
We predict a solid start for Aryan with 2/5 points.
Vidit - Tari (0-1)
What about Magnus?
The world champion has won every preliminary round so far in the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour so far, and is a massive favourite to continue that streak without the likes of Giri, Ding Liren, MVL and Nepomniachtchi on the starting line.
We bet he'll win again.
Actually, Unibet offers 1.80 on a win for Magnus in the 1st round against Sergey Karjakin, which normally should represent good value for money in rapid between the two. The only catch is the fact that Magnus can be something of a slow starter, which could point to the odds of 2.25 on a draw as a reasonable alternative if you are feeling peaceful.
On the first day Magnus plays against Karjakin, Liem Le, Dominguez Perez, Vidit, and Radjabov.
Not easy, but a score of 4/5 should be well within Magnus' grasp on the first day.
Let's get in the mood with one of Magnus' most famous wins, coincidentally against 1st round opponent Karjakin: