27 August 2021

Carlsen's Prelim Events 2019-21

I closed the previous post in this series, Carlsen's Online Events 2019-21 (August 2021), saying,

Also worth noting are the 10 'Prelim' events played on chess24.com. I could say more about [these], but I'll save that for another time.

The following table is an extract of the same info shown in the 'Online Events' post. Here we see only the 'Prelim' events and the eventual final event, into which GM Carlsen qualified each time. The 'Ct' is the number of games that Carlsen played in the event.

Site: chess24.com

Behind each of those 20 events is a story. Since we arrived at this point by following TWIC data ('The Week in Chess' by Mark Crowther), let's continue with TWIC's stories. Crowther introduces each edition of TWIC with a summary of the top tournaments, explaining how they fit into the overall chess scene at that moment in time. Any event in which Carlsen participates is automatically a top tournament, meaning we have potentially 2 x 20 TWIC stories to choose from.

For this post, I'll look briefly at two TWIC stories. The first event on the list was played a month into the worldwide lockdowns provoked by covid-19.

TWIC 1328, 20th April 2020, Magnus Carlsen Invitational 2020 • Invitational is an online tournament hosted by Chess24 which takes place April 18th to May 3rd 2020. With over the board chess suspended for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus crisis this is a welcome new event. The concept is one similar to one Carlsen advocated in 2018 for the World Championship - a number of rapid games in one day rather than a single classical game.

The format is a Match Round Robin of 8 players meeting each other once over four 15 minute + 10 seconds a move games; if this mini-match is tied 2-2 there will be a single decisive Armageddon game. The top 4 will play in a knockout final stage to decide the winner. The prize fund is $250,000 and a star studded field will compete alongside Carlsen.

The second event on the list was played a month later.

TWIC 1333, 25th May 2020, Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge 2020 • The Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge online chess tournament takes place on Chess24, 19th May to 6th June 2020. The event is part of the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour and the winner will qualify for the finals in August.

There are two phases, a 12 player all-play-all followed by a mini-match knockout system for the top 8 finishers. Players: Carlsen, Ding Liren, Nakamura, Grischuk, Aronian, Duda, Dubov, Wei Yi, Wesley So, Yu Yangyi, Karjakin and Firouzja.

Two stories down, 18 to go. I'll need all of them when I start to update Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 2000-).


Later: Re 'Two stories down, 18 to go', here are eight more, plus a bonus story about the first series final. I've flagged meta-info about the series in italics. [NB: In the chart displayed on the original post, I missed one event discused in TWIC1337 & TWIC1339. I've included it below.] Let's start with the third event of the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1337 22nd June 2020, Chessable Masters 2020 • The Chessable Masters takes place 20th June to 5th July 2020. This is part of the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour. The event follows on from the Lindores Abbey Challenge and has a very similar format -- the only tweak is the group stage where the players are split into two groups of 6 rather than play in one group of 12. This means an extra day of play before the knockout phase with groups A and B alternating for the first four days to produce 4 qualifiers each. The field is again very strong with the top 6 in the world competing along with previous finalists Dubov and Nakamura.

The fourth event:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1342 27th July 2020, Legends of Chess 2020 • The Legends of Chess is the final online qualifier for the Magnus Carlsen tour final in August and takes place July 21st to August 5th 2020. The event has returned to the Match Round Robin format they used in the first Magnus Carlsen Invitational. That is there are 10 players and they play a one day match against each of their rivals for a point in the standing.

The Legends name has been translated into inviting former world chess champions Viswanthan Anand, Vladimir Kramnik, former championship challengers Peter Leko and Boris Gelfand along with 8 time Russian Champion Peter Svidler and Vasyl Ivanchuk. Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren qualified as the top four finishers in the Chessable Masters.

Play starts at 3pm BST. 21st-29th July is the Match Round Robin stage from which four players qualify for the semi-finals which take place after the only rest day (July 30th) July 31st-August 2nd. The final then takes place August 3rd-5th. The time control is a rapid 15 minutes plus 10 seconds a move. The venue is the chess24 Playzone.

The final of the series also deserves a special mention:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1346 24th August 2020, Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Final 2020 • Magnus Carlsen won his tour final against Hikaru Nakamura but it was an extremely close contest settled by an Armageddon tie-break that could have gone either way. Nakamura showed that his online skills are pretty much undimmed and Carlsen clearly was very frustrated with the problems he set him.

Already Chess24 have announced another longer tour starting in November and running well into 2021. I've said many times that we're not getting back to normal any time soon and we will be reliant on chess online to keep us going.

The format of the final itself proved to be quite brutal with rapid and blitz taking it out of the players in the long term. The seven set final was supposed to be long enough to produce a clear winner, instead it felt rather unfair to whoever lost because it had been impossible to separate the two players.

I thought in general Chess24 got it mostly right in the formats they chose, some people didn't like things like Rook vs Rook in the Armageddon (you could simply de clare this drawn after a couple of ply if you really wanted) -- but the whole idea of Armageddon is clock based and its aim is to break a tie, not to be particularly edifying or even satisfactory -- we've had years of experience of ghastly goings on in these finishes yet they're still used. It had to end and end it did in Carlsen's favour.


The Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Final took place Sunday 9th to Thursday 20th August 2020. Magnus Carlsen won the final of the event by the closest possible margin against Hikaru Nakamura. On a thrilling final day Carlsen won an Armageddon tie-break. Before that Nakamura came from behind in the rapid and Carlsen had to win the second blitz game to stay in the event. Because Carlsen had the best record in the events he got to choose the colours in the final Armageddon game, he chose black and draw odds and did indeed draw quite comfortably.

A new series, the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, started a few months later.

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1359 23rd November 2020, Champions Chess Tour Skilling Open 2020 • The Skilling Open takes place on Chess24 Sun 22nd Nov to Mon 30th Nov 2020 with play starting at 17:00 each day. This is the first event of the new Champions Chess Tour that takes place over the next year. The event is a 16 player rapid tournament in two phases. An all-play-all which will reduce the field to 8 players followed by series of knockout matches.

Players: Magnus Carlsen, Ding Liren, Wesley So, Vidit Gujrathi, Peter Svidler, Teimour Radjabov, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Hikaru Nakamura, Le Quang Liem Sergey Karjakin, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Levon Aronian, Anish Giri, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, David Anton Guijarro and Alireza Firouzja.

Second event:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1364 28th December 2020, Airthings Masters 2020 • The Airthings Masters is the second event of the online Champions Chess Tour and takes place 26th December 2020 to 3rd January 2021. The event is one of three "Majors" on the tour which means the winner will qualify for the tour final.

Players: Magnus Carlsen, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Hikaru Nakamura, Alexander Grischuk, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Levon Aronian, Daniil Dubov, Teimour Radjabov, Wesley So, Anish Giri, Pentala Harikrishna and David Anton Guijarro. An initial 12 player all-play-all qualifies the leading players for the final 8 player knockout phase.

Third event:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1370 8th February 2021, Champions Chess Tour Opera Euro Rapid 2021 • The Opera Euro Rapid takes place Sat 6th Feb to Sun 14th Feb 2021. The online event hosted by Chess24 is part of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. This is a regular tour tournament so there are only points and prizes available, not a place in the tour final. 16 players start the event competing in a three day Round Robin which will reduce the field to 8. Then in the knockout phase three rounds of mini-matches will produce a winner.

Players: Magnus Carlsen, Ding Liren, Hikaru Nakamura, Leinier Dominguez Perez, Alexander Grischuk, Levon Aronian, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Daniil Dubov, Teimour Radjabov, Wesley So, Anish Giri, Santosh Gujrathi Vidit, Sam Shankland and Matthias Bluebaum.

Fourth event:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1375 15th March 2021, Magnus Carlsen Invitational 2021 • The Magnus Carlsen Invitational is the second major on the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. This online event takes place on Chess24 13th-24th March. The format has been tweaked for this major, the field has been increased from 12 to 16, in the first major 8 of the 12 players made it through to the second phase and this lead to a lot of caution being rewarded.

Players: Magnus Carlsen, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Levon Aronian, Anish Giri, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Wesley So, Teimour Radjabov, Alireza Firouzja, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Sergey Karjakin, Hikaru Nakamura, Daniil Dubov, Jorden van Foreest, David Anton Plus two qualifiers Alan Pichot and Nils Grandelius.

Fifth event:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1381 26th April 2021, New in Chess Classic 2021 • The New In Chess Classic is the fifth event of the Champions Chess Tour the online rapid series hosted by Chess24. The event takes place 24th April to May 2nd. The rounds start later than any event so far to try and avoid a clash with the Candidates, they start at 6pm BST.

Players: Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Leinier Dominguez Perez, Levon Aronian, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Teimour Radjabov, Quang Liem Le, Wesley So, Sergey Karjakin, Alireza Firouzja, Santosh Gujrathi Vidit, Gawain C B Jones, Aryan Tari, Johan-Sebastian Christiansen and R Praggnanandhaa.

Sixth event:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1385 24th May 2021, FTX Crypto Cup 2021 • The FTX Crypto Cup is part of the online Champions Chess Tour and takes place 23rd to 31st May 2021. This is the last Major - that is an event where the winner qualifies directly for the tour final in late September - although there are 3 more standard events and the leading players in the tour standings will qualify for the finals too. The top 10 players in the world all compete making this the strongest event on the tour so far. 16 players in the preliminaries will play a round robin to produce 8 qualifiers for the second knockout stage.

Players: Magnus Carlsen, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Liren Ding, Hikaru Nakamura, Alexander Grischuk, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Levon Aronian, Fabiano Caruana, Daniil Dubov, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Teimour Radjabov, Peter Svidler, Wesley So, Anish Giri, Alireza Firouzja and Alan Pichot.

Seventh event:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1390 28th June 2021, Goldmoney Asian Rapid 2021 • The Goldmoney Asian Rapid takes place Sat 26th Jun to Sun 4th Jul 2021. This is the latest event of the Champions Chess Tour and features a number of Asian qualifiers and invitees. Goldmoney is an online company that facilitates the purchase of precious metals.

Players: Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So, Anish Giri, Levon Aronian, Alireza Firouzja, Vidit Gujrathi, Ding Liren, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Vladimir Artemiev, Saleh Salem, Hou Yifan, Arjun Erigaisi, Adhiban Baskaran, Gukesh D, Daniil Dubov and Peter Svidler. Play starts significantly earlier than most of the events on the tour so far, 12pm BST.

More events in the series were played after the cutoff point for this edition of the TMER. For more information, see Meltwater Champions Chess Tour 2021.

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