World Championship 2021 Officially Opens in Dubai
Insight, thoughts and predictions as the Chess World Championship officially opens
We’ve been waiting for this day for a very long time - the FIDE World Championship match between reigning champion since 2013, GM Magnus Carlsen, and his challenger, the Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi. To be precise, it has been 720 days since the start of the dramatic 2020/21 Candidates Tournament, which was won convincingly by Nepomniachtchi.
(title image - FIDE / Eric Rosen)
The first game will be starting tomorrow, 26 November at 12:30 UTC. Lichess will be providing a broadcast of the moves being played in real-time. The schedule of the tournament is unusual, with many rest days for the players, so please review it carefully:
After each round Lichess will provide an article recapping the round, with game annotations and insights provided by GM Nijat Abasov. Nijat has already offered us a preview of his thoughts on the upcoming match:
"Both players have had plenty of time to get fully prepared for the match, both practically and mentally. Surely, they studied all of each other’s games - including those played online on Lichess :) - and prepared tons of interesting opening ideas and novelties. However, in my personal view, they both did quite a serious job on getting prepared for the match - psychologically! Yes, this might totally contradict the 11th World Champion Bobby Fischer’s viewpoint, who didn’t believe in psychology but good moves. But, we shall take into account that chess has drastically changed since Fischer’s era.
Imagine, two people sitting across from each-other, staring into their opponent’s eyes, trying to read the body language, and telepathing their opponent’s mind. It happened a lot to me - without calculating any variations I could sense the continuation my opponent was most concerned about, and without any hesitation I’d go for it. Not always did I succeed, I should say. Sometimes I’d be bluffed by my opponent's emotions.
Now, back to why I think psychology is going to matter so much in this match -
To begin with, Ian is an astonishing chess player who has a much more aggressive playing style compared to all the challengers Magnus has faced in his previous matches for the crown. This brings the current World Champion into a new position. The position where Magnus has to accept sometimes playing as number two, resisting pressure from Ian. Psychologically, we have to ask - how is Magnus going to deal with it?
On the other hand, more than once Ian’s over-ambitiousness has backfired. Perhaps strangely, his power can also be his Achilles’ heel. It feels like sometimes he lacks patience. However, in one of his interviews after winning the Candidates, he admitted that he has worked a lot mentally, trying to be calmer and more consistent. And yes, one could easily sense it through his games, how much more mature of a player Ian became within a year.
Therefore, if he wants to dethrone Magnus, he should find the golden balance between aggressive Ian, and calm Ian! That is why I believe psychology will be so crucial in this match.
A historical match is waiting for us - where the experience of the world champion title holder is clashing with the hunger for the crown from the challenger! Where the Mozart of chess is against the Samurai of chess! Where Carlsen faces Nepomniachtchi! Let the party begin!"
(GM Nijat Abasov achieved the GM title at just 15. He was Azeri national champion in 2017, also winning the Baku Open the same year. He has played the Tata Steel Challengers and the Grand Swiss (twice), amongst many other tournaments, reaching his all-time peak rating of 2670 in February 2020. He recently represented Azerbaijan at the European Team Championships, winning a board prize with a performance rating of 2760.)