Strongest Tournament Of 2017 Starts Monday

Strongest Tournament Of 2017 Starts Monday

| 58 | Chess Event Coverage

On Monday the fifth edition of the Altibox Norway Chess tournament takes off in Stavanger, Norway. As Magnus Carlsen himself tweeted this week, it's going to be the strongest tournament of the year.

The ten participants of the 2017 Altibox Norway Chess tournament are precisely the ten players that topped the world rankings in February 2017, when the organisers announced their field. By now everyone knows that two players have dropped out of that top ten, so let's not dwell on that any longer. The field is amazing anyway!

2017 Altibox Norway Chess | Participants

# Fed Name Rating Rank B-Year
1 Carlsen, Magnus 2832 1 1990
2 So, Wesley 2812 2 1993
3 Kramnik, Vladimir 2808 3 1975
4 Caruana, Fabiano 2808 4 1992
5 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 2796 6 1990
6 Aronian, Levon 2793 7 1982
7 Anand, Viswanathan 2786 8 1969
8 Nakamura, Hikaru 2785 9 1987
9 Karjakin, Sergey 2781 11 1990
10 Giri, Anish 2771 12 1994

"The world's strongest chess tournament 2017" is the new tagline on the official website and that seems fair. There's not going to be a stronger one this year, as noted by the world champion, who will be defending his title on home soil. 

With an average rating of 2797 it's not the strongest tournament in history. 2014 saw two tournaments with an average Elo above 2800: the Zurich Chess Challenge (2801) and the Sinquefield Cup (2802). The feat of AVRO 1938, which had the world's eight best players, still hasn't been bested.

But what a great field it is, this year. There's four 2800+ players, three world champions and basically not a single player who doesn't have a decent chance to win this one.

It's only Magnus Carlsen's third classical chess tournament in 2017. As usual, he started the year in Wijk aan Zee and then he played Grenke, where both his glasses and an interesting hairdo made their debut. Besides, Carlsen participated in's PRO Chess League.

And, as you know, in early May he played a clock simul at the Milken Institute's Global Conference 2017. It was part of another trip through the United States, during which he returned to California and met with celebrities and business people. You'll certainly recognise one particular celeb, who didn't last long in this simul...

[Unfortunately the particular tweet with Kevin Spacy in a simul by Magnus Carlsen has been removed.]

Carlsen is not going to win games in four moves in Stavanger. His biggest rival is Wesley So, the "hottest man on the planet" as Maurice Ashley has called him. And indeed, So has been winning a lot recently (including the aforementioned Tata Steel tournament) and some experts have already tipped him to be Carlsen's next opponent in a world championship match.

Vladimir Kramnik's last tournament was the Russian Team Championship, where he scored three draws and a win. In Shamkir he had ups and downs, with wins against Harikrishna, Adams and Eljanov but losses against So and tournament winner Mamedyarov. With or without 1.e4 as a regular guest in his repertoire, Kramnik's participation always leads to many great fights.

Fabiano Caruana had the luxury of enjoying two different June FIDE ratings. When the list came out, he was on 2805 but one recent win in the Bundesliga hadn't been calculated yet (now it has). Wins vs Richard Rapport on 30 April and Pavel Tregubov on 1 May are his last two games; before that he played the Grenke tournament and the U.S. Championship. Together he lost 14.9 points there. Time to climb back!

For Maxime Vachier-Lagrave it's the same story but with less impact. His rating is now 2796 and not 2795 as reported earlier. The Frenchman comes to Norway after scoring 1.5/2 in the French league but his last tournament he wasn't very stable.

Levon Aronian also played the Bundesliga but both his black wins (vs Adam Horvath and Borki Predojevic) had already been calculated. Before that, he won the Grenke tournament so the Armenian might be the man to beat in Stavanger!

Then we arrive at the oldest player in the field, Vishy Anand. After a rather quiet period (only the Zurich Chess Challenge and two Bundesliga games), Norway Chess will be the Indian's first classical chess tournament in 2017. It's great to have one of the true legends of the game back at the board.

He hasn't been sitting still though. This spring, Anand has been busy spreading his knowledge to others, with a masterclass in Marrakesh for adults (organised by the same team that is behind the annual tournament in Gibraltar) and one for younger players in India.

Next on the list is Hikaru Nakamura, one of the players who participated in the Moscow Grand Prix. His score was solid but not spectacular with eight draws and one win. Like Caruana, he has been physically active recently. He participated in the Red Bull Wings for Live run on 7 May and the distance he made wasn't too bad!

Stavanger is only the third classical tournament also for Sergey Karjakin. A 50 percent score in Shamkir wasn't inspiring, so after warming up with his Speed Chess match against Georg Meier it's time for another good result. The Russian player won the first two editions in Norway, and he might do it again!

A nice detail is that no less than eight of the ten players are active on Twitter. Only Kramnik and So are not. Of all participants, Karjakin is tweeting the most. Below is only a small selection of what he's been up to lately.

Attending a Spartak Moscow hockey match.

Noticing some interesting bus advertising.

Partying with his wife Galiya—they're expecting their second child at the end of July.

Participating in the Economic Forum in St. Petersburg.

Tenth seed this year is Anish Giri, who has been much less active on Twitter, but all the more on the chess board. His recent events were the Reykjavik Open (which he won with good play), the Russian league (four draws and two wins) and the Moscow Grand Prix (eight draws, one win).

One recent tweet was almost a parody of Giri's former Twitter presence.

The tournament starts Monday evening with the traditional blitz tournament (3 minutes plus 2 seconds per move) to determine the pairing numbers. Besides a modest prize fund of 11,600 Euro ($13,100) it is mostly about finishing in the top half, which secures five whites vs for blacks.

Then, nine rounds will be played between 6 and 16 June, with rest days on 9 and 13 June. You can find the full schedule here. The time control is 100 minutes for 40 moves, then 50 minutes for 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move, starting from move 61.

Independent chess professional Lennart Ootes is visiting
the tournament for the first time and came early.

Players cannot agree to a draw unless there's a threefold repetition or a clearly drawn position on the board. In case of a tie for first place, there will be a blitz play-off to decide the winner.

The first six rounds will be played in the Clarion Hotel Energy in Stavanger. Then the tournament moves to the Stavanger Concert Hall for the last three rounds.

The tournament has a total prize fund of 249,000 Euro ($281,000) with a first prize of 70,000 Euro ($79,000).

You can follow the games in Live Chess each day starting at 4 p.m. local time (7 a.m. Pacific, 10 a.m. Eastern) on our Live Server. Monday's blitz tournament starts 6:30 p.m. local time (9:30 a.m. Pacific, 12:30 p.m. Eastern).

Expect daily, on-site coverage on and on our Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels.

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