Carlsen Chess: Carlsen reappears against Firouzja | sports

Great champions like tough challenges. It can therefore be assumed that when Magnus Carlsen lands in Amsterdam he will be happy: his first opponent in the 83rd edition of the Tata tournament will be 17-year-old Iranian Alireza Firouzja, whom he himself points to as a future contender for his world title. The Spanish David Antón will debut in front of the Polish Radoslaw Wojtaszek this Saturday in Wijk aan Zee, where the great last minute absent (covid of a close relative) will be the Russian Danil Dúbov.

“I would love to be world champion at 20. But, if it can’t be, at 21 or 22.” That is how clear Firouzja has his objective, who resides in France and plays with the flag of the International Federation (FIDE) since he escaped from Iran, fed up with the fact that his government forced him to lose by default if he had to play with an Israeli. His trajectory is similar to Carlsen’s at the same age: he is now 18th in the world in classical mode, and he would probably be higher without the slow tournament drought in 2020, due to the pandemic.

Firouzja said that today during the opening ceremony (without public) in Wijk aan Zee, a town on the North Sea coast that every January (except this edition) receives about 1,500 chess players to celebrate a festival that deserves the nickname of he Roland Garros chess. Only two participants were missing: Carlsen, who was flying at that time from an Indian island (probably Maldives) and the German Alexander Donchenko, 22, 72nd in the world, who replaced Dúbov at the last minute, whose absence is very regrettable because he’s in great shape and on a favorable balance with Carlsen.

The Norwegian sent a video before taking off, and without knowing who he will face on Saturday: “I am happier than ever to go to Wijk aan Zee, because I am aware of the great effort that the organizers have made in such difficult circumstances.” The presenter asked him if he prefers to win the tournament with nine points or finish the 2nd with ten: “I keep the ten points, because if someone achieves more in this tournament, it will be to take his hat off to him.” Asked then why two players, in addition to himself, would choose as the most interesting of the tournament, he replied: “Without a doubt, [Fabiano] Caruana [EEUU, 2º del mundo]; and maybe Alireza ”.

It is very significant that the champion names Firouzja to the detriment of two established stars, such as the French Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and the Dutch Anish Giri. These are the initial round pairings: Harikrishna-Vachier Lagrave; Yesipenko-Duda; Grandelius-Donchenko; Caruana-J. Van Foreest; Giri-Tari; Wojtaszek-Anton; and Carlsen-Firouzja.

That, due to the pandemic, there are only four stars consecrated in fourteen participants makes this edition appear much more open than normal. And that constitutes a great opportunity for Antón, winner of Tournament B in 2020, if he plays at his highest level. In theory, the 25-year-old from Madrid, born in Murcia, should finish 9th. But several milestones in his record suggest that he is still far from his ceiling. Above all, his impressive 2nd place at Gibraltar 2017. If he plays now like then, few will be able to beat him.

Official portal (with live broadcast):

You can follow EL PAÍS Sports at Facebook, Twitter or subscribe here to the Newsletter.