For eight years, the world chess title has been in the hands of Magnus Carlsen. To extend that period by another two years, the Norwegian will have to deal with his challenger Jan Nepomnyashchi at the World Cup in the coming weeks.

“It’s getting a little easier,” Carlsen says about his fifth World Cup. “I’m less nervous now than I used to be because of all the experience.”

Those nerves are there with his opponent. “Basically it’s the same in every major tournament: I’m nervous until the first move and it’s exciting, but when the chess starts it gets easier. I’m grateful for everyone who wishes me luck, but actually I’m no more nervous than with other tournaments,” Nepomnyashchi puts it into perspective.

The honors list of the 31-year-old Russian is shorter than that of Carlsen, but Nepomnyashchi has already won the necessary titles. He was a two-time Russian champion, won the European Championship in 2010 and took first prize in elite decathlons in Moscow and Dortmund.

Football and gaming

In addition to his passion for chess, Nepomnyashchi also enjoys football and gaming. His chess career was in danger of coming to a halt, because he completely lost himself in the computer game Dota2.

However, his love for chess turned out to be stronger and last year he won the Candidates Tournament, where the Dutchman Anish Giri came in third. As a result, the Russian will be the challenger to Carlsen in Dubai in the coming weeks.

“That is the best preparation you could wish for,” said title holder Carlsen, who has been a grandmaster since he was thirteen. “In the end it comes down to what you show on the board.”

Fourteen games

The duel consists of fourteen matches and a tiebreak follows with a 7-7 final score. The decision on the World Cup will be made by Wednesday 15 December at the latest. The winner can not only call himself world champion, he also takes home sixty percent of the prize money of 1.8 million euros. The loser gets the rest.


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