Carlsen set to face Ding Liren and co. at Weissenhaus Freestyle G.O.A.T. Challenge

by Shahid Ahmed
2/9/2024 – A new super tournament starts in Weissenhaus, near Hamburg, Germany, today. But it is not just any other super tournament. This event is introduced by none other than the World no.1 Magnus Carlsen himself and it will be in Fischer-Random format or as Carlsen likes to say, Freestyle. Hence, the name WEISSENHAUS Freestyle Chess G.O.A.T. Challenge. Carlsen's handpicked opponents for this eight-player tournament are: Fabiano Caruana (USA), Ding Liren (CHN), Alireza Firouzja (FRA), Nodirbek Abdusattorov (UZB), D Gukesh, Vincent Keymer (GER) and Levon Aronian (USA). There will be four rounds of Rapid games played today in Playoffs. Round 1 starts today at 1 p.m. CET, 5:30 p.m. IST, 7 a.m. EST. | Photos: Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal

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Carlsen handpicks his opponents

In multitude of interviews, Magnus Carlsen has abundantly made it clear that he feels the conventional chess should have reduced time control due to the opening of the game played quite fast as it's mostly a preparation. He is not fond of preparing and keeping his preparation up to date. However, Chess960 or Fischer Random chess is something, he feels should have Classical time controls. The reasoning is quite simple, there is no opening theory, so you have to think from move no.1. Here at WEISSENHAUS Freestyle Chess G.O.A.T. Challenge, players will get the starting position for the round and ten minutes to think, discuss with the same color players if they wish to. However, no seconds or gadgets will be allowed in this time.

Magnus Carlsen mentioned after winning the FIDE World Cup 2023 that his game against D Gukesh was the one which he enjoyed the most. So it is no surprise that Gukesh is one of the seven handpicked opponents. Vincent Keymer (GER) and Nodirbek Abdusattorov (UZB) are the only two other teenagers at the event. Keymer was the only player to defeat Carlsen in the World Cup 2023 and almost eliminated him, before the Norwegian went on to win the event. Abdusattorov won the World Rapid Championship 2021 and he upstaged the defending champion en route his first world rapid title. It is no wonder, why Carlsen chose these three teenagers.

Weissenhaus Freestyle Chess G.O.A.T. Challenge official logo

Magnus Carlsen, World Champion from 2013 to 2023, introduced a unique competition format specifically for the WEISSENHAUS Freestyle Chess G.O.A.T. Challenge.

The objective is to elevate chess into an appealing, intellectually stimulating, and captivating sport for a broader audience, targeting a new demographic of spectators and consumers. The event is hosted at the prestigious WEISSENHAUS Private Nature Luxury Resort, known for hosting the G7 Foreign Minister summit in 2022.

The primary focus of the competition is on showcasing the personalities and extraordinary skills of Super Grandmasters, with Magnus Carlsen himself handpicking seven world-class challengers. This innovative approach aims to attract a younger audience of high-potential individuals who have a general interest in sports, catering to enthusiasts from around the globe.

WEISSENHAUS Private Nature Luxury Resort | Video: Freestyle Chess

Players

The World no.1 - Magnus Carlsen (NOR), World no.2 - Fabiano Caruana (USA), reigning World Champion - Ding Liren (CHN), World no.6 - Alireza Firouzja (FRA), former World Rapid champion - Nodirbek Abdusattorov (UZB), World no.16 - D Gukesh, World no.17 - Vincent Keymer (GER) and only two-time World Cup winner in history - Levon Aronian (USA).

Freestyle Chess G.O.A.T. Challenge 2024 Trailer | Video: Freestyle Chess

Format

Time: Rapid and Standard

• Round robin: rapid 25 min for the game + 10 sec per move according to A5 of the FIDE laws of chess

• Tiebreak: first direct encounter, second: number of wins, third: Sonneborn-Berger

• Quarter-, semi- and finals: Two games standard 90 minutes/40 moves + 30 minutes rest of the game additional 30 seconds per move

In Case of Tiebreak

1:1 in quarter-, semi-final or final. Tiebreak in the evening:

• two rapid games 15 min for the game + 10 sec per move

• two blitz games 5 min for the game + 2 sec per move

• then one more blitz game until a winner is found

You can also listen to Magnus Carlsen explaining the tournament format himself

Schedule

9th and 10th February: playoffs for starting order - Rapid

11th and 12th February: Quarterfinals - Classical

13th and 14th February: Semifinals - Classical

15th and 16th February: Finals - Classical

Photo Gallery

Magnus Carlsen sharing a light moment with Peter Leko, Nodirbek Abdusattorov and Fabiano Caruana

The only two-time World Cup winner in history - Levon Aronian

D Gukesh checking out his photo on a Jack of Spades

Gukesh seems to ask a question, in the future he and Vincent Keymer could be in contention for a World Championship/Cup title

All eight players were given the option to choose three colors for a jacket. These are all eight jackets designed by Frank Rudolf.

Magnus Carlsen receiving his Frank Rudolf black jacket

Purple for Fabiano Caruana

The world champion Ding Liren was given blue

Alireza Firouzja with a fashionable red

Nodirbek Abdusattorov got the green color

Gukesh got a red jacket that matched his shoes

The Germany no.1 Vincent Keymer found himself a mustard yellow jacket

The artist Levon Aronian got a purple color

Levon Aronian donning his jacket

Alireza Firouzja with his father - Hamidreza Firouzja

Ding Liren, Levon Aronian, Magnus Carlsen and D Gukesh having a good time at the drawing  of lots

All participants listening with rapt attention while IM Sagar Shah captures some important footage for the chess universe

For more photos, please click here.

Video Gallery

Ding Liren on the prospect of facing Carlsen, Freestyle Chess and visiting the ChessBase office in Hamburg | Video: ChessBase India

"Magnus sacrificed his bishop on move 1 and it was shocking" - Nodirbek Abdusattorov | Video: ChessBase India

Carlsen, Caruana, Aronian are having a conversation about Freestyle chess | Video: ChessBase India

Gukesh's red jacket, the invitation to Weissenhaus by Carlsen, finishing second at 86th Tata Steel Chess 2024 | Video: ChessBase India

World Class Magic Tricks with World Class players | Video: ChessBase India

Tania Sachdev - one of the best commentators in the world is in Weissenhaus | Video: ChessBase India

From Mumbai to meet Magnus | The Weissenhaus G.O.A.T. Freestyle Challenge vlog | Video: ChessBase India

Day 1 pairings

Round 1
Bo. No. Rtg Name Result Name Rtg No.
1 1 2743
GM Gukesh, D GM Firouzja, Alireza
2760 8
2 2 2830
GM Carlsen, Magnus GM Keymer, Vincent
2738 7
3 3 2725
GM Aronian, Levon GM Abdusattorov, Nodirbek
2744 6
4 4 2762
GM Ding, Liren GM Caruana, Fabiano
2804 5
Round 2
Bo. No. Rtg Name Result Name Rtg No.
1 6 2744
GM Abdusattorov, Nodirbek GM Ding, Liren
2762 4
2 8 2760
GM Firouzja, Alireza GM Caruana, Fabiano
2804 5
3 7 2738
GM Keymer, Vincent GM Aronian, Levon
2725 3
4 1 2743
GM Gukesh, D GM Carlsen, Magnus
2830 2
Round 3
Bo. No. Rtg Name Result Name Rtg No.
1 3 2725
GM Aronian, Levon GM Gukesh, D
2743 1
2 4 2762
GM Ding, Liren GM Keymer, Vincent
2738 7
3 2 2830
GM Carlsen, Magnus GM Firouzja, Alireza
2760 8
4 5 2804
GM Caruana, Fabiano GM Abdusattorov, Nodirbek
2744 6
Round 4
Bo. No. Rtg Name Result Name Rtg No.
1 7 2738
GM Keymer, Vincent GM Caruana, Fabiano
2804 5
2 8 2760
GM Firouzja, Alireza GM Abdusattorov, Nodirbek
2744 6
3 1 2743
GM Gukesh, D GM Ding, Liren
2762 4
4 2 2830
GM Carlsen, Magnus GM Aronian, Levon
2725 3

Details

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Shahid Ahmed is the senior coordinator and editor of ChessBase India. He enjoys covering chess tournaments and also likes to play in chess events from time to time.
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