Magnus' next moves

by Macauley Peterson
3/30/2018 – World Champion Magnus Carlsen has a busy Spring planned. He leads the field of the Grenke Chess Classic again this year from March 31st to April 9th. The tournament runs parallel to the Grenke Open in Karlsruhe and then moves to Baden-Baden. Later in April, from the 18th to the 29th, Carlsen will play in Shamkir, Azerbaijan for the Vugar Gashimov Memorial, followed by the Altibox Norway Chess tournament, May 27th to June 8th. The summer kicks off for Carlsen with the 51st Biel Chess Festival, July 22nd to August 1st. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

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From Grenke to Biel

Magnus Carlsen now knows who he will play for the World Championship title in November, but before then he'll have several chances to face his challenger, Fabiano Caruana. The pair's first clash comes as soon as tomorrow in Karlsruhe, Germany, after yesterday's drawing of lots at the 5th Grenke Chess Classic produced a pairing Caruana - Carlsen in round one!

Here's a brief teaser featuring glimpses of the players, alongside scenes from the first round of the Grenke Open, a massive Swiss tournament which coincides with the first three rounds of the Classic. 

Grenke Chess on YouTube

From March 31st to April 9th, the Grenke Chess Classic takes place in Karlsruhe and Baden-Baden, Germany. Ten grandmasters play a single round-robin, headed by Magnus Carlsen. The 27-year-old world champion from Norway starts as a favourite and would like to win his second big title in 2018 after finishing first in the Tata Steel Chess tournament.

Levon Aronian, the winner of Grenke in 2017, travelled directly from the Candidates Tournament in Berlin to Karlsruhe to defend his title, after a disappointing run at the World Championship qualification. And Fabiano Caruana is there too, in the reverse circumstance — he will face Carlsen for the first time since qualifying to challenge for the Champion's title. As luck would have it, they are set to play already in the first round on Saturday!

Other top players in the field are Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Viswanathan Anand, plus Nikita Vitiugov, who qualified as winner of the Grenke Chess Open 2017, Arkadij Naiditsch, the former German number one now playing for Azerbaijan, the world's top woman, Hou Yifan, and two of Germany's leading grandmasters, Georg Meier and Matthias Bluebaum.

playing hall

The elite GMs play alongside the Open tournament in Karlsruhe for the first three rounds | Photo: Georgios Souleidis


Round 1: March 31st 15:00 CEST (9:00 EDT) (Schwarzwaldhalle Karlsruhe)
Round 2: April 1st 15:00 CEST (9:00 EDT) (Schwarzwaldhalle Karlsruhe)
Round 3: April 2nd 15:00 CEST (9:00 EDT) (Schwarzwaldhalle Karlsruhe)
Rest day: April 3rd
Round 4: April 4th 15:00 CEST (9:00 EDT) (Kulturhaus LA8 Baden-Baden)
Round 5: April 5th 15:00 CEST (9:00 EDT) (Kulturhaus LA8 Baden-Baden)
Round 6: April 6th 15:00 CEST (9:00 EDT) (Kulturhaus LA8 Baden-Baden)
Round 7: April 7th 15:00 CEST (9:00 EDT) (Kulturhaus LA8 Baden-Baden)
Round 8: April 8th 15:00 CEST (9:00 EDT) (Kulturhaus LA8 Baden-Baden)
Round 9: April 9th 15:00 CEST (9:00 EDT) (Kulturhaus LA8 Baden-Baden)

Pairings of round one

Pairings round 1

All round pairings are available on

Carlsen was among the first to congratulate his next challenger, and it will be interesting to see what kind of a "statement" Caruana can make in their next encounter.

Official site:

Shamkir Chess 2018

Also known as this Vugar Gashimov Memorial, this tournament is being held for the fifth time in memory of Gashimov, the world-class player who died in 2014 at the age of 27 after a battle with brain cancer. His brother Sarkhan Gashimov, an international master himself, announced earlier this month that Carlsen would play.

The players list is similarly impressive, though without Caruana this time. The World Champion will be joined by Azerbaijan's crème de la crème, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Teymur Rajabov, and Rauf Mamedov. Mamedyarov was recently a hair's breadth from winning the Candidates in Berlin, and will will share the stage with other unsuccessful candidates: the third-place finisher Sergey Karjakin, as well as Vladimir Kramnik and Ding Liren.

Anish Giri, who served as Kramnik's second will also play, as will Veselin Topalov, who has been out of the limelight in recent months and rarely is seen playing in a tournament with his old nemesis Kramnik, although last year's Shamkir Chess tournament was a notable exception. There they were even analysing together in the post-game press conference moderated by GM Ljubomir Ljubojevic. Finally, Czech number one David Navara completes the field.

Shamkir players

Players expected in Shamkir 2018

The tournament is, therefore, a 10-player single round-robin, and carries a total prize fund of €100,000, with €25,000 for first place. The time control is a leisurely 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game, with a 30 seconds per move increment starting from move 61. If there is a tie, we'll see a rapid playoff match decide the winner.

Shamkir is the 8th largest city in Azerbaijan, located about 40 kilometres northwest of Ganja, which is home to the nearest airport.


Round 1: April 19th, 13:00 CEST (7:00 AM EDT)
Round 2: April 20th, 13:00 CEST (7:00 AM EDT)
Round 3: April 21st, 13:00 CEST (7:00 AM EDT)
Round 4: April 22nd, 13:00 CEST (7:00 AM EDT)
Round 5: April 23rd, 13:00 CEST (7:00 AM EDT)
Rest day: April 24th
Round 6: April 25th, 13:00 CEST (7:00 AM EDT)
Round 7: April 26th, 13:00 CEST (7:00 AM EDT)
Round 8: April 27th, 13:00 CEST (7:00 AM EDT)
Round 9: April 28th, 12:00 CEST (6:00 AM EDT)

Official site:

Altibox Norway Chess

Magnus Carlsen will also have a chance to face his challenger in his home country. Indeed, many of the same faces will appear in this year's Norway Chess tournament, taking place once again in Stavanger. Carlsen will be back for a 6th consecutive time, leading a field packed with top ten (or recently top ten) players. He will be joined by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Wesley So, Levon Aronian, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, Viswanathan Anand, Ding Liren and Sergey Karjakin, which gives them the bragging rights to be "the world’s strongest 10-person tournament".

Norway chess banner

Click or tap to enlarge

The tournament starts with a blitz tournament on May 27th and the last classical round is June 7th. The first six rounds are played at Clarion Hotel Energy before the tournament moves for the final three rounds, June 5th-7th, at the Stavanger Concert Hall.

Schedule (round times TBD)

Blitz tournament: May 27th (Clarion Hotel Energy)
Round 1: May 28th (Clarion Hotel Energy)
Round 2: May 29th (Clarion Hotel Energy)
Round 3: May 30th (Clarion Hotel Energy)
Rest day: May 31st
Round 4: June 1st (Clarion Hotel Energy)
Round 5: June 2nd (Clarion Hotel Energy)
Round 6: June 3rd (Clarion Hotel Energy)
Rest day: June 4th
Round 7: June 5th (Stavanger Concert Hall)
Round 8: June 6th (Stavanger Concert Hall)
Round 9: June 7th (Stavanger Concert Hall)
Playoff (if necessary): June 8th (TBA)

Official site:

51st Biel Chess Festival

One more tournament has recently announced the participation of the World Champion; Carlsen will return to Biel, Switzerland for the first time since earning the title in 2013. Carlsen's last Biel victory was in 2011, and his last visit was in 2012 when Wang Hao was the surprise winner.

Biel 2012 podium

Carlsen finished second to Wang Hao in 2012, with Hikaru Nakamura and Anish Giri joint third | Photo: Biel Chess Festival

The players list this year will include five-time winner Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, the young Swiss GM Nico Georgiadis and three other players to be named later. One of them could, theoretically, be Caruana.

ChessBase will once again be providing the live commentary webcast featuring Grandmaster Daniel King.

Official site:

Other Champion vs Challenger match-ups?

Biel could well be the last time Carlsen and Caruana face each other before their November scheduled match of twelve games. The Chess Olympiad will be played in Batumi, Georgia, and it's possible that the pair could face each other there, assuming that they both participate and Caruana plays on board one, and the USA is paired against Norway — none of which is a foregone conclusion.

Between Norway Chess and the Olympiad, Caruana will play in the Grand Chess Tour — including the Sinquefield Cup in August — but Carlsen opted to sit out this 2018 GCT season to focus on other tournaments as well as his match preparation. Until then we can look forward to at least two classical and one blitz game between them.

Update June 28: Subsequently, Mamedyarov, Svidler and Navara were announced for Biel. However, Magnus will play Caruana at the Sinquefield Cup in August.


Macauley served as the Editor in Chief of ChessBase News from July 2017 to March 2020. He is the producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.


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