There was a time not that long ago when chess fans would instinctively just reach for New in Chess magazine to follow all the World champion’s latest moves, earnings and announcements – but when it comes to Magnus Carlsen, now you might have to start adding to your reading-list the world’s leading global business publications of The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal!
Last week, the Play Magnus Group – Play Magnus App Suite, Chess24.com, Chessable and CoChess, that earlier this year also launched the successful series of elite-level online chess tournaments, the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, which gained wide media interest and captured the imagination of hundreds of thousands of viewers worldwide – announced that it had applied to list on the Oslo Børs’ Merkur Market.
The listing intends to raise capital to allow the tech company to fulfil its mission to expand its growth in chess and chess technology. Among the cornerstone investors in the capital increase are the American asset manager Luxor Capital, DNB Capital Management, TIN Fonder and TD Veen. The Play Magnus Group hope to start trading during the week of October 5, provided that their application is approved by the Oslo Stock Exchange.
In a press release announcing the financial move, Anders Brandt, the co-founder and chairman of the Play Magnus Group board, said: “The company has developed enormously from a standalone app to becoming an industry leader with an ecosystem of innovative chess services. Our ambition is to create the world’s best experiences for playing, learning and watching chess. This is by far the biggest investment ever in chess, and a listing on Merkur Market will secure a solid platform for further growth.”
And the World Champion himself, Magnus Carlsen, further added: “The company has a unique vision and strategy for bringing chess to a wider audience. Our model will help many more chess players and coaches to be able to make a living from chess. The company has just started on this journey and I look forward to continuing to be a part of this adventure.”
Currently, Carlsen is competing in yet another popular Banter Blitz contest on his own Chess24.com platform, this time the Banter Series Final, a 16-player knockout that also included a further seven of the world’s Top 10 battling it out not just for the $36,000 prize fund, but potentially more lucrative prospects with two spots up for grabs into the next Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour.
After emphatic one-sided wins over S. L. Narayanan and Anish Giri, Carlsen suffered a minor scare with a disastrous start to his semifinal clash with Levon Aronian, as he crashed 2-0 after the opening two games of the contest – but in typical Carlsen fashion, he rallied to storm back to snatch victory, and back in the hunt for yet another big online payday.
He now meets Welsey So in Tuesday’s final with a $12,000 top prize at stake. The final between these two rivals could well be a close contest: So tied with Carlsen in the recent Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz, and last year the US world #8 very memorably demolished Carlsen in his homeland in the World Chess 960 Championship to deny the Norwegian of what would have been an unprecedented fourth official world crown to his name.
The final of the Chess24 Banter Series between Magnus Carlsen and Wesley So will take place on Chess24.com at 20:00 CEST (14:00 EST | 13:00 CST | 11:00 PST) on Tuesday 29th September. On the official site, you can also follow the live video feed for either Carlsen or So.
GM Levon Aronian – GM Magnus Carlsen
Chess24 Banter Series Final | S/F, (4)
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Qxd4 The Chekhover Variation, named after the Soviet player Vitaly Chekhover (1908-1965), became fairly popular at club-level in the late 1960s/early 1970s as an antidote to the labyrinth of mainline Sicilians, such as the Najdorf and the Dragon. While not as sharp as the big theory mainlines, its popularity grew with an easy game-plan that allows free and rapid development of the pieces 4…Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Qe3 a6 7.Nd5 e6 8.Nxf6+ Qxf6 9.c3 Qd8 10.Bd3 Be7 11.0-0 0-0 12.Rd1 Qc7 13.a4 b6 14.Qe2 Bb7 Black has equalised with ease with a typical Scheveningen/Hedgehog set-up. 15.Bf4 Rfd8 16.h4 h6 17.g4 Ne5 Black is always doing well in these Sicilian set-ups if he has full control over the e5-square; and especially when this square gets occupied by a knight! 18.Nxe5 dxe5 19.Bg3 Bc6 There’s a good rule of thumb in chess that you have to be extremely careful when you start pushing pawns up the board, as you can’t move them back again! And Carlsen starts to pick away at that weakness caused by Aronian pushing his pawns up the board. 20.f3 b5 21.axb5 axb5 22.Rxa8 Rxa8 23.b4?! This only adds to Aronian’s troubles, as the unnecessary pawn weakness doesn’t help him any – better was 23.Qh2! Bf6 (If 23…f6 24.Qc2! with the idea of Qb3 hitting …b5 and …e6 easily equalises.) 24.g5! hxg5 25.hxg5 Bxg5 26.Bxe5 wand a balanced game. 23…Be8 24.Qb2 Rc8 25.Rc1? A mistake that Carlsen quickly pounces on. 25…Qd8 The double attack on d3 and h4 nets Carlsen an easy pawn. 26.Rd1 Bxh4 27.Bxe5 Bf6 28.Be2 Qe7 29.Bd6 Qa7+ 30.Bc5 Qc7 31.Kg2 h5! A spirited move, looking to open more lines to Aronian’s now exposed king. 32.gxh5 Qe5 33.Qd2 Qxh5 34.Rh1 Qg6+ 35.Kf2 Be5 36.Rg1 Qf6 37.Qg5 So why not 37.Bd4 defending the c-pawn, you might well ask? Well, Aronian is caught between a rock and hard place, as 37…Bxd4+ 38.cxd4 (After 38.Qxd4?! e5! 39.Qd2 Qb6+ 40.Kf1 (Just as difficult is 40.Kg2 Rc6) 40…Ra8 and the White king is looking vulnerable.) 38…Rd8 39.Rd1 Qh4+ 40.Kf1 e5! 41.d5 Bd7 and the security of the White king is looking very shaky. Rather than having to worry about his king, Aronian attempts to bail-out by going for the difficult endgame a pawn down, hoping he can save the game. 37…Qxg5 38.Rxg5 Bxc3 39.Be7? Aronian begins to feel the strain – he had to find the regrouping option for his pieces with 39.f4 Bc6 40.Rg3! Bf6 41.Ra3! in order to fight to stay in the game. 39…Bd4+ 40.Ke1 Be3 Carlsen begins to springs his pieces for the attack – but the more clinical kill was 40…Rc1+! 41.Bd1 (There’s not much difference between this and 41.Kd2 Rc7! 42.Bc5 f6 43.Rg3 Bxc5 44.bxc5 Rxc5 as it leads to much the same ending as the mainline.) 41…f6! 42.Rg2 Rc7 43.Bc5 Bxc5 44.bxc5 Rxc5 and once again a hopelessly lost ending. 41.Rg2 Rc1+ 42.Bd1 f5 43.Rc2 As the time metaphorically ticks down on both player’s digital clocks, Aronian missed his last saving chance with 43.exf5! exf5 44.Re2 f4 45.Bc5! and White has enough resources in the now limited position to hold the draw. 43…Ra1 44.Rc8 Kf7 45.Rc7 Kg6 46.Ke2 Bf4 47.Rc5 It’s all difficult with the limited time left for both players, but the only hope for Aronian was 47.Rc8! Bd7 48.Rd8 Ra2+ 49.Kf1 Bc6 50.Bb3 Ra3 51.exf5+ exf5 52.Rd3 and White should be able to hold with the limited number of pieces and pawns left on the board. 47…fxe4 48.Bc2 Ra2 49.fxe4 Kf7 Like a Torquemada feverishly working away at his rack, Carlsen is just stretching Aronian with every move, forcing his opponent’s pieces on more awkward squares. 50.Bd8 Bd6 51.Rc3 Bxb4 52.Rc7+ Kg8 53.Kf3 There’s always a chance if you can manage to get into any R+P ending scenario – and this is what Aronian heads for, rather than capitulating completely with 53.Rc8 Kf7 54.Rc7+ Kf8 55.Rc8 Bd7 56.Rc7 Ke8! 57.Bg5 Bd6 58.Rc3 b4 and the Bc2 can no longer be defended. 53…Ba5 54.Rc8 Bxd8 55.Rxd8 Rxc2 56.Rxe8+ Kf7 57.Rb8 Rc5 Not only defending the b-pawn but from here, the rook strategically cuts the White king from running to the queenside to get in front of the b-pawn. 58.Kf4 If 58.Ke3 Kf6 59.Kd4 Rc4+ 60.Kd3 Rb4 and with Kc3 not playable due to …Rxe4 and an easy endgame win, Carlsen is going to start the groundwork to pushing his g-pawn for passers on both wings. 58…g5+ 59.Kg4 Kf6 60.Rg8 Ke5! [see diagram] The king making the dash to the queenside to support the b-pawn is the final piece of the jigsaw for Carlsen to win. 61.Rxg5+ Kd4 62.Rg6 Kxe4 Chess doesn’t get any simpler than Carlsen’s execution of the win here, as he gives up his e-pawn to set-up the winning Lucena position, one of two famous R+P endings that all chess-players have to know by heart, the other being the drawing Philidor position. 63.Rxe6+ Kd3 64.Kf3 b4 65.Rd6+ Kc2 66.Ke3 Rc3+ 0-1 After the king is forced further away with Ke4, the ‘bridge’ is well and truly built now, with no way to stop …b3-b2-b1Q etc.