Norway’s international chess champion Magnus Carlsen got off to what commentators called a “dream start” when the Norway Chess tournament got underway in Stavanger this week. He beat everyone in the opening blitz tournament, piling up an impressive 7.5 of 9 possible points.
Some of the biggest names in chess have gathered in Stavanger on the Norwegian west coast this week, including Vladimir Kramnik, Veselin Topalov, Levon Aronian and, of course, Carlsen. He may have a sort of home turf advantage, but mostly he seemed delighted to prove that he’s good at blitz chess along with the slower variety.
“I’ve had such a bad rating in blitz chess, that I want to show it just wasn’t right,” Carlsen said before also beating his old teacher, grand master Simen Agdestein, in the last round. The action played out on the idyllic island outside Stavanger known as Flor & Fjære, home to a botanical garden and restaurant by the same name that’s become a popular tourist destination in recent years.
He opened with victory over former world champion Topalov and Anish Giri. He ended up winning six rounds and tying in three. Aronian placed second and Sergey Karjakin third.
Garry Kasparov, the legendary chess star who coached Carlsen for awhile, is also in Stavanger as a special guest at the tournament, which runs through June 13. Kasparov was due to offer professional comment on the games and discuss his campaign for the international chess federation’s presidential election to be held during the Chess Olympiad in Tromsø in August.
Carlsen, ranked number one in the world and the reigning chess world champion, will face off against the world’s second-ranked player Aronian in round five of the tournament on Sunday. (For a complete rundown of the action, click here, external link). Most of the games will take place at the Hotel Scandic Stavanger Forus, with a celebrity tournament set for the large restaurant Hall Toll on Stavanger’s waterfront and the fourth round at the local Vågen High School.
Carlsen warmed up for the tournament in unusually warm and sunny weather back home in the Oslo area. “He prepared some opening moves, relaxed, did some light sports training,” his manager Espen Agdestein told news bureau NTB. “It’s important to have a calm period before a big tournament.”
Even though no major titles are at stake, Carlsen clearly wants to do well for the homeland crowds. The young champion has become an international celebrity, and his next tournament after Stavanger will be in Dubai.