The Expo 2020 Dubai has been the cynosure of all eyes since its glorious start last month. Now the world’s greatest show is ready to add another golden chapter on Friday when world chess champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway faces his Russian challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi in the World Championship Match (November 26-December 16) at the Expo site.
The 30-year-old Carlsen’s exploits have already cemented his place in the pantheon of chess legends.
The hugely experienced Carlsen is the overwhelming favourite in Dubai. But the Norwegian says it would be foolish to take the first-time challenger Nepomniachtchi lightly.
“Yeah, I think some parts make it easier as you get more experience. But after all, it comes down to what you do over the board and I think also Ian has the experience now from the candidates (tournaments), which is really the best preparation that you can get for the match since it's so intense,” Carlsen said at the pre-event press conference on Wednesday in Dubai.
“And he (Nepomniachtchi) also has lots of people in his team that have World Championship experience. So it remains to be seen if the experience of being here before helps, but in terms of your question, if it gets any easier, yes, I would say it gets a little bit easier in the sense that you probably are a little less nervous than you are the first time when you have some experience.”
Nepomniachtchi will go toe to toe with Carlsen for 14 games over the next three weeks in Dubai to give himself a shot at glory.
Having come from a country that has produced some of the greatest players the game has ever seen, Nepomniachtchi will also have to deal with the pressure of expectations.
“Until the first move is played, you feel a bit nervous, pumped up and excited. But once it starts, it’s much easier to handle. But yeah, I am really thankful for all the support that I have been getting from all the people (in Russia) who have been wishing me luck and success,” he said.
Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi are known to be good friends in the circuit. But both players said their friendship would not have an impact on the game.
“I would say not particularly,” Carlsen said. “I knew (Viswanathan) Anand also very well before the first couple of matches. I worked with him as well. I don’t think it makes a massive difference. The top players know each other so well, especially those who have been in the circuit for a long time. I don’t think it really matters.”
Nepomniachtchi echoed Carlsen’s sentiments.
“As Magnus correctly stated, it’s really hard to find an opponent you don’t know,” the 31-year-old Russian said.
“I don’t think it will have an influence on how the match will go. In general, once you are on the board, you have no friends!”
While Nepomniachtchi can’t wait to get started ‘in the beautiful city of Dubai’, Carlsen is relishing the chance to play his part in UAE’s Golden Jubilee celebrations.
“What's more golden than a world championship? I think that's the perfect, perfect way to celebrate,” he smiled.
“Apart from that, yeah, Dubai has all the facilities and, also the climate which makes it a really, really good venue for a world championship. So I'm happy to be here.”
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