Alireza Firouzja, 16, beat Carlsen, 8.5 to 7.5, to claim the top prize of the Banter Blitz Cup. The tournament involved blitz chess, a variant in which players are given a comparatively short amount of time on their clocks — in this case, three minutes. By comparison, in more traditional tournaments, games can stretch for hours. Further, in the Banter variant, players are expected to comment on their moves and those of their opponents as they make them.
This particular tourney lasted for several months and involved 131 matches played online.
As Chess 24 reports, Firouzja was such an underdog, one that bookmakers considered little more than an afterthought. However, after battling his way to the championship against arguably the best living chess player in the world, the Iranian teen opened with a win against the world champion.
Following the first game, Carlsen called his opponent “devilishly tricky,” as the teenager’s speed kept the 29-year-old on his toes.
“He’s amazingly strong – full credit!”
Since the rules of the tournament require commenting on moves as they are played, viewers could watch as the teenager bedeviled the Norwegian master.
Firouzja opened with a Queen’s Gambit, a series of moves that Carlsen found weak and didn’t expect.
“My king is perfectly safe… no reason to be scared, huh?” Carlsen quipped, even as his rival, over a decade his junior, closed in on his king.
Throughout the final series, the Iranian “bamboozled” his opponent with brilliant tactics.
Carlsen, for his part, said that he was “out of shape,” but still gave the teenager full credit for the win.
The two will face each other in a rematch of sorts beginning next week when they face each other and six other competitors in the $250,000 Magnus Carlsen Invitational.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the tournament will be held online. As The Ringer reports, online professional chess is not without its detractors, as the setup could be seen as an invitation to cheat. However, Carlsen has seen to it that the tourney that bears his name will be played with competitors using cheating-detection software, as well as multiple cameras filming them from multiple angles at all times.
As for the up-and-coming Firouzja, he is the second-youngest player to achieve a FIDE rating of 2,700, the No. 1 16-and-under player in the world, and the No. 1 Iranian chess player of any age.