Magnus Carlsen is an even-money favorite to win the Fischer Random Chess Championship

Magnus Carlsen is an even-money favorite to win the Fischer Random Chess Championship

Even the world’s best players may have no idea what’s going on. The 2022 FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship, which will be held in Reykjavik, Iceland, kicks off on Tuesday. The prize pool for the event is $400,000 USD.

The chess variant uses randomized back-rank pieces, effectively removing opening theory and preparation from the timeless board game. The top players in the game say they feel like beginners again when they play Fischer Random.

Bobby Fischer invented the variant that bears his name. Fischer was a legendary American chess player who held the world title from 1972 to 1975.

According to the odds posted by online betting site Bwin, Magnus Carlsen, the reigning world chess champion in the traditional chess format with classical time controls, is the betting favorite in the Fischer Random Championship. The Norwegian chess juggernaut finished second in 2019, losing to American Wesley So, who has the second-best odds to win this year at +250.

The time limit for the first 30 moves is 25 minutes, plus five minutes for the rest of the game after move 30. Beginning with the 30th move, players receive a five-second increment per move. It’s essentially a “rapid” time control.

Fischer Random is also known as Chess960, with the 960 referring to the number of possible starting positions. In Fischer Random, even the game’s elite can make minor errors from the start.

The starting position for each round will be revealed just 15 minutes before the game begins, giving players a small window of time to prepare for their opening. Each round consists of two games with the same starting position, with players taking one turn at black and one at white. A win results in two points, a tie results in one point for each player, and a loss results in no points.

Here are the complete odds for the Oct. 26-30 event:

Magnus Carlsen (+100): The world’s best chess player for the past decade is a clear favorite. But, as a bettor, it’s difficult to love an implied probability of 50% against the field in Fischer Random with relatively short time controls. Despite the scandal that engulfed the chess world, the 31-year-old Norwegian has won four of six classical chess games since his controversial loss in St. Louis last month.

Wesley So (+250): The defending champion says he’s a huge fan of the variant, so expect him to be just as motivated as the rest of the field. So had some recent hiccups at the US Chess Championship in St. Louis earlier this month, dropping some rating points to fall from fifth to eighth in the world. So, 29, may not be in top form, but a Fischer Random event may be just what he needs. His implied probability is around 29%.

After losing to Carlsen in 2021, Ian Nepomniachtchi (+500) will compete for the world chess championship title again next year. According to Carlsen, oddsmakers frequently undervalue the 32-year-old Russian, and his implied probability of around 16% appears to be a reasonable price for the world’s third-ranked player. Nepo finished third in the 2019 Fischer Random Chess Championship, trailing So and Carlsen.

Hikaru Nakamura (+800): A legend in short time controls, Nakamura arguably has as good a natural feel for chess as anyone in the world, with the exception of Carlsen in the endgame. The 34-year-old is well-known for avoiding disastrous mistakes with little time on the clock. Fischer Random appears to suit Nakamura’s style, and he thrives under time constraints. His 11% implied probability appears appealing to bettors, but it is worth noting that Nakamura finished third in a September Fischer Random tournament in St. Louis, trailing both So and Nepomniachtchi.

Nodirbek Abdusattorov (+1000):

The 18-year-old Uzbek phenom is the event’s dark horse. He is the reigning world rapid champion in traditional chess, becoming the youngest player to do so. He’s beaten both Carlsen and Nakamura on his way to making history. He’s quickly rising through the chess ranks and could challenge for the world title one day. An implied probability of 9% sounds about right and could be useful. He is only getting better.

Vladimir Fedoseev (+1400): The 27-year-old Russian is capable of winning the event, but there appears to be little momentum behind him right now. He qualified online against other top players, so his Fischer Random game is very strong. His implied probability is about 6%, which appears to be a bit high in this field.

Matthias Blübaum (+5000): The 25-year-old German is ranked 98th in the world, and he qualified for the 2022 Fischer Random Chess Championship online. He’s no slouch with a mid-2600 rating, but he’ll struggle to win the event against the stacked field. His implied probability is just under 2%, which seems about right — though you could argue it’s still too high.

Hjörvar Steinn Grétarsson (+10000): Iceland’s top grandmaster received a wildcard spot from the local organizers. He’s just outside the top 500 in the world, so his chances aren’t great. Does the 29-year-old have even a 1% chance of winning this event? Probably not, but he could go on a run. The Fischer Random variant may give him a better chance against the game’s best. Maybe home-field advantage is worth something?

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