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Grand Chess Tour Takes Off In Paris

Grand Chess Tour Takes Off In Paris

The 2017 Grand Chess Tour kicked off today in Paris with pro-am activities at the Vivendi headquarters, at a stone's throw of de Arc de Triomphe. With a series of rapid games, tomorrow the tour will officially commence.

Garry Kasparov suffering a loss in today's pro-am event. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

A new season is starting for the Grand Chess Tour, which will see tournaments in Paris (France), Leuven (Belgium), St. Louis (USA), and London (UK).

Similar to last year, the Paris event was opened today with interviews, pro-am matches and simuls held at the headquarters of Vivendi SA, one of the sponsors of the event.

You can watch the Grand Chess Tour on www.chess.com/tv, and the games at www.chess.com/live starting tomorrow from 2 p.m. CET, 8 a.m. New York or 5 a.m. Pacific.

The main activity was a small knockout tournament with teams consisting of one top GM and one amateur player, with the players alternating moves. And like last year, one of the players was Garry Kasparov, the "creative brain" behind the Grand Chess Tour.

Chess.com caught up with Kasparov in the following interview, which discusses his recent activities and the tour:

Kasparov played with Gilles Betthaeuser of Colliers International, another sponsor of the event. They won one match, but then were knocked out in the semifinal by the duo Veselin Topalov & Jean-Baptiste Rudelle of Criteo, who then also defeated Magnus Carlsen & Stéphane Roussel of Vivendi in the final.

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In one of the time-outs, Carlsen explains the position to Roussel. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

The event was held on the seventh floor of the Vivendi building, which has a beautiful rooftop garden with views of the Eiffel Tower and especially the Arc de Triomphe. It was there, on a very hot day (34 degrees Celsius / 93 degrees Fahrenheit, humidity up to 78 percent), where the drawing of lots was held, which led to the following pairings for tomorrow's first round:

Table Fed. White Rating Result Fed. Black Rating
1 Hikaru Nakamura 2792 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2784
2 Sergey Karjakin 2776 Veselin Topalov 2725
3 Fabiano Caruana 2782 Wesley So 2789
4 Etienne Bacrot 2688 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2783
5 Alexander Grischuk 2779 Magnus Carlsen 2851

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Carlsen and GM Peter Heine Nielsen killing some time on the roof terras. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

The playing hall has changed this year; instead of the Maison de la Chimie, the games will be held in the Canal+ Studios in Boulogne-Billancourt. The downside is that there will be no space for spectators (and very few journalists have been given accreditation). To compensate for that, activities have been arranged at the Château d'Asnières in northwest Paris such as screens to watch the games, blitz events, the women's championship and an exhibition of the World Hall of Fame.

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Six of the Norway Chess participants traveled to Paris for more chess this week. They would quickly take off their new GCT jackets as it was simply too warm. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

The upside is that there will be chess on French TV, with commentary by IM Almira Skripchenko, IM Jean-Baptist Moulon and GM Yannick Pelletier. Spectrum Studios of St. Louis will be producing daily shows in English, with GM Maurice Ashley & GM Romain Edouard in Paris and GM Yasser Seirawan, IM Jovanka Houska & GM Christian Chirilla from the St Louis.

You can watch this show on www.Chess.com/tv, and the games at www.Chess.com/live starting from 2 p.m. CET, 8 a.m. New York or 5 a.m. Pacific.

The Paris Grand Chess Tour will consist of rapid and blitz. The rapid tournament is a round-robin with games played at 25 minutes with a ten-second delay from move one. The blitz tournament is a double round-robin with games played at five minuteswith a three-second delay from move one. The prize fund in Paris is $150,000, with a first prize of $37,500.

Rapid

TIME 21 JUNE 22 JUNE 23 JUNE
14.00 Round 1 Round 4 Round 7
15.30 Round 2 Round 5 Round 8
17.00 Round 3 Round 6 Round 9

Blitz

TIME 24 JUNE TIME 25 JUNE
14.00 Round 1 12.00 Round 10
14.30 Round 2 12.30 Round 11
15.00 Round 3 13.00 Round 12
15.30 Round 4 13.30 Round 13
16.00 Round 5 14.00 Round 14
16.30 Round 6 14.30 Round 15
17.00 Round 7 15.00 Round 16
17.30 Round 8 15.30 Round 17
18.00 Round 9 16.00 Round 18
16.30 Playoffs/Prizegiving

The main participants of the 2017 Grand Chess Tour are Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So, Hikaru Nakamura, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Fabiano Caruana, Sergey Karjakin, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Viswanathan Anand, and Levon Aronian

These nine players will all compete in the 2017 Sinquefield Cup (July 31-August 12) and the 2017 London Classic (November 29-December 12) where they will be joined by one wildcard in each tournament. The three wild cards are GMs Ian Nepomniachtchi, Sergey Karjakin, and Viswanathan Anand.

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Entrepreneur Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet getting a chess lesson from Hikaru Nakamura. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

This year there will be three rapid events instead of two; the third will be held in St. Louis right after the Sinquefield Cup. In each of these rapid events, six of the nine players main players will play.

For the rapid events in Paris and Leuven, the wildcards are GMs Anish Giri, Vladimir Kramnik, Vassily Ivanchuk, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Alexander Grischuk, Baadur Jobava, Veselin Topalov, and Etienne Bacrot.

As Kasparov mentioned in the interview above, there might be even more players involved next year. 

"It seems that it's very challenging these days to include another classical chess tournament. We're trying, but it's more likely that next year it will be four rapid/blitz tournaments and two classical. If we do that, then I think we can go from nine players to 13 players, because then you can start balancing; everybody plays two plus two and then you can add more players, also with some wild cards."

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Each event in which  players compete will count toward their Grand Chess Tour score and final tour standings. The Tour has a total prize fund of $1,200,000. Last year Nakamura won the Paris tournament; So emerged as the overall winner over the tour in 2016.

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Last year's tour winner, Wesley So, picking lot number seven. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

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Veselin Topalov and Jean-Baptiste Rudelle shortly before winning the decisive game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

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Garry Kasparov chatting with Alexander Grischuk and Sergey Karjakin. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

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A remarkable participant was the controversial politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who is apparently close to one of the sponsors or the French Chess Federation. He played together with Wesley So, who didn't know him. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

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