Carlsen vs So Today As Grand Chess Tour Takes Off In Ivory Coast
The 10 competitors in the Côte d’Ivoire Rapid & Blitz. | Photo: Spectrum Studios.

Carlsen vs So Today As Grand Chess Tour Takes Off In Ivory Coast

Alessandro_Parodi
Alessandro_Parodi
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21 | Chess Event Coverage

Magnus Carlsen is the first world champion in the history of chess to officially play in a tournament in the African continent. The Norwegian star is ready to begin the first leg of the Grand Chess Tour in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, where he will face Wesley So with the white pieces in the first round of the rapid event.

The Côte d’Ivoire Rapid & Blitz is hosted at the Pullman Hotel in Abidjan. It will launch the 2019 edition of the Grand Chess Tour, a circuit featuring the world’s elite players with events in four continents.

Carlsen’s other challengers in the Ivorian competition are the CGT main players Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Ding Liren, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Sergey Karjakin, and the three wildcards Wei Yi, Veselin Topalov and the African champion Bassem Amin.

Crowd bath for the
Crowd bath for the "champion du monde." | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

The rapid tournament is a single round-robin with a time control of 25 minutes for all moves and a 10-second delay from move one. As in earlier editions of the tour, it will be played over three days with three rounds per day.

The blitz section, starting on May 11, is a double round-robin competition over two days, with a time control of five minutes per game and a three-second delay. The final standings will combine the rapid standings, where games count double, and the blitz standings.

The results of the Côte d’Ivoire Rapid & Blitz, combined with the standings of four more speed chess and two classical tournaments, will decide the four qualifiers for the final phase of the Grand Chess Tour in London for a whopping prize fund of $1.75 million in the whole tour.

 The playing hall of the Côte d’Ivoire Rapid & Blitz. | Photo by Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com
The playing hall of the Côte d’Ivoire Rapid & Blitz. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

The other main players of the tour are Fabiano Caruana, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Levon Aronian, Anish Giri and Viswanathan Anand. They will be active in subsequent events.

The first rapid round will start today at 5 p.m. local time (GMT) which is 19:00 CEST, 1 p.m. Eastern and 10 a.m. Pacific. Here are the pairings for round one:

Bo. No. Rtg Fed Title Name Result Fed Title Name Rtg No.
1 1 2824 GM Nakamura Hikaru - GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2800 10
2 2 2781 GM Karjakin Sergey - GM Nepomniachtchi Ian 2785 9
3 3 2869 GM Carlsen Magnus - GM So Wesley 2801 8
4 4 2781 GM Topalov Veselin - GM Wei Yi 2698 7
5 5 2617 GM Amin Bassem - GM Ding Liren 2760 6

You can follow the games live here as part of our live portal.

The players drew their lots during the official opening ceremony of the event. The 2018 winner of the tour, Nakamura, drew the number-one seed for both the rapid and blitz phase. A coincidence?

One of the youngest chess talents in Abidjan. | Photo by Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com
One of the youngest chess talents in Abidjan. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.
A moment from the opening ceremony. | Photo by Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com
A moment from the opening ceremony. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

During the opening night, a team of enthusiastic local youths welcomed the champions with a creative chess-themed show. The world champion Carlsen and the African champion Amin engaged with the local rising stars in what the Ivorian Chess Federation president Essis Essoh called a "historical moment for chess in Africa."

Bassem Amin receiving the Grand Chess Tour blazer from Michael Khodarkovsky. | Photo by Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com
Bassem Amin receiving the Grand Chess Tour blazer from Michael Khodarkovsky. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

Amin is in fact the first player from the continent to be part of such a prestigious invitational tournament. His classical rating of 2704 makes him an icon for all African chess players and sets an example for the development of the game in Africa.

He will play the world champion in round seven, when he will try to maintain Egypt’s plus score against the Norwegian.

The Ivorian Minister and deputy Minister of Sport and the Head of the Ivorian Chess Federation spoke during the opening ceremony. | Photo by Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com
The Ivorian minister and deputy minister of sport, and the head of the Ivorian Chess Federation, spoke during the opening ceremony. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

The Ivorian minister of sport Danho Paulin and several officials attended the opening ceremony, demonstrating the amount of attention that the tournament is attracting in the city of Abidjan. In a quest to engage with local players and meet the champions of tomorrow, the Grand Chess Tour staff visited the Abidjan Échecs Club on Monday.

Nothing but chess at the Abidjan Échecs Club. | Photo by Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com
Nothing but chess at the Abidjan Échecs Club. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.
GM Maurice Ashley blitzing with young sensation Marie Yavo Tchetche. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.
GM Maurice Ashley blitzing with the young sensation Marie Yavo Tchetche. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

The team received the warm welcome of an African household and spent the afternoon in the suburb of Vridi. GM Maurice Ashley played blitz with young Marie Yavo Tchetche, Aroll Foua and Elijah Farrell Niamké, some of the most talented players in Ivory Coast and members of the Ivorian Olympic team.

The local champions will also play this week, as four Ivorian teams will face four squads from West African countries in the collateral tournament ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) Team Chess Challenge & Open Blitz Festival.

Preparation underway for the ECOWAS Team Chess Challenge. | Photo by Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com
Preparation underway for the ECOWAS Team Chess Challenge. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

Here’s the schedule of the Côte d’Ivoire Rapid & Blitz:

  • Wednesday, May 8 – Rapid Rounds 1-3 from 5 p.m. GMT (19:00 CEST, 1 p.m. Eastern and 10 a.m. Pacific.
  • Thursday, May 9 – Rapid Rounds 4-6 from 5 p.m. GMT (19:00 CEST, 1 p.m. Eastern and 10 a.m. Pacific)
  • Friday, May 10 – Rapid Rounds 7-9 from 5 p.m. GMT (19:00 CEST, 1 p.m. Eastern and 10 a.m. Pacific)
  • Saturday, May 11 – Blitz Rounds 1-9 from 2 p.m. GMT (16:00 CEST, 10 a.m. Eastern and 7 a.m. Pacific)
  • Sunday, May 12 – Blitz Rounds 10-18 from 2 p.m. GMT. (16:00 CEST, 10 a.m. Eastern and 7 a.m. Pacific) Playoffs and prize giving from 6.30 p.m. GMT (20:30 CEST, 14.30 a.m. Eastern and 11.30 a.m. Pacific)

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