FIDE Grand Prix 2016-2017: 4 Swiss Events, Players 'Individually Sponsored'

FIDE Grand Prix 2016-2017: 4 Swiss Events, Players 'Individually Sponsored'

| 21 | Chess Event Coverage

The new FIDE Grand Prix series will be quite different from earlier versions. There will be four Swiss tournaments of 18 players, and the organizers are hoping to find companies to sponsor individual players.

FIDE's Grand Prix tournaments have never been a huge success. Things were looking bright when the whole project started: rising star Magnus Carlsen of Norway won the very first tournament in 2008 in Baku, together with Wang Yue of China and the late Vugar Gashimov of Azerbaijan. However, before the year ended Carlsen had already withdrawn, basically because FIDE had decided to change the regulations during the cycle.

Ever since, the series has been marred by a lack of top player participation (Anand, Aronian, Carlsen and Kramnik continually declined), a lack of commercial sponsors (funds were mostly found via personal friends of FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov) and a lack of prominent locations (almost all events were held in the Caucasus).

Agon, the company that owns the commercial rights of the world championship cycle since 2012, organized just one of these Grand Prix events: the one in London in 2012. It was marked by a grandiose party at the opening ceremony where chess players could be found playing chess with top models. Andrew Paulson, Agon's owner back then, was still full of ambition.

Ever since, Agon (now owned by Ilya Merenzon) has stayed away from Grand Prix events and focused on world championship matches, a world rapid and blitz tournament and a Candidates' tournament. The reason is not hard to guess: if it's so difficult to find commercial sponsors where Magnus Carlsen and other top GMs participate, it must be almost impossible for tournaments where they don't.

However, it looks like Agon is going to try again. A brand-new setup has been published on its site and on (regulations in PDF here), and dates for four events have been announced: October 12-23, 2016; February 10-21, 2017; May 11-22, 2017; and July 5-16, 2017. Locations have not been announced.

2016-2017 Grand Prix

  • The Grand Prix series will consist of four tournaments to be held over two years (2016-2017) with a total of 24 players.
  • Each player will play in three of these four tournaments.
  • Each tournament will have 18 players with a schedule of a nine-round Swiss system.
  • The winner and second-placed player overall of the Grand Prix series will qualify for the Candidates' Tournament to be held in the first half of 2018.

Who qualifies

  • Two players from the last world title match: the reigning world champion (Magnus Carlsen) and his opponent in the most recent world championship match (Viswanathan Anand).
  • The four semi-finalists of the 2015 FIDE World Cup (Sergey Karjakin, Peter Svidler, Anish Giri and Pavel Eljanov).
  • Eight players based on an average calculation to two decimal places of the average from all published FIDE ratings of classical (standard) chess from 1 June 2015 to 1 May 2016 divided by twelve (12).
  • One player who is the highest-placed participant of the most recently completed ACP Tour.
  • Nine players nominated by Agon with a published rating of at least 2700 (or 2650 for former men and women world champions) in at least one FIDE rating list of 2016.

Prize money

The prize money for this series is 520,000 euros ($590,000) which is slightly more than the 2014-2015 series (480,000 euros or $544,400). Each individual tournament has a prize find of 130,000 euros ($147,500) and a 20,000 euro ($22,685) first prize.

Individual sponsors

A remarkable strategy by Agon is related to sponsorship, as noted on the website:

The other major change will be in how the tournaments are sponsored. Instead of looking for a major sponsor, or sponsors, for each event, individual sponsors will be recruited for each player. The cost will be 100,000 euros per player, with each player receiving 20,000 euros from his sponsor, 15,000 euros going to each player’s federation, and the balance going to organizing costs and the prize funds.

Players will be required to wear the sponsor’s logo during the tournament, the sponsor’s logo will appear on the player’s table placard, and the sponsor’s logo will also appear on the rating page of the player on this site — World [sic]

FIDE, Agon and national federations will be responsible for recruiting sponsors. Players will not need sponsors to participate in the Grand Prix, but players who do not have sponsors will not get the extra 20,000 euros in revenue.

Will it work?

It's going to be interesting to see how all this will work out. For starters, top GMs such as Anand, Aronian, Carlsen and Kramnik are still unlikely to play this time, with lots of tournaments around that have better prize money and appearance fees. 

Then there's the format: only 18 players in a nine-round Swiss is bound to lead to problems. The top seeds will face each other somewhere in the middle, and in the final rounds they are likely to play against opponents who are not in contention for a serious prize, leading to all kinds of strange scenarios.

And then the sponsorship idea. Some top players, such as Anish Giri and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, already have personal sponsors and it remains to be seen whether these are willing to chip in more. And will players who don't have a personal sponsor at the moment be able to find financial support when helped by FIDE, Agon and their federation?

Time will tell, but it's hard to be optimistic here.

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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