'Grand Chess Tour' Announced In St. Louis

'Grand Chess Tour' Announced In St. Louis

| 36 | Chess Event Coverage

Self-billed as “the  biggest announcement in professional international chess since 1988,” on Friday the Grand Chess Tour was launched — a cooperation between Norway Chess, the Sinquefield Cup and the London Chess Classic.

At a press conference on Friday in St. Louis, Tony Rich of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis announced the Grand Chess Tour: a circuit of three tournaments — Norway Chess, the Sinquefield Cup and the London Chess Classic.

“They really represent the pinnacle of chess around the world. It's the gold standard,” said Rich. “These three events have established themselves as the premiere, the flagship events, down to ever detail, from organization and execution to spectator experience and conditions for the players.” 

“I guarantee the tour will be an extremely high-quality event,” said Rex Sinquefield, the man behind the Sinquefield Cup and all other chess activities in St. Louis. 

In the video below you can watch the full press conference:

The dates for this year's tour were announced as well:

  • Norway Chess 2015 - Stavanger, Norway, June 15 – June 26, 2015
  • Sinquefield Cup - Saint Louis, USA, August 21 – September 3, 2015
  • London Chess Classic - London, England, December 3 – December 14, 2015

Right now only existing top tournaments participate, but that could change in the future. 

“The Grand Chess Tour will certainly be open to more tournaments, those that come up to the high standards that we intend to set,” said London Chess Classic organizer Malcolm Pein. “We are in discussions with a fourth tournament already, but they won't be in the tour this year.”

Ever since Veselin Topalov leaked some info about the chess tour during his Gibraltar Masterclass in February, a tournament in Jakarta has been talked about but apparently that hasn't come through yet. Pein did add: “We'd be particularly welcoming tournaments from other continents.”

Rich: “We are hoping to expand, in particular, to Asia and Africa. Heck, if you can put a chess team together in Antarctica, I bet we could have an event there as well.”

Each of the three tournaments will consist of ten players, and nine of these will be playing in all three. Eight names are already known: GMs Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, Viswanathan Anand, Veselin Topalov, Alexander Grischuk, Anish Giri and Levon Aronian.

“Our ultimate goal from this is to create superstars out of these players,” said Mr Rich.

A ninth player who will play in all three will be announced soon. The tenth player of each individual event is an organizer's wild card.

“It's the first event since the GMA Tour in 1989 where all leading players, including the world champion, are participating in the circuit. It's the only way to promote the game,” said Garry Kasparov. “If the tour grows to four or five tournaments, this will give the players more flexibility.”

As Mr Rich explained, the top 10 of the January 2015 FIDE rating list was invited. “Some players had other commitments or obligations and were not able to participate in the tour. We went down and invited other players.” 

The only player in the top 9 of the January list who declined participation is GM Vladimir Kramnik. The number 10 in January was GM Wesley So, who has another commitment which conflichts with one of the three tournaments, but that might be resolved.

The total prize fund of the tour will be more than a million dollars: $300,000 from each event plus another $150,000 for the tour overall. 

Each player earns “Grand Chess Tour points”, and at the end of the cycle the top 3 players of the whole tour will receive extra prize money: $75,000, $50,000 and $25,000.

“Garry is the man who took the initiative,” said Norway Chess organizer Jøran Aulin-Jansson. “He has been advicing us all three together. He's an inspiration, you could say.”

The Grand Chess Tour already has its own website and Twitter account. On the website some more details are given. For instance, the time control in all three tournaments is 40 moves in 2 hours, followed by the rest of the game in 1 hour with a 30-second increment from move 41.

The Shamkir Chess tournament, which is currently under way for the second time in Azerbaijan, was not approached by the Grand Chess Tour people. Organizer Sarkhan Gashimov: “We had discussions last year with Norway Chess and spoke about Grand Prix ideas, but there was no grand tour yet.

“In general we are interested in these type of cooperations. The Grand Slam was a very nice idea. We are considering such things.

“I visited Norway Chess, which was very well organized. I have never been in St. Louis and London but I can say that Shamkir is the best!”

The Tata Steel tournament in Wijk aan Zee was not approached either. Tournament director Jeroen van den Berg: “I think that's because of our long tradition of having a top group with 14 players. I guess they did not want to confront us with the challenge to change our setup.

“Generally I am much in favor of such initiatives. It's an interesting project, with serious money involved. I'm also in favor of a Grand Prix system with points to earn. It would be even better if the winner would earn certain privileges in the world championship cycle.”

A few years back, the Tata Steel tournament was involved in the “Grand Slam Chess Association” when the winners of four tournaments qualified for the final in Bilbao, Spain. “That ceased to exist, because most of the tournaments passed away. Only Tata Steel and Bilbao are still there,” said Van den Berg.

Update: GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave happens to be one of the players mentioned on the website as playing in the tour. At the Shamkir press conference on Saturday he said:  “There is a few technicalities to take care of, because I was invited a few days ago so I have a couple of things to sort out in terms of schedule.”

GM Vladimir Kramnik said: “Obviously I declined to let Maxime play, what else. [Smiled] Seriously speaking, I have actually a lot of invitations already this year. (...) Taking three more tournaments would just make it so totally packed and full, that I'm afraid first of all that I would not seem my family for the whole year, and secondly I will probably end up in a hospital at the end of the year. (...)

“I would definitely play one or two out of the three tournaments for sure, but three was really too much, because I also have a very important World Cup, which is probably my only chance to qualify for the Candidates’, and already quite a few other contracts and invitations. (...) I hesitated a lot, but finally I chose to decline.”

More from PeterDoggers
Abdusattorov Maintains Lead Despite Losing To Praggnanandhaa

Abdusattorov Maintains Lead Despite Losing To Praggnanandhaa

White Presses, Black Holds: All Draws In Prague

White Presses, Black Holds: All Draws In Prague