Grand Chess Tour Announces 2016 Participants

Grand Chess Tour Announces 2016 Participants

| 31 | Chess Event Coverage

Nine of the current top 10 grandmasters will compete in the 2016 Grand Chess Tour. Magnus Carlsen will only participate in the two blitz & rapid events in Paris and Leuven. This was announced yesterday on the tour's website.

At the start of the year the Grand Chess Tour seemed in trouble when Norway Chess decided to leave. With only the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis and the London Chess Classic left, it could hardly be called a tour.

In a statement the tour organizers quickly reassured everyone that things would still be going according to plan.

The Grand Chess Tour is pleased to announce that the tour will take place again in 2016. The tour will comprise a minimum of three tournaments which will be announced shortly. Player invitations will be issued by the end of January.

Early February it was announced (without mentioning players) that two rapid & blitz events were added to the tour: one in Paris, France (June 8-14) and one in Leuven, Belgium (June 15-21). It was also noted that the prize fund remained the same as in 2015, with both events together taking care of the prize fund: each $150,000, compared to $300,000 for both St. Louis and London.

Now we finally know who is going to play. Yesterday the Grand Chess Tour announced the following nine participants:

2016 Grand Chess Tour | Participants

Name Fed Rating Born
Vladimir Kramnik RUS 2801 1975
Fabiano Caruana USA 2795 1992
Anish Giri NED 2790 1994
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave FRA 2788 1990
Hikaru Nakamura USA 2787 1987
Levon Aronian ARM 2784 1982
Wesley So USA 2773 1993
Viswanthan Anand IND 2770 1969
Veselin Topalov BUL 2754 1975

There's one clear name missing here: that of world champion Magnus Carlsen. The winner of the first tour won't be defending his title, but the fans can still see him in action: he'll play in both the Paris and Leuven events. In the press release he is quoted:

“It's great news that the Grand Chess Tour have expanded with two new tournaments in Paris and Brussels,” said Carlsen. “I'm looking forward to playing both. Unfortunately, due to a very busy schedule, I won't be able to play in Saint Louis or London this year. Hopefully I will get a new chance to fight for the GCT title again next year.”

Like last year, each tournament will consist of ten players and the tenth will be added as a wildcard each time. For the Sinquefield Cup in St Louis that will be world number 9 Ding Liren of China; the London Chess Classic hasn't chosen a player yet.

Besides Magnus Carlsen, a wildcard for Paris has been given to French GM Laurent Fressinet. That's because Vishy Anand couldn't participate; the Indian GM had already committed himself to the annual tournament in León, Spain.

The way the players were chosen was as follows: the top three finishers of the 2015 Grand Chess Tour (Carlsen, Giri and Aronian), the five highest average rated players in 2015, a wildcard from each tournament plus a wildcard chosen by the Grand Chess Tour organizers.

Thus, Giri and Aronian qualified via last year's results. The top five average rated players in 2015 (besides the aforementioned players) were Topalov (average 2805), Anand (2803), Caruana (2802), Nakamura (2799) and Kramnik (2783).

Another name you might be missing, especially taking into account his recent success, is that of Sergey Karjakin. Malcolm Pein, tournament director of the London Chess Classic and also partly responsible for the other European GCT events, doesn't seem to regret this:

Although both his (2759) and his compatriot Alexander Grischuk's average 2015 rating (2779) were higher, instead the organizers went for Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2753). But that's not a surprising choice at all.

For starters, in December 2015 MVL only just missed out on direct qualification (finishing fourth) as a result of unfavorable tiebreak rules. Besides, his personal sponsor Colliers International France, a commercial real estate firm, has decided to support the Paris tournament so there's a strong French connection now with the tour.

The Leuven tournament is sponsored by Your Next Move, a Belgian non-profit that promotes chess and supports children between 6 and 12 years old. For years they have organized a simul between businessmen & children and Garry Kasparov, himself strongly tied to the tour. Your Next Move was also behind the Short-Kasparov blitz match, also in Leuven, in October 2011.

2016 Grand Chess Tour | Schedule

Event Location Dates Prize fund
GCT Rapid and Blitz Paris June 8-14 $150,000
GCT Rapid and Blitz Leuven June 15-21 $150,000
Sinquefield Cup St Louis August 19-September 2 $300,000
London Chess Classic London December 7-19 $300,000

Like last year, there are bonus prizes for the top finishers of the overall 2016 Grand Chess Tour. The winner will receive $100,000 (last year this was $75,000 with $25,000 going to the number three) and the second placed player gets $50,000.


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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