Participants Masters Final announced

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Participants Shanghai/Bilbao Grand Slam Final announcedVladimir Kramnik, Levon Aronian, Alexei Shirov and Wang Hao are the participants of the first part of this year's Grand Slam Masters Final, which will be held 3-8 September in Shanghai, China. The top two qualified in Shanghai will play along with Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand in Bilbao, October 9-15.

As we reported earlier this year, the 2010 Grand Slam Masters Final will be split into two parts. One will be held in Shanghai, China (just before the Olympiad) and one in Bilbao, Spain (just after). During a presentation in Bilbao on Friday, more details were revealed. But before that, first we'll mention that ChessVibes will be present both in Shanghai and Bilbao to produce videos!

The presentation of th 3rd Grand Slam Final Masters, last Friday at the town hall in Bilbao

The presentation of th 3rd Grand Slam Final Masters, last Friday at the town hall in Bilbao



The most important aspects of this year's event are:
  • Shanghai will host the first stage, September 3-8, coinciding with the World Expo and the presence of Bilbao in Shanghai.
  • Bilbao will host the second stage, October 9-15.
  • The players who will participate in Shanghai are: Vladimir Kramnik, Levon Aronian, Alexei Shirov y Wang Hao. The top two qualified in Shanghai will play along with Carlsen and Anand in Bilbao.
The Grand Slam Chess Association, not to be confused with the Grand Prix (a series of FIDE events), includes four top tournaments: Pearl Spring (Nanjing, China), Corus (Wijk aan Zee), Ciudad de Linares (Spain) and the Kings' Tournament (Bazna, Romania). The winners of these Grand Slam tournaments qualify for the annual Masters Final.

Magnus Carlsen won all three Grand Slam tournaments he played: in Nanjing, Wijk aan Zee and Bazna. Therefore, a logical procedure would be to look at the numbers 2 and 3 (Kramnik and Shirov ended shared 2nd at Corus, in Linares it was Grischuk who finished 2nd, one place higher than Aronian and in Bazna, Radjabov and Gelfand ended shared 2nd).

However, the organizers had a different strategy for sending out their invitations, partly influenced by the split of the tournament in two parts. The official press release explains:
The four players who will participate in the first stage in Shanghai are: Wang Hao, as best Chinese player (20th ranked); Alexei Shírov, as best Spanish player (9th ranked); Levon Aronian, as winner of the Final Chess Masters 2009 (5th ranked); and Vladimir Kramnik, as fourth ranked in the world ranking (4th ranked).

The top two qualified in Shanghai will play in Bilbao along with Magnus Carlsen, winner of the tournaments of Wijk aan Zee, Nankín and Bazna, and current number one of the wold (1st ranked) and Viswanathan Anand, current World Champion (3rd ranked).
Topalov won in Linares but won't play in the Final due to "personal reasons", as the press release notes. Last year the Bulgarian declined because the reduced budget and prize fund didn’t meet his expectations.

The exact venue in Shanghai hasn't been announced yet (in fact almost no details about the Chinese part are known at the moment of writing) but the press release notes the relation to the World Expo:
The important presence of Bilbao in the Expo Shanghai, with an exhibition space that has received more than 500,000 visitors, will be supported with the organization of this world famous chess event.
In Bilbao, the Spaniards say goodbye to the glass cube at the Plaza Nueva (the fact that Anand didn't like to play there might well have been of importance) and instead they will hold the tournament in the “Atrio de Alhóndiga”.

Alhondiga

The Alhóndiga in Bilbao | Photo Ron Brill, Wikipedia



The Alhóndiga is a former wine warehouse designed by Ricardo Bastida in 1909. It was renovated as a multipurpose civic center, with the intervention of the designer Philippe Starck, and was inaugurated on May 18, 2010.

Like in 2008 and 2009, there will be a varied programme of extra events. From the press release:
...the “expert’s spot” commentary and analysis area for all audiences to follow, big screens, live internet transmission, and media representatives from every continent are all also to be expected at the event. And, most importantly, the hosting of an elite chess event outside, amongst the greater public.
In this 3rd Mastes Final the Sofia Rule will be in effect: draw-offers will only be allowed through the arbiter. The scoring system will be once again similar to football scoring system: players will get 3 points for winning a game, 1 point for drawing and 0 points for losing.

Besides organizers Andoni Madariaga (coordinator) and Juan Carlos Fernández Garcia (technical director), the presentation of the tournament on Friday included mayor of Bilbao Iñaki Azkuna and World Champion Viswanathan Anand. Anand gave a simul over 24 boards and was held to a draw by 80-year-old José Ramón Arrupe, former champion of Spain.

Bilbao's mayor Iñaki Azkuna against the World Champ...

Bilbao's mayor Iñaki Azkuna against the World Champ...



...Viswanathan Anand, who gave a 24-board simul | Photo David Llada

...Viswanathan Anand, who gave a
24-board simul | Photo David Llada



...against locals of different levels...

...against locals of different levels...



...which attracted many spectators, including Juan Carlos Fernández Garcia of the Grand Slam Chess Association

...which attracted many spectators, including
Juan Carlos Fernández Garcia of the Grand Slam Chess Association



The stunning Arabic room of the town hall | Photo David Llada

The stunning Arabic room of the town hall | Photo David Llada

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