Top GMs Join Amateurs As 2016 Grand Chess Tour Takes Off

Top GMs Join Amateurs As 2016 Grand Chess Tour Takes Off

| 26 | Chess Event Coverage

The Paris Grand Chess Tour was opened today with pro-am activities at the headquarters of sponsor Vivendi. Top GMs met with amateurs from different backgrounds and ages. Tomorrow the tournament starts with the first day of rapid chess.

The second Grand Chess Tour is about to begin. The first of four tournaments will begin on Thursday in Paris.

Magnus Carlsen, the world champion and winner of the first tour, is playing. The Norwegian star will face Levon Aronian, Fabiano Caruana, Anish Giri, Vladimir Kramnik, Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So, Veselin Topalov, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and Laurent Fressinet

These players were all present a day before the start for a well-organized pro-am day at the headquarters of sponsor Vivendi. With a multi-billion dollar company behind an event you can expect something special, and it certainly was. Before anything else, do have a look at the trailer produced for this tournament. It's just spectacular.

Players, organizers, sponsors, actors and other business people met on Wednesday afternoon in a chic and pleasant atmosphere at the top of the Vivendi building, which has a beautiful rooftop garden with a stunning view of the Arc de Triomphe.

Vivendi's headquarters is on Avenue de Friedland, very close to Place Charles de Gaulle. It's on this square where the Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile stands, erected to honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars.

Topalov and several other GMs took pictures and selfies...

...or the old-fashioned way (Jon Ludvig Hammer captured by Peter Heine Nielsen)

It does give a nice image, doesn't it — Hikaru Nakamura.

A lunch was served consisting of small food in large quantities and the highest quality. People were chatting around, and media grabbed their chance to speak to the players while some of them couldn't wait for the chess.

MVL playing blitz with Almira Skripchenko.

After this, a pro-am knockout tournament was held with teams consisting of one top GM and one amateur player, with the teams alternating moves. Even in this form of chess Garry Kasparov turned out to be the most fanatic, but it got him far. Together with Stéphane Roussel, the COO of Vivendi, he made it to the final where he lost to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave & Gilles Betthaeuser of Colliers International, the other sponsor of the tournament.

A TV screen showed the full bracket.

Kasparov pondering over his next move, with some strong kibitzers watching.

At some point Carlsen had to leave because together with Skripchenko he would make an appearance in a TV show on the Canal+ channel, which is owned by Vivendi.

Later in the afternoon Aronian, Giri, Kramnik, Nakamura, So and Topalov gave a simul against pretty decent opposition. Giri was lucky enough to face only young and beautiful female players (OK, he's married, but still) but some turned out to be rated about 2100 so it was certainly not easy.

The simuls were held on the ground floor of the Vivendi building.

All in all this first day made an excellent impression and so the expectations are high for the main event. But so far things are definitely looking good. Below is a video with more impressions of this first day, and comments by Nakamura, Carlsen, Giri, Kramnik, Topalov, and So.

The main tournament will be held in the Maison de la Chimie, a congress and conference center located in the rue Saint-Dominique in Paris — quite close to the Eiffel Tower.

Maison de la Chimie. | Image courtesy official website.

Carlsen and Fressinet are the wildcards in this first leg of the Grand Chess Tour. The world champion has chosen not to play all Tour events this year; Fressinet substitutes for Vishy Anand who had already committed himself to play in this year's León tournament. 

There will be two days of rapid and two days of blitz, rather similar to FIDE's schedule of its World Rapid & Blitz tournaments. Instead of 21 there are 18 rounds of blitz with a longer time control: 5+2 instead of 3+2. The rapid will be 25+10.

Paris Rapid & Blitz | Schedule

9 June - Rapid Day 1 11 June - Blitz Day 1
Start: 14.00 (GMT+2) Rounds 1-5 Start: 14.00 (GMT+2) Rounds 1-9
10 June - Rapid Day 2 12 June - Blitz Day 2
Start: 14.00 (GMT+2) Rounds 6-9 Start: 12.00 (GMT+2) Rounds 10-18
Start: 16.30 (GMT+2) Playoffs (If Required)
Start: 20.30 (GMT+2) Prize Giving

You can watch the games in Live Chess; on the live video stream with commentary will be shown.

The total prize fund is U.S. $150,000 dollars (132,638).  An identical tournament will be held right after Paris, in Leuven, Belgium. The other two events in the Tour will see classical chess; they are the Sinquefield Cup (August) and the London Chess Classic (December).

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