The 2020 Chess Calendar was laid to waste by the coronavirus epidemic, though the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour and other online events rose from the ashes. 2021 is guaranteed to see the $1.5 million Champions Chess Tour played out in monthly events until the Grand Final in September, but if the virus permits it’s a year that could also see the Candidates Tournament completed, a World Championship match, two World Cups, two Grand Swisses, the Grand Chess Tour and much more.
We’ve tried to gather together all the events that are currently known about for 2021. It goes without saying, of course, that all the over-the-board events are subject to change or cancellation depending on how the virus situation around the world develops.
Current and upcoming tournaments:
A strong 9-round open tournament that is now in its 4th edition. Bassem Amin, Parham Maghsoodloo, Pavel Eljanov, Salem Saleh and Adhiban are currently the top-rated registered players.
The 4th event on the Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour sees 10 young male and 10 female players compete for $15k in prizes and a place in the final. The event is a 4-day round-robin with all games played at a 10+5 time control. The players are split into two teams and mentored by Judit Polgar and Vladimir Kramnik.
An Online European Chess Club Cup was held in March 2021, but the over-the-board event is planned to return in September with Open and Women's events. Traditionally it's a 7-round sprint between European club teams.
After being postponed a number of times due to the pandemic, this interesting mix of youth and experience will finally take place as an 8-player round-robin. Anatoly Karpov was unfortunately a late withdrawal, but the field should still make for fascinating chess: Jorden van Foreest, Gawain Jones, Etienne Bacrot, Nils Grandelius, Nihal Sarin, Nigel Short, Vincent Keymer and Jonas Bjerre.
The Grand Final of the 2021 Meltwater Champions Chess Tour will be a $300,000 10-player round-robin featuring the top players on the tour. The players will be handicapped based on their performance over the year.
This year's FIDE Women's World Team Championship tries out a new format with 12 teams initially separated into two groups of six. A round-robin tournament sees the bottom two in each group eliminated, before the remaining teams play an 8-team knockout event. The main time control is the unusual 45 minutes for all moves plus a 10-second increment per move. Tiebreaks are played at 3+2 blitz, with possible Armageddon.
The 12-player US Championship and US Women's Championship are arguably the most prestigious and certainly the most lucrative national chess championships. Wesley So won online in 2020 but no-one has managed to defend their title since Gata Kamsky in 2014.
Links: official website
The $40,000 8-player final event of the Challengers Chess Tour features the top performers over the four Challenges: Vincent Keymer, Awonder Liang, Christopher Yoo, Volodar Murzin, Praggnanandhaa, Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Lei Tingjie and Leon Mendonca. They'll compete in a rapid knockout tournament for a $10,000 top prize and a regular place on the next Meltwater Champions Chess Tour.
Links: official website
As in 2019, the traditional open tournament that was held on the Isle of Man becomes a FIDE Candidates Tournament qualifier, with the $425,000 main event now offering two places in the Candidates as well as a $70,000 top prize. This year it’s accompanied by a $125,000 FIDE chess.com Women’s Grand Swiss, with 50 players and at least one qualifier to a Women’s Candidates Tournament.
The venue has had to be changed due to COVID restrictions, however, with the tournament now moved to the Latvian capital of Riga.
Links: official website
This biennial European event for national chess teams saw Russia claim double gold when it was last held in Batumi, Georgia in 2019.
Links: official website
Norwegian World Champion Magnus Carlsen will take on his Russian challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi in the Dubai Exhibition Centre. Carlsen's 5th World Championship match will feature 14 games instead of 12 the previous, with a prize fund of €2 million. Judit Polgar and Anish Giri are among the players who will commentate live on all the action here on chess24.
An annual team event for chess clubs based in Europe, though players can come from around the world.
Links: official website
The women’s event is taking place at the same time as the open tournament, but at a different venue.
Links: official website
The second event on the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour is also the first Major, with a $200,000 prize fund. The winner gets $60,000 and a guaranteed place in the Grand Final. Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura and Skilling Open winner Wesley So are among the 12-player field, which will be reduced to 8 players by a 3-day preliminary stage. The remaining players will battle it out in a knockout that takes us into 2021.
This year’s 83rd edition of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament has been cut to just the main event due to COVID-19, but if everything goes as planned that will still mean a 14-player round-robin featuring Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave from the world’s Top 5 and a host of young talents that include 17-year-old Alireza Firouzja.
The $100,000 Opera Euro Rapid is the 3rd stage of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour and the 2nd Regular event. World Champion Magnus Carlsen and no. 3 Ding Liren head a 16-player field that includes Skilling Open winner Wesley So and Airthings Masters winner Teimour Radjabov.
A 3-day all-play-all preliminary stage will eliminate half the field before the remaining 8 play a knockout for the $30,000 top prize and Tour points. The top 8 players in the Tour standings after this event will automatically be invited back to the March Major.
The 1st FIDE Online World Corporate Championship is a 3-day team event featuring 4-player teams from almost 300 different companies. Each team must have at least one male and one female player, one player can be invited from outside the company, and only one player can be rated 2500 or above. Magnus Carlsen (Kindred), Ian Nepomniachtchi (SBER) and Anish Giri (Optiver) are among the stars in action.
There are 8 sections which will play Swiss Opens on the first two days, before the 8 winners play a knockout for the title on the final day.
The 4th stage of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour and the second Major, with 16 players and a $220,000 prize fund. A 3-day preliminary stage will cut the field in half, before the remaining 8 players battle it out in a knockout for the $60,000 top prize. There's a space theme to the event, which partners with Breakthrough Initiatives and the Breakthrough Junior Challenge.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Richard Rapport and many more of the world's top players are in action in an online version of the European Club Cup. The event is played at a rapid time control - 15 minutes for all moves plus a 5-second increment per move - and will see a qualification stage, playoffs and finally a 10-team round-robin to decide the title.
The first event on the Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour sees 10 young male and 10 female players compete for $15k in prizes and a place in the 5th leg of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. The event is a 4-day round-robin with all games played at a 10+5 time control. The players will be split into two teams and mentored by Judit Polgar and Vladimir Kramnik.
The Candidates Tournament that will decide Magnus Carlsen’s next World Championship challenger was started in March 2020 despite a pandemic beginning to take hold around the world. The worst fears of Teimour Radjabov and others proved justified when the event had to be stopped halfway, with Teimour’s late replacement Maxime Vachier-Lagrave joining Ian Nepomniachtchi in the lead. The saga of trying to resume the event had dragged on ever since, but it's now taking place in the same city in April 2021.
World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen tops the line-up for the 5th stage of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, featuring 16 players and a $100,000 prize fund. 15-year-old Indian prodigy Praggnanandhaa makes his debut after qualifying via the Polgar Challenge, while there are also debuts for Gawain Jones, Aryan Tari and Johan-Sebastian Christiansen. Tour leader Wesley So plays, as do the likes of 17-year-old Alireza Firouzja and Hikaru Nakamura. The format is again a 3-day preliminary stage before the remaining 8 players play a knockout for the title.
This year's Polish Championship is an over-the-board event with different formats for the Open and Women's tournaments. The Open is a 16-player knockout with two classical games in each match followed, if needed, by rapid and blitz playoffs. The Women's event is a 10-player round-robin.
The Russian Team Championship has traditionally been one of the strongest team events in world chess, featuring not only a wealth of Russian talent but strong foreign representatives. This year the event is again likely to be much more dominated by Russian players due to the pandemic.
16 of the best Indian players compete in a knockout tournament to determine two places in the June Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event. Each match consists of four 15+10 rapid games. If the players are tied 2:2 they play two 5+3 blitz games and, if still tied, a single Armageddon game.
The highly prestigious Mr Dodgy Invitational returns for a 2nd edition, with 16 of the world's top players competing for a photo of the organiser on a horse. Jan Gustafsson and guests commentate on all the action.
The final stage of the FIDE Women's Grand Prix that began in 2019. After the 12-player round-robin is over the top two players in the Grand Prix series as a whole will qualify for the 2022 Candidates Tournament that decides the next Women's World Championship challenger for Ju Wenjun.
Since the European Championship had to be postponed due to the pandemic, the European Chess Union has decided to hold a "hybrid" event to decide 36 of the European qualifying spots for the 2021 World Cup. The event will be open to 2600+ rated players, with a limit per federation, and the plan is that the players will play online, but from a central venue in their country where an arbiter will be present. The games will be FIDE rated.
The FTX Crypto Cup is the 6th stage of the Champions Chess Tour and the third and final Major. It features 16 players, including the full world Top 10. That means Magnus Carlsen will face his World Championship challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi for the first time since Nepo won the Candidates Tournament.
The prize fund of $220,000 is boosted by $100,000 in Bitcoin, while the winner also automatically qualifies for the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour final in San Francisco in September.
The 1st event on the 2021 Grand Chess Tour, which plans to follow the cancelled plan for 2020 of having five events and no Grand Final. The tournament in Bucharest is a 12-player classical event featuring the main tour players, with a $325,000 prize fund.
The 2nd event on the Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour sees 10 young male and 10 female players compete for $15k in prizes and a place in the 7th leg of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. The event is a 4-day round-robin with all games played at a 10+5 time control. The players are split into two teams and mentored by Judit Polgar and Vladimir Kramnik.
The 2nd edition of the Prague Masters, won by Alireza Firouzja, was the last major chess tournament to be completed in 2020 before the virus shut down chess life. A 3rd edition, again with a Masters, Challengers and Open, is planned for 2021, but the dates have been pushed back to June due to the virus situation.
The 2nd leg of the 2021 Grand Chess Tour. The 5-day rapid and blitz tournament will have a $150,000 prize fund.
The French Top 12 sees 12 French club sides, who can include international players, play each over 11 rounds on 8 boards in one of the biggest team events in world chess.
World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen is joined by women's no. 1 Hou Yifan for the 7th stage of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. The 4th Regular event has a $100,000 prize fund and stands out for the number of players making their debut, including India's 15-year-old Gukesh, 17-year-old Arjun Erigaisi and established star Abhiban.
A series of eight 3-day 8-player knockouts will select 8 players for a final round-robin tournament, where the top two players gain qualification either into a stage of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour or the San Fermin World Cup, an event organised by the Spanish city of Pamplona and featuring World Champion Magnus Carlsen. For the qualifying tournaments the players must commentate while they play!
The 3rd leg of the 2021 Grand Chess Tour. The 5-day rapid and blitz tournament will have a $150,000 prize fund, with 13th World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov joining for the final two days of blitz.
The final of the San Fermin World Cup will feature World Champion Magnus Carlsen and three more invited players taking in an 8-player knockout where the remaining four players have qualified through a series of preceding events. The prize fund is €50,000.
The centrepiece of this year's event in Dortmund will be a 4-game classical match between 14th World Chess Champion Vladimir Kramnik and his successor Vishy Anand, played in the No-Castling Chess variant promoted by Kramnik. That event will be accompanied by a 10-player round-robin German Grand Prix that pits the top German players against international opponents. Those events start on the 13th, while an open will be held online from 10-18 July.
This is hoped to be the return to regular top level over-the-board chess in the Saint Louis Chess Club.
An expanded 206-player World Cup knockout tournament is provisionally planed to start in Sochi on July 10th, with the 50 top seeds starting their campaigns from Round 2. The prize fund has been raised to $1.89 million, with the two finalists both qualifying for the next Candidates Tournament. The final is this time cut from four games to two, the same length as all the other rounds (with rapid and blitz playoffs in case of a tie).
A Women's World Cup is taking place at the same time with 103 players, a $676,000 prize fund and three places in the Women's Candidates Tournament at stake.
The Biel Chess Festival was one of the first top level tournaments to be held successfully after coronavirus restrictions eased in summer 2020, and it plans to be back for a 54th edition in 2021. In recent years it’s experimented with combining classical, rapid and blitz chess.
The Chessable Masters is the 8th stage of the Champions Chess Tour and the 5th Regular event, with 16 players and a $100,000 prize fund. New editions to the tour include Women's World Champion Ju Wenjun, Women's Rapid World Champion Humpy Koneru and the world's youngest ever grandmaster Abhimanyu Mishra.
The 4th leg of the 2021 Grand Chess Tour. The 5-day rapid and blitz tournament will have a $150,000 prize fund.
The 3rd event on the Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour sees 10 young male and 10 female players compete for $15k in prizes and a place in the 9th leg of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. The event is a 4-day round-robin with all games played at a 10+5 time control. The players are split into two teams and mentored by Judit Polgar and Vladimir Kramnik.
The 8th edition of the Sinquefield Cup is the 5th and final stage of the 2021 Grand Chess Tour. The 12-player classical event has a $325,000 prize fund and will also finalise who wins the additional $175,000 in prize money for the overall tour standings.
The Reykjavik Open had to be cancelled in 2020 while in 2021 the plan is for the main event of the Festival to serve as the European Championship, potentially boosting the prestige of a tournament that has largely been viewed as a qualifier for the World Cup. The event has already now been postponed twice due to the virus situation but will now see players qualify for the 2023 World Cup rather than the 2021 World Cup.
The 9th stage of the Champions Chess Tour and the 6th Regular event, with 16 players and a $100,000 prize fund. This will be the last chance for players to qualify for the Grand Final.
This annual contest in Chess960 or Fischer Random Chess is back. In 2020 it was an online 10-player round-robin won by Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura, but the star of the show was again a certain Garry Kasparov.
On September 7th we'll see Ultimate Moves, an exhibition event where the emphasis is firmly on banter and having some fun.
A 2-day rapid event taking place on the estate of Leo Tolstoy, to make the writer's birthday on September 9th. Anish Giri, Dmitry Andreikin, Nikita Vitiugov, Evgeny Tomashevsky, Kirill Alekseenko, Maxim Matlakov, David Paravyan, Anton Korobov, Boris Gelfand and Nodirbek Abdusattorov play.
World Champion Magnus Carlsen is set to face his challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi just two months before their World Championship match begins in Dubai. The 6-player field also features Alireza Firouzja, Sergey Karjakin, Richard Rapport and Aryan Tari, with chess24 again the official broadcast partner.
Please let us know in the comments if there are
any major events announced for 2021 that we’re currently missing. We’ll be
keeping this calendar updated throughout the year – even if the coronavirus
again wreaks havoc with the schedule!
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