General May 8, 2019 | 2:47 PMby Colin McGourty

Carlsen & co. in Africa for Grand Chess Tour launch

The $1.75 million 2019 Grand Chess Tour starts today in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire’s largest city. World Champion Magnus Carlsen will begin the first 9 rounds of rapid chess against Wesley So, while in the last game of the day he plays the reigning tour champion Hikaru Nakamura. The wild cards are Wei Yi, Veselin Topalov and Bassem Amin, and you can watch commentary in English, French, German and Spanish right here on chess24.

Carlsen was formal and not-so-formal for the pre-tournament interviews! | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

Commentator Maurice Ashley got to play some of the local kids | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

The 2019 Grand Chess Tour has expanded to 12 events played in 7 countries across 4 continents, and it’s symbolic that we’re starting with one of the biggest chess events ever to be held in Africa. Here are all the details:

Where are they playing?

The tournament is taking place from May 8-12 in the Pullman Abidjan Hotel in the Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) port city of Abidjan (you can zoom all the way in, or out, on this map):

  • Pullman Hotel, Abidjan

The Opening Ceremony could easily have become a pool party! | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

The 2004 FIDE World Chess Championship, won by Rustam Kasimdzhanov, took place in Tripoli, Libya and Bobby Fischer was among the participants in the 1967 Interzonal in Sousse, Tunisia, but there have been very few events of this calibre ever played in Africa, and certainly Sub-Saharan Africa. Magnus Carlsen may be the first reigning World Chess Champion to play an official competitive game on the continent, but some things are the same everywhere!

What’s the format?

The Côte d'Ivoire Rapid & Blitz follows the rapid and blitz format we’ve become very familiar with from the Grand Chess Tour. It’s a 10-player event that begins with 9 rounds of rapid chess (25 minutes per player and a 10-second delay per move) over the first 3 days, followed by 18 rounds of blitz (5 + 3) on the last two days. Each rapid game counts double.


In total this year there are 5 rapid and blitz events, of which the 12 regular Grand Chess Tour players must play 3. The regulars also all play in two 11-round classical tournaments, the Croatia GCT in Zagreb and the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis. The top 4 players will compete in the Grand Final in London.

Who’s playing?

As always the Grand Chess Tour features a who's who of top-level chess | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

The 7 regular Grand Chess Tour players in Abidjan are Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Ding Liren, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Sergey Karjakin and Wesley So.

They’re joined by 3 wild cards for this event only: Wei Yi, Veselin Topalov and the first African player to cross 2700, Egypt's Bassem Amin.

Wei Yi is still 19 for another month, and although he's worked as Chinese countryman Ding Liren's second they'll be rivals at the board in Abidjan | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

You can check out the full pairings for all 27 rounds below – click a result to go to the tournament broadcast page or hover over a player’s name to see all his individual pairings:

As you can see, Magnus finally has more games with White than Black, as if his opponents didn't have enough to worry about!

What’s at stake?

The total prize fund in Abidjan is $150,000, with $37,500 for 1st place. There are also up to 13 Grand Chess Tour points up for grabs, with the 4 highest scoring players over the first 7 events of the tour playing in the Grand Final in London for an additional $350,000, including $150,000 for 1st place.

Hikaru Nakamura took home $225,000 as he won the 2018 Grand Chess Tour | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

Is there live commentary?

Yes! There’s live video with commentary in four languages, which you can switch between by clicking the flags underneath the video. The teams are:

ENGLISH: GM Yannick Pelletier, GM Alejandro Ramirez and IM Tania Sachdev in St. Louis, with GM Maurice Ashley on location in Abidjan.

Anything he can do, Maxime... can't 

FRENCH: GMs Romain Edouard and Laurent Fressinet from St. Louis.

GERMAN: GM Jan Gustafsson and IM Steve Berger from the chess24 studio in Hamburg.

SPANISH: IM David Martinez, currently in Mexico.

Where can I watch?

That’s simple: right here at chess24! The rapid chess starts at 19:00 CEST for the first three days, with the blitz beginning three hours earlier for the last two days. Don’t miss it!

See also:


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