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General Feb 25, 2023 | 7:15 PMby Tarjei Svensen

Firouzja returns as 2023 Grand Chess Tour field announced

For the third year in a row, the Grand Chess Tour will be without the two arguably biggest stars of the chess world, Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura. The lack of variety in the field draws criticism among chess fans.

Alireza Firouzja will be back in action in the Grand Chess Tour, while Magnus Carlsen & Hikaru Nakamura are both missing. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

The organizers of the Grand Chess Tour announced the full tour participants for the 2023 edition on Thursday, with three invitations based on results the previous year, the other six invited based on factors such as rating, fighting spirit and sportsmanship.

As in 2022, the players are competing for a total prize fund of $1,4 million, $350,000 for the classical events and $175,000 for the speed chess events. In addition, a bonus prize fund totaling $175,000 will be awarded to the top three overall tour finishers.

The nine players will take part in both classical events as well as two of the three rapid and blitz events.

  • May 4-16: Superbet Chess Classic, Bucharest, Romania
  • May 19-26: Superbet Rapid & Blitz, Warsaw, Poland
  • July 3-10: SuperUnited Rapid & Blitz, Zagreb, Croatia
  • Nov 12-19: Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz, Saint Louis, USA
  • Nov 19 - Dec 3, Sinquefield Cup, Saint Louis, USA

2023 field (world classical rank in brackets):

  • (2) Ian Nepomniachtchi, 2793
  • (3) Ding Liren, 2788
  • (4) Alireza Firouzja, 2785
  • (5) Anish Giri, 2780
  • (7) Fabiano Caruana, 2766
  • (8) Wesley So, 2766
  • (14) Richard Rapport, 2740
  • (17) Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, 2737
  • (21) Jan-Krzysztof Duda, 2729

In a statement, GCT Executive Director Michael Khodarkovsky called the field "one of the strongest fields in the tour's history" and thanked the sponsors the Superbet Foundation, run by Sacha Dragic, the CEO of Superbet Romania, and the Saint Louis Chess Club, headed by billionaire Rex Sinquefield. 

Remarkably, the two World Championship challengers, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren, will actually be playing in the Superbet Chess Classic in Romania less than a week after going through a grueling 14-game match in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Also confirmed for the tour is the reigning champion, Alireza Firouzja, who already hinted at his participation when he talked about how his new career in the fashion industry takes time away from chess. 

With the inclusion of Tata Steel Chess winner Anish Giri, struggling in the ongoing WR Masters in Dusseldorf, two-time tour winner Wesley So and former World #2 Fabiano Caruana, a total of six of the world's top 10 are in. The Hungarian star now representing Romania Richard Rapport, who turned down an invitation to the Sinquefield Cup last year leading to Hans Niemann replacing him, is also back, as is French ace Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Poland's #1 Jan-Krzysztof Duda

Magnus Carlsen played in the Sinquefield Cup, the final event in last year's Grand Chess Tour, as a wild card, but withdrew after four rounds after the loss to Hans Niemann. Here after his first round win vs Nepomniachtchi | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

Triple World Champion Magnus Carlsen, who will keep his classical title for a few more months, has once again decided to skip the tour. It's hardly a surprise, considering he also declined an invitation in 2021 and 2022. There is still a chance Carlsen will join as a wild card for one of the events, but the two-time tour winner has expressed an intention to focus on the $2 million Champions Chess Tour, with five more events taking place before December. 

World #6 Hikaru Nakamura is also missing this year, but the US star has, despite his success over-the-board in the last two years, decided to prioritise his career as a chess streamer and play online events such as the Champions Chess Tour. 

The line-up has received mixed reactions among chess fans, with some praising the organisers for having the best players available. Others would prefer more variety as in Wijk aan Zee, where they have a strategy of inviting some of the world's leading youngsters.

Badly wanted to see youngsters Gukesh, Nodirbek and Pragg here.

Another one agreed:

So same old, same old. Why wouldn’t they invite some younger stars like Abdusattorov?

Another fan is also critical of the format.

Same old members club, but with Magnus missing. They need to devise a different way to select the players as this series needs fresh blood, though welcome the addition of Rapport.

Another fan pointed out the high number of draws when the strongest players face each other, and suggested more variety.

GCT so boring. It’s 60% (random number) of the 2017 field (random year) rotating every edition. The other 40% were invited last year and will be invited again next year.

One fan thinks several players could be invited as wild cards for one or more of the events.

No Nihal Sarin (won TSCI Rapid, Runner-up CGC, Beat players like Ding and Anish in rapid matches)? No Nodirbek (World Rapid Champion 2021) No Vincent (World Rapid 2022 runner-up) But Alireza (inactive for months). What do they really smoke while making these?

Some of the above-mentioned players have already been confirmed for other events. The traditional Biel Chess Festival is back with a strong field from July 15-30. In their press release, the Swiss organisers described difficulties securing sponsorship due to the absence of a major private sponsor.

In the current year 2023, despite the uncertainty about the financial participation of the city of Biel, the organizers have managed to secure not only the Festival with its many different tournaments, but also a Grand Master Tournament that will be the strongest since the inception of the Triathlon, with a player average of over 2700 Elo points.

The players are:

  • Yu Yangyi (2729)
  • Le Quang Liem (2728)
  • Arjun Erigaisi (2701)
  • Bogdan-Daniel Deac (2700)
  • Vincent Keymer (2690)
  • Bassem Amin (2688)
  • David Navara (2685)
  • Jules Moussard (2684)

Vincent Keymer and Arjun Erigaisi are also playing in TePe Sigeman Chess Tournament in Malmö, May 4-10, along with veterans Boris Gelfand, Peter Svidler, rising star D. Gukesh, Sweden's #1 Nils Grandelius, Dutch star Jorden van Foreest and the world's youngest ever grandmaster Abhimanyu Mishra.

The second event in the Champions Chess Tour is set to begin with a Play-In on March 13.  

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