General Jun 20, 2017 | 9:27 PMby Colin McGourty

Kasparov on hand for Paris Grand Chess Tour launch

Garry Kasparov was again on hand as the 2017 Grand Chess Tour was launched in Paris on Tuesday. Magnus Carlsen tops the 10-player field for the Paris stage of the series, where he’ll face tough competition from tour regulars Nakamura, So, MVL, Karjakin and Caruana as well as wildcards Grischuk, Mamedyarov, Topalov and Bacrot. Three days of rapid chess begin on Wednesday to be followed by blitz over the weekend, with $150,000 and tour points at stake. All the games will be broadcast live here on chess24 with commentary in English, French and Spanish.

Garry Kasparov with Magnus Carlsen and his coach Peter Heine Nielsen | photo: Lennart Ootes

As in 2016, the opening party was held on top of the main office of co-sponsors Vivendi, looking out over the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. 

The Paris players: this is as coordinated as a chess group photo gets! | photo: Lennart Ootes

The players back in their natural habitat | photo: Lennart Ootes

Magnus and his coach were taking things easy | photo: Lennart Ootes

Yet another interview for Garry Kasparov | photo: Lennart Ootes

The 10 players who will take part in the 5-day Paris Grand Chess Tour were joined by former World Champion Garry Kasparov and other well-known figures that included former IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn. 

Wesley So gives Dominique Strauss-Kahn some pointers | photo: Lennart Ootes

A pro-am tournament was held, where the chess stars alternated moves with their VIP partners. There was some bold but not always flawless attacking chess...

Garry didn't disappoint as he displayed his usual intensity.

What were you thinking? | photo: Lennart Ootes

The current World Champion made it to the final:

The main event starts at 14:00 CEST on Wednesday 21 June and, since the Grand Chess Tour can be a little confusing, here’s a guide to what we can expect from the 2017 series:

What is the Grand Chess Tour?

The Grand Chess Tour was launched in 2015 as a Grand Slam-style annual tournament circuit aiming to attract the world’s best players to compete for both event and overall prizes. It began with Norway Chess, the Sinquefield Cup and the London Chess Classic, which all adopted a 10-player single round-robin format. Magnus Carlsen won the first edition.

Can Magnus get back his Grand Chess Tour crown? | photo: Lennart Ootes

In 2016 Norway Chess dropped out, to be replaced by two rapid and blitz events: the Paris Grand Chess Tour and the Your Next Move Grand Chess Tour in Leuven, Belgium. With Carlsen preparing for his World Championship defence and skipping the classical tournaments Wesley So emerged as the winner.

What’s new in 2017?

The 2017 series features a number of innovations. The most obvious is that an extra event has been added, the Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz, taking place immediately after the Sinquefield Cup in August. That increases the overall prize fund to $1.2 million:

While in 2015 and 2016 tour regulars were expected to play in all events (with a few scheduling exceptions), this year they play both classical events but then select two of the three rapid and blitz tournaments. Players will no longer drop their worst result, with all tournaments counting towards the overall standings. The GCT points system remains the same, with clear first earning 13 points, while tying for first and winning a playoff is worth 12 points.

What’s at stake?

The prize fund for each rapid and blitz event is $150,000 (it’s double for classical), with $37,500 for 1st place, $25,000 for 2nd and $20,000 for 3rd. The overall tour winner in December will receive a $100,000 bonus, while the runner-up gets $50,000.

Who plays in 2017?

The tour regulars who play both classical events and two of the three rapid and blitz tournaments are Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So, Levon Aronian, Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, MVL, Vishy Anand, Sergey Karjakin and Ian Nepomniachtchi.

Mamedyarov, Grischuk and Bacrot all gained wildcards to play in Paris | photo: Lennart Ootes

They will be joined by far more wildcard players this year, with one in each classical event but no less than four for each rapid and blitz tournament. For Paris we have Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Alexander Grischuk, Veselin Topalov and Etienne Bacrot, while in Leuven it’s Vladimir Kramnik, Anish Giri, Vassily Ivanchuk and Baadur Jobava.

Who’s playing in Paris?

The Paris line-up is as follows, with the numbers in brackets the June 2017 Universal Ratings - a system that attempts to combine classical, rapid and blitz:

If you’re wondering where Aronian and Anand are, they play in Leuven a week later, where the line-up will be regulars Carlsen, So, MVL, Aronian, Anand and Nepomniachtchi together with wildcards Kramnik, Giri, Ivanchuk and Jobava. As you can see, only Carlsen, So and MVL play both Paris and Leuven. 

What’s the format?

The rapid and blitz format is almost exactly the same as last year:

  • The players play each other once at rapid chess: 9 rounds of 25-minute games, with a 10-second delay from move 1. Points in those games count double, i.e. 2 points for a win and 1 for a draw.
  • Then they play each other twice at blitz chess: 18 rounds of 5-minute games with a 3-second delay (last year it was 2 seconds).

The big welcome change is in the scheduling. In 2016 the rapid was played over two days, meaning a very long 5-round session on the first day and then four rounds on the second. This year it takes place over three days, with a much more manageable three rounds each day:

14.00Round 1Round 4Round 7
15.30Round 2Round 5Round 8 
17.00Round 3Round 6Round 9

Note that the delay is a time control common in US chess, where your time doesn’t start counting down after your opponent hits the clock until the delay time has passed. It’s similar to the more common increment, but means it’s impossible to gain time as you can by moving fast with increments i.e. if your clock gets down to 1 second it will never go above that for the rest of the game.

Where can I watch?

The Paris stage of the Grand Chess Tour is again sponsored by Colliers International, Vivendi and DailyMotion. This year it's taking place in the studios of the CANAL+ TV channel in Boulogne-Billancourt, since CANAL+ will be producing a French TV show about the event each evening. 

As you would expect, the TV studio looks very professional | photo: Lennart Ootes

Chessboards with a view | photo: Lennart Ootes

Wesley So wore some Jobava glasses as he tried things out | photo: Lennart Ootes

The downside of that is that there won’t be a live audience in the venue, but you can of course watch all the action live here on chess24.

Apart from the moves there’s commentary in three languages:

  • English: GMs Yasser Seirawan, Christian Chirila, Maurice Ashley and Romain Edouard, as well as IM Jovanka Houska
  • Spanish: GM Alejandro Ramirez and WIM Ivette Garcia
  • French: GM Yannick Pelletier and IMs Almira Skripchenko and Jean-Baptiste Mullon

What can we expect?

Well, all eyes will as always be on Magnus Carlsen. Despite the World Champion’s hugely disappointing showing in Stavanger he still blew away the field in the blitz there and said afterwards that his confidence in his speed chess ability hasn’t been shaken. He won the Grand Chess Tour in 2015 and last year, despite only playing in the rapid and blitz tournaments, still posted a score that would have given him 4th place overall.

Nakamura took 1st place in last year's Paris GCT | photo: Lennart Ootes

In Paris last year Magnus blundered and lost to So in the first round and ultimately had to concede 1st place to Nakamura. Hikaru will of course be a contender again, as will wildcards Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Alexander Grischuk, the only other players rapid live-rated above 2800. Sergey Karjakin and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave also aren’t to be underestimated in fast chess, while Fabiano Caruana, Veselin Topalov and local hero Etienne Bacrot look like the field's outsiders.

In Round 1 Magnus has a tricky pairing as Black against speed chess specialist Grischuk:

Don't miss all the action here on chess24 from 13:45 CEST, while you may want to warm up from 12:30 onwards with Banter Blitz with Jan Gustafsson

You can also follow the games in our free mobile apps:


See also:

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