General Oct 20, 2017 | 8:15 AMby Colin McGourty

Kramnik & Anand return to Wijk aan Zee

Former World Champions Vladimir Kramnik and Vishy Anand have been tempted back to play alongside Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana and co. for a special 80th edition of the Tata Steel Chess Masters in Wijk aan Zee. There are also rumours about a Carlsen-Nakamura Chess960 match and the World Rapid and Blitz Championship taking place in Saudi Arabia. That’s for the future, but an Ivanchuk-Wei Yi match, the German League and the European Women’s Rapid and Blitz Championships all start this weekend.

Anish Giri between Tata Steel Netherlands Chairman of Directors Theo Henrar and Tournament Director Jeroen van den Berg at the launch of the 2018 event in one of the venues, the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision in Hilversum

This last week has been one of those rare quiet weeks for top chess action, but the lull isn’t going to last long. Let’s take a look at what’s coming up in the distant and near future:

Carlsen tops all-star Wijk aan Zee

This week’s major tournament announcement was of 12 of the 14 players for the 2018 Tata Steel Masters next January. In recent years financial constraints had forced Tournament Director Jeroen van den Berg to make hard choices when inviting players, but for the 80th edition he was able to splash out. 

5-time winner Vishy Anand plays for the first time since 2013 while Vladimir Kramnik plays for the first time since 2011, despite being announced as a likely participant in Gibraltar at the closing ceremony of the 2016 Tradewise Gibraltar Masters. MVL and Hikaru Nakamura will play in Gibraltar while talks with Levon Aronian broke down, but otherwise Wijk got who they wanted, with six of the world’s Top 10, including World Champion Magnus Carlsen:

Name Country Rating World Ranking
Magnus Carlsen Norway 2826 1
Fabiano Caruana   USA 2794 4
Vladimir Kramnik          Russia                 2794                5
Shakhryar Mamedyarov Azerbaijan  2791 6
Wesley So      USA 2788 7
Viswanathan Anand India               2783                9
Sergey Karjakin Russia 2765 12
Anish Giri    Netherlands 2762 13
Wei Yi China 2740 18
Hou Yifan      China 2678 64
Adhiban Baskaran India 2671 75
Gawain Jones  England 2662 83

Those involved not strictly based on rating are 2016 Challengers winner and hence qualifier Gawain Jones, women’s no. 1 Hou Yifan (who had reason to regret not accepting her invitation in 2016) and Wei Yi and Adhiban, who both finished in a tie for 3rd place in 2016 behind Wesley So and Magnus Carlsen. 8-time Dutch Champion Loek van Wely was invited but, for the first time since 2011, decided not to play in the top event. His young apprentice Anish Giri was the guest of honour at the announcement:

A 13th grandmaster will be announced in November before the final name will be the highest ranked player in the Association of Chess Professionals Tour with a rating of under 2750 on December 1st (currently Baadur Jobava).

The other venue outside of Wijk aan Zee next year is the University of Groningen:

Carlsen and Nakamura to play World Championship?

Barring a wild card, Hikaru Nakamura won’t be involved in the Candidates Tournament in March next year, but it looks as though we might see him play an “unofficial World Championship” match in Chess960 (or Fischer Random Chess) in February. It’s sadly never caught on to call Magnus Carlsen the Beast from Bærum, but the world no. 1’s home town has agreed to put up 1.5 million NOK of public funds, or about 160,000 EUR, for a match between the two stars:

A venue, the Henie Onstad Art Center, has already been found, with the match dependent on raising another 160,000 EUR from private sources.

World Rapid and Blitz Championships in Saudi Arabia?

The ongoing saga over whether the World Rapid and Blitz Championship would take place this year took a strange turn this week when Saudi Arabia emerged as potential hosts. 

An MOU is a Memorandum of Understanding, with FIDE Chief Executive Officer Geoffrey Borg seen signing above. 

The restrictive Arab state had previously hit the headlines when a prominent cleric claimed that chess is forbidden by Islam and it only recently decided to allow women to drive from June next year onwards. The situation would make holding women’s events alongside the open championship, as happened in Doha, Qatar last year, deeply problematic, while it would also be questionable how many male players would accept invitations, especially at such a late date.

Russia to defend European Team Championship titles

The next absolutely top chess tournament on the horizon is the European Team Championship on Crete that starts in one week’s time. Russia are defending double gold medals from 2015, with their men's team of Grischuk, Nepomniachtchi, Fedoseev, Matlakov and Vitiugov, and their women's team of Kosteniuk, Lagno, Gunina, Girya and Goryachkina again the top seeds. 

Everyone's favourite selfie from the 2015 Euro Team Championship

They’ll face fierce competition, though, with teams such as Azerbaijan, England, Israel and Armenia featuring their top line-ups.

Our own Jan Gustafsson will be on site for live commentary, where he’ll be joined by Fiona Steil-Antoni, who has also taken over the Twitter account. You can of course watch here on chess24: Open section | Women's section

So we have to wait a week to see the top players in action? Not quite! There’s an explosion of chess action this weekend, with most events starting on Saturday.

Ivanchuk-Wei Yi in Hoogeveen

Loek van Wely is again organising the Hoogeveen Chess Festival, and the choice of players for the flagship matches reflects his philosophy, shared with Ben Johnson in a recent podcast, that chess fans like to see blood on the board – it doesn’t matter whose!

The matches pair the reigning World Rapid Champion and acknowledged chess genius Vassily Ivanchuk against the world’s top junior, China’s Wei Yi, who at 18 years old has already left a trail of attacking masterpieces in his wake. The two will play a 6-game classical match, starting Saturday, which you can watch here on chess24.

The Hoogeveen matches have great potential for fighting chess | image: official website

That match is accompanied by a clash involving another 18-year-old, Jorden van Foreest, who is also known for his attacking chess and for winning the Dutch title at the age of 17. He’s had mixed fortunes since, but can be expected to put up a great fight against India’s Adhiban, who starred in last year’s Tata Steel Masters by having the bravery to try out offbeat openings against some of the world’s top players. He’s also a Banter Blitz star here on chess24!

The matches are accompanied by the traditional open tournament.           

The Schachbundesliga begins

Those won’t be the only top players in action, since the 2017-18 season of the German Chess League starts on Saturday, with the pairings throwing up a clash between the perennial favourites Baden-Baden and 2nd seeds Schwäbisch Hall. 

Levon Aronian and Vishy Anand turned out for Baden-Baden as they won an 11th title in 12 years in Berlin in April | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website

The latter can boast of stars such as Inarkiev, Li Chao, Matlakov and Jakovenko, while Baden-Baden’s full team line-up is simply frightening (the only consolation is that only 8 players can take part in any match):

All of the games will of course be live in our broadcast system from 14:15 CET on Saturday.

One of Baden-Baden's players, Radek Wojtaszek, will also be busy since the Polish League is ending, with the final three rounds to be played in Katowice at 15:00 from 24-26 October. Again, all the games will be live here on chess24, with Radek’s team, which also features David Navara, favourites to claim the title.     

Women’s European Rapid and Blitz

Last but not least, the ACP Women’s European Rapid and Blitz Championships are taking place in Monaco this weekend, with 11 rounds of 15+10 rapid chess on Saturday and Sunday followed by 13 rounds of 3+2 blitz chess on Monday. Stars such as Alexandra Kosteniuk, Anna Muzychuk, Valentina Gunina and Kateryna Lagno are taking part, with the broadcast team from the European Club Cup also producing the live show. Emil Sutovsky and Damir Levacic will provide commentary and you can of course follow the games on chess24: Rapid | Blitz

Monte-Carlo is probably a more enticing venue for a women's chess event than a city in Saudi Arabia | image: official website

To see more upcoming events check out our 2017 Chess Calendar, while you’ll find all the events on our Live Tournaments page. Note that if you use the search at the top of that page you can look up a player and see all his or her past and upcoming events. 

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