30-year-old French no. 1 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is the 11th player to be confirmed for the Skilling Open, the 16-player opening event of the $1.5 million Champions Chess Tour that starts November 22nd. Maxime was a surprise late replacement for Teimour Radjabov in the 2020 Candidates Tournament and took full advantage to lead at halfway, making him favourite to force a World Championship match against Magnus Carlsen in 2021. Currently rated no. 5 in classical chess, no. 2 in rapid and no. 3 in blitz, he goes into the tour as one of the favourites.
Maxime is a chess prodigy who won his first French Championship (Under 8) as a 6-year-old. He went on to become a grandmaster at 14, won the adult French Championship at 16, crossed the 2700-rating barrier at 17 and won the World Junior Championship at 19. Unusually for a player at the very top of the chess world he gained a university degree, in mathematics, which he completed in 2010.
Maxime's achievements since include winning the Biel Chess Festival five times as well as Dortmund 2016 and the 2017 Sinquefield Cup, where the key game was a victory over Magnus.
The one glaring omission on Maxime's CV was a Candidates Tournament appearance, as he suffered heartbreak particularly in 2017 and 2019 by falling just short by almost every qualification criteria. His luck changed, however, in 2020, when Teimour Radjabov pulled out of the Yekaterinburg Candidates over coronavirus concerns.
Maxime had less than two weeks to prepare for an event players spend months preparing for - and also had to rush to get a visa and flights to Russia - but ended up leading when the tournament had to be stopped halfway. In the final game to date he beat his co-leader Ian Nepomniachtchi, which could be crucial as head-to-head score is the first tiebreak.
For one of the world's best speed chess players, Maxime's failure to set the world on fire when chess moved online was puzzling, though his preoccupation with the Candidates and a decision to avoid his pet openings may have been to blame.
Maxime now has the chance to try again in the Champions Chess Tour. The French star is the 11th player to be confirmed for the 16-player Skilling Open, which starts in exactly one week:
There's a full schedule of chess this Sunday, November 15th! The Real Madrid Foundation and chess24 charity event is taking place all day, from 11:00 to 23:00, and you can watch all the action live. World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen is planning to commentate as his father Henrik plays WIM Ayelén Martínez at 15:00, while Magnus will also be playing himself at 18:00!
At 16:00 we have Banter Blitz with Indian no. 3 Vidit Gujrathi.
You can challenge by clicking the link below, hovering over Vidit’s chess24 username viditchess under the video and selecting “Challenge me!” (that button will be active when he’s online):
Then at 18:00 we have the chess.com Speed Chess Championship match between world no. 2 Fabiano Caruana and Polish no. 1 Jan-Krzysztof Duda. The winner plays Wesley So in the quarterfinals, with Peter Svidler and Jan Gustafsson commentating live here on chess24!
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