General Aug 20, 2014 | 11:42 AMby Colin McGourty

Tehran among hosts of slimline Grand Prix


The Iranian capital city of Tehran joins Baku (Azerbaijan), Tashkent (Uzbekistan) and Moscow (Russia) as host cities for the 2014/15 FIDE Grand Prix. The series of tournaments to determine two places in the 2016 Candidates Tournament had seemed to be in jeopardy after planned dates had come and gone, but has now been resurrected in a reduced format.

Today’s announcement by FIDE sets out the dates of the tournaments as follows:

  • 1 - 15 October 2014: Baku, Azerbaijan
  • 20 October - 3 November 2014: Tashkent, Uzbekistan
  • 14 - 28 February 2015: Tehran, Iran
  • 13 - 27 May 2015: Moscow, Russia

With only five days between the tournaments in Baku and Tashkent players will perhaps fly directly between the two - Tehran is also in the general vicinity

The winner and runner-up would qualify for the next Candidates Tournament, which is penciled in for 9-28 March 2016.  

The series will involve 16 players, with those currently qualified as follows:

  1. Magnus Carlsen (World Champion)
  2. Viswanathan Anand (World Championship runner-up)
  3. Vladimir Kramnik (World Cup winner)
  4. Dmitry Andreikin (World Cup runner-up)
  5. Evgeny Tomashevsky (World Cup semi-finalist)
  6. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (World Cup semi-finalist)
  7. Levon Aronian (rating)
  8. Fabiano Caruana (rating)
  9. Alexander Grischuk (rating)
  10. Hikaru Nakamura (rating)
  11. Veselin Topalov (rating)  

The four host cities will also nominate a player (e.g. Rustam Kasimdzhanov looks a sure-fire nominee for Tashkent), as will the FIDE President.

Veselin Topalov was the runaway winner of the 2012/13 Grand Prix series, with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov edging out Fabiano Caruana by the finest of margins to take the second Candidates Tournament spot | photo: David Llada, 2014 Olympiad

Going by past experience we can be sure that many of the star names will skip the Grand Prix (the World Championship match essentially makes the event impossible for Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand), meaning that the reserve list of players will come into effect. Currently that consists of three names, all based on average ratings:


A shrinking event

Each tournament will still be a 12-player round robin, but there are a number of significant changes compared to the previous Grand Prix series:

  • Fewer tournaments – instead of six tournaments there are now four
  • Fewer tournaments for each player – instead of playing in four tournaments players are required to play in three
  • All results count – instead of players discarding their worst result all three results now count for the final total
  • Fewer players – the number of players involved has been cut from 18 to 16.
  • Lower prize fund – instead of €170,000 for each tournament the prize fund is now €120,000, with first prize cut from €25,000 to €20,000
  • No AGON nominees – last time AGON nominated six players. Its role this time round is less prominent, although FIDE’s controversial “commercial partner” does still feature in the regulations.


Looking to the East for venues

The last Grand Prix series opened with a fanfare as AGON’s Andrew Paulson had ambitious plans for the new World Championship cycle:

Agon will be bringing the World Chess Championships to European capital cities, as part of its commitment to bring a sustainable business model to the sport.

Tehran and the Alborz mountain range | photo: Hansueli Krapf, Wikipedia

Ultimately, however, a series of last-minute replacements saw Lisbon, Madrid and Berlin switched for Zug (Switzerland), Thessaloniki (Greece) and Beijing (China). This time round the focus is far from Western Europe, with Tehran in particular a potential stumbling block for some players. Although Iran’s foreign relations have improved of late, some countries still issue cautions about travelling there. For instance, the US Department of State “warns U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel to Iran”, while the UK advises “against all but essential travel” to most of Iran. Israel's Boris Gelfand is one player we can also safely assume would not make the trip.

The players are allowed to give cities in order of preference, although only four can sit out each event and FIDE offers no guarantees that preferences can be acted upon.

We're likely to have a clearer picture of how the Grand Prix will look soon, since the deadline for players to sign their contracts is the 27th August.

See also:


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