General Feb 4, 2020 | 12:15 PMby chess24 staff

The week ahead: 4-9 February 2020

With Tata Steel Chess and the Gibraltar Masters behind us it’s a quiet week for watching top level chess, but from Friday onwards Yasser, Jennifer & co. will be commentating live from Saint Louis as the Cairns Cup women’s supertournament begins. There’s also lots going on at chess24, with the Banter Blitz Cup heating up, a new Jan’s Opening Clinic and many more shows, including Jan trying to crush the world while playing blindfold.

While the first port of call for checking what big chess events are coming up should be our 2020 Chess Calendar, and the Live shows and events page lists everything that’s happening on chess24, we’ve decided to add quick regular articles highlighting what’s coming up in the week ahead. So here goes!

Top-level tournaments

It’s traditional for there to be a lull in the chess action in February after the big January events in Wijk aan Zee and Gibraltar, and this year that’s compounded by some of the top players having retreated to their Candidates Tournament preparation caves – though some of the caves don’t look too shabby:

The Candidates starts March 17th and before that the strongest tournaments are the Prague Masters (starts February 12th, Duda top seed) and the Aeroflot Open (February 19th, Artemiev top seed), but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing going on.

The Cairns Cup

This Friday 7th February the Cairns Cup begins in Saint Louis. It’s conceived as the Sinquefield Cup for female players, a 10-player single round-robin gathering the strongest field possible. That didn’t entirely work out for the inaugural edition in 2019, when just two of the world’s Top 10 were able to find space in their schedule, but this time round it really is one of the strongest female chess tournaments of all time.

Women’s World Champion Ju Wenjun arrived in the US early enough to beat the ban on travellers from China and is joined by another five Top 10 players, while it’s enough to look at the lowest ranked players to see the strength of the field. Alexandra Kosteniuk was top seed and finished 2nd a year ago, Valentina Gunina won the event with 7/9 and 16-year-old Carissa Yip has recently been breaking records: she became the youngest US female player to gain the IM title, is the world’s highest rated 16-year-old girl and has been the highest rated US female player, though currently Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih have edged above her again. Irina finished 3rd in 2019.

Valentina Gunina gives the winner's speech at the 2019 Cairns Cup Closing Ceremony | photo: Lennart Ootes,

The 2020 prize fund has increased from $150,000 to $180,000, with $45,000 for 1st place, while we’ll be able to watch live with commentary from the team of Yasser Seirawan, Jennifer Shahade and Alejandro Ramirez in English, and Almira Skripchenko and Anastasiya Karlovich in Russian. You can follow all the action live from 20:00 CET on Friday here on chess24.

Team events

The weekend is also a major one for team tournaments, with the Chess Bundesliga in Germany the place to look for the highest-rated chess action. Rounds 5 and 6 will be played at 14:00 CET on Saturday and 10:00 on Sunday, with leaders Baden-Baden playing 2nd placed Hamburg on Sunday. The team line-ups aren’t announced until the last moment, but it’s enough to give the start of the list of Baden-Baden players to get an idea of their potential: Caruana, MVL, Anand, Aronian, Svidler…

There’s one more major event, the 4 Nations Chess League (Pool A, Pool B), which is a United Kingdom league that’s been going from strength to strength in recent years, with many more very strong players in action.          

The Banter Blitz Cup

The quiet top level chess schedule is good news for the $50,000 Banter Blitz Cup, as it’s going to be possible to schedule a lot of matches before this season’s event ends at around the time of the Candidates Tournament. On Saturday World Champion Magnus Carlsen became the first player into Round 4, thereby guaranteeing at least an $800 prize, after he beat Rauf Mamedov in what was far from an easy match!

Yesterday we saw Georg Meier defeat Parham Maghsoodloo and there’s a lot more action to come:

Keep in mind that new matches can be scheduled at the last minute, though we’ll keep updating the list on our Banter Blitz Cup page.

Jan’s Opening Clinic 25

This week is one of the rare chances to ask Team Magnus member Jan Gustafsson a question on chess openings – check out the Jan’s Opening Clinic 25 article and leave a question in the comments. The first answers will be published this Thursday at 22:00 CET and then it’s going to be a weekly show for the next 5 or 6 weeks.

More shows

The shows coming up this week include a birthday special by Lefong Hua and Jan Gustafsson joining Laurent Fressinet (French) and Pepe Cuenca (Spanish) in a battle to gain the highest rating playing blindfold Banter Blitz! Jan began in German, but his upcoming show tomorrow is in English:

Here's the schedule of some of the upcoming shows (all times CET):

Of course there are also shows in German and Spanish and you can keep track of everything on the Live Shows and Events page.

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