General Nov 11, 2020 | 4:32 PMby Colin McGourty

What’s new in the Champions Chess Tour?

The Champions Chess Tour starts in 11 days’ time with the Skilling Open (November 22-30). The new tour is the successor to the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour and aims to be bigger and better, but also more compact. Instead of 5 events over 4 months there will be 10 over 10 months, with the prize fund rising from $1 million to $1.5 million. Each event will last 9 days, with all but the final featuring 3 days of prelims followed by an 8-player knockout tournament.

So far 7 players have been confirmed for the Skilling Open, the 16-player first event on the all-new Champions Chess Tour.

The action kicks off on Sunday 22nd and here we’re going to look at how the rules and regulations have changed (or stayed the same).

1. More events

The 2020 Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour consisted of five events: the Magnus Carlsen Invitational, the Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge, the Chessable Masters, the chess24 Legends of Chess and the Finals benefiting Kiva. This time round there will be 10 events starting on November 22nd and ending in September 2021. There will be 6 Regular tournaments, 3 Majors and the Finals.     

2. A bigger prize fund

The prize fund has increased by half from $1 million to $1.5 million, with $100,000 for each Regular tournament ($30,000 for 1st place), $200,000 for each Major ($60,000 for 1st place) and $300,000 for the Finals ($100,000 for 1st place).

3. Shorter events

The Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour experimented with different formats, with the first event, the Magnus Carlsen Invitational, lasting a full 16 days. This time round all of the events will be held over 9 days with no rest days (though exact schedules could still change).

4. One unified tournament system

This time round all of the first 9 tournaments will have the same structure: a 3-day round-robin (16 players for each Regular event and 12 for each Major) after which the Top 8 players advance to a 6-day knockout, with two days each for the quarterfinals, semi-finals and final.

5. Shorter knockout matches

The time controls used in the Champions Chess Tour will be the same as for the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour:

  • Rapid: 15+10 – each player has 15 minutes for all moves, with a 10-second increment after each move
  • Blitz: 5+3
  • Armageddon: White has 5 minutes to Black’s 4, with no increments. If the game is drawn Black wins the match

The difference comes in the knockout stage, where instead of having best-of-3 (5 or 7) matches, each encounter will be decided over two days. On Day 1 there will be four rapid games, and if the match ends 2:2 it will simply be a draw (there doesn’t have to be a winner).

On Day 2 another 4-game match will be held. If both matches are drawn, or the players have traded wins, then shortly after the second match there will be a playoff: two blitz games followed, if needed, by Armageddon.

6. A new Tour points system

The Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour had a simple principle that anyone who won a Tour event qualified for the Finals. That still remains, as the winner of a Major qualifies for the Finals, while the winner of a Regular event qualifies for the next Major.

This time, however, Tour points will take on much more importance. The maximum available for a Regular event like the Skilling Open is 50 (10 for finishing 1st in the Prelims and 40 for winning the final).

Prelim resultTour PointsPrize
Knockout resultTour PointsPrize
Quarterfinal loser0$5,000
Semifinal loser10$7,500

For a Major event those numbers are doubled to 100 (20 points for finishing 1st in the Prelims and 80 for winning the final).

Tour points are important since the Top 8 players on the Tour will automatically be invited to the next tournament.

7. Innovative Finals

Tour points will also be used to determine the players in the Finals, which this time round will be a 10-player round-robin. Each clash in each round will be played as a 4-game mini-match, with two blitz games and Armageddon if the match ends 2:2. The winner of a match that doesn’t go to playoffs gets 3 points, while points are split 2:1 if a playoff is required.

The twist is that players start the tournament with a different number of points based on their performance over the course of the tour – a system similar to that used in the FedEx Cup in golf. The incentive will be much bigger to score the maximum points over the course of the Tour.  

8. Refined Anti-Cheating and Disconnect policies

Anti-Cheating measures will build on those used for the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour. As well as the player stream viewers can watch there will be cameras filming the players from other angles, available only to the arbiters. The players’ screens will be shared with arbiters as they play.

One change, however, is that this time round, to avoid any appearance of impropriety, bathroom breaks or otherwise leaving the playing area will not be permitted during games (except with the Chief Arbiter’s approval).

Magnus Carlsen during the previous chess tour, with a camera also filming him from behind | photo: Arne Horvei

Disconnects are always a tricky area for online chess, and the new policy is to give a player 30 seconds to reconnect, while their clock still runs. If they lose on time during those 30 seconds they lose the game. After 30 seconds, the clocks will be paused and then resumed as soon as possible after the player reconnects.

The aim is to ensure, as far as possible, that chess skills and not internet connections decide results, while also avoiding situations where a game is frozen for too long in a time scramble.    

9. Your chance to choose a player

As well as eight players invited to each event being determined by current tour standings there will be some invites or wild cards. Tour Pass holders or chess24 Premium members will get to vote for some of the players to invite.

There are ambitious plans to provide the best TV and online coverage we’ve ever seen for chess events, while the players will be playing Banter Blitz and much more around the main Tour events!  

We’ll be announcing a new participant for the Skilling Open each day and you can follow all the announcements on the Champions Chess Tour website or chess24’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.

See also:

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