We've got a quiet couple of weeks chesswise, but it’s the lull before the storm! March ends with a new Chinese supertournament, a new open and So, Caruana and Nakamura in the US Championships, before April sees a crazy clash of big events. The GRENKE Chess Classic is back with Carlsen, Caruana, MVL and Aronian in action at the same time Kramnik, Anand and Nakamura play Zurich, while Shamkir Chess also returns with So, Kramnik and Karjakin. The prize for the tournament line-up of 2017 goes to Altibox Norway Chess in June, though – the full world Top 10 is hard to beat!
With things a bit quiet at the moment when it comes to top chess events we’ve taken the chance to update our calendar:
You can see all the live action and upcoming line-ups on our Live Tournaments page.
It’s not exactly that nothing is happening - we’ve got national championships in Iran (for instance, 13-year-old Alireza Firouzja had a brilliant Aeroflot Open on the way to a GM norm, but has struggled with 3 losses), Turkey and Greece, the Stockholm Chess Challenge has live video commentary, and on Saturday Oxford and Cambridge University will play their 135th varsity chess match!
When it comes to the very top players, though, it seems we have only Wei Yi playing in the HDBank Masters in Vietnam from Sunday (4 am European time) and then a Bundesliga weekend on 18-19 March. UPDATE: As pointed out in the comments, there's also the very interesting Winter Chess Classic starting in Saint Louis on 11 March, with the likes of David Howell, Vladimir Fedoseev and current World Junior Champion Jeffery Xiong as well as two previous Junior Champions - Dariusz Swiercz and Alexander Ipatov.
Things liven up after that, though. The Polish Championships start in an impressive new venue – the trading room of the Warsaw Stock Exchange...
...and we have some major new events to look forward to.
It would be a lie to say we know a lot about the Longgang Shenzhen Masters starting on March 22nd, but the Chinese city just north of Hong Kong is hosting an elite 6-player double round-robin with Peter Svidler as the lowest-rated player. Peter is joined by Giri, Adams, Ding Liren, Harikrishna and Yu Yangyi. The players will compete over 10 rounds for a $20,000 first prize.
$15,000 is up for grabs in the other new event – the Sharjah Masters, a tournament that sees Sharjah join the other Emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi in holding big international opens. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Radek Wojtaszek top an extremely strong field.
Other events, meanwhile, are simply going from strength to strength.
Wesley So, Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura will all be back in Saint Louis for what has become one of the world’s most formidable national championships, with the youth of World Junior Champion Jeffery Xiong (2674 at 16) and the experience of Gata Kamsky the icing on the cake of the 12-player line-up. The women’s event also couldn’t be stronger, with Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih both out to try and stop Nazi Paikidze defending her title. $50,000 is up for grabs for first place in the Open section and $25,000 for the Women’s section out of a total prize fund of $294,000.
The action starts on March 29th, with Yasser Seirawan, Jennifer Shahade and Maurice Ashley once again set to provide one of the year’s most enjoyable chess shows.
April is simply packed with chess, including the Dubai Open, the Bangkok Chess Club Open (surely it’s time to rename it the Jan Gustafsson Open?), the Reykjavik Open, the Europe Women’s Championship, the 4-day start of the Chinese League and the 3-day last weekend of the German League. And that’s just the relatively “minor” events…
Easter Sunday falls on 16 April this year, and the long weekend has encouraged two major supertournaments to announce their tournaments with overlapping dates.
The Korchnoi Zurich Chess Challenge and its accompanying open tournament (12-17 April) had previously been announced, with Kramnik, Anand, Nakamura, Nepomniachtchi, Svidler, Gelfand, Oparin and Pelletier competing in blitz and “new classical” (45 min + 30 sec) chess. Boris Gelfand was given his place when Maxime Vachier-Lagrave pulled out, with sponsor Oleg Skvortsov expressing his disapproval:
I’d note that Boris Gelfand received a place in Zurich without needing to qualify [it was expected Boris would have to win the Christmas Nutcracker tournament]. He’ll be replacing French Grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who turned down the chance to participate for personal reasons and informed Zurich Chess Club President Christian Issler about that in a not overly appropriate manner.
What is Maxime doing instead? Well, it turns out he’s playing the GRENKE Chess Classic (15-22 April), where he joins another player to have upset Skvortsov in the past – World Champion Magnus Carlsen! The full line-up for the 8-player single round-robin is: Carlsen, Caruana, MVL, Aronian, Naiditsch, Hou Yifan, Bluebaum and Meier. The first three rounds take place in Karlsruhe alongside the GRENKE Chess Open (featuring Bacrot, Matlakov, Raport, Fedoseev and other strong players) before the final four rounds are held back in its familiar home of Baden-Baden.
When the event was last held in 2015 Magnus Carlsen won after beating Arkadij Naiditsch in Armageddon in one of the most enjoyable evenings of chess commentary ever! This year chess24 will again be broadcasting live from the venue and it promises to be a great fight:
Details are scant, so far, but
it seems that’s not the end of the supertournament action next month, since the
Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir is back for a 4th edition (21-30 April). The 10-player single
round-robin features So, Kramnik, Karjakin, 2016 Champion Mamedyarov, Radjabov,
Adams, Harikrishna, Eljanov, Wojtaszek and Topalov.
We’re not going to go through the whole chess calendar, but there’s space for updates on a couple of very notable events. The Grand Chess Tour has just announced the eight wild cards for the rapid tournaments in Paris and Leuven, and they didn’t disappoint, with the likes of Kramnik, Ivanchuk and Jobava joining the tour regulars:
And then, last but most definitely not least, we come to Altibox Norway Chess (June 5-17). The 10-player supertournament had always managed to attract a very, very strong line-up, but it turned out they could still spring a surprise. After drip-feeding the names of the players they ended with a sensational announcement – the full list of participants was simply the complete Top 10 on the world rating list, something never achieved before for such a large field.
Kjell Madland, the founder of the event, was understandably proud:
We are very pleased that we have managed to gather the world’s 10 best players in our tournament this year. It’s a special year for us being our 5th anniversary. The fact that we are the first ones ever to bring together the top 10 players in the world in one tournament shows that Altibox Norway Chess has established itself as the strongest and one of the most important tournaments in the chess world. We have, since the tournament’s inception in 2013, wanted to create a unique chess tournament. This shows that we have succeeded.
It was bad news for Norwegian stars such as Jon Ludvig Hammer and Aryan Tari who might otherwise have counted on an invitation, but good news for chess fans around the world. The only fly in the ointment? After Mamedyarov played well in Sharjah he’s knocked Anish Giri out of the World Top 10, but currently by less than one rating point! That’s going to be a minor subplot as both players are in action in just over a week’s time.