So out of ‘Grand Chess Tour’ that offers more than $1-million in prizes


By Bert Eljera

LAS VEGAS – Grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France was added as ninth and last player Sunday in the super chess circuit that gather together three of the world’s strongest chess tournaments.

Called  the Grand Chess Tour, it will feature the Norway Chess set in Stanger June 15-26, the Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis, Aug. 21 to Sept. 3, and the London Chess Classic, Dec. 3-14.

The world’s top chess players, including world champion Magnus Carlsen, and five-time champion Vishy Anand are competing in the tour that offers a total prize pot of more than $1 -million.

Ranked No. 7 in the world, Wesley So is a natural fit for the tournament, but organizers did not officially say if he was invited, and if so invited, why he declined to participate.

An informally designated media liaison in Manila said So was invited but could not make it due to prior commitments, which are in conflict with the schedule of some of the legs of the tour.

“Because of prior commitments to a 4-game match with David Navarra plus simultaneous exhibition in the middle of the match, he (So) now has a scheduling conflict with Norway Chess,” the media liaison said in a Facebook posting.

“Influential people” are trying to work out a plan so that So can still play in Norway, the liaison added.

“Team Wesley is still hoping that the re-scheduling can be worked out. If not, So will have to honor his commitments and skip Norway Chess this year,” the liaison, who acts as virtual spokesman, said.

Other than Lotis Key, a personal chaperone who is introduced as So’s “mother” no member of “Team Wesley” is publicly known.

No re-scheduling was presumably worked out as Grand Chess Tour organizers picked Vachier-Lagrave as ninth player.

Each tournament can add a 10th player, but the nine are permanent participants.

Each of the three tour event will award individual prize funds of $300,000, with competitors also tallying points toward a tour prize fund of $150,000.

The overall tour champion will receive an additional $75,000. The total prize fund for the circuit is $1,050,000.

The participating players are:

  • World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen, Norway
  • Fabiano Caruana, Italy
  • Alexander Grischuk, Russia
  • Veselin Topalov, Bulgaria
  • Viswanathan Anand, India
  • Levon Aronian, Armenia
  • Anish Giri, Netherlands
  • Hikaru Nakamura, USA
  • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Former world champion Vladimir Kramnik of Russia was invited, but declined, citing prior commitments and his desire to spend more time with his family.

” I have actually a lot of invitations already this year. (…) Taking three more tournaments would just make it so totally packed and full, that I’m afraid first of all that I would not see my family for the whole year,” Kramnik said in a statement.

“The Grand Chess Tour was created with just one goal in mind: Demonstrating the highest level of organization for the world’s best players,” said Tony Rich, executive director of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis

It was Rich, the chief arbiter in the US Chess Championships who slapped So with a forfeit in the 9th round for writing notes to himself on a piece of paper in violation of tournament rules.

Organizers did not say that this has something to do with So’s not playing in the tour, but rules include the phrase, ” players that demonstrate the highest levels of sportsmanship and professionalism.”

” We invited the top-10 players in the world, eight of whom have confirmed their participation,” Rich said, adding that the players were selected based on the January 2015 FIDE ratings.

“I guarantee the tour will be an extremely high-quality event,” said Rex Sinquefield, the man behind the Sinquefield Cup and all other chess activities in St. Louis

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