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On Chess: World’s Best Return To America’s Chess Capital For The 2021 St. Louis Rapid & Blitz

The 2021 St. Louis Rapid & Blitz Opening Ceremony.
Lennart Ootes
Grand Chess Tour
The 2021 St. Louis Rapid & Blitz opening ceremony.

With over-the-board chess making a strong comeback in 2021, the Grand Chess Tour is finally returning to the chess capital of the U.S. The St. Louis Rapid and Blitz, to be held Aug. 10-16, will mark the penultimate event of the Grand Chess Tour.

In recent times, especially during the height of the pandemic, rapid and blitz chess have predominantly taken place online. Many of the world’s top players (as well as us grandmaster-wannabes) have become accustomed to duking it out virtually on platforms like chess.com, lichess.org or Chess24. This year, competitors can enjoy some normalcy as they return to battling over a physical chess board. Thankfully, they won’t have to worry about mouse-slipping or internet-connection issues that have scarred some online events, including last year’s edition of the STL Rapid & Blitz.

A mix of full tour players and wildcards will compete at the St. Louis Chess Club for a generous prize fund of $150,000, with $37,500 going to the winner. The star-studded field includes:

  • GM Fabiano Caruana (USA) - Tour Player
  • GM Wesley So (USA) - Tour Player
  • GM Shakrihyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan) - Tour Player
  • GM Richard Rapport (Hungary) - Tour Player
  • GM Hikaru Nakamura (USA) - Wildcard
  • GM Peter Svidler (Russia) - Wildcard
  • GM Leinier Dominguez (USA) - Wildcard
  • GM Liem Le (Vietnam) - Wildcard
  • GM Sam Shankland (USA) - Wildcard
  • GM Jeffery Xiong (USA) - Wildcard

The full-tour players will also be competing for top spots in the overall Grand Chess Tour standings. Most notably, Wesley So and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who stand in second and third place respectively, have great chances to leapfrog Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and lead the Grand Chess Tour after this event.

2021 Grand Chess Tour Standings after the Croatia Grand Chess Tour
2021 Grand Chess Tour Standings after the Croatia Grand Chess Tour

2021 Grand Chess Tour Standings after the Croatia Grand Chess Tour

While any given player has the potential to win the STL Rapid & Blitz, many chess fans consider Hikaru Nakamura to be the clear favorite to win it all. Even though Nakamura is a wildcard to this event, he currently boasts the highest blitz rating in the world of 2900, eclipsing that of World Champion Magnus Carlsen. Additionally, Nakamura has a massive global fan base that will be cheering him thanks to his recent popularity explosion on Twitch and YouTube.

Starting at 2:50 p.m. CT Aug. 11, chess fans can catch round-by-round coverage from Grandmasters Yasser Seirawan, Maurice Ashley and Alejandro Ramirez exclusively on grandchesstour.org and kasparovchess.com. Unfortunately, due to local COVID-19 restrictions, live spectators will not be allowed.

The first three days of the STL Rapid and Blitz will feature a single round-robin of rapid chess with a time control of 25 minutes plus a 10-second increment. The final two days will feature a double round robin of blitz chess with a time control of 5 minutes plus a 2-second increment. Unlike classical events where a single chess game can easily last four to six hours, the fast-paced nature of this event will certainly produce more blunders, drama and decisive games!

For chess fans who still crave slower-paced chess, don’t you worry! The Sinquefield Cup will immediately follow the STL Rapid & Blitz and will feature a 10-player round robin classical tournament to determine the Grand Chess Tour champion.

Eric Rosen is an international master and a Webster University graduate with a B.A. in Interactive Digital Media. Originally from Skokie, Ill., Eric now lives in St. Louis and works many jobs relating to chess. He produces educational video content for YouTube and Twitch, coaches students online and works as a freelance photographer and journalist, covering chess events from around the world.