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On Chess: St. Louis' Summer Of Chess

Grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in conversation with Grandmaster Maurice Ashley. Vachier-Lagrave had a strong showing at the Grand Chess Tour's fourth leg, the St. Louis Rapid and Blitz in August 2019.
Austin Fuller | St. Louis Chess Club

The summer season may be nearing a close, but the “Summer of Chess” at the St. Louis Chess Club is in full force. For the next three weeks, the leading chess grandmasters from across the world will gather in the chess capital of the U.S. to battle it out in different formats over the 64 squares.

The hectic month of August kicked off with the Grand Chess Tour’s fourth leg, the St. Louis Rapid and Blitz. This tournament has become a staple on the chess calendar and attracts the top players who are competing in the tour as well as three wildcards. 

The schedule for this particular event is quite grueling, as it is a combination of nine rapid games over three days and 18 blitz games over two days. The battle is heating up, as Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is in the lead by only half a point ahead of Levon Aronian. The tournament is still wide open, as having a bad day in blitz can prove to be detrimental for the standings. 

After a two-day break, the biggest chess event in the U.S., the Sinquefield Cup, will kick off Aug. 17. The Sinquefield Cup is the fifth stop of the tour and the remaining classical event. All the tour players will return to St. Louis to fight it out for $325,000 and coveted tour points.

The event will take place over 11 days and offers more tour points than quicker time control events, thus being more crucial for the players to perform well. Last year, the tournament ended in a somewhat controversial manner because the three players who tied for first ultimately ended up sharing the title as opposed to determining a sole winner on tiebreaks.

The Sinquefield Cup participants this year are:

  • Magnus Carlsen - Norway
  • Fabiano Caruana - USA
  • Ding Liren - China
  • Anish Giri - Netherlands
  • Ian Nepomniachtchi - Russia
  • Hikaru Nakamura - USA
  • Shakhriyar Mamedyarov - Azerbaijan
  • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave - France
  • Viswanathan Anand - India
  • Levon Aronian - Armenia
  • Wesley So - USA
  • Sergey Karjakin - Russia

Following the conclusion of the Sinquefield Cup, the St. Louis Chess Club will host an Ultimate Moves Exhibition with all players on Aug. 29 at 2:00 p.m. This free event will include St. Louis Chess Club founder Rex Sinquefield; his son Randy Sinquefield, who is president of Spectrum Studios; legendary world champion Garry Kasparov; and the Sinquefield Cup players, in a team vs. team matchup.
All tournament players will compete in this fun-spirited event where players swap out after every fifth move and are encouraged to talk to each other and their opponents throughout the match.

The summer will come to a close with another edition of Champions Showdown: Chess 9LX, or Chess960, also known as Fischer Random. This variant of chess is gaining popularity, with FIDE announcing a Fischer Random Championship in November. The name Chess960 comes from the number of possible starting positions when the pieces on the first rank are randomized.

The event will be a series of matches between the top four American players and their counterparts, including the legendary World Champion Garry Kasparov as well as former FIDE World Champion Veselin Topalov. 

The matches will be: 

  • GM Fabiano Caruana (USA) vs. GM Garry Kasparov (Russia)
  • GM Wesley So (USA) vs. GM Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) 
  • GM Leinier Dominguez (USA) vs. GM Peter Svidler (Russia)
  • GM Hikaru Nakamura (USA) vs. GM Levon Aronian (Armenia)

Each match will have a $50,000 prize fund, with $30,000 to the winner and $20,000 to the runner-up. The format is six rapid games and 14 blitz games. 
The St. Louis Chess Club will be offering world-class commentary for all events featuring GM Yasser Seirawan, WGM Jennifer Shahade and GM Maurice Ashley.

The Sinquefield Cup can be viewed on grandchesstour.org, while the Champions Showdown will be streamed on uschesschamps.com. These tournaments can also be seen live at the St. Louis Chess Club.

Tatev Abrahamyan is an Armenian-born American chess player who holds the title of woman grandmaster.