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On Chess: What to look forward to in 2017

Wesley So with the Grand Chess Tour 2016 trophy
Leonard Ootes | St. Louis Chess Club

Last year was a historic one year for chess. Magnus Carlsen defended his World Championship title in a tense showdown against Russian challenger, Sergey Karjakin. The USA won its first Olympiad Gold medal in 40 years. Fabiano Caruana and Nazi Paikidze each won their very first U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship respectively. While it's hard to say what 2017 will bring, there are many exciting and prestigious events to look forward to. Mark your calendars now for some of the most highly anticipated events of the year.

PRO Chess League (January 11-March 26 |Chess.com)

The PRO Chess League aims to be for chess what the NFL is for football and the MLB is for baseball. The PRO Chess League kicks off its inaugural season on Jan. 11 with 48 teams from across the globe. Over the next two months, teams will compete in weekly online matches. The games will be broadcast live on chess.com, along with ESPN-style commentary and grandmaster insights. Each match consists of 16 rapid games. It is anticipated to be one of the most entertaining chess events to witness.

“I’ve never felt that any event has the chance to change the game of chess more than this one. It’s going to be fun, action packed, and an all day spectacle every single week,” said the PRO Chess League’s founder, Greg Shahade.

The league features more than 100 grandmasters and a $50,000 prize fund, making it the strongest and richest online chess league in history. St. Louis will be fielding two teams, each stacked with several grandmasters. The Saint Louis Archbishops (organized by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis) and the Webster Windmills (organized by Webster University Chess Team) will undoubtedly be crosstown rivals. They are scheduled to face off on Wednesday, Jan. 18.

SuperNationals VI (May 12-14 | Nashville, TN)

What makes SuperNationals so super? It is easily the largest scholastic event in the world. This quadrennial event combines the normally separate elementary, junior high and high school national tournaments. Attendance at the last SuperNationals in 2013 surpassed a record-breaking 5,000 players.

Having competed in two SuperNationals myself, I can say that it’s quite the chess spectacle. The three-day, seven-round event will produce countless national champions across different age and rating categories. It is a must-go event for any competitive scholastic chess player.

Grand Chess Tour

Similar to the Grand Slam of tennis, the Grand Chess Tour is a high-stakes tournament series featuring the world’s best players. Over the course of five tournaments in Paris; Leuven, Belgium; St. Louis and London, $1.2 million will be given out in prizes. While it’s easy to say that reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen is the favorite to win the tour, the crown is totally up for grabs. Last year, American player Wesley So shocked the chess world by dominating the highly competitive field. 

Fabiano Caruana & Nazi Paikidze at the closing ceremony of the 2016 U.S. Championships.
Credit Leonard Ootes | St. Louis Chess Club
Fabiano Caruana & Nazi Paikidze at the closing ceremony of the 2016 U.S. Championships.

U.S. Open (July 29-August 6 | Norfolk, VA)

Unlike the events above, anyone is allowed to participate in the U.S. Open. One of the largest open tournaments of the year, the U.S. Open attracts a wide range of players from beginner to grandmaster. The winner not only walks away with an $8,000 first prize, but is also gets coveted spot in the 2018 U.S. Championships. 

Other upcoming notable events include:

  • Feb. 10-March 6:  A new World’s Women Champion will be determined in Iran.
  • March 24-26:  The top chess colleges will fight for glory at the President's Cup (also known at the Final Four of College Chess) in New York City, with two competing teams coming from St. Louis, Saint Louis University and Webster University.
  • March 28-April 10:  The nation’s top players will compete in St. Louis at the U.S. Championships.

With a large selection of tournaments and the ability to follow top-level chess online, I predict that 2017 will be a golden age for chess players and chess fans alike.
Eric Rosen is an international master and a member of the Webster University Chess Team. In 2011, he won the National K-12 Championships with a perfect 7/7 score. In addition to being an active tournament player, Rosen coaches students from all over the world via the internet.