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On Chess: Expanded Grand Chess Tour Begins Second Leg In Croatia

World chess champion Magnus Carlsen was leading as the Grand Chess Tour began in Zagreb, Croatia on June 26, 2019.
Grand Chess Tour
World chess champion Magnus Carlsen was leading as the Grand Chess Tour began in Zagreb, Croatia, on June 26.

After an exciting kickoff in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, the Grand Chess Tour (GCT) will continue on in Europe.

The second leg of GCT will take place in Zagreb, Croatia, from June 25 until July 9. The new location is part of the expansion of the tour, as well as the first of the two classical events. The top players in the world will be competing for a total prize fund of $325,000 and tour points over 11 days.

As per the regulations, all 12 full tour participants must compete in both classical events. The field, will thus consist of:

  • 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

Carlsen will return to the tour as a full participant after skipping last year’s event. The world champion is currently leading, after dominating Abidjan and winning the tournament with three rounds to spare.
He is coming in fresh off another super tournament win, his sixth consecutive this year. His current rating is 2872, just 10 points shy of the peak 2882 he achieved in 2014. Carlsen has not lost a single classical game in 2019. In fact, his last loss in classical time controls was in July 2018 against Mamedyarov. The world champion seems more determined than ever to set a new record by crossing 2900.

During his most recent tournament win in Norway, Carlsen only suffered one loss in Armageddon to Caruana, the 2018 challenger to his world championship crown.

Although Caruana’s results haven’t been as impressive, he still seems to be the most dangerous opponent for Carlsen. The world champion himself admitted that his play was shaky, as indicated by his nearly lost positions against Aronian and Liren, but ultimately the American was the only one who was able to defeat Carlsen.

Fabiano Caruana of St. Louis was considered the greatest threat to Magnus Carlsen heading into the Croatia portion of the Grand Chess Tour in June 2019.
Fabiano Caruana of St. Louis was considered the greatest threat to Magnus Carlsen heading into the Croatia portion of the Grand Chess Tour.

Caruana and Liren have been number two and three in the world, respectively, for a while now and are the only two other 2800s in the field. Giri and Nepomniachtchi have been rising in the ranks, occupying the fourth and fifth spots. The two have also historically been problematic opponents for Carlsen.

While Giri has a reputation of being too solid, Nepomniachtchi is known for his fast play and uncompromising style. The rest of the field is as dangerous and capable of running away with the title, as each player has super tournament wins under their belt. The tournament promises to be extremely competitive.

Since the classical events offer more GCT points than the rapid and blitz, each player will be looking to secure the maximum number of tour points in the highly competitive field. In addition to all the changes, the time control will be shorter: only 130 minutes per player, with a 30-second delay starting on move one. The players won’t receive the usual 30 minutes after their 40th move, which promises to make the games even more exciting.

The opening ceremony took place on June 25 at the Mimara Museum situated on Roosevelt Square in Zagreb. The first round of action kicked off on June 26 at Novinarski Dom in Zagreb.

Spectators will be allowed in the playing with a purchase of a ticket. In addition to the online English commentary team of Yasser Seirawan, Alejandro Ramirez and Jovanka Houska, Russian language commentary will be provided by Evgenij Miroshnichenko and Melikset Khachiyan. All commentary will be viewable at grandchesstour.org or on the St. Louis Chess Club’s YouTube channel.

Tatev Abrahamyan, a woman grandmaster, started playing chess when she was eight years old, after her father took her to the 1996 Chess Olympiad in Yerevan, Armenia. Abrahamyan has represented the U.S. in four Olympiads, two World Team Championships since 2008, and has played in every U.S. Women’s Championship the St. Louis Chess Club has hosted.