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On Chess: Magnus Carlsen Dominates In India, Grand Chess Tour Finals Begin In London

The closing ceremony for the 2019 Grand Chess Tour, Tata Steel Rapid & Blitz tournament in Kolkata, India.
Lennart Ootes | Grand Chess Tour

The Grand Chess Tour wrapped up the final leg of its 2019 regular season with the Tata Steel Chess Rapid & Blitz held Nov. 22-26 in Kolkata, India. This was the strongest tournament of its kind to be held on Indian soil.

Over five days of thrilling rapid and blitz chess, reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen simply dominated the competition. He scored a record-breaking 27 out of a possible 36 points, surpassing his previous score of 26.5 points from the Cote d’Ivoire Rapid & Blitz earlier this year.

“It’s a big deal for me to have a good performance here. I haven’t played so well in rapid and blitz lately, and I think with this result, I showed I’m still the man to beat,” Carlsen said. He took home $37,500 for his efforts and will certainly be the man to beat as the GCT Finals kicked off in London earlier this week.

The competition took place at the National Library of India in Kolkata with stadium-style seating to accommodate a large live audience. The Grand Chess Tour and St. Louis Chess Club also hosted online broadcasts with English and Russian commentary to captivate chess fans from around the world.

The 10-player field consisted of eight tour players along with two wild cards. Although Carlsen’s domination was the main headline of the event, there were other storylines to follow.

American grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura finished in a respectable second place, a solid showing. He did not lose a single game in the blitz portion and maintains his spot as the highest-rated blitz player in the world.

For chess fans across India, there was undoubtedly a large spotlight on the nation’s top player, Viswanathan Anand. He was on the cusp of qualifying for the GCT Finals and needed to finish in clear sixth place or better to pass Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the overall tour standings.

With a topsy-turvy performance throughout the tournament, Anand kept his supporters on the edge of their seats. Going into the last few rounds of play, it still was not clear if Anand would qualify. Toward the end of the blitz portion, the Indian superstar stumbled. He lost a heartbreaking game to Anish Giri after running out of time in a winning position. Then, in the penultimate round, he fell short against Carlsen in what was a chaotic and complex battle. This loss sealed Anand’s fate of just missing the qualification spot.

With the conclusion of the Tata Steel Chess Rapid & Blitz, the GCT finalists have been determined. GM Magnus Carlsen, GM Ding Liren, GM Levon Aronian, and GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave captured the top four spots in the overall tour standings and will compete in the finals Dec.  2-8, held at Olympia London. By the end of this week, the title of 2019 Grand Chess Tour Champion and the $150,000 grand prize will be awarded.

All of the action can be followed at GrandChessTour.org with GMs Peter Svidler, Maurice Ashley and Alejandro Ramirez, and WGM Jennifer Shahade, in what is bound to be an exciting finale to the 2019 Grand Chess Tour season.

Eric Rosen is an international master and a Webster University graduate with a B.A. in Interactive Digital Media. He is also a member of the St. Louis Chess Club, a partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

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