Carlsen tops bill for new $1m Grand Chess Tour

 Norway's Magnus Carlsen (Associated Press)

Norway’s Magnus Carlsen (Associated Press)

A new $1 million “gold standard” Grand Chess Tour featuring 10 of the world’s top professional players has been announced.

World champion Magnus Carlsen tops the bill alongside Fabiano Caruana, Anish Giri and the US pair Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura.

Eight of the world’s top 10 players have already confirmed they will take part, with only Russia’s Vladimir Kramnik declining the invitation.

Details of the tournament, first rumoured in February, were confirmed in a press conference at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis in Missouri

The three legs for 2015 event will be the Sinquefield Cup in St Louis, Norway Chess and the London Chess Classic in December.

Organisers also confirmed they are in discussions with a fourth tournament and hope to expand the competition to other continents in 2016 and beyond.

Each leg will carry a $300,000 prize fun, with $350,000 prize for the overall winner.

The announcement was made before a showpiece event over the weekend.

Chess legend Garry Kasparov and one-time challenger to his crown, the British GM Nigel Short, will do battle over the board in an exhibition re-run of their 1993 world championship match.

The pair took centre stage at the announcement, alongside Telegraph chess correspondent Malcolm Pein and representatives from Norway Chess and the St Louis Chess Club

Mr Pein, the organiser of the London Chess Classic, said the difference between this new circuit and Fide’s existing Grand Prix is that players will be paid what they are worth as top sportsmen.

He added: “The London Chess Classic is delighted to be part of this new venture which we feel sure will greatly add to the public interest in top flight chess.

“We look forward to the Grand Chess Tour climaxing in London and to further tournaments joining the GCT in coming years.”

Kasparov said the players would earn “top dollar”.

The involvement of eight players were confirmed.

They are Carlsen, Caruana, Giri, Alexander Grischuk, Levon Aronian, Vishy Anand, Veselin Topalov and the US champion Nakamura. French Grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was later added to the list.

Together, they have an average rating of 2801.

A ninth, the French Grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, later confirmed he will take part.

The tenth place will be a wildcard chosen for each event by the organisers to “spotlight” their event.

Tony Rich, executive director of the St Louis Chess Club, said it would be the “pinnacle of chess around the world, the gold standard”.

“The Grand Chess Tour was created with just one goal in mind: Demonstrating the highest level of organization for the world’s best players,” he said.

“Featuring the world’s strongest chess professionals fighting for massive prize funds, along with a full spectator experience led by world-class commentary, this circuit sets forth an internationally coordinated effort that casts a shining spotlight on global chess competition.”

He added: “Our ultimate goal is to make superstars out of these players, to hear them mentioned in the same sentence as Barry Bonds or John McEnroe.

“The real vision for this is to make it truly global.”

All three legs already have sponsors, but an overall tournament sponsor is yet to be found.

Asked whether he would be taking part, British grandmaster Nigel Short joked: “I’m too weak I’m afraid but I’m working on it, my rating is going up at the moment.

“I think it’s wonderful, it’s great to have these players together and it’s bringing cohesion to the chess world.”

Short was at the centre of a media storm this week after the Telegraph revealed he had been accused of sexism by female players.

Backers include the American chess enthusiast Rex Sinquefield, who was at the launch.

Sinquefield, who has ploughed millions into the game, founded the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis and has built the city into the game’s US capital.

His centre, which has the world’s biggest chess piece outside, a king which stands 14ft 6ins high and weighs more than a ton, is now a hub for junior chess and reaches out to 500 schools.

It also hosts the annual US Chess Championships and the annual Sinquefield Cup.

Leon Watson

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Education through Chess. A proven intervention to unlock the potential of SA's children. Moves for Life unlocks the cognitive potential of South African children by structured implementation of chess education where essential aspects of the game are actively linked with math, science and lifeskill concepts. Learning fundamental concepts are made fun and exciting for the child.
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