Grand Chess Tour makes new moves

by Johannes Fischer
1/5/2017 – In a recent press release the Grand Chess Tour announced two things: a new rating system, called Universal Rating System, or URS™, that combines the results players have in classical, rapid and blitz chess, and the Wildcard Selections for the five events of the Grand Chess Tour 2017. More...

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What is the Universal Rating System?

According to the Grand Chess Tour press release the URS™ “is a revolutionary new sport’s rating system designed to assess the relative strength of participants across a wide variety of competitor vs competitor sports or games”. As the name indicates, the Universal Rating System expresses the strength of a player in classical, in rapid and in blitz chess with only one rating though results in rapid and blitz chess do not have as much value as results in classical chess.

The first URS™ rating list was published on January 1. Magnus Carlsen leads but he is much more ahead of his rivals than on the Fide list. And  according to the URS™ the world’s number two is not Fabiano Caruana but Vladimir Kramnik - Caruana was relegated to four - while Ian Nepomniachtchi is the world's number five.

URS™ List (Rank 1 to 30)

Rank Player Name URating Rapid Gap Blitz Gap
1 Carlsen, Magnus 2852 19 55
2 Kramnik, Vladimir 2787 31 83
3 Nakamura, Hikaru 2787 19 55
4 Caruana, Fabiano 2779 38 94
5 Nepomniachtchi, Ian 2779 18 52
6 Karjakin, Sergey 2778 18 53
7 So, Wesley 2777 30 80
8 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 2774 18 53
9 Grischuk, Alexander 2771 20 57
10 Anand, Viswanathan 2771 27 75
11 Aronian, Levon 2771 24 67
12 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar 2768 23 65
13 Ding, Liren 2763 23 64
14 Ivanchuk, Vassily 2760 22 62
15 Giri, Anish 2757 25 69
16 Yu, Yangyi 2751 24 67
17 Dominguez Perez, Leinier 2747 22 63
18 Andreikin, Dmitry 2746 20 56
19 Svidler, Peter 2740 21 61
20 Harikrishna, P. 2736 30 80
21 Gelfand, Boris 2734 22 61
22 Le, Quang Liem 2730 22 63
23 Adams, Michael 2730 29 77
24 Wojtaszek, Radoslaw 2725 29 79
25 Eljanov, Pavel 2719 38 94
26 Navara, David 2718 21 61
27 Radjabov, Teimour 2718 22 62
28 Mamedov, Rauf 2717 15 45
29 Bu, Xiangzhi 2715 31 82
30 Malakhov, Vladimir 2715 30 80

On the Universal Rating website these numbers are explained further:

"Published URS™ Ratings represent the system's assessment of a player's strength at Classical chess. The URS™ then assumes that the quality and consistency of play will degrade as time controls reduce across the spectrum from Classical to Rapid to Blitz chess. The magnitude of this decline differs from player to player and is displayed as their Rapid and Blitz Gaps.

Rapid Gap = the Universal Rating advantage the player would need for a 50% expected score in rapid (Game in 30 minutes each) against an opponent whose quality and consistency of play do not worsen at quicker time controls.

Blitz Gap = the Universal Rating advantage the player would need for a 50% expected score in blitz (Game in 5 minutes each) against an opponent whose quality and consistency of play do not worsen at quicker time controls."

Magnus Carlsen - New rating system, still the number one

Fabiano Caruana suffered an unexpected loss of 48 rating points

Fide List (Rank 1 to 30)

Rank Name Title Rating Games B-Year
 1  Carlsen, Magnus  g  2840  0  1990
 2  Caruana, Fabiano  g  2827  11  1992
 3  Kramnik, Vladimir  g  2811  9  1975
 4  So, Wesley  g  2808  9  1993
 5  Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime  g  2796  11  1990
 6  Anand, Viswanathan  g  2786  11  1969
 7  Nakamura, Hikaru  g  2785  9  1987
 8  Karjakin, Sergey  g  2785  0  1990
 9  Aronian, Levon  g  2780  9  1982
 10  Giri, Anish  g  2773  9  1994
 11  Nepomniachtchi, Ian  g  2767  0  1990
 12  Harikrishna, P.  g  2766  2  1986
 13  Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar  g  2766  2  1985
 14  Ding, Liren  g  2760  4  1992
 15  Eljanov, Pavel  g  2755  4  1983
 16  Ivanchuk, Vassily  g  2752  2  1969
 17  Adams, Michael  g  2751  11  1971
 18  Wojtaszek, Radoslaw  g  2750  6  1987
 19  Svidler, Peter  g  2748  4  1976
 20  Grischuk, Alexander  g  2742  1  1983
 21  Topalov, Veselin  g  2739  9  1975
 22  Dominguez Perez, Leinier  g  2739  0  1983
 23  Yu, Yangyi  g  2738  13  1994
 24  Andreikin, Dmitry  g  2736  4  1990
 25  Navara, David  g  2735  4  1985
 26  Vitiugov, Nikita  g  2724  2  1987
 27  Inarkiev, Ernesto  g  2723  6  1985
 28  Gelfand, Boris  g  2721  4  1968
 29  Li, Chao b  g  2720  0  1989
 30  Le, Quang Liem  g  2718  0  1991

The Grand Chess Tour 2017

Who will be invited?

The Grand Chess Tour is a prestigious and very lucrative event. In 2017 five events are scheduled, with a total prize fund of $1,200,000.

Six players had already qualified for the 2017 GCT Tour:

Wesley So (USA) – Winner, 2016 GCT
Fabiano Caruana, (USA) – Runner-Up, 2016 GCT
Hikaru Nakamura (USA) – 3rd place, 2016 GCT
Magnus Carlsen (NOR) – 1st slot, 2016 Average Rating
Vladimir Kramnik (RUS) – 2nd slot, 2016 Average Rating
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA) – 3rd slot, 2016 Average Rating

Now, three more players have been offered wildcards:

Ian Nepomniachtchi (RUS)
Sergey Karjakin (RUS)
Viswanathan Anand (IND)

The press release explains this choice:

GM Ian Nepomniachtchi earns his place due to his consistency across all time formats which sees him placed 5th on the URS™ rating list as at 1 January 2017. This earned him selection as the highest ranked player on the URS™ not already picked.

GM Sergei Karjakin was then selected as the second highest ranked player on the URS™ not already picked after a year that saw him compete in the 2016 World Championship match and secure the title of World Blitz Champion.

The final wildcard has been awarded to former World Champion Viswanathan Anand who is ranked 10th on the URS™ rating list as at 1 January 2017. He also tied for 4th place in the 2016 GCT tour despite only competing in three of the four events in 2016.”

Levon Aronian is the first alternate.

Moreover, wildcards will also be given in the five events:

“There will be fourteen event wildcards in the 2017 Grand Chess Tour with four in each Blitz & Rapid and one each in the Sinquefield Cup and London Chess Classic. The recipients will be announced in due course.“

Grand Chess Tour schedule 2017

About the URS™

About the Grand Chess Tour

Press release…

Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".
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scoobeedo scoobeedo 1/8/2017 12:09
The URS should not replace the ELO.

I don't see a advantage to the ELO. I see only disadvantages.

I think that it is not logical for calculations to mix the standard time ratings with blitz ratings because in a blitz time chess game is it not possible to extend the time to standard time. The URS is hiding the real strength of the player in the different disciplines.

But to assume that a blitz player with Blitz-Elo 2800 could be in standard chess a super grandmaster will be a easy guess. For this I do not need a mixed rating.

And if I really want to know his overall strength, I think to find between the blitz and the standard ELO the middle value is extremely easy.

A slow player who need his time can be a very good standard chess player and still be a lousy blitz player (lousy means in my opinion -200 Elo difference between the categories). If the URS is the unique combined rating, information get lost.

Today look a player of a blitz tournament not anymore to the standard elo, he look direct to the blitz ELO. And he get the info how strong the opponents are.

The URS will not give a exact blitz rating, and a mixed rating does not tell the exact strength of this player in blitz.

Shortly said, dont replace ELO with the URS.

URS is useless!
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 1/7/2017 04:14
In the GCT, there is one wildcard for the classical event and four wildcard for the rapdi/blitz events.

The Classical Elo rating could be the only one used for choosing the classical event wildcard.

And if the GCT wants to use the URS for choosing the wildcards for the rapid/blitz events, they sure can do so - they should however specify that the URS is created for the only purpose of choosing the wildcards for these events and that the URS is not to be seen as a valuable general replacement of the distinct Elo ratings of Classical, Rapid and Blitz chess.
deepestgreen deepestgreen 1/7/2017 12:53
i can barely be bothered typing this as this urs is so obviously flawed. but one important reason for ratings is so you can qualify for tournaments, and once in a tournament the rating gives you seedings.

combining just makes things murky. why would someone's blitz capabilities affect their invitations and seedings for classical tournaments, and vice versa.

its a fundamental principal of any data analysis, you should always deal with atomic values where possible, combining values is a slippery slope.
Thomas Richter Thomas Richter 1/6/2017 11:38
I also have mixed feelings about URS ratings, but one clarification about the Chess Tour 2017: for final standings, rapid/blitz doesn't dominate but is equally important as classical chess. The nine Tour regulars will play both classical events and two of the three rapid/blitz events, that's why the classical events have one wildcard vs. four wildcards for the rapid/blitz events. Info I received on request from Grand Chess Tour Technical Director Graham Jurgensen (first mentioned at, not sure why the GCT doesn't clearly mention it via their own outlets.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 1/6/2017 09:40
"Blitz Gap = the Universal Rating advantage the player would need for a 50% expected score in blitz (Game in 5 minutes each) against an opponent whose quality and consistency of play do not worsen at quicker time controls."

Magnus UR 2852 - Blitz Gap 55. The Blitz Gap, if I understand correctly, means that Magnus, in a blitz time control, has a 50% chance of winning against a player UR rated 2852 - 55, i.e., 2793 UR.
Vladimir Kramnik, second UR, has a UR of 2787. For facilitating the illustration of my point, let us give Vlad a UR of 2793.

So, if I understand correctly, Magnus, with a time control of 5 minutes (no incrementation) would have a 50% chance of beating Vlad playing with a classical time control, let us say, 90 minutes plus 30 seconds of incrementation from move 1.

It would be interesting to make the following experiment. Let us make a 12 games tournament between Magnus and Vlad, giving Magnus the blitz time control and Vlad the classical time control, and let us see if it would end close to 6 points each in the end. Maybe the promoters of that system should propose that experiment to validate it.

Note that, in that experiment, Magnus would be even more advantaged than in the theoretical model. In the theoretical model, it would be as if Vlad would play as well in a 5-minutes time control as in a classical time control. In my proposed experiment, Magnus would be able to think on Vlad's time. But there is no other way to verify experimentally the pure model - there is no way to make Vlad play in blitz-time control as well as in classical time control. So, a correction should be made to the result of the experiment, taking account of the additional advantage Magnus would have in the experiment as compared to the theoretical model. Thus, something should be subtracted from Magnus' results to reflect the theoretical model.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 1/6/2017 09:37
Intuitively, I would be very surprised if Vlad would not win comfortably a 12-games match with Magnus, supposing that Magnus has 5 minutes per game and Vlad 90 minutes plus 30 seconds increment at each game. The UR system states equality as the most probable outcome. See more detailed explanation in my intervention immediately below.
ex0 ex0 1/6/2017 11:32
Also, i would love to see the newer/younger guys there, like Yu Yangyi or even Wei Yi. Not sure if Wei Yi would win any events, but i think he's shown that he can at least 'hang' with the best in the world(at Tata steel when he played, i think he finished in the middle of the pack, not too bad for first supertourney, no?)

Seeing another Aronian vs Anand game is great and all, but variety is the spice of life.
ex0 ex0 1/6/2017 11:29
Seems like GCT is trying to break away and create their own walled garden, separate from FIDE.. we all know how that goes based on past experience, and i don't think this will be any different. This system and company will be gone in 10 years or less, and FIDE will still be around. I'm also not a big fan of speeding up the game, but hey, if that's whats profitable and what sells, then more power to them since they are a profit making company. However, i am not, and i am in it for love of classical chess, not rapid or blitz. I also do not like walled gardens, and it seems like GCT is doing everything it can to make itself one.. from invites to it's own rating systems etc.

I'm sure all this money and effort could of been used in a much better way for chess and chess fans(although i guess that might lower their profit margin, so..)
Oscar Lito M Pablo Oscar Lito M Pablo 1/6/2017 08:01
The URS rating system makes a lot of sense within the context of the Grand Chess Tour, which includes 3 Rapid/Blitz events as part of the tour. Also, I think some readers probably miss an important aspect of the URS rating system: the rapid/blitz chess ratings of the players carry much less weight than the classical chess ratings.
dysanfel dysanfel 1/6/2017 04:47
I think lots of posters here are missing the point. URS does NOT replace classical, rapid, and blitz ratings! Instead it creates a new category that blends the three ratings into a rating that shows how well rounded a player is in different styles of chess. Of course classical rating will always be the measuring stick of how strong a player is. But, a player who is strong in all three deserves a rating that reflects their versatility as a player.
dysanfel dysanfel 1/6/2017 04:40
I REALLY like this idea.
joshuar joshuar 1/6/2017 02:29
I figured that a URS (TM) is necessary in order to create non-FIDE sanctioned events and incorporate them into a separate organization, the better to separate the corruptness that is FIDE and replace it with a better system. Unfortunately, someone decided that Universal meant "all time controls" rather than "all tournament venues."
Igor Freiberger Igor Freiberger 1/5/2017 10:16
From a technical point of view, the URS mixes different things and thus measures nothing. It does not precisely indicates a player strength in any cadence. From a practical point of view, there is no advantage in a rating system namely unified which needs to consider a gap to rapid and blitz cadences. In other words, it is not actually unified nor necessary.

GCT is a welcome initiative, but the tournaments suffer with lack of variety among players. To make the six big guys face each other 12 times in a year causes a lot of draws. Diversity would produce more interesting tournaments — for example, four wildcards in each event to give seat to very different players like Jobava, Eljanov, Ivanchuk, Topalov, Yu, Navara, Rapport, Wei, Mamedyarov, or Vitiugov.

With GTC, each year we have numerous games between Carlsen and Aronian or Kramnik and Anand, but rarely see Giri having to search for another draw against some crazy try by Jobava or Rapport.

The GMA cups in 1988-1989 were much more exciting.
calvinamari calvinamari 1/5/2017 09:41
As for URS, I quite agree that, given countless things that are that are manifestly wrong with the FIDE Freak Show and the Circus Maximus of professional chess, is seems that anyone who is excessively vexed by and takes aim at the perfectly fine ELO system demonstrates a finely honed instinct for the capillary, not the jugular.
amalwa amalwa 1/5/2017 08:22
Thank god,
We are sick and tired of watching Giri draw 99 % of his games.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 1/5/2017 07:57
Status quo is better. Better separate Elo for each category (Classical, Rapid, Blitz). For example, Fabi is a great classical chess player, but not as good in blitz. Each category requires common but also different abilities.

Let us not mix pears, oranges and bananas.
algorithmy algorithmy 1/5/2017 07:12
This is not a universal system. this is a salad system! what is this???
it's like rating doctors by their knowledge in physics and other branches of science, very absurd!
classical chess requires a very hard work and a different set of mind and to mix this with fun stuff like blitz, is really washing away the hard effort by some players who don't take blitz seriously, Caruana for example.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 1/5/2017 06:57
Seems like they forgot to include blindfold and bughouse.
ChiliBean ChiliBean 1/5/2017 06:51
Rex and Garry are draining the swamp (FIDE) and replacing it with what chess should be.
fons fons 1/5/2017 05:54
Can these ratings be replicated by independent third parties?

If not this opens the door for abuse. If nobody can check the numbers then they can tell us whatever they like. It pretends to be democratic but in fact amounts to a dictatorship where the people in control decide who gets in and who's left out.

Pretty nifty trick; disguising obfuscation with a veil of transparency. Brilliant.
yesenadam yesenadam 1/5/2017 04:24
How about they stick to fixing the things in the chess world that are actually broken?! Classical ELO sure doesn't seem broken to me. This seems like a Grand effort to try to break it. Kasparov should stick to playing chess. (And not moving the pieces twice.)

Well said calvinamari - the GCT would actually be Grand if it wasn't mostly speed chess. Well, early days... *imagines the future..watching the players with highest Universal Rating playing New Classical with my VR AGON goggles.. oh wow, it's going to a New Blitz tiebreak..*
tom fox tom fox 1/5/2017 03:41
I really dislike this ratings idea.
Zmeu Zmeu 1/5/2017 03:18
Carlsen URS = 2852, Blitz Gap = 55 implies that Carlsen playing blitz should score 50% against a 2797 URS-rated player playing classical. Since the number two player on the URS list is rated less than 2797, it follows that Carlsen playing blitz would be the favorite against anyone else playing classical. I would love to see something like this put into action (and I'd bet heavily on the "underdog"), by the way. Carlsen playing 3'+2'' versus Kramnik playing 90'+30', with the odds against Kramnik! This is TV gold. Brilliant!
Chessspawnvt Chessspawnvt 1/5/2017 02:43
In addition to the overall prize fund, does anyone know whether or not all or any of the players receive appearance money, free lodging and food?
calvinamari calvinamari 1/5/2017 02:23
Everything that the GCT folks are doing is a boon for chess, for which fans and players should be thankful. I say this notwithstanding the fact that I personally could not care less about blitz and view it as about as meaningful as bughouse performance. Hence, I think the fact that the Tour will feature classical chess in only a minority of the five events prevents it from the clear and unmistakable preeminence it could have otherwise easily achieved. The strong tilt toward speed chess (in three of the five events) and in the rating system encourages top players to devote more time to those skills. I personally would not have marshaled the GCT's resources to make this result its signature imprint on the game.
peterfrost peterfrost 1/5/2017 02:21
Hi Derek McGill. Yes, I know that. It is why I used the word "arrogance".
cptmajormajor cptmajormajor 1/5/2017 02:19
This is nothing more than a gimmick. As if we need a universal number to translate what we can already see with three numbers. Blah Blah BLah Universal rating.
Roth2016 Roth2016 1/5/2017 01:37
Grand Chess Tour is now becoming an absolute joke. There's more blitz and rapid than "real chess"; then we've got this ridiculous wild-card system, were particular players will likely only play one event or at least not all the events and therefore can't possibly win the tour, can't even get close but may well have a significant influence on who does win the tour overall. And that's before we get to this crazy new rating system that is totally unnecessary.
CostaMaison3 CostaMaison3 1/5/2017 01:16
This is bad news for Giri.
Derek McGill Derek McGill 1/5/2017 12:51
peterfrost The whole point of this "IS" to usurp FIDE.
Bella-2 Bella-2 1/5/2017 12:47
They hijacked the game away from Fide. Is this democracy?
peterfrost peterfrost 1/5/2017 12:38
This is just arrogance. I dislike intensely the respect and status it gives to inferior quicker forms of the game, which have their role to play, but should be kept quite separate from classical chess. But leaving that aside...isn't FIDE the body responsible for ratings? We may not be fond of FIDE, but if other bodies simply usurp the role entrusted to our world governing body, chaos, anarchy and division will inevitably ensue. That is hardly in the interest of chess.
Mr TambourineMan Mr TambourineMan 1/5/2017 12:22
This is dumb. Who has a quality and consistency of play that do not worsen at quicker time controls? So if Magnus play Blitz against Kramnik who are on Classical time control URS will predict it as a game between a player 2798 vs 2787? (Magnus 2798 chess quality in Blitz against Kramniks 2787 chess quality in classical chess)

I agree with Nacnud/Duncan. This aint good. Or as predicted when Kasparov stands behind policys. Hi should still be playing chess not spending his time on politics.
nacnud nacnud 1/5/2017 11:23
I don't like the URS much. The change is too drastic. I fear that if this system becomes The Rating System, then many players will not play in Blitz or Rapid events since it will affect their ratings. On the other hand you might get players who only play Rapid and Blitz since they suffer in Classical.
Doing something that might stop players from playing chess is not something healthy IMO.

BarOni BarOni 1/5/2017 10:53
"Fabiano Caruana suffered an unexpected loss of 48 rating points" or more accurately "Fabiano Caruana suffered an expected loss of 48 rating points"
SuperMoverBros SuperMoverBros 1/5/2017 10:08
Man this Sinquefield guy is really bringing something new to chess. I'm liking this.