It will become one of the most important tournaments in chess history thanks to the level of the participants and the prizes at stake
Bilbao will hold the first Grand Slam Chess Final Masters from 2nd through 13th September, which due to the level of the participants and the total prizes amount will become one of the most important tournaments in chess history. Further more, for the first time ever an event of such characteristics will take place in the street, in the Plaza Nueva, right in the centre of Bilbao's Old Town.
The old city of Bilbao, where the Town Hall Place ("Plaza Nueve de Bilbao") is located
The Final Masters is sponsored by the Bilbao Town Hall, the Diputación Foral de Bizkaia, the Basque Government, BBK, Euskaltel, FEVE and the Casco Viejo and La Ribera Marketplace Retailers Association. It will also count on the collaboration of the Vizcaya and Basque Chess Federations, the Sheraton Hotel and Europcar.
The six players participating are currently among the world’s top ten chess players, headed by world’s champion and number one Viswanathan Anand. Along with him, Magnus Carlsen (number two**), Vasili Ivanchuk (number three), Véselin Topálov (number six), Teimur Radyábov (number seven) and Levon Aronián (world’s number ten currently) will compete in Bilbao. Three of them have earned their invitation to compete in Bilbao by winning the tournaments that together with Bilbao make up the chess Grand Slam: Wijk aan Zee (Aronian), Linares (Anand) and Sofia (Ivanchuk). Carlsen, Topálov and Radyábov have been invited due to their brilliant participations in some of these tournaments. No tournament has so far managed to gather such a high Elo’s average level (scoring system to order players’ ranking).
For the first time in a world’s elite tournament and surrounded by a strong international controversy, the Final Masters is going to apply the football scoring system, earning three points per game won and one point per draw, though players will not be allowed to agree a draw being the competition’s referee who will determine it.
The Final Masters has the official recognition of the International Chess Federation (FIDE) and it will be played in a double round league during ten days (plus a two-day break). Playing time will be 90 minutes for the first 40 moves and another 60 minutes to finish the game. The total prize money amounts to €400,000, sum only exceeded by the World Chess Championships: €150,000 for the first classified, €70,000 for the second one, €60,000 for the third one, €50,000 for the fourth one, €40,000 for the fifth one and €30,000 for the sixth one.
A unique chess venue: the La Plaza Nueva de Bilbao – the Town Hall Place
Another great novelty in this tournament will be the playing place: the street, allowing a lot of people to follow the games live and directly. A huge soundproofed and air-conditioned glazed case is under construction to this purpose and it will be placed in the Plaza Nueva in Bilbao under a marquee which will also accommodate The Agora for analysis and comments, a space located by the glass case where the audience will also be able to enjoy comments from Chess Grandmasters among whom we can name Boris Spassky and Susan Polgar.
Play was conducted in a glass cabin in Vitoria Gasteiz, Spain, last year
The players (here Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu) are visible to the spectators at close range
Building the sound-proof "cage" for a chess event, here this year in Sofia
Ljubomir Ljubojevich, Boris Spassky, Leontxo García and Nicola Lococo commenting the games last year
The Agora will be under the direction of journalist Leontxo García with the collaboration of Nicola Lococo. Tables and chairs arranged in a “pavement café” fashion will help following of the chess games in a collective, dynamic, open and participating way, all in a relaxing atmosphere, commenting the games while participating in informal gatherings and debates arisen around the competition.
One of the cozy shops and bars that surround the town square
This big space opened to everybody will also accommodate a large number of activities connected to chess and addressed to very different people:
As commented earlier, the Bilbao Final Masters incorporates fantastic and significant novelties with regard to what world’s elite tournaments have been so far, to become a ‘revolution in chess’. Thus, aspects as innovative as playing in the street, the erection of an air-conditioned glazed case, a scoring system similar to that of the football, the impediment to end in a draw, a fast playing rate… have never been seen before added to the multiple parallel activities for children and adults or the incorporation of live commentators of international level.
But it is not surprising that Bilbao looks for innovation in chess hand by hand with E-4 Chessport, organizers of the International Chess Festival 'Villa de Bilbao’ in recent years from which the Final Masters 2008 is somehow heir. In 2004 and 2005, encounters Man-Machine played by great grandmasters of first order and the best computer software closed this debate in favour of silicon. 8.5 - 3.5 in 2004 and 8 - 4 in 2005.
The world famous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao
Change was radical in 2006, looking for support on an almost unknown modality: blindfold chess. Véselin Topálov and Judith Polgar competed in the Guggenheim Museum and the picture of both blindfolded went around the world. Topálov won 3.5 – 2.5, but above all chess won. 2007 challenge moved a step forward with the emergence of the Blindfold Chess World Cup, which was finally won by Chinese Bu Xiang-zhi against Topálov, Polgar, Kariakin, Carlsen and Harikrishna. This was also the time when The Agora was given birth, before the audience, with live comments, interviews, guests, huge screens, electronic chessboards…. This year, in Bilbao, with the novelties described it is about chess moving one more step forward.
Viswanathan Anand. Born in Madras (now Chennay, India, 1969) He is no doubt one of the greatest geniuses in chess history in the last fifteen centuries. But his easygoing character makes him the complete opposite of Fischer, Kárpov and Kaspárov. World champion and number one at the age of 38, he lives in Collado Mediano (Madrid), the rapid of Madras wants to polish even more his record in Bilbao at a month from the struggle for the crown with Russian Vladímir Krámnik. Part of his preparation will entail fighting for the first prize in the Grand Slam Final Masters in Bilbao: “Playing with the best ones in the world in a tournament like this one is an appropriate way to keep fit”.
Magnus Carlsen. Tonsberg (Norway, 1990). His second places at the Wijk aan Zee Corus (Holland) 2008 and at the Ciudad de Linares 2008, when he repeated his 2007 achievement have made him deserve a special invitation for the Bilbao Grand Slam Chess Final Masters and show that this 17 year-old Norwegian is already mature for even greater achievements. He is Grandmaster ever since he was 13 years old, the third youngest in history and he is now second in the world’s ranking. Magnus Carlsen recommends parents of child prodigies: “to give them support but without putting pressure on them. My father taught me to play chess when I was five, but I wasn’t interested at the time and he left me alone”.
Vasili Ivanchuk. Berezhany (Ukraine, 1969). His sensational victory in the Sofia’s Mtel Masters 2008 gave him the right to be in the Bilbao Final Masters. But even without this feat, Vasili Ivanchuk deserves a place among the top-class chess players: at almost 40, he is the oldest luminary though he is nevertheless at the peak of his career. Chess lover to the core, tireless worker of encyclopaedic knowledge he is a genius absent-minded wise man of whom everybody - even his most bitter rivals- speaks very fondly.
Véselin Topálov. Ruse (Bulgaria, 1975). Natural, modest and very friendly; he is a fighter and well disciplined for his everyday training; and tries to keep a good image. That’s Véselin Topálov, the 33 year-old Bulgarian from Salamanca world chess champion in 2005 and currently number six in the chess rankings, with the clear aim to take up again the crown in 2009. His main challenge will be the Candidates Final against American Gata Kamski at the end of November. The winner will dispute the World Championship in 2009. Therefore, he arrives in the Bilbao Grand Slam Final Masters at a great time.
Teimur Radyábov. Baku (Azerbaijan, 1987). Very few child prodigies have impressed so much as Teimur Radyábov. At 12, when he became European Champion U-18, he already showed a strategic depth and good manners not expected from someone of his age. At 14 he became grandmaster. At 15 he defeated Kaspárov with the black pieces in Linares. Today he is 21 and has settled among the elite, though everything shows that he’s still got a long way to go, as he will most probably demonstrate in Bilbao. Now Radyábov is undergoing a self debate about whether he should stick to his aggressive style of the last years or become more conservative and pragmatic.
Levon Aronián. Yereván (Armenia, 1982). He is a great chess luminary: he is only 25 years old but he has already won the World Cup and the Linares and Wijk aan Zee (twice) tournaments. That naturalness, his universal style and belonging to a country where chess is the national passion, as well as a balanced nervous system configure the 25 year-old Armenian Levon Aronián as a very solid value. Prone to high risk in his games, Aronián is esteemed by both organisers and followers and could not miss the Bilbao Final Masters.
Bilbao, 1st July 2008
The web site for this event is still under construction
** This information is awaiting to the World Chess Federation’s Foros Tournament approval.