Second leg of Grand Prix kicks off in Belgrade

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/1/2022 – The second leg of the FIDE Grand Prix series kicks off today in Belgrade, as the fight to get the two final spots in the Candidates Tournament continues. Three strong contenders to get the coveted spots begin their campaign in the series — i.e. Anish Giri, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. | Photo: The opening ceremony, held in the ballroom of ‘Dom Grade’, a building from the 1920s which was once home to the Serbian Royal Guard

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High expectations

A very successful first event of the Grand Prix series in terms of entertainment value means chess enthusiasts expect to see yet another fighting, high-quality tournament. The new format, with a preliminary stage and a knockout stage, appears to be here to stay, as a high-risk, high-reward approach seems to be best suited to reach the knockout in the 4-player double round-robin prelims — only one player makes the cut in each pool.

Out of the sixteen participants set to play in Belgrade, nine will be making their debut in the series, including household names Anish Giri, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

In the drawing of lots to decide who will play in each pool, the organizers place the four highest-rated players in different groups, then move on to the 5th-8th rated players, who also are placed in different groups, etcetera. Given the strength of the participants in Belgrade, French star Vachier-Lagrave falls in the second group (as the 5th seed), and is set to face Mamedyarov in the preliminaries.

FIDE Grand Prix Belgrade 2022

All ready to stage the second stage of the Grand Prix in Belgrade | Photo: Mark Livshitz

While MVL and Shakh will have a tough time from the get go, the player who had the strongest performance in Berlin and is participating in Belgrade is Richard Rapport. The Hungarian grandmaster reached the semifinals in the first leg, where he was knocked out by eventual tournament winner Hikaru Nakamura. For Rapport, reaching semis in Belgrade will most likely not be enough to claim a spot in the Candidates, given the way Grand Prix points are awarded in the series.

  • Winner - 13 points
  • Runner-up - 10 points
  • Semifinal loser - 7 points
  • 2nd in pool - 4 points
  • 3rd in pool - 2 points
  • 4th in pool - 0 points

As we see above, reaching semis twice in the series only amounts to 14 points, which is a score almost impossible not to be surpassed by finalists of any of the three events. 

Five Russians in the mix

For Alexander Grischuk, Nikita Vitiugov, Dmitry Andreikin, Vladimir Fedoseev and Alexandr Predke, adding up GP points is likely not a priority at the moment. The Russians will play with the uncertainty as to whether they will be allowed to participate in future tournaments in the back of their minds.

Major sports organizations, such as FIFA and UEFA, have already banned Russian teams from participating in any events ‘until further notice’, while the Olympic International Committee has recommended no participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials.

Moreover, professional chess players, much like every other Russian citizen, must contend with the consequences of the financial sanctions that are stressing their country’s economy.

For the time being, as announced by the FIDE Council a few days ago, we expect not to see any Russian flag on display in Belgrade:

Following the call from IOC, the FIDE Council decides that no Russian and Belarusian national flag be displayed or anthem be played in all FIDE-rated international chess events. Instead – the national chess federation’s flag or the official symbol/logo shall be used. A simplified procedure for performing under the FIDE flag would be followed where it is crucial for the players or any other chess officials under the current geopolitical situation.

World Chess, the organizers of the series, has decided to change its logo into a sign of peace to show support for Ukraine and as a call for an immediate ceasefire.

Vladimir Fedoseev

Vladimir Fedoseev | Photo: World Chess

The pools

A 16-player event, the tournament consists of a group stage followed by a knockout semifinal and final. At the group stage, the participants compete in four double round-robin tournaments, with only the winners of each pool advancing. Both semifinals and the final consist of two classical games, plus tiebreaks if needed.

Pool A

  1. Alexander Grischuk (Russia), 2764
  2. Dmitry Andreikin (Russia), 2724
  3. Sam Shankland (USA), 2708
  4. Etienne Bacrot (France), 2642

Pool B

  1. Anish Giri (Netherlands), 2772
  2. Nikita Vitiugov, (Russia), 2726
  3. Pentala Harikrishna (India), 2719
  4. Amin Tabatabaei (Iran), 2623

Pool C

  1. Richard Rapport (Hungary), 2763
  2. Vidit Gujrathi (India), 2727
  3. Vladimir Fedoseev (Russia), 2704
  4. Alexei Shirov (Spain), 2704

Pool D

  1. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan), 2767
  2. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France), 2761
  3. Yu Yangyi (China), 2713
  4. Alexandr Predke (Russia), 2682

FIDE Grand Prix Belgrade 2022

Full tournament regulations (PDF)...

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.

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