First leg of the Grand Prix Series kicks off Friday in Moscow

by Antonio Pereira
5/15/2019 – The race to qualify to the 2020 Candidates Tournament begins this Friday, with the first leg of the Grand Prix Series in Moscow. The tournament is a 16-player knock-out that will use similar rules to the ones seen at previous World Cups. Only one player in the field has a rating below 2700, although we all know that current World Rapid Champion Daniil Dubov (2690) is completely capable of upsetting any member of the elite. | Photo: worldchess.com

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A new format

Four editions of the Grand Prix series have been played since 2008. The last ones lost traction, though, as the players realized that using a safe strategy was a good bet in terms of getting one of the qualifying spots to the Candidates. Also, the prize fund was seriously lowered in the 2014-15 edition, so trying to get a good result in individual events did not motivate the players either — as mentioned, pretty much the only upside of taking part was to get to the Candidates. 

Therefore, the newly elected FIDE administration decided to enact serious modifications. Each of the four tournaments of the series this year will be a 16-player knock-out event with a prize fund of 130,000 Euros, while an additional 280,000 Euros will be allocated for the overall Grand Prix standings.

FIDE Grand Prix Moscow

"The idea of the symbols is to break away from clichés", explains World Chess

Each round, the players will fight over two classical games, with a time control of 90 minutes for 40 moves plus 30 minutes until the end of the game and a 30-second increment from move one. 

In case of a tie, best-of-two matches will take place while the tie is unbroken — first with a time control of 25'+10'', then 10'+10'', and finally 5'+3''. If a winner has not emerged, the players will go to an Armageddon game, with 5 minutes for White and 4 minutes for Black (a 2-second increment will be used from move 61), with Black having draw odds.  

The players will receive Grand Prix points as follows:

Round Grand Prix points
Winner 8
Runner-Up 5
Semi-final loser 3
Round 2 loser 1
Round 1 loser 0
Each match won without a tie-break 1

Notice how implementing a risky strategy during the classical games is being rewarded. If a player, for example, goes through rounds one and two without the need of tie-breaks, he will get as many points as the runner-up if the latter has got to the final through tie-breaks in all three first rounds.

Central Chess Players' House

The Central House of Chess Players in Moscow | Photo: Vladimir Boiko

The first leg of the Series will be played at the Central Chess Player's House, a historic building of Russia's capital. No less than seven players from Russia are playing in the Grand Prix (the maximum amount of players any other country counts with is two), with all seven of them set to play in Moscow.

The schedule looks as follows:

May 17-18 – Round 1 (May 19 – Tie-break)
May 20-21 – Round 2 (May 22 - Tie-break)
May 23-24 – Semi-final (May 25 – Tie-break)
May 27-28 – Final (May 29 – Tie-break)

May 26 is a rest day.

The games start at 15:00 local time and will be broadcast live at worldchess.com.

The players

All qualifiers to the Series were selected by rating, taking into account the official lists from February 2018 until January 2019. Five players declined their invitations — Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana (already 'qualified'), Vladimir Kramnik (retired after the 2019 Tata Steel Masters), Ding Liren and Viswanathan Anand. All five top reserves gladly accepted to take part: Radoslaw Wojtaszek, Wei Yi, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Pentala Harikrishna and Nikita Vitiugov. The organizer's nominee is Daniil Dubov.

Daniil Dubov

Daniil Dubov has a chance to qualify to the Candidates | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The biggest absentees rating-wise in the first leg will be Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Yu Yangyi, who will naturally play in all three other events during the year (Riga, Hamburg and Tel Aviv).

Thus, the line-up for Moscow looks as follows:

  • *Anish Giri (2787, Netherlands)
  • *Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2781, Azerbaijan)
  • *Ian Nepomniachtchi (2773, Russia)
  • *Alexander Grischuk (2772, Russia)
  • Levon Aronian (2762, Armenia)
  • Hikaru Nakamura (2761, USA)
  • Teimour Radjabov (2759, Azerbaijan)
  • Wesley So (2754, USA)
  • Sergey Karjakin (2752, Russia)
  • Peter Svidler (2739, Russia)
  • Wei Yi (2736, China)
  • Nikita Vitiugov (2734, Russia)
  • Jan-Krzysztof Duda (2728, Poland)
  • Radoslaw Wojtaszek (2724, Poland)
  • Dmitry Jakovenko (2708, Russia)
  • Daniil Dubov (2690, Russia)

*In each event, the first four seeds will be placed into different quarters of the draw, and the remaining starting positions will be decided by drawing of lots at the opening ceremony. The drawing of colours will also be conducted during the same ceremony.

Anish Giri

The top seed in Moscow, Anish Giri | Photo Alina l'Ami

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Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.
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Peter B Peter B 5/16/2019 08:39
@Derek Zonals are qualifiers for the World Cup.
Derek McGill Derek McGill 5/16/2019 07:47
No zonal tournaments to qualify for this tournament ?
Peter B Peter B 5/16/2019 12:59
It's disappointing that this is a best-of-2-plus-tiebreaks knockout tournament. Now 4 out of 7 places in the Candidates (2 from the GP, 2 from the World Cup) all use this same format, so too bad for anyone who is not good at rapid playoffs. For less time, the GP could have been replaced with 2 high class round-robin tournaments, with the 2 winners qualifying for the Candidates.
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