The Grand Slam is Born

9/10/2006 – The organizers of the world's top professional tournaments got together in Spain to hatch the Chess Grand Slam Association. The participants represented Linares, Corus, MTel, plus the hosts in Bilbao, home of the top annual human-machine tournament. We have early comments from the organizers and hints about their ambitious plans.

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Chess Grand Slam

According to reports in several Spanish papers, including El Correo Digital and La Marca, the town of Santurtzi in the Bilbao region of Spain hosted a very exclusive meeting on Friday the 8th. The organizers of a majority of the world's top tournaments came together to form the Chess Grand Slam Association, a project mentioned a few months ago at the MTel website.

MTel, Linares, and Corus are obvious, but the inclusion on the list of the Spanish city of Bilbao is something of a surprise. Morelia and Dortmund are mentioned as potential candidates for inclusion, as well as "maybe a Russian city." Bilbao has been the home of the human-machine rapid tournaments over the past two years. Apparently the ambitious Bilbao organizers, who hosted this meeting, have bigger plans.

   

Silvio Danailov was there for MTel; Antón Madariaga, Juan Carlos and Josu Fernández for Bilbao, and Linares mayor Juan Fernández sounded excited: "We are delighted with the idea. It's something that's been missing. It will bring a new dimension to chess and create more resources. This sports needs to modernize. It needs greater diffusion and better marketing and the union of all the big tournaments will help this be achieved." The Morelia and Wijk aan Zee organizers were there by telephone.

Here are a few key excerpts and quotes from the available reports. A few of the items, particularly that of standardizing the tournament format, aren't yet clear and we await official comments for clarification.

"To assure the participation of the biggest stars in all the Grand Slam tournaments, the members of the Association reached a fundamental agreement: the four top players in the world ranking must play in all four of the events or they won't be allowed to play in any of them." ...

As things stand now, the organizers of each GS tournament have the freedom to use whatever format they like. It will be necessary to establish a common format, say the principals. ...

There will be a single main sponsor and a shared scoring system (10 points to the winner, 6 for second, 2 for third) by which a yearly champion will be found. ...

What's more, the Chess Grand Slam Association will make a common front against internet piracy, where every day there are more servers that copy the games from the server that bought the rights. ...

A minimum of six and a maximum of 14 players will take part in these international tournaments. "The winners of each tournament will take place in the Masters," added Madariaga, who said the winner would get "a purse of 300,000 euros."

In 2006, only world #1 Veselin Topalov and Etienne Bacrot participated in Corus Wijk aan Zee, Morelia/Linares, and the MTel in Sofia, Bulgaria. #2 Anand didn't play in Linares; #3 Svidler missed Corus; #4 Aronian didn't play in Sofia. (Using the January 2006 list in effect when those events were played. Invitations for Corus and probably Linares would likely use the list from the previous calendar year.)

The Association of Chess Professionals has its own Tour point system. The old Grandmaster Chess Association had a World Cup series of events that ran from 1988-91, but those were new tournaments, not a confederation of traditional ones.


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