Zurich Chess Challenge Preview

by Alejandro Ramirez
2/12/2015 – The super tournaments keep rolling this year. The Zurich Chess Challenge begins tomorrow, repeating its format of last year with six players and three different events. The blitz section, which is tomorrow, will determine the pairings while the classical and rapid parts determine the winner (with the former counting for double). We bring you a preview of a must-see event.

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The «Zurich Chess Challenge 2015» will bring together six of the top players in the World in a spectacle including blitz, rapid and classical chess. Despite the absence of the reigning World Champion, the tournament fields a massive 2784 average rating.

Oleg Skvortsov from «IGC International Gemological Laboratories» is the creator of this chess event. He not only loves chess, but also plays chess and supports chess events. Furthermore, Mr. Skvortsov knows many of the greatest chess players in the world personally and has played a lot of games with them.

«IGC International Gemological Laboratories» is a Russian institute providing gemological services, such as diamond grading reports, enhanced diamonds identification, man-made/synthetic diamonds and imitation detection as well as certification of diamonds, gemstones and jewelry in the Russian Federation. IGC is the Russian branch of GCI — a group of gemological laboratories located worldwide.

The Venue: Savory Baur Hotel

The Zurich Chess Club is one of the oldest in the World - it turned 200 years old in 2009! It has been holding the Zurich Chess Challenge since 2012, which started as a six-game match between Kramnik and Aronian. In 2013 the Zurich Chess Challenge also celebrated 60 years since one of the most famous tournaments of all time: the Candidates Tournament of Zurich, 1953.


Fabiano Caruana - 2811

Fabiano Caruana in the Shamkir Super Tournament

Caruana was the hottest player after the Sinquefield Cup - he destroyed the field with his amazing 7.0/7, and he continued to have a couple of good tournaments after that. However, he has not been able to keep that pace and has regressed steadily. He is currently third in the World in the live ratings, just behind Grischuk, and no doubt he wants to return to a position where he can challenge Carlsen for the #1 spot.

Viswanathan Anand - 2797

Photo from the official website of the 2014 Candidates' Tournament

Anand had a miracle year in 2014. After losing the World Championship title to Carlsen in November of 2013 rumors sprouted about his retirement, and many doubted his ability to regain his peak strength. How wrong everyone was! Anand came back - and with a vengeance; first winning the 2014 Candidates Tournament to challenge Carlsen to a rematch for the maximum title and finishing strong by winning the London Chess Classic in December. Despite a disastrous GRENKE in Baden-Baden last week, it is clear that Anand is ready for any challenge presented to him in this tournament.

Vladimir Kramnik - 2783

Kramnik actually had a good start in the Candidates', but could not finish it off well

Kramnik had a very quiet year, playing relatively few tournaments compared to the competition in Zurich. After a weak start of the year, with mediocre results in the Candidates and in Norway, he recovered well by finishing strong in Qatar, London and the Petrosian Memorial. It would be very interesting to see if this veteran can show the youngsters that he, like Anand, is still in tip-top shape.

Levon Aronian - 2777

Aronian is still looking for his recovery tournament. Here he is at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup.

It's been a rough year for Aronian. After winning Wijk aan Zee his results started to drastically drop, until very recently finally falling out of the live top-10 in the World, something that would have been unthinkable exactly one year ago when he reached his peak of 2835.5 (February 2nd, 2014). The Armenian looks for a breakthrough tournament to bring back the spark to his results, and he hopes it will be in Zurich.

Hikaru Nakamura - 2776

Nakamura's most recent victory came at the Gibraltar Open

Talk about in shape! Nakamura just destroyed the field in the amazingly strong Gibraltar Open. He is currently at his peak live rating and it is definite that he will be fighting for first in this tournament. The only question is if he can keep up his form with two strong tournaments so close to each other.

Sergey Karjakin - 2760

Photo from the Tashkent Grand Prix

Karjakin is one of the most consistent players in the elite. He rarely wins or loses more than ten rating points in one event, though two big exceptions occurred last year. First was his fantastic repeat victory in Norway, while the other one was a disaster - despite being the top rated player in the Russian Super Final, Karjakin managed to finish last. This will be his first tournament since the Super Final and he is surely going to try to regain his place in the World Rankings, which has dipped below top-10.


The tournament's format is a little unusual, as each section will determine the final outcome of the event. To start there will be a Blitz tournament tomorrow. The pairings will be done with the final ranking order from this round robin. There is a strong incentive to finish in the top half, as the first three players will have more Whites than Blacks in the Classical potion.

The Classical part of the tournament counts for double - that means that every win tallies for two points, draw for one point and none for losses.

Things heat up on the final day! One last round robin will determine the ultimate winner of the tournament, and what a way to do it. The rapid section will count normally (one point for the winner, half for draws and none for losing). The player with the highest score combined between the Rapid and Classical portions will be the winner of the Zurich Chess Challenge of 2015.

Besides the main event there will also be a rapid competition between two legendary chess players: Viktor Kortschnoj and Wolfgang Uhlmann will be duking it out over the board! Kortschnoj celebrates his 84th birthday this coming March, while Uhlmann turns 80 in the same month!

Schedule of Commentary

Date   English
13.02.2015 Blitz Daniel King
14.02.2015 Round 1 Oliver Reeh + Dorian Rogozenco
15.02.2015 Round 2 Mihail Marin
16.02.2015 Round 3 Daniel King
17.02.2015 Round 4 Daniel King
18.02.2015 Round 5 Mihail Marin
19.02.2015 Round 6 Daniel King


The games will be broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 13 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez has been playing tournament chess since 1998. His accomplishments include qualifying for the 2004 and 2013 World Cups as well as playing for Costa Rica in the 2002, 2004 and 2008 Olympiads. He currently has a rating of 2583 and is author of a number of popular and critically acclaimed ChessBase-DVDs.


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Steven E DuCharm Steven E DuCharm 2/14/2015 12:34
Go Nakamura!
ChiliBean ChiliBean 2/13/2015 12:46
Let the games commence!