Six Top 10 players turned down their FIDE Grand Prix invitations, but that still leaves Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Levon Aronian, Hikaru Nakamura and Anish Giri topping the line-up for the four tournament series that starts in the United Arab Emirates city of Sharjah in under two weeks’ time. Moscow-based anti-virus firm Kaspersky Lab, which sponsors Sergey Karjakin individually, has also been announced as a partner of the Grand Prix series.
The 2017 FIDE Grand Prix features 24 players, who are required to play in three of the four events. Each tournament will be a 9-round Swiss Open with 18 players, with the winner taking home €20,000 (and the 18th player €2,500) of a €130,000 prize fund. That compares poorly to the $75,000 on offer for first place in the classical Grand Chess Tour events, but some of the world’s best players are willing to play since the top two finishers in the Grand Prix series qualify for the 2018 Candidates Tournament. They’ll be joined there by Sergey Karjakin, the World Cup finalists, two rating qualifiers and one organiser nominee for the 8-player tournament that will produce Magnus Carlsen’s next challenger.
The four Grand Prix events are as follows:
- February 17-28 | Sharjah, UAE
- May 11-22 | Moscow, Russia
- July 5-16 | Geneva, Switzerland
- November 15-26 | Palma de Mallorca, Spain
Less than two weeks remain before things kick off in Sharjah, and while we still don’t know the 18 players who will compete, Agon have finally released the overall 24-player line-up. It looks as follows, with the ratings and rankings taken from the February 2017 FIDE rating list:
- Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA), 2796, world no. 5
- Levon Aronian (ARM), 2785, world no. 7
- Hikaru Nakamura (USA), 2785, world no. 8
- Anish Giri (NED), 2769, world no. 10
- Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (AZE), 2766, world no. 11
- Ding Liren (CHN), 2760, world no. 12
- Pavel Eljanov (UKR), 2759, world no. 13
- Harikrishna (IND), 2758, world no. 14
- Michael Adams (ENG), 2751, world no. 16
- Ian Nepomniachtchi (RUS), 2749, world no. 17
- Peter Svidler (RUS), 2748, world no. 18
- Alexander Grischuk (RUS), 2742, world no. 20
- Wei Yi (CHN), 2725, world no. 26
- Ernesto Inarkiev (RUS), 2723, world no. 28
- Boris Gelfand (ISR), 2721, world no. 29
- Li Chao (CHN), 2720, world no. 30
- Evgeny Tomashevsky (RUS), 2711, world no. 34
- Teimour Radjabov (AZE), 2710, world no. 35
- Dmitry Jakovenko (RUS), 2709, world no. 36
- Francisco Vallejo Pons (ESP), 2709, world no. 38
- Richard Rapport (HUN), 2692, world no. 50
- Alexander Riazantsev (RUS), 2671, world no. 77
- Salem Saleh (UAE), 2656, world no. 99
- Jon Ludvig Hammer (NOR), 2628, world no. 158
- 7 of the 15 qualifiers rejected their invitations, including the world’s Top 4. Those were: Carlsen, Caruana, So, Kramnik, Anand, Karjakin and Topalov. Carlsen is of course World Champion, Karjakin automatically plays the Candidates, while Caruana, So and Kramnik may hope to gain one of the two rating places. Anand’s hopes seem to lie with the World Cup alone, while Topalov is an outspoken critic of the current FIDE leadership
- 4 players will have a busy year as they compete in both the FIDE Grand Prix and the Grand Chess Tour: Nakamura, Aronian, MVL and Nepomniachtchi
- 3 players were listed as reserves if replacements were required: Grischuk, Li Chao and Harikrishna. They all play.
- 13 players who didn’t directly qualify are playing. Although not specified, it’s likely Mamedyarov, Jakovenko, Gelfand and Adams play as additional reserves based on ratings, leaving Agon’s 9 permitted nominees as: Radjabov, Inarkiev, Vallejo, Salem Saleh, Wei Yi, Hammer, Nepomniachtchi, Riazantsev and Rapport.
Originally the Grand Prix regulations stated that nominees needed to have had a 2700 classical rating (or 2650 for former men’s or women’s World Champions), though that was later changed to read “2600 for former men and women national or world champions”, with a provision added to allow nominees with a 2575 rating in at least one 2016 rating list. That latter addition to the regulations seems to have been unnecessary, since Riazantsev, Saleh and Hammer have all won their national championships.
It’s not clear which of the players took advantage of the option of finding €100,000 in sponsorship in order to play, with Ernesto Inarkiev one of the few players whose participation was announced in advance after an arrangement between his Russian Republic of Ingushetia and FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.