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Nihal, Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh and Leon will feature in Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour

by Shahid Ahmed - 06/04/2021

Meltwater Champions Chess Tour has been a successful online event so far featuring world's best of the best along with the world champion. Play Magnus group has now taken the initiative to promote emerging young talent and have more female participation in the top events. Two legends of the game - Judit Polgar and Vladimir Kramnik will mentor the 20 young stars in the Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour featuring coaches - Hou Yifan, Boris Gelfand, Anna Muzychuk, Ju Wenjun, Surya Ganguly and Arthur Kogan. Four Indian talents - Nihal Sarin, R Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh D and Leon Luke Mendonca will battle in each event and enrich their knowledge. Photo: Challengers Chess Tour

Polgar and Kramnik reveal the 20 young stars in the $100k Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour

Starting on April 8, two teams of young players handpicked to take part in a new series of five events will go head-to-head for a prize pot totalling $100,000. This journey will be unlike any other in chess. Not only is it gender-balanced to find the best in male and female talent, but the four “Challenge” tournaments and the tour final - all played online - will provide a unique training ground for every competitor. The first tournament, the Polgar Challenge, will start on April 8 and will be followed by the Gelfand Challenge, the Hou Yifan Challenge and the Kramnik Challenge. Then in September, the Tour Finals will take place.

Gukesh, Nihal, Praggnanandhaa and Leon are the four participants from India | Photo: Challengers Chess Tour

• 20 young chess talents from 12 countries

• Gender-balanced teams led by two legends

• Winners get chance to take on the elite

• $100k prize pot for junior online event

We will Kramnik vs Polgar but in different form | Photo: Challengers Chess Tour

The players have been divided into two teams, Team Polgar and Team Kramnik, competing in a series of four four-day round-robin tournaments organised by the Play Magnus Group before the grand finals.

Praggnanandhaa and Leon are in Team Kramnik | Photo: Challengers Chess Tour

Team Kramnik

Nodirbek Abdusattorov (aged, 16, Uzbekistan)

R Praggnanandhaa (15, India)

Dinara Saduakassova (24, Kazakhstan)

Jonas Bjerre (16, Denmark

Leon Mendonca (15, India)

Lei Tingjie (24, China)

Christopher Yoo (14, United States)

Olga Badelka (18, Belarus)

Carissa Yip (17, United States)

Nurgyul Salimova (17, Bulgaria)

Jonas Bjerre, Lei Tingjie and Leon Mendonca are coached by Hou Yifan | Photo: Challengers Chess Tour

Kramnik thanked the sponsors Julius Baer and Play Magnus Group, the tour organisers, for putting on a “priceless” event during lockdown and told his players it was an “incredible opportunity” for them.

Boris Gelfand is the coach for Nodirbek Abdusattorov, R Praggnanandhaa, Olga Badelka and Dinara Saduakassova | Photo: Challengers Chess Tour

Addressing the players, the former world champion said: “First of all this big project is about learning. Yes, the result is important and you want to win but the one who will be on top later, who has the best career, is not necessarily the one who will win this tournament, it is the one who will learn most from each tournament, each project you have on your way.”

Christopher Yoo, Carissa Yip and Nurgyul Salimova are coached by Anna Muzychuk | Photo: Challengers Chess Tour

Kramnik, now aged 45 and retired, added: “This is an incredible opportunity for you to learn, to progress in chess.”


In a separate Zoom call to his team, Kramnik said: "Good luck to all of you! Try to enjoy the journey because it's important to learn first of all, to improve and to come out of it a better player - that's the main goal - and, of course, to try to secure our trip to Dubai - because it’s quite expensive to go there! Give your best!"


Grandmaster Boris Gelfand, who will assist Kramnik as a coach, revealed Team Kramnik would start preparing immediately. The 2012 world title challenger added: "It's a great opportunity and I wish good luck to everyone!"

Gukesh and Nihal are in Team Polgar | Photo: Challengers Chess Tour

Team Polgar

Nihal Sarin (aged 16, India)

Awonder Liang (17, United States)

Vincent Keymer (16, Germany)

Gukesh D (14, India)

Sarasadat Khademalsharieh (24, Iran)

Volodar Murzin (14, Russia)

Polina Shuvalova (20, Russia)

Zhansaya Abdumalik (21, Kazakhstan)

Jiner Zhu (18, China)

Gunay Mammadzada (20, Azerbaijan)

Ju Wenjun is the coach of Volodar Murzin, Gunay Mammadzada and Zhu Jiner | Photo: Challengers Chess Tour

Judit spoke of how she hoped the gender-balanced events would help female players gain confidence in the game and told how managing a team would be challenging for her too.

Awonder Liang, Vincent Keymer and Polina Shuvalova are coached by Arthur Kogan | Photo: Challengers Chess Tour

She said: “It’s a great opportunity for the youngsters to win an event and qualify for a Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event which is probably for most one of the most important goals here. But I think anyone who is invited to an event here will definitely not leave without great experiences. In five months we are going to be meeting the players and following them, together with Vladimir as both of us have our team."

Surya Ganguly is the coach of Gukesh D, Zhansaya Abdumalik, Sara Khadem and Nihal Sarin | Photo: Challengers Chess Tour

“Chess is an individual sport, but at the same time sometimes it becomes a team sport. That will be very interesting and challenging for both me and Vladimir to see how we can manage them and have great teamwork between them."


Sebastian Kuhnert, Chief Development Officer for the Play Magnus Group, also told the group: “I feel really amazed that all the great coaches have committed to this great project and I feel we are starting a new era in chess. It started with what we did a year ago [with what became the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour] and now it goes into the next cycle that we are starting together with you.”


Winners of the individual events will get a rare chance to compete on the elite stage in a Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event, and perhaps take on World Champion Magnus Carlsen. The team that wins the Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour overall will also get a trip to this year’s World Chess Championship in Dubai.

About the Tour

Fronted by the strongest female player of all time, Judit Polgar, and former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik, the Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour will run alongside the hugely popular Meltwater Champions Chess Tour.


The Tour is organised by the Play Magnus Group and is designed to tackle head-on the lack of female role models competing in top events and promote emerging talent.


Source: Press Release


Official site

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