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Curtain Raiser: Sinquefield Cup and Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz 2017

by V. Saravanan - 02/08/2017

Chess fans are in for some delightful chess in the next fortnight! The Sinquefield Cup and Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz will be held from the 2nd to 19th of August 2017. Vishy Anand will be taking part in both the events. While Magnus Carlsen is the favourite to win the Sinquefield Cup, everyone is waiting with a bated breath for the Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz to begin as Garry Kasparov has confirmed his participation! Saravanan Venkatachalam will be at the venue in USA to cover the event. Here's the curtain raiser.

Indian former world champion Viswanathan Anand faces consecutive acid tests in two elite events part of the ‘Grand Chess Tour’ at Saint Louis, USA in the next three weeks, before his crucial World Cup tournament at Tbilisi, Georgia in September 2017. Having missed other routes to qualify for the Candidates cycle to compete for the world championship, the World Cup will be Anand’s one final chance to find a place in the world chess championship cycle in 2018.

When the next two events of the ‘Grand Chess Tour’ start on 2nd August 2017 at Saint Louis, Missouri, USA, it won’t be the Annual “Sinquefield Cup” which will create the maximum buzz. Even though the event features the world champion Magnus Carlsen, his challenger Sergey Karjakin, the aggressive American Hikaru Nakamura and other current top players of the world including Indian ace Viswanathan Anand, the whole of the chess world is waiting with bated breath for the next event, “The Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz”, from 13th to 19th of August 2017. After all, it is the second event where Garry Kimovich Kasparov, who is considered to be one of the greatest chess players of all time, will be returning to play as a wildcard entry in an officially rated chess event after a long gap of 12 years to proper competition.

Garry Kasparov will be back on the chess board at the Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz

Both these events are part of the Grand Chess Tour which consists of a total of 5 events, among which the Sinquefield Cup will be the first event with longer, classical time controls, with London Classic to be held in Nov – Dec 2017 being the only other. So far, the Tour has completed two events at Paris, France and Leuven, Belgium, both of which were a combination of Rapid (25 minutes per game with an additional 10 second time delay per move) and Blitz (5 minutes per game with an additional 3 second time delay per move) events. Both the Sinquefield Cup and Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz will comprise of a total of 10 players each.


At the end of two events in France and Belgium, Magnus Carlsen is the leader of the Tour with 25 points from two events, followed by French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave on 18 points and American GM So Wesley on 14 points. Vishy Anand participated only at Belgium and wasn’t impressive in finishing overall 8th in combined standings, garnering only 3 Tour points. Still, with a healthy rating of 2783, Anand is a formidable force at the top capable of producing great results on his day. Only, in such elite round robin tournaments in the past, a solid start has always been very important for Anand, and Indian chess fans will hope for good results for him in the initial rounds especially.


While both the Sinquefield Cup and Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz are almost identical with their participants list, Norwegian GM Magnus Carlsen, the reigning world champion, will be playing only in the first event, while Garry Kasparov will be playing only in the second event, thus providing a slight disappointment to chess lovers who are justified in expecting the mouth-watering clash between the two.


However, Kasparov’s comeback has created quite a buzz in chess circles, even though he has sporadically played in Blitz and Rapid events & matches in the last 12 years. Officially retiring from competitive chess after winning the Linares super-GM event in 2005, Kasparov has been in the shadows for most of the intervening years. Trying his hand at politically opposing Vladimir Putin in his native Russia but thwarted ruthlessly, even thrown briefly in a Moscow jail in 2007 with apparently convoluted charges, completing the mammoth series of chess books titled ‘My Great Predecessors’ which have arguably become all-time classics, being a political commentator and analyst at the US, curiously becoming a citizen of Croatia since 2014, challenging Kirsan Illyumzhinov for FIDE (The World Chess Federation) presidency and failing in a nasty election campaign during 2014 were some of the colourful details emerged about Kasparov in these 12 long years.


He has never been completely away from chess too. From coaching Magnus Carlsen in 2009, helping Anand to win his world championship match against Topalov in 2010, training Hikaru Nakamura for the whole of 2011, Kasparov has always kept in touch with the game with Blitz & Rapid matches and Simultaneous exhibitions throughout this period. And whenever he has appeared in the commentary booths of elite chess tournaments, he has impressed with his insights and quick thinking. However, it remains to be seen how he will fare under serious competitive strain, at his current 54 years of age. And, typical of his enigma, Kasparov has already declared that he will be back to being retired again by Aug 19th!


The other point of note is Magnus Carlsen’s relative diminishing of powers over his rivals. For someone who towered over the chess world at an ELO rating of 2882 in 2014, Carlsen’s has ‘slipped’ to 2822 currently, closely followed by Wesley So at 2810 and Caruana at 2807, both of whom will be competing at the Sinquefied Cup, thus getting an opportunity to overtake him in rating if things go their way.


Magnus Carlsen •  Fabiano Caruana • Sergey Karjakin • Hikaru Nakamura  Maxime Vachier-Lagrave • Viswanathan Anand • Wesley So • Ian Nepomniachtchi • Levon Aronian • Peter Svidler

Tuesday, August 1 4-5:30 PM Autograph Signing
  6:00 PM Opening Ceremony
Wednesday, August 2 1:00 PM Round 1
Thursday, August 3 1:00 PM Round 2
Friday, August 4 1:00 PM Round 3
Saturday, August 5 1:00 PM Round 4
Sunday, August 6 1:00 PM Round 5
Monday, August 7   Rest Day
Tuesday, August 8 1:00 PM Round 6
Wednesday, August 9 1:00 PM Round 7
Thursday, August 10 1:00 PM Round 8
Friday, August 11 1:00 PM Round 9 
Saturday, August 12 1:00 PM Playoff (if necessary)
  6:00 PM Closing Ceremony

* All times listed are CDT (GMT-5). Add 10.30 hours for Indian time

Sinquefield Cup Prize Fund

1st $75,000 6th $20,000
2nd $50,000 7th $15,000
3rd $40,000 8th $15,000
4th $30,000 9th $15,000
5th $25,000 10th $15,000
Total Prize Fund $300,000

About the Author:

Saravanan Venkatachalam is an International Master and has been an active chess player in the Indian circuit, and has been consistently writing on chess since late 1980s. He turned complete chess professional in 2012, actively playing and being a second and a trainer to a handful of Indian players. He reports on chess tournaments, occasionally being a correspondent to national newspapers and news channels. Apart from chess, he is also interested in Tamil and English literature, music and photography.

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The Sinquefield Cup and Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz is being extensively by Venkatachalam Saravanan. 




Curtain Raiser: Viswanathan Anand faces acid test at the star-studded Sinquefield Cup