A new $100,000 online event for rising talents, the Julius Baer Challengers Tour, is under way this week. Ten under-18 male players and 10 under-25 women are competing in an all-play-all which ends on Sunday. Play begins daily at 3pm and is free and live to watch.
The winner qualifies for the next Meltwater Champions Tour event starting on 24 April and with it an opportunity to take on the world champion, Magnus Carlsen, and the grandmaster elite. Two legends, the former world champion Vlad Kramnik and the all-time No 1 woman, Judit Polgar, double up as team captains and online commentators.
After Thursday’s opening five rounds the three joint leaders on 4/5 were Nodirbek Abdusattorov 16, of Uzbekistan, Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, 15, of India. and Christopher Yoo, 14, of the United States.
Four years ago the Uzbek and the Indian were rivals to capture Sergey Karjakin’s world age record of becoming a grandmaster at 12 years and seven months. Both narrowly missed, and while doing so simultaneously had their full names published in a Guardian headline, a sub-editorial achievement.
The Uzbek teen started beating GMs in tournaments at nine, became one himself at 13, and his early progress was covered several times in this column.
Praggnanandhaa’s first notable game in the Isle of Man Open at age 11 was also featured in this column and was then, with slight hyperbole, compared to Bobby Fischer’s Game of the Century. The Indian prodigy has since won the 2019 world under-18 championship,and continues among the best global prospects.
Yoo is the least known of the trio, but the American has improved fast in the past year and would probably be a GM by now but for lack of over-the-board opportunities.
Half a point behind the leaders are a group including Germany’s Vincent Keymer, 16, a double gold medallist at last week’s European Club Cup ,and China’s Lei Tingjie, 24, a GM at open level and the only woman in the top half of the standings.
The success of Abdusattorov and Yoo incidentally reflects well on the chess.com weekly Titled Tuesday tournament, a 10-round free entry event restricted to players with a national or international title, and highly popular and competitive with over 700 entrants the norm. Its last two editions, this week and last, were won by Alireza Firouzja, who at 17 would have been eligible for the Challengers Tour, but that he is already a regular on the main Tour and widely regarded as Carlsen’s heir apparent.
Numerous other elite GMs play regularly on Titled Tuesday, with Hikaru Nakamura the most prolific winner. The event is staged late at night for Europeans but is otherwise such good training value that it is surprising that Gawain Jones seems to be the only top English GM who plays there frequently.
This seems an opportunity missed. It would be a good move for England’s selectors to make Titled Tuesday a mandatory training event for titled English players with international aspirations.
Back to the Meltwater Champions Tour and Julius Baer Challengers. They are roughly chess versions of the Premier League and an under-23 league with occasional promotion opportunities, but some players are missing out.
Were the age limit for the Challengers Tour under-23, Andrey Esipenko, 19, the conqueror of Carlsen and Eurocup gold medallist, Jeffrey Xiong, 20, the US rising star, and Jorden van Foreest, 21, winner of Tata Wijk, would all be included, This trio are all strong enough for the Champions Tour, but so far have made one appearance there between them.
Time to consider seriously a Tour second division of 16-20 with promotion and relegation to offset the growing impression of the same group of players continually meeting each other for huge prize funds, while most GMs have drastically reduced playing incomes due to the pandemic.
Established talents like Richard Rapport, Wei Yi, Vladislav Artemiev, Vladimir Fedoseev, David Navara, Yu Yangyi, Sam Shankland, Parham Maghsoodloo; and crowd pleasers like Vasyl Ivanchuk, Alexei Shirov, and Baadur Jobava are some names that come to mind, though the last group did benefit from the Legends of Chess leg of the previous Tour. The top two women Aleksandra Goryachkina, 22, who declined an invitation to the Challengers Tour, and the all-time No 2, Hou Yifan, are both strong enough to compete in a second Tour division.
England has several excellent online commentators, but not a single Tour player. A qualification tournament with Michael Adams. David Howell, Luke McShane, Gawain Jones, Matthew Sadler and Nigel Short would solve that with an event which many online viewers would watch.
3718: 1 Rf3! g2 2 Bf1! g1=Q 3 Rh3 mate. Other lines are an easy win on material.
#Chess #event #chance #young #talent #face #Magnus #Carlsen