GM tournament

Venue of play: 5-Star Fairmont HotelThe FIDE World Chess Cup, an integral part of the World Championship Cycle 2014-2016, is starting in no more than a day.

The long waited event will take place from September 10 – October 5, 2015, at the Grand Ballroom of Fairmont Baku Hotel*****, in Azerbaijani capital Baku.

There shall be six (6) rounds of matches comprising two (2) games per round, with the winners progressing to the next round, plus the final seventh (7th) round comprising of four (4) games.

World #3 Veselin Topalov (2816) heads the strong field of 128 players, including #4 Hikaru Nakamura (2814), #5Fabiano Caruana (2808), #6 Anish Giri (2793), Liren Ding (2782), Vladimir Kramnik (2777), Wesley So (2773), Alexander Grischuk (2771), Levon Aronian (2765), Sergey Karjakin (2762).

You can see Round 1 pairings and tournament scheme below… More

The decisive phase of the tournament


MVL (all photos by Alina l’Ami)

This post will be about the second half of the event, when the final standings gradually took shape. First place might have been half-decided already before the final round, last place was rather clear relatively early. Shared second place (or rather who and how many would share second place) became clear only in the very last of 13 rounds. Only that much about the results of the A group – I assume that most readers are already familiar with the purely chessic part of Tata Steel 2015.

This second article will be a bit longer – because I could obtain some longer interviews and because I could ask for final comments only after the last round. Today’s title photo goes to a player with whom I had one of the longest interviews, and (as explained below) probably the most formal one. I use the short version of his name – it seems that he himself doesn’t mind – but of course his full name is Maxime Vachier-Lagrave AKA “the Frenchman with two names”. The picture [click to enlarge as for all other photos] also reveals a few more things: the overall atmosphere on the stage shortly after the round has started, whom he played (someone from Norway), which opening appeared (Grunfeld, what else if white plays 1.d4 against MVL?) and which supplies the players brought to the round – there might be an invisble banana next to MVL’s bottles.

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Verbal highlights from six days at the venue


Baadur Jobava (all photos by Alina l’Ami)

This might be a bit inspired by “Chess in Tweets” – with one difference: While Eric Reem’s effort to collect-compile-select material from the Twittersphere is certainly appreciated, this article has mostly quotes that – to my knowledge – aren’t available anywhere else on the Internet. At least in English, many already appeared in my German reports on Tata Steel 2015, collectively available here. Some are from press conferences, I use only the answers to my own questions. In some other cases, it was a matter of being at the right spot at the right moment, often with no other reporters nearby – sometimes it was pure luck, sometimes I pushed my luck a little bit. One interview was partly held in the bus from Wijk aan Zee to Beverwijk and the train from Beverwijk to Uitgeest. At one occasion, a casual chat (initially not meant to be published) resulted in an interesting and possibly exclusive quote.

It was my seventeenth year in Wijk aan Zee as a spectator, and the second time as a reporter with access behind the scenes. It might be relatively unknown to an international audience that Wijk aan Zee isn’t just one or two (formerly three) GM tournaments but a chess festival also for hundreds of amateurs. I always also paid some attention to these amateur events, be it only because I know a number of participants (at various levels from top group to the lowest group 9) personally. I will also have one (actually two) amateur quote(s), and some interviews with grandmasters that were hardly mentioned in other reports. For those only interested in a Carlsen quote: there will be one at the very end, but not an exclusive one – throughout the event, he was hard to catch and largely monopolized by Norwegian TV. The title photo shows a player who – to put it mildly – didn’t join the fight for first place in the A group. But in my opinion Baadur Jobava was the most entertaining player during, after and even before his games. And now in rough chronological order – Day 1-6 corresponds to rounds 1, 2, 6, 8, 11 and 13:

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