Grands Prix being held to determine 2018 chess candidates

– Hou Yifan is lone woman competitor

The second leg of the 2017 World Chess Grand Prix competition to determine the challengers for the 2018 Candidates’ tournament began last Friday in Russia. The winner of the Candidates’ match will challenge Norwegian grandmaster Magnus Carlsen for the title of world chess champion. Four Grand Prix competitions are earmarked to be played for 2017 and most of the highest ranked chess players with the exception of Carlsen would be in attendance at one time or another. Carlsen is prevented from participating because he is the current world chess champion.

Following this current Grand Prix in Moscow, the others for 2017 will be held in July in Geneva, Switzerland and in November in Palma, Majorca, Spain. Russian grandmaster Alexander Grishchuk, France’s Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Azerbaijan’s Shahkriyar Mamedyarov tied for first at the previous Grand Prix which was held in Sharjah. Each winner shared the identical number of points. The contenders with the highest number of points would qualify for the Candidates. Each contestant of the Grand Prix competitions is allowed to participate in three tournaments and can choose the three they wish to play. To qualify for a Grand Prix competition, a player must have reached the 2700 rating mark.

The lone woman at this month’s rigorous Grand Prix competition is China’s chess grandmaster Hou Yifan. Hou did not compete in the 2017 Women’s World Chess Championship. Her competition in the Grand Prix will be exacting and it will be interesting to witness how she performs.

In addition to Carlsen, players who have been exempted from participating in the Grand Prix series are Russia’s Sergey Karjakin, challenger for the 2016 title match, along with his compatriot Vladimir Kramnik, US grandmasters Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So, India’s Viswanathan Anand and Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov. The last five are exempted owing to their high performance ratings.

The column’s favourites for the Grand Prix competition are Peter Svidler, Mamedyarov, Boris Gelfand, Levon Aronian and Vachier-Lagrave. It is interesting to note that Chinese grandmaster Hou Yifan is the lone woman participating in the competition.

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