Reports | September 02, 2008 7:52

First Grand Slam final starts

This Monday the first Grand Slam Final was officially opened and Tuesday, 17:00 CET the first round will be played in a glass cube at the Plaza Nueva in Bilbao, Spain. ChessVibes is in Bilbao to bring on-the-spot video coverage. Pairings round one: Anand - Ivanchuk, Radjabov - Topalov, Aronian - Carlsen.

For the first time, Bilbao will hold its "Grand Slam Chess Final Masters", from September 2 to 13, which due to the level of participants and prize fund (?¢‚Äö¬¨400,000) will become one of the most important tournaments in chess history.

Of the six players, three have qualified by winning one of the current three Grand Slam tournaments: Aronian (Corus/Wijk aan Zee), Anand (Morelia/Linares) and Ivanchuk (M-Tel Masters/Sofia). Carlsen and Topalov are "wild cards" while Radjabov was the best scoring player in the three Grand Slam events who stepped in for the qualifier of a fourth Grand Slam in Mexico that was never held.

In different ways, the Grand Slam Final will be special. To start with, for the first time ever the games will actually take place in the street - the Plaza Nueva, to be specific. That's right in the centre of Bilbao's Old Town. This is possible because of the use of a huge, soundproofed and air-conditioned glazed case. It's placed under a marquee which will also accommodate "The Agora" for analysis and comments by Susan Polgar (during the first week) and Boris Spassky (during the second week).

Google Map: Plaza Nueva, Bilbao

But still this is not all yet. The organizers came up with another special feature:

[...] the Final Masters is going to apply the football scoring system, earning three points per game won and one point per draw [...].

This novelty was criticised before at ChessVibes so we won't repeat that and, well, let's see how it works out this time.

On to the tournament itself. At the short and simple Opening Ceremony, held this Monday at 11:30 local time, the players had to pick a football which was linked to their pairing number. The world's number one (which could actually change during this tournament!) also picked number one, and then Anand saw Ivanchuk picking number six, which means they play each other already in the first round.

Pairings round 1 (including pairing numbers - not yet official)
Anand (1) - Ivanchuk (6)
Radjabov (2) - Topalov (5)
Aronian (3) - Carlsen (4)

Photo ?Ǭ© Susan Polgar

Your editor-in-chief has arrived in Bilbao on Monday afternoon and I will be providing video coverage throughout the tournament. On this first day I strolled a bit through the (pretty nice) city and, yes, already paid the obligatory visit to the Guggenheim Museum. After that I joined the players and organizers for an "inspection" of the very special venue.

What struck almost all of us, was the state that the cube was in. It appears that they need at least a week more to finish everything. The site was still very much "under construction", 24 hours before the first round...

Below you'll find a small photo impression of "Day 1".

Walking bridge over the Nervi?ɬ?n river

The very colourful Orilla bar located along the river

Entrance of the Guggenheim

The museum from the side...

...and from another viewpoint

The glass case with the marquee protecting the players from an overdose of light

Levon Aronian, Viswanathan and his wife Aruna Anand and Teimour Radjabov within the "Bilbao Aquarium" for the first time (and did you spot Vassily Ivanchuk outside?)

Organizer Juan Carlos Fernandez, Veselin Topalov and Magnus Carlsen

Levon Aronian recognizing some similarities with the venue of the M-Tel Masters

Magnus and Henrik Carlsen having their own thoughts about the cube

Commentator Susan Polgar has already arrived as well


Previous reports on the Grand Slam:


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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


4i4mitko's picture

Vesko is the best

Patrick's picture

How can you, as organizers of such an important event, not be ready already with your preparations. In my country, The Netherlands, that would really never happen! Isn't there something like common sence?

How is the internet access? No problems there Peter?

Michel's picture

I think that Fishy will win in the aquarium!

Waldemar's picture

Fishy in the aquarium!
Prize for comment of the month goes to Michel ;-)

I just hope he can play full-out with his match against Kramnik on the doorstep.

Looking very much forward to your coverage of a hopefully another fantastic chess event!

Oak's picture

On the site I read:
3.- Playing time: 90 minutes for the first 40 moves and another 60 minutes to finish the game.
A bit strange time controls?

Hortensius's picture

If you open the live broadcast applet, it says 2 hours...

theun's picture

Must be one of the most beautiful buildings in the World
Hope it will inspire everyone playing a wonderful tournament

Mads's picture

"If you open the live broadcast applet..."

Can anyone tell me what plug-ins are needed to watch the live broadcast? I can't see it on my Ubuntu v8.04 laptop.

4i4mitko's picture

i don't know it tells you need plugin but it can't find and after some time it's java
so try to install the latest java plugin

Mads's picture

Believe me, that was one of first things I tried :-)

raj's picture

How abt this ?
Win points - 2
loss points -1
Draw points - 0
Will this encourage winning ?

4i4mitko's picture

there were also problems with the M-Tel Masters this guys don't remember
sojo something very stupid

Hortensius's picture

In case you're still unable to open the applet; Below the applet window you find the following words:

"If you do not see the Live Broadcast press here to download the necessary software."


JM's picture

My Ubuntu 8.04 FF3 works fine. The site announces it won't work due to missing plugins, but in reality in works fine.

Lajos Arpad's picture

Raj: I don't agree with your motion. Let's say we are playing, i need just one point to win the tournament. I have a slightly better position. I just have to resign to win the tournament. I think chess would lose it's competitive ability with such a pointing system. And after such a loss explain to a beginner why did i resign: "dear friend, i wanted the money, chess is not as important".
How would we calculate the rating system knowing that many have lost on purpose?

Mads's picture

It doesn't make sense at all, but all of a sudden it's working just fine!

Thanks for the "help," everone!

raj's picture

You are right Lajos. I simply did not think of that scenario. Thanx :)

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