Reports | September 21, 2012 1:38

London Grand Prix officially opened

London Grand Prix officially opened

With a modest drawing of lots followed by a big party, the London FIDE Grand Prix tournament was officially opened on Thursday night at the Somerset House, on the south side of the Strand in central London, England. The first round will be played tomorrow at 14:00 local time (15:00 CET), with the following pairings: Kasimdzhanov-Leko, Nakamura-Gelfand, Topalov-Grischuk, Dominguez-Giri, Wang Hao-Adams and Mamedyarov-Ivanchuk.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov & Andrew Paulson | All photos © Ray Morris-Hill

The FIDE Grand Prix Series 2012-2013 has begun. With a very promising opening reception on Thursday night, Andrew Paulson revealed a bit of the style in which he's going to operate. The American entrepreneur, who bought the rights to organize two full World Championship cycles, doesn't like official protocols, but he's definitely fond of a good party.

The tournament poster

Ten of the twelve players of the first leg in London were present at the drawing of lots. (Wang Hao arrived about an hour afterwards, while Vassily Ivanchuk's flight schedule was even worse.) They must have enjoyed entering the Somerset House, which was nicely decorated, with Agon's chess-themed logo illuminated on the floor and chess scenes projected on TV screens.

The "opening ceremony" was a modest one, more like a small reception in fact, held in a relatively small room. Champagne and wine was served, and the players sat down together for some photos.

Paulson gave a short speech, thanking Kirsan Ilyumzhinov for "trusting him" in organizing the events. Ilyumzhinov's speech was the shortest we've ever heard, and in it the FIDE President thanked, among others, the Moscow Chess Federation. We still need to check out what exactly is their involvement in the Grand Prix.

Then Chief Arbiter Carol Jarecki performed the drawing of lots. The players had to pick a Monopoly card which had a lot number at the back. Ilyumzhnov picked Wang Hao's card, and Ali Nihat Yazici, who was present as well, picked Ivanchuk's card.

Top seed Hikaru Nakamura picks lot number 2

Then Paulson stated that it was "one last requirement under FIDE regulations" to play the FIDE anthem at an opening ceremony of an official FIDE event. French GM Robert Fontaine, who has been appointed Chief of Staff of Agon, suddenly pulled up an old-fashioned tape-recorder and started playing an actual cassette tape that played the anthem.

Normally at this point the players quickly go back to their hotel rooms, but not this time. The best part was yet to come: a party with DJs, free drinks and hors d'oeuvres.

Paulson and his crew had invited over a hundred guests to the opening reception, including many people from the fashion and entertainment industry. We'll mention two names, to give you an idea: both Lily Cole and Sophie Ellis-Bextor were there!

Many famous English GMs were present as well, such as John Nunn, Jon Speelman, Danny King, Luke McShane, Stuart Conquest and Gawain Jones.

Especially nice was the blitz session that was organized during the party. Six chess sets and clocks had been put up, and the participants of the main tournament were paired to play one round. (Even so, their names and country flags had been painted on the walls behind the boards!) This blitz chess was especially interesting for the many guests from outside the chess world.

Mickey Adams playing blitz against Anish Giri

After this "round" was over, guests could challenge the top grandmasters for a game or two. Especially the game between Lily Cole and Veselin Topalov attracted attention.

All in all it was a refreshing experience, very different from your regular chess tournament opening ceremony. Let's see what the tournament itself will bring. The first round will be played on Friday at 14:00 local time (15:00 CET), with the following pairings: Kasimdzhanov-Leko, Nakamura-Gelfand, Topalov-Grischuk, Dominguez-Giri, Wang Hao-Adams and Mamedyarov-Ivanchuk. Live games here.

The FIDE Grand Prix Series consists of six big tournaments which will be played over different cities between September 2012 and October 2013: London, Tashkent, Lisbon, Madrid, Berlin and Paris. Eighteen players compete, with each player playing in four of these six tournaments. Their three best results will be counted for the final ranking. Each tournament will have 12 players playing over a schedule of fourteen days.

The winner and second placed player overall of the Grand Prix Series will qualify for the Candidates Tournament to be held in March 2014. More info here.

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.


Fireblade's picture

Topalov looks perplexed with the knight on the rim :)

weng nian siow's picture

This bodes well for the future of chess (despite the already ongoing in-fighting between RCF, Fide and Agon). Kudos to Agon for organising an opening ceremony where non-chess players outnumber chess players.

Anonymous's picture

What a fantastic opening ceremony, seems to be just the right mix of pomp and party!

bondegnasker's picture

How did the position in the Topalov-Cole blitz game come about? I can't come up with a move sequence that doesn't hang a bishop, e.g.

1.g3 b6 2.Bg2 Bb7 3.Kf1 Bxg2+ 4.Kxg2 Nf6 5.Nf3 Nh5 6.e3

Suggestions, anyone?

redivivo's picture

Going by Topalov's form lately I just hope he was able to avoid a loss.

Aditya's picture

Topalov facing the Cole system.

Remco G's picture

I think you nailed it.

TeresaZ's picture

Maybe the bishops were exchanged on f1, not g2?
So something like 1 e3 b6 2 Nf3 Ba6 3 g3 Bxf1 4 Kxf1 Nf6 5 Kg2 Nh5.

Peter Doggers's picture

Not that we should take this game too seriously – would you (be able to) play the best moves against Ms. Cole? smiley– but the sequence was 1.Nf3 b6 2.g3 Ba6 3.e3 Bxf1 4.Kxf1 Nf6 5.Kg2 Nh5.

bondegnasker's picture

Thanks! No, I wouldn't :-) Exchange on f1 makes a lot more sense. I guess I assumed it was black's turn, but then of course Ms Cole isn't accustomed to handling a chess clock.

Chesslover's picture

The Grand Prix is a very good thing, of course (with or without party).
There are still FIDE "relicts" left in the WCh cycle though.
To the Candidates tournament 2014 only 2 players of this big Grand Prix series will qualify,
while also 2 (maybe even 3) qualify from the FIDE World Cup 2013 (see FIDE World Cup regulations).
The World Cup stresses Rapid (and Blitz) too much for a Qualifyer for the Classical WCh,
but okay, I can understand that FIDE sticks to that Knock Out thing,
since indeed many people find it exciting (lovers of Classical chess not so much though).
But it really would be enough if only the World Cup winner could qualify to the Candidates.
There are only 8 spots.
Maybe you already realized that the top 4 players in the world;
Carlsen, Kramnik, Aronian and also Anand (who was eligible too),
neither of them plays the Grand Prix.
Although there isn't regulations about that yet (as far as I know),
I assume that again 2 players will qualify for the 2014 Candidates via ranking
and another one as an Organiser's nominee.
So Carlsen, Aronian and Kramnik are quite likely to get in.
(The losing finalist of the 2013 WCh match will be the 8th candidate.)
Well, we remember much worse situations in the past.
Still, I think the situation could be improved easily.
Why do Carlsen, Aronian and Kramnik not play the Grand Prix?
I assume there is still not enough prize money offered (compared to other tournaments) + the format is too time consuming for them!
Do you remember the Interzonal tournaments of the past?
Why not simply hold just 3 Grand Prix tournaments instead of a whole 6 (with slightly different regulations)?
More prize money could be offered and it was less time consuming. That means the top players could still play London, Tal Memorial, Bilbao, Wijk and so on without regrets.
There were no need to let players qualify via rating.
The qualifyers for the Candidates would look like:
1x WCh runner-up
1x World Cup (okay)
6x Grand Prix (winners + runner-ups of each of the 3 Grand Prixes)

There is a huge contrast between FIDE claiming they have no money and often let players qualify for Candidates tournaments almost entirely via rankings and then on the other hand sometimes lifting these big Grand Prix series.
Why not something between, a happy medium that works?
Normally it wouldn't be unthinkable to lead some dialogues and unite with the organizers of the big "private" tournaments (Wijk, London, Tal Memorial, ...).
That way a whole series of tournaments could be established.
That's the way other sports (Tennis f.i.) procede and flourish.
And it's not that hard to do!
At the moment FIDE downright confronts the private tournaments with their big Grand Prix series.
This is what Carlsen's manager recently said:
"For Magnus it was difficult to participate [in the Grand Prix] this time due to a very busy schedule. For 2012, he has long planned to take part in the Final Masters in Sao Paulo/Bilbao and in the London Classic. As these have conflicting dates with the two GP tournaments in 2012 it's impossible to do both. For the first half of 2013, Magnus plans to participate in the Tata Steel Tournament, the Candidate, Stavanger and the Tal Memorial. Trying to combine these with playing three GP's during the same period will definitely be a too tough schedule."
I don't think he already signed all the contracts. It's more of a priority setting, apparently similar to Aronian and Kramnik.

The Chess world still has to deal with the FIDE relicts.
The overemphasis of the World Cup is one of them (the brain child of Ilyumzhinov - he already backpadeled fortunately).
The egoism / ignorance / lack of diplomacy in dialogue with to sponsors / the private tournaments is another one.
Making huge controversial steps forth and back instead of a more slow developement in the right direction.

Very telling:
"Then Paulson stated that it was "obligatory" to play the FIDE anthem at an opening ceremony of an official FIDE event. French GM Robert Fontaine, who has been appointed Chief of Staff of Agon, suddenly pulled up an old-fashioned tape-recorder and started playing an actual cassette tape that played the anthem."

Remco G's picture

OK, qualifying from the World Cup is perhaps not ideal, but I still like that most places in the Candidates go by qualification, not just from the rating list.

There was a time when I could play in my regional championship (open for all), the winner of which qualified for the semi-finals of the Dutch championship, the winner of which played the Dutch championship, the winners of which qualified for the Zonals, the winners of which qualified for the Interzonals and then on to the Candidates and the World Championship.

And everybody who played in any of that could feel like they were somehow part of it.

I'm always afraid they're just going to select a challenger based on the latest rating list...

Chesslover's picture

I also like that "feeling to be part of it", but does it really matter for that feeling/dream whether 1 or 3 players of the World Cup qualified for the Candidates? Players outside the top 100 stand no real chance to become World Champion anyway.

Anyway, I would prefer that the Continental champions would qualify for the Grand Prix tournaments. That would also strenghten the Continental championships.

If there were 3 Grand Prixs á 14 players you could accomodate a whole 42 players.
Well, if you would allow the top 6 (or so) to participate in 2 of these tournaments (better result counts), there would still be 36 spots, so you could even accomodate the European vice champion (or even more players from the Continentals).
The mentioned "privilege" for the top 6 could be necessary in case they protest...

If FIDE together with the private tournaments would establish a whole Professional "Tour" (like in Tennis), the situation would become even much better. So the above suggestions aren't the end all be all, of course.

I would like to add that other Sports, who are in better situations than chess, join their forces and make the best out of it,
while in Chess, the so called "Intelligent Game", that indeed is not so very great for marketing, the persons in charge fight eachother like idiots, unable to see the big picture or understand what "responsibility" actually means.

FIDE was only lucky to have found Andrew Paulson (or rather he found them).

...Okay, enough dirt for now. Let's enjoy the Grand Prix!

achtie's picture

!st prize for best suit is a tie (no pun intended) between Topalov and Dominquez. At the bottom of this list we find Nakamura (too big), Giri (too ugly) and Adams.

S3's picture

Who is L. Cole and who is Sophie Baxter?

redivivo's picture
S3's picture

Well that s*cks. I hope she didn't sing at the party.

Casaubon's picture

I see Ali is once again enjoying the perks of being a FIDE VP.

Anonymous's picture

... same with the weird the kirsan guy ;-) ... they should enjoy the perks while they can.

Stonewall's picture

Is there any free live commentary anywhere?

Bobby Fiske's picture

I am sorry to say, but this Paulson fellow is about to ruin chess. Just look how he messed up the opening ceremony. -Only a cheapish cocktail party with some boobs for hire.

What happened to the traditional 2 hour ballet with 32 dancers in black and white costumes? I was expecting a grand scale performance, staged in a historical building and accompanied by a large string orchestra in the presence of prominent officials. Oh well.

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