Reports | September 13, 2012 16:37

Anand, Aronian, Carlsen, Caruana, Karjakin, Vallejo to play in Sao Paulo/Bilbao

Grand Slam Masters Final logo

This week the organizers of the Grand Slam Masters Final, which will be held September 24th-October 13th in Sao Paulo and Bilbao, confirmed that the participants will be Vishy Anand, Levon Aronian, Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Sergey Karjakin and Francisco Vallejo Pons.

In a press release sent on Tuesday, September 11th the organizers finally confirmed the participants of this year's Grand Slam Masters Final. Here they are:

Grand Slam Masters Final 2012 | Participants

Name Fed Rating Rank Born
Magnus Carlsen NOR 2843 1 1990
Levon Aronian ARM 2816 2 1982
Viswanathan Anand IND 2780 5 1969
Sergey Karjakin RUS 2778 7 1990
Fabiano Caruana ITA 2773 8 1992
Francisco Vallejo Pons ESP 2697 51 1982

Although the press release used a headline that wasn't too flattering for Vallejo ("Five of the best players in the world will compete in the 5th Masters Final in Sao Paulo and Bilbao") it is a bit remarkable to see 5 players from the top 8 and one who's not even in the top 50. The Spaniard himself was surprised to be invited, as he stated at a press conference during the Olympiad.

I don’t know why they invited me. I am sure it will be very interesting tournament.

In the press release it is stated that Vallejo received his invitation

because of his outstanding performance last year.

Although he finished last, in 2011 Vallejo did beat Magnus Carlsen, Vassily Ivanchuk and Hikaru Nakamura.

Grand Slam Masters Final 2011 | Final standings (football)

1-2  Magnus Carlsen, Vassily Ivanchuk 15
3-5  Hikaru Nakamura, Levon Aronian, Vishy Anand 12
  6  Francisco Vallejo 10

Grand Slam Masters Final 2011 | Final standings (classical)


The glass cube, spectators and commentary booth inside the Alhondiga in Bilbao last year

The 2012 tournament will be a double round robin with five rounds played in each of the two host cities: Sao Paulo, Brazil (September 24th-29th) and Bilbao, Spain (October 8th-13th). For the second time, the first half of the tournament will be in Brazil's largest city. In 2010 it was Shanghai, while the first two editions were held in full in Bilbao.

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.


redivivo's picture

He did win both games against Vallejo last year, but it still wasn't enough to finish higher than 5th of 6 because of the bad results against the stronger players. And 2/2 against Vallejo was a big surprise, Anand had a career score of +2 -1 =11 against him, so the "normal" result would have been two draws. Hopefully Anand plays really well though, it's been a while since we saw that.

Thomas's picture

There we go again: over-emphasizing tiebreaks if they support the point you try to make. In Bilbao 2011, Anand shared 3rd-5th place with Aronian and Nakamura - all 12 football points or 5/10. Tiebreaks were 62.5 for Nakamura, 61.5 for Aronian and 60.5 for Anand - not really a significant difference. Anand had lost against Aronian (this happens quite often, but still not in every single tournament) and against the ever-unpredictable Ivanchuk.

As to Anand's score against Vallejo, it seems more surprising than their results last year. But it's dated - not sure if correctly classifies Leon 2008 as classical (I think it was rapid) and their last classical game before that was in Linares 2005. Anand's Amber rapid and blindfold score against Vallejo is +7=1, maybe he is after all the better player? BTW Aronian's score against Vallejo before Bilbao 2011 was also just +1=7 (which includes a draw from the U14 World Championship in 1996), again no question on who is the better player ... .

redivivo's picture

The point is that one can't count on Anand scoring 2/2 against Vallejo, that he is a better player and has scored great rapid results is an entirely different matter that no one would question. If Anand is counted as 5th or 3-5th last year is less important, but he got that result after going 2/2 against Vallejo and I doubt he will repeat it this year.

Anonymous's picture

I consider fourth place already a pretty good result for the world champion, given the strength and youth of his opponents here. Past results of course don't matter when you sit down to play. Btw, 4th place also implies finishing higher than Caruana or Karjakin, probably a tough task already for the eldest player and world champion.

Kronsteen's picture

Back to the meatball!

Septimus's picture

Will Anand retire if he finishes dead last?

pundit's picture

Maybe he will play down to the 2600's like Korchnoi!

RealityCheck's picture

Will wch Anand's critics shut-tf-up if he finishes clear first?

S3's picture

A lot of guys are pretty obsessed with Anand. Going on and on how he is worse than the rest, but yet he still is the wch with a decent 2780. Just trashtalking cause their man couldn't make it to the top so far.

mike magnan's picture

Hopefully the boys put on a good show.
I'm a big fan of each and every one of those players..and not prone to "predictions." but I'll chance it..Karjakin will surprise. I think he's due a big win and capable of doing it.

Thomas's picture

Karjakin already has several "small wins" - if shared first but second on tiebreak is a small win. Namely Dortmund 2012 (officially behind Caruana, but this might be the reason why both were invited to Bilbao), Bazna 2011 (a whopping 0.25 Buchholz points behind Carlsen), Tal Memorial 2010 (shared with Aronian and Mamedyarov), Russian Championship 2010 (losing the tiebreaker against Nepomniachtchi).

mike magnan's picture


mike magnan's picture

I broke a tooth...ugh...



redivivo's picture

Since I like Anand I don't like to see him playing chess on the level of someone like Gelfand the last years. When people say that another bottom half result would be pretty good it's just sad. Anand is one of the five greatest players of the last 50 years and seeing him play like the last years isn't fun.

Thomas's picture

"The last years" means the last 11 months? Starting with Bilbao 2011 Anand had three mediocre tournaments (BTW still better than Gelfand's results in the same period). Before that he didn't play classical chess for eight months (only pretty successful rapid events). And before that he had four consecutive second places in Bilbao 2010, Nanjing 2010, London 2010 and Wijk aan Zee 2011 - bad results only for those with a winner takes it all mentality. Yet, for example, his score against Carlsen in these events was +2=4.

redivivo's picture

When a player like Anand is praised for having finished behind Nakamura 21 months ago and then finished bottom half in tournaments and drew a match against Gelfand, while scoring a clear and winless minus against all players anywhere close to the top 15 in the world, one can sure say that he isn't playing on the level he should be capable of.

gekagelaleka's picture

Anand will win. he is hungry

iwantfling's picture

I understand that he's a local player but gosh... why, time and again, do they pick Vallejo? If they want a final player who's a bit of a wild card just take Morozevich. I want to see more of him in the top tournaments and his games with Anand are often electrifying.


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