Grand Chess Tour coming to Africa in 2019!

Players of CIV Invitational

Dr. Essoh Essis, President of the Ivorian Chess Federation will host one of the rapid and blitz events as part of the 2019 Grand Chess Tour. It will be the first elite event held in Africa since the 2004 FIDE Knockout in Tripoli, Libya. Photo by Alina L’Ami

Hikaru Nakamura won the Grand Chess Tour a week ago which culminated in the London Chess Classic. This is the first year for the Grand Chess Tour final which ended in a four-player tournament featuring mini-matches of classical, rapid and blitz.

The twist is that a win in a classical game is six points; four in rapid and two in blitz. On draws, the point total is split. In the end, Nakamura defeated Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 15-13 on a thrilling win in the final game.

The discussion on tournament formats and the incidences of draws continued from the recently-ended World Chess Championship as Nakamura-MVL saw seven draws before the American won the final blitz game for the margin of victory. The match between championship challenger Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian had five decisive games ending in a 16-12 score. Nevertheless, the games were exciting despite numerous draws. What fans may not understand is that these four players are intricately familiar with their peers and to needlessly force the game into an inferno is… playing with fire.

GM Hikaru Nakamura, winner of 2018 Grand Chess Tour, will be defending his title in diverse places. Photo by Maria Emelianova/

Does chess need to be fixed for wider appeal? That discussion is what players in online fora and chess tournaments are talking about. What may be in store for the 2019 Grand Chess Tour may be even more exciting. There were announcements that the GCT will have two events outside of the U.S. and Europe, where all of the events have been held. The tour will expand to seven events with three of them making a debut in 2019. On the slate for hosting the GCT events are Croatia, India and Cote d’Ivoire. The St. Louis Rapid and Blitz has been taken off the tour.

While not a FIDE event, this initiative fits what Arkady Dvorkovich had pledged to do in his campaign. Now as the FIDE President, he wants to make chess more global in scope and mentioned the drive to have tournaments (including the Olympiad) on different continents.

“We need to change the geographical location when it comes to big tournaments, I will ensure that the game is staged not only in Russia and Europe but to other regions like Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Arab speaking countries to bring diversity.”

~Arkady Dvorkovich speaking in Nairobi, Kenya (link)

After South Africa’s unsuccessful (and controversial) bid in 2014, an African Olympiad idea will have to wait at least for two Olympiad (2020 Khanty-Mansisyk, 2022 Minsk, Belarus). However, it seems as if things are about to change.

Cote d’Ivoire has been making waves in the chess world. Under the leadership of Dr. Essis Essoh, the federation has successfully hosted the 2017 Cote d’Ivoire Team Invitational and also the CIV Invitational Rapid and Blitz in August. The event got rave reviews from the participating players.

When Nigeria’s IM Oladapo Adu spoke to The Chess Drum during the Batumi Chess Olympiad, he was effusive in his praise for the organization and conditions. Assisting in the event’s success, Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa played a key role and Garry Kasparov’s endorsement for Cote d’Ivoire to host a GCT event proved invaluable.

The last elite event on African soil was the FIDE World Knockout Championships in 2004 held in Tripoli, Libya. Hikaru Nakamura played in that tournament. This will be many of the participants’ first trip to Africa and the perhaps the first visit by a sitting world champion since Viswanathan Anand’s visits throughout the years. The Ivorians hope to repeat this success for the GCT.

Official Site:

Cote d’Ivoire… here we come!

CIV Invitational - IM Oladapo Adu with Andrew Kayonde

Nigeria’s IM Oladapo Adu with Zambia’s IM Andrew Kayonde
after the 2018 CIV Rapid and Blitz Invitational
Photo by Alina L’Ami

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