The Grand Chess Tour Comes To Cote D’Ivoire

2018 was the year of exceptional chess events in Africa, but none more so than the Cote D’Ivoire Rapid and Blitz tournament, which played host to some of the very best players from the four (4) different zones on the continent, inclusive of Africa’s super star chess player GM Dr Amin Bassem of Egypt.

GM Amin Bassem at the Cote D’Ivoire Rapid & Blitz Invitational: Photo Credit – Alina L’Ami

The format of play for the event was the one being used by the Grand Chess Tour organizers and it would suffice to say that the top guns in the tour organization were more than satisfied with what they saw, considering the limited resources available for the event and the result that was experienced. I bet the sponsors were more than pleased and have now committed more into the hands of the team.

This event was made possible through the efforts of the President of the Ivorian Chess Federation (FIDEC), Dr Essoh Essis, who has been pushing Garry Kasparov and the Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa to bring the Grand Chess Tour to Africa and Cote D’Ivoire since 2015/2016, and even though this push culminated in the organisation of the Rapid and Blitz event, which held in July, the dream that looked far fetched is now coming to pass, because one man would never give up on his dreams of seeing the very best players in the world come to his hometown and it has eventually happened.

Dr Essoh Essis Making the 1st Move at the Invitational Rapid & Blitz Event: Photo Credit – Alina L’Ami

The Grand Chess Tour team have now announced that they would have one edition of the event in Africa, and in no other country, but Cote D’Ivoire. This announcement came out during the closing ceremony, after Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura snuck a win on Grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the final of the Grand Chess Tour and World Chess Championship challenger, Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana stole the win over Grandmaster Levon Aronian, in the battle for third place.

I doubt if an event of this magnitude has found its way to African soil before now, where top Grandmasters come into town to not just play chess, but also give inspiration to African chess players amongst other developing events.

Africa Chess Media was proud to have covered the Cote D’Ivoire Rapid and Blitz tournament for top players across the continent, and is now proud to have gotten the rights to report the prestigious Grand Chess Tour to our esteemed audiences come 2019, and working with the experienced team that continuously put together the GCT for a few years now, would be a great honour for our team at Africa Chess Media.

The players are yet to be confirmed for the 2019 edition of the Grand Chess Tour, but it would definitely be a blast for Africans to meet with and probably even play a simultaneous against players like:

Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen:

Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen: Photo Credit – Grand Chess Tour

the dominant force in all formats of the game and a player who has shown incredible gifting and understanding of the game. Hopefully, he would be in the tour to Africa, since this would be an opportunity for him to finally step foot on the continent

Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura:

Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura: Photo Credit – Grand Chess Tour

He was in South Africa earlier in the year before traveling for the Gibraltar tournament and he is currently the chess.com brand ambassador as well as only second to GM Magnus Carlsen on the Rapid Live Rating list. GM Hikaru is an exciting player to watch (especially when playing blitz and bullet), and a lot of Africans hope to have the opportunity to meet the winner of the 2018 Grand Chess Tour, who won with a dramatic final blitz win over GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

Grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave:

Grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave: Photo Credit – Grand Chess Tour

Recently wrestled the blitz rating top dog away from GM Magnus Carlsen, which he lost back to the Big man after his last round loss to GM Hikaru Nakamura. The brilliant Frenchman and his Sicilian defence understanding has been a force to reckon with in all formats, but finished a painful second to Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura in the finals of the 2018 GCT. He would be highly welcomed to Africa and he would definitely be looking to return the favor paid to him on the last day of the event from GM Hikaru during the 2019 edition of the event.

Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana:

Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana: Photo Credit – Lennart Ootes

The World Chess Championship Challenger and one of the humblest super grandmasters currently (by popular opinion). He finished 3rd in the 2018 Grand Chess Tour and would be hoping that his final game form against Grandmaster Levon Aronian would continue in the 2019 edition and get one better for him, only time will tell. Currently not in the top 10 of either Rapid or Blitz Live Ratings, but he is the current 2nd best classical chess player in the world, and he would definitely fancy his chances.

Grandmaster Levon Aronian:

Grandmaster Levon Aronian: Photo Credit – Grand Chess Tour

The Armenian Grandmaster with the most appealing unorthodox style of play in tournaments, currently sits as 6th in Rapid Play Live Rating list and 5th in the Blitz section, opens up the position and plays it the way Tal said it should be played, where 2+2=5, and the only way out is only big enough for 1! He lost to GM Fabiano Caruana in the battle for 3rd place at the 2018 Grand Chess Tour and would be hoping to pick up his deadly form going into 2019. It would be a joy to have him on the continent

Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand:

Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand: Photo Credit – Grand Chess Tour

The Tiger of Madras, who was in Africa earlier in the year, is currently 7th on the Blitz Live Rating list and has been a force to reckon with in the world of chess for decades now, and has a lot of fans in Africa. He has spearheaded the revolution and chess boom in India and he is definitely a chess legend in all ramifications. Africa definitely loves Vishy.

Grandmaster Wesley So:

Grandmaster Wesley So: Photo Credit – Lennart Ootes

He lost out in the early stages of the GCT in London and currently in the South of Africa, GM So sits 4th in the current Rapid Rating list and he has been the Christians pick of an ideal chess grandmaster and Africa hopes to host him next year again.

It would be a great plus if Africa’s number 1, Grandmaster and Doctor Amin Bassem can be given the wildcard opportunity to battle against these awesome chess talents and others who may be added to the list.

2019 is upon us, and in a few days, we will have the plans and timings of the Grand Chess Tour, which would guide us as to when Africa will host these brilliant stars of the chess industry and the tour. This would help to start the preparation for the event amidst several other plans and events on the continent in the year.

The Love You feel in Cote D’Ivoire: Photo Credit – Alina L’Ami

Africa is definitely rising, evolving and development in various sectors of the continent might just be hinged on the chess industry getting it right……who knows!?

Would you say the Grand Chess Tour coming to Africa is a big deal?

Would you say a local tournament be put in place alongside the Grand Chess Tour or should chess players from all over the continent just travel down to Cote D’Ivoire to come see their heroes make the move?

What would you advice the organizers to do in order to get the best out of this major opportunity to Africans?

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