Over the years, great chess players have found their way to the African soil, most come individually (Viswanathan Anand to Kenya), others with their families (Wesley So and family to South Africa), some others with photographers (Hikaru Nakamura and Lennart Ootes to South Africa), and yet others to test run some equipment (World and European Champions to Nigeria in the early 2000s). But absolutely none can compare to having the Grand Chess Tour come to Africa with current world champion GM Magnus Carlsen and other notable top rated Blitz and Rapid players also coming to Côte d’Ivoire.
The President of the Côte d’Ivoire Chess Federation (FIDEC), Dr Essoh Essis, recognizes the importance and significance of this event, and along with his team are putting in all efforts to ensure that this is a great event, not just for the Grand Chess Tour, or the people of Côte d’Ivoire , or the ECOWAS federations, but also for the African continent.
Ten (10) of the best chess minds will converge in Africa for the Grand Chess Tour opener for 2019, as Côte d’Ivoire plays host to these great men of the Global Chess Industry, and this would be a huge opportunity for a lot of African chess players to see, meet, take pictures of/with and even get autographs of their chess mentors, whom they have always adored from afar.
The Grand Chess Tour kicks off in Côte d’Ivoire with the Rapid and Blitz event at the 5 Star Pullman Hotel in Abidjan, having 4 more Rapid and Blitz events and 2 Classical events on the 2019 tour. World Champion and World Blitz Champion, Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen has confirmed to be a part of the tour this year, as he was forced to leave the tour half way last year in other to prepare towards the defense of his World Championship title, which he was able to successfully defend, and he would be in the tour for the long haul this year.
Now, the participants for the 2019 tour has been confirmed and it is great for the African continent that Africa and Côte d’Ivoire would play host to Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen in Côte d’Ivoire, as well as World Blitz 2nd highest rated player, Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura and a host of other top Grandmasters. With three slots available for the wildcards, the king of Chinese chess, young Grandmaster Wei Yi has confirmed his participation along with former World Champion Grandmaster Veselin Topalov, and the best of all for Africa, Grandmaster Amin Bassem, winner of the 2018 Vivendi sponsored Côte d’Ivoire Rapid and Blitz Invitational, has also confirmed his participation as the third wildcard.
Seeing the successes and shortfalls of the 2018 Rapid and Blitz event, the local organizing team in Côte d’Ivoire have decided to put together a couple of parallel events to give Africans a reason to come to the country, in other to give Africans something to fight for, as they plan to meet with these great players of our generation. These events are as follows:
The ECOWAS Team Rapid Championship: This is a flagship event that would run on a yearly basis and would foster better relationship among the ECOWAS member countries. The event would have each member country produce a team of 5 players, who would play in a Swiss Pairing format, with trophies, medals and other prizes. Nigeria has been given the opportunity to produce two (2) teams, while every other member federation are to provide a team each. The beauty of this event is that every team from member federations who are participating in this tournament, would get full board and lodge throughout their stay in Côte d’Ivoire and would be playing in a relaxed environment. The preparation to become ECOWAS Team Champion begins NOW. It is also good to note that this is not a zone 4.4 event and does not look to replace it in any way.
The Open Blitz Tournament: Alongside the main event of the Grand Chess Tour and the ECOWAS Team Championship, the general public are invited to participate in the Côte d’Ivoire Open Blitz Tournament, which would have various internationals also participating. Some are saying that with the limited number of classical tournaments in the region, and for the sake of rating points, these events should be classical, so as to give the players an opportunity to improve their ratings and as well spar favorably with the international players. The prizes for these events would be made known before the events are declared open for registration.
The Lecture: The people of Côte d’Ivoire would also benefit from the wealth of knowledge of the current highest rated player in Nigeria, International Master Adu Oladapo, who would be giving a series of lectures to help develop the players of the FIDEC family. He gave a mini lecture when he was in Abidjan last year, and has been learning French, so as to be able to communicate with the Francophone nations better, only for him to get the nod to give this lecture by the organizing team for the event. And those who are not from the FIDEC family, who would like to participate in this lecture, would have to register for the lecture, so as to be a beneficiary of the wealth of experience that would be passed across during the lecture.
It is hoped that the African people would see all these events and find a reason to be in Côte d’Ivoire during the May edition of the Grand Chess Tour, so that Africa would be the winner at the end of the day, not just the Ivorian people.
This is a big deal event for the Ivorian people, but much more, it is a great deal event for the African Continent, which we hope its success would invite more of the same innovations in various parts of Africa. Not just the Grand Chess Tour, but other major events too. Who knows, this might just show the world that we can really organize global events such as the World Chess Olympiad, the World Cup and other World Championships with such great players as the Grand Chess Tour boasts of.
Let us see this as an African event and see its success as an African success, which is billed to open major doors for the African Chess Industry.