March 9, 2017

On Chess: Creating a path for future elite players through quarterly tournaments

By Alejandro Ramirez

In this column, we usually talk about some of the most prestigious events in the entire world: The U.S. Chess Championship, the Sinquefield Cup, the Olympiad, the Candidates, the Women's World Championship. However, very rarely do we talk about the path to the top.

Being a chess player is a grueling and difficult task. Once you reach a certain level and commit to dedicating the rest of your life to being a professional player, things turn extremely competitive. The amount of tournaments that are available to grandmasters as a stepping stone in their quest to reach the elite are very limited. Many professional players resort to playing open events, tournaments in which anyone can participate and in which grandmasters are expected to score a huge amount of points simply to maintain their rating. These events lack the strength for grandmasters to improve, and they cannot be considered a positive influence in the growth of a grandmaster as a chess player.

For this reason, strong international masters and newly minted grandmasters travel around the world, seeking strong round robin tournaments in which to test their mettle against players of similar levels and to learn from these experiences. However, these tournaments are very rare. Organizers are more interested in hosting elite events with big names such as Fabuano Caruana, Wesley So or Magnus Carlsen. These organizers are rarely seeking sponsorship for grandmasters in the 2600 level. Out of this vacuum, the Quarterly Strong Invitationals at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis have been created.

Every quarter, the Chess Club will be hosting two strong round robin tournaments, one geared toward the improvement of the junior and collegiate teams (such as current World Junior Champion Jeffery Xiong and the students at Saint Louis University), and one that will be targeted towards the members of the Women's Olympic team. The tournaments will certainly attract international attention, but are not expected to be at the level of the flagship events, such as the Grand Chess Tour or the U.S. Championship.

Both tournaments will be a single, ten player round robin event, and the first edition will start this Saturday at the Chess Club. Players are literally coming from around the world. This includes grandmasters Emilio Cordova from Peru, one of the strongest Latin American players, and Vladimir Fedoseev, a talented 22 year old from Russia who just recently won the strongest open tournament in the world, the Aeroflot Open in Moscow.

Other stars of the events will include former U.S. Women's Champion Irina Krush, the aforementioned World Junior Champion Jeffery Xiong and the rising junior star Ruifeng Li. Also look forward to the participation of Olympic Gold Medalist Sam Shankland. Interest for spots in future quarterly invitationals have been off the charts, with players in the 2500-2699 rating bracket wishing for an invite to this strong competition.

The event will be one game a day, starting promptly at 1 p.m. at the Saint Louis Chess Club. Feel free to stop by to see some of the future elite players in the World.

Read more at STLPublicRadio.Org >