There was widespread scepticism when Fide, the global chess body, announced its Grand Prix of six elite tournaments, qualifying two winners for the 2014 world title candidates. Several events in the previous GP had to be staged in obscure former Eastbloc venues, so Fide’s belief that the new series would be based in major Western Europe centres looked too optimistic.
But the fourth of the six Grand Prix legs reaches its closing rounds this weekend, and Fide can claim a qualified success. Recession-hit Lisbon and Madrid have been replaced by Zug in Switzerland and Thessaloniki in Greece, while the opening event was in London at Simpsons in the Strand. The previous Grand Prix was marred by high profile withdrawals led by world No1, Magnus Carlsen, and England No1, Michael Adams, whereas in the new cycle Western GMs are among the front runners.
Even better, Thessaloniki has sparked miniatures of 17, 21 and 22 moves, a sharp contrast to the complex middle games and dour endings which are trademarks of the Carlsen era in chess. It was no surprise that Vasily Ivanchuk lost two of the brevities. In the London candidates, the brittle Ukrainian beat both winners Carlsen and Vlad Kramnik but also lost five games on time.
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– GM Susan Polgar