The 2022 Grand Chess Tour is off with the Superbet Chess Classic now underway

The 2022 Grand Chess Tour will feature a wide variety of players from the top 20 of the world rankings. The five-legged event will feature classical and rapid/blitz events alike and a wide variety of exciting wildcard players. Last year’s Grand Chess Tour was won by Wesley So, who is back to defend his title.

The Superbet Chess Classic in Romania returns to kick off the tour proceedings again. The winner of the 2021 event was Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who is also back in the field, hoping for a repeat victory. Carlsen’s last challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi and world No. 3 Alireza Firouzja are also here to provide a star-studded cast for the drama that is about to unfold on the chessboard.

What is the format of the Grand Chess Tour?

The Grand Chess Tour is a series of elite-level chess tournaments, culminating in the prestigious Sinquefield Cup in the Saint Louis Chess Club. The 2022 season of the Tour will feature two events with classical time controls (90 minutes + 30 seconds per move, with 30 minutes added after move 40) and three with faster, rapid and blitz format games.

The Tour has nine “full participants” and wildcard players who join the field for particular events across the season. The list of the full participants is as follows:

  • Alireza Firouzja (world No. 3)
  • Fabiano Caruana (world No. 4)
  • Richárd Rapport (world No. 5)
  • Ian Nepomniachtchi (world No. 6)
  • Wesley So (world No. 7)
  • Levon Aronian (world No. 8)
  • Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (world No. 9)
  • Leinier Dominguez Perez (world No. 12)
  • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (world No. 16)

The first event of the Tour, Superbet Chess Classic Romania, will take place between May 3 and 15, featuring Bogdan-Daniel Deac (world No. 68) as the wildcard player. Just a day later, the Tour continues with the Superbet Rapid & Blitz Poland tournament, starting May 17 and ending May 24.

What to expect from the Superbet Chess Classic event

Considering the upcoming Candidates Tournament (which is the brawl that determines world champion Magnus Carlsen’s next challenger) and all other high-level chess events nearby on the calendar, this is an incredibly strong field to kick off the year’s Grand Chess Tour. This is one of the select few events young prodigy Alireza Firouzja will attend before the Candidates, and his performances will be a very important barometer for the chess community.

With most tournament organizers shunning Russian players in light of the war in Ukraine, this event marks a similar milestone for Ian Nepomniachtchi. Though the world No. 6 fizzled out against Magnus in spectacular fashion last year, there’s a reason he made it to the title match in the first place. It’s rare to see someone bounce back after losing such a contest, and just like with Firouzja, Nepo’s level of play will be an invaluable insight for fans and competitors alike into what to expect from the Candidates Tournament.

The American contingent will no doubt also continue its internal battle for the No. 1 spot. Caruana triumphed over Aronian and So in the inaugural American Cup and has a chance to do again here. To do so would push him back towards the magical 2800 barrier, a rating he no doubt would love to get back as soon as possible.