$300k Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals set for lift-off!

World Champion Magnus Carlsen tops a star-studded line-up for the 10-player Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals starting Saturday, September 25th. Originally slated to be held in person in San Francisco, the tournament will now be a hybrid event, with Magnus, Anish Giri and Jan-Krzysztof Duda playing from Oslo, while the remaining players compete from home. Wesley So has by far the greatest chance of challenging Magnus for the $100,000 top prize, since players start with bonus points for their tour performance so far.

Who’s playing?

Eight players qualified for the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Final based on their performance over the nine previous events, with Magnus Carlsen (FTX Crypto Cup), Anish Giri (Magnus Carlsen Invitational) and Teimour Radjabov (Airthings Masters) automatically in after winning the three Majors. Five more then qualified based on tour points, with Ian Nepomniachtchi, who had a scheduling clash, the only qualified player unable to take part.

That meant three wildcards instead of the expected two: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who narrowly missed out on qualification, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and World Cup winner Jan-Krzysztof Duda.

What’s the format?

The Finals will be played as a 10-player round-robin, with the matches each day consisting of four 15+10 rapid games. If the score is tied 2:2 the players play two 5+3 blitz games and, only if still tied, an Armageddon game.

There are three points available for a win in the rapid match, while the score after tiebreaks will be split 2:1. That means each player can score a maximum of 27 points, which is important, since there’s another crucial twist to the event’s format: the players are rewarded for their performance over the whole Tour with bonus points.

The player with the least tour points — in this case Duda — gets no bonus points. The remaining players are then given a half point for every full 10 points they scored above Duda’s 8 i.e. scoring 11 or 19 points more = 0.5 bonus points, while scoring 20 more = 1 bonus point.

That produced the following starting points for the players!

As you can see, Magnus will start with an eye-watering 16.5 points more than Duda, but the 4 points advantage he has over Wesley So could vanish in the space of a couple of rounds, particularly as the players will play each other head-to-head.

What’s at stake?

Even if some of the players start with no hope of competing for the top spot, there’s still a lot at stake, with 10th place earning $5,000 up to $100,000 for the winner, who will also be crowned the 2021 Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Champion.

Where are they playing?

The original plan was for all the players to play from the Meltwater Head Office in San Francisco, but, as we saw with half the field of the Grand Chess Tour being unable to complete the event in Saint Louis, the pandemic situation is still making transatlantic flights in particular highly problematic.

Therefore this year’s final will be held online, but with three of the participants World Champion Magnus Carlsen, Dutch no. 1 Anish Giri and World Cup winner Jan-Krzysztof Duda — playing from the same venue in Oslo. All games are played on the chess24 Playzone.

When does it start?

The event kicks off at 11:00 ET/17:00 CEST/20:30 IST on Saturday, September 25th and runs to Monday, October 4th, with one rest day on Thursday, September 30th.

Where can I watch?

All the action will live right here on chess24, with Peter Leko returning as a commentator, while we’ll also have the regular team of David Howell, Jovanka Houska and Kaja Snare from Oslo.

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