12-year-old Abhimanyu Mishra, the youngest chess grandmaster in history, is among the 17-player field for the Hou Yifan Challenge, the 4th and final event on the Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour before next month’s final. The favourites for the tournament, which kicks off on Saturday 18th September, are previous winners Praggnanandhaa and Vincent Keymer, as well as Kramnik Challenger runner-up Awonder Liang. Poland’s Paweł Teclaf and Oliwia Kiołbasa join Mishra in making debuts.
The Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour is a showcase for some of the world’s most talented young male and female chess players, and we’re now into the final regular event on the tour.
The Hou Yifan Challenge is named after the current women’s no. 1 and 4-time Women’s World Champion Hou Yifan, who is also one of the coaches helping Vladimir Kramnik and Judit Polgar provide advice and instruction to the players. If you’re a chess24 premium member you can drop in and watch highlights from the classes!
The prize fund is $15,000, with $3,000 for the winner, who also gets to play alongside Magnus Carlsen and co. in the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour — the winner of the Hou Yifan Challenge will now be invited to the first event on next year’s tour, starting in February 2022.
The action kicks off at 10:00 ET/16:00 CEST/19:30 IST on Saturday 18th September, with five rounds of 10+5 rapid chess, before there are four rounds on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The pairings are already out, including Liang-Keymer in Round 1, a clash between the two players who top-scored with 11.5/15 in the Kramnik Challenge (Keymer took the top prize on tiebreaks). All games are played in the chess24 Playzone.
The top seed is Praggnanandhaa, who won the first event on the tour, the Polgar Challenge, while his Indian colleague Gukesh, who won the Gelfand Challenge, doesn’t play. That’s significant, as Gukesh is currently in the Top 8 players on the tour who will be invited to next month’s $40,000 Final, but he can now be caught.
Here are the current player scores — there are 20 points for finishing 1st, 19 for 2nd, and so on.
In fact given who’s playing in the Hou Yifan Challenge, it’s only Leon Mendonca and Zhu Jiner who are outside the Top 8 and have a chance to break in during the event. For instance, 9th place for China’s Zhu Jiner would see her overtake Gukesh.
There are also overall team standings, with the teams competing for a trip to Dubai during the Carlsen-Nepomniachtchi World Chess Championship match. Team Polgar has a big lead — 260.5 points to 234 — but Team Kramnik has some reinforcements for this event.
12-year-old Abhimanyu Mishra needs no introduction after becoming the youngest chess grandmaster in history at the age of 12 years, 4 months and 25 days, while there are also two young Polish players making their debut on the tour on the personal recommendation of World Cup winner Jan-Krzysztof Duda.
18-year-old Paweł Teclaf reached the semi-finals of this year’s Polish Championship, while 21-year-old Oliwia Kiołbasa pulled off a shock by taking bronze at this year’s European Women’s Championship, despite starting as only the 43rd seed.
Vishali, a former Girls World Youth Under 12 and Under 14 Champion, was previously announced as a reserve, and will now join her brother Praggnanandhaa in playing.
Team Polgar also sees two players who were previously reserves making their debut: 14-year-old Indian IM Aditya Mittal and 16-year-old Russian WGM Leya Garifullina, who knocked Olga Girya out on the way to Round 3 of the recent FIDE Women’s World Cup.
We’ll have live commentary on all four days of the event from Latvian Grandmaster Arturs Neikšāns, who will be joined first by Ellen Nilssen, and for later days by Boris Gelfand, with more guests sure to join the commentary.