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On Chess: Caruana among 4 battling it out for Grand Chess Tour title in London

Fabiano Caruana at the 2018 Sinquefield Cup
Lennart Ootes | Grand Chess Tour

The 2018 Grand Chess Tour will conclude in London with a new and exciting format. The four qualified players, who were the top four point leaders after the first three tour stops, will take center stage.

The field will be led by none other than World Championship challenger Fabiano Caruana of St. Louis. The contenders will battle it out over six days, starting Tuesday.

The knock-out format comes with a total prize fund of $300,000 and the much-coveted title of Grand Chess Tour Champion.

The first half of the event will take place at the Google UK head office in London Dec. 11 — 13. Then, the tournament will move to its usual location at Olympia London for the grand finale, from Dec. 14 — 16.

After his grueling World Championship Match against Magnus Carlsen, Caruana will return to London for the final elite tournament of the year. He will be joined by his countryman, Hikaru Nakamura, as well as Levon Aronian of Armenia and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France. 

The mini matches will be comprised of two classical, two rapid, and four blitz games with points allocated to each game in a match. It takes six points for a win in a classical game, four points for a win in a rapid game, and two points for a win in a blitz game. This format gives more weight to the longer time control games. The winner of the whole thing will earn an additional $120,000.

One of the biggest questions is how Caruana will fare in yet another event shortly after his London match.

While his superb opening preparation is to be feared, Caruana's rapid and blitz skills leave much to be desired. He will be facing his Olympiad teammate Nakamura in the semifinals, who happens to be known for his lightning quick pace and renowned skills in rapid and blitz.

Nakamura recently won the online Speed Chess Championship on Chess.com, defeating Vachier-Lagrave and Aronian in the process. The fact that the classic games offer more points is advantageous for Caruana, but his skills in faster time controls will once again be put to test.

Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura at the Super GM event in Norway in June, 2017. Nakamura got second place in the event.
Credit Lennart Ootes | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis
Grandmaster Hikiaru Nakamura at the Super GM event in Norway in June, 2017. Nakamura will face GM Fabiano Caruana in London.

In the second match up, Vachier-Lagrave and Aronian will be facing off for the other spot in the finals. The Frenchman recently won a super tournament in Shenzhen, while the Armenian superstar has kept a low profile since the Olympiad, where he delivered a subpar performance. The winners of each mini match will meet in a final match to determine the overall champion.

The Grand Chess Tour once again kicked off with the Pro-Biz Cup, a fun event which brings leading business minds and grandmasters together to raise money for the UK charity, Chess in the Schools.

This year the headliner was the legendary world champion, Garry Kasparov, along with all four participants in London and other top players.

For the third time Rajko Vujatovic, this year partnered with English grandmaster David Howell, took the title in the prestigious event charity fundraiser.

The Pro-Biz Cup has become one of the staple side events of the Grand Chess Tour, thus helping popularize chess while opening up new avenues for future sponsorships.

The St. Louis Chess Club will once again provide live commentary in English and Russian languages starting at 7:50 a.m., Tuesday, on grandchesstour.org.

Tatev Abrahamyan is an Armenian-born American chess player holding the title of woman grandmaster.

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