Carlsen and Buettner Unveil Extravagant Chess960 Grand Slam Tour Across Five Continents


In a move that could potentially shake up the world of chess, GM Magnus Carlsen and German entrepreneur Jan-Henric Buettner have launched the Freestyle Chess Grand Slam Tour, an ambitious new series of Chess960 tournaments which will take place on five continents and will bring together the crème de la crème of the chess world.

In February, Carlsen beat GM Fabiano Caruana In the final to win the inaugural edition of the GOAT Free Chess Challenge 2024the new super-tournament Chess960 which, despite its clunky name, proved to be a success and achieved a global media reach of half a billion, according to the organizers.

In a joint press release on Friday, the former world champion and the millionaire owner of the five-star Weissenhaus resort unveiled their new Free Chess Players Club (FCPC). Eligible for membership are 25 players rated above 2725 “who have a significant level of current international activity”, which means general managers only. Sergei Karjak too And Veseline Topalov are excluded from the series.

Buettner expressed his excitement and said: “We are delighted that all 25 invited and eligible players responded positively and joined the FCPC.”

We are delighted that the 25 invited and eligible players responded positively and joined the FCPC.

—Jan-Henric Buettner

No one could stop Magnus Carlsen from winning the first free chess event.  Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com
No one could stop Carlsen from winning the first free chess event. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Chess960, renamed Freestyle Chess, is a chess variant in which the first and eighth rank pieces are randomly mixed (with some limitations). The number 960 comes from the number of possible positions to start the game.

Members of the newly formed club are eligible for a possible invitation to one or more of the planned tournaments. In addition to Carlsen and Caruana, the organizers also ensured the participation of the nine players next in the rankings, including world number three and reigning world champion Fischer Random, GM. Hikaru Nakamura. The American was invited to the Freestyle Chess GOAT Challenge, but declined the invitation due to other commitments.

The other participants are GMs Nodirbek Abusattarov, Ding Liren, Alireza Firouzja, Wesley then, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Wei Yi, Arjun Erigaisi And Viswanathan Anand.

The chess calendar promises to be busy since the world of chess will now see the birth of a third world chess tour, after the Champions Chess Tour of Chess.com and the Grand Chess Tour. The first event of the Freestyle Chess Grand Slam Tour will take place in an unknown city in India in November:

  • November 10 – 17, 2024: India
  • Summer 2025: New York, United States
  • Fall 2025: Cartagena, Colombia
  • Winter 2025: Cape Town, South Africa
  • 2026: Australia

The prize fund for the first event at Weissenhaus was $200,000, but will be increased to $500,000 for the Grand Slam in India, then to $750,000 for the next Weissenhaus Grand Slam, and finally to $1 million for each Grand Slam thereafter.

The format remains the same with rapid preliminaries followed by a knockout event, but the next events will take place with 10 players, instead of eight as was the case at the Weissenhaus in February.

Buettner watches Keymer, Abdusattorov and Caruana have fun with Chess960...ehh Freestyle Chess. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Buettner watches Keymer, Abdusattorov and Caruana have fun with Chess960… ehh Freestyle Chess. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Another difference is that the two eliminated players will join as commentators for the remaining event, the tournament’s general director said. Sébastien Siebrecht said German chess site Pearls of Lake Constance.

Buettner said in his player welcome letter that his goal is to make the Free Chess Grand Slam “as commercially successful as iconic sporting events like the ATP for tennis, the PGA for golf and Formula 1 for motorsport.

“It is my sincere desire to see each of our FCPC members flourish professionally, even to the point of entering into individual sponsorship contracts outside of the purview of the FCPC. Building on the successes of these renowned sporting events, we understand the paramount importance of cultivating recognizable and distinct personalities. “

Our goal is to create a league of chess icons that the younger generation in various international markets can identify with and admire.

—Jan-Henric Buettner

“The response from the chess world to our inaugural event at Weissenhaus in February was overwhelming. Players weren’t the only ones excited about the new format. We have achieved a global media reach of over half a billion. This highlights that we have made considerable progress in our journey to popularize chess and inspire additional new audiences around the world. The Freestyle Chess Players Club and the Freestyle Chess Grand Slam Tour are the logical next steps,” Buettner said.

FIDE failed to find organizers for the Fischer-Random World Championship earlier this year and was reportedly in negotiations with Buettner to host the event at the Weissenhaus later this year. According to Perlen von Bodensee, this came to nothing, but discussions are ongoing with the world governing body of chess about collaboration.

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