Candidates Tournament 2018: The Ultimate Preview

By Bryan Castro / On / In Chess news, Features

As the players arrive in Berlin for the start of the 2018 Candidates Tournament, our writer BRYAN CASTRO brings us his ultimate tournament preview:

Finding a Challenger

From March 10, eight of the top players in the world will be battling it in the Candidates Tournament to see who will face Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship.

The tournament is organized as a double-round robin with each player facing every other player twice – once with the white pieces and once with the black pieces. The tournament will be help in Berlin, Germany between March 10-28, 2018. The winner of the tournament will face the reigning World Champion in a 12-game match in November in London, England.

This event looks to be an exciting one, with a variety of styles represented as well as a couple of new faces to the Candidates tournament. In this preview, we’ll take a look at the eight challengers, their path to the Candidates, and their style.

Check out Bryan’s FREE Candidates tournament tactics book here >

1. Ding Liren

Ding Liren in 2013. Photo by Soboky.

Ding Liren is participating in his first Candidates Tournament. He qualified by being one of the top finalists of the Chess World Cup in 2017 (along with Levon Aronian). He also has the honor of being the first Chinese player to qualify for the Candidates. As of the March 2018 FIDE rating list, Ding is ranked 11th in the world with a rating of 2769.

Ding has a flexible style. He can play for the initiative but is also skilled in technical positions as well. He is an excellent calculator and has superb endgame technique.

Although he (along with Wesley So) is one of the youngest players in the tournament at age 25, he comes into the Candidates with a strong showing in 2017. He won the strong Shenzhen Longgang Chess Masters in Shenzhen, China in April 2017 ahead of follow Top 20 players Anish Giri and Peter Svidler. He won the Moscow Grand Prix event in May 2017 ahead of current World #2 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. He finished 2017 with a strong 2nd place finish in the Chess World Cup, losing to GM Levon Aronian in a tiebreaker.

He also played one of the best games of 2017 – an exciting attacking game in the Chinese Chess League against fellow Chinese GM Jinshi Bai. In this game, Ding precisely weaves a mating net around his opponent after playing the spectacular 20…Rd4! The final position is a beautiful sight, with every minor piece participating in the final round-up of the king.

2. Levon Aronian

Levon Aronian in 2008. Photo by Georgios Souleidis.

Armenian GM Levon Aronian is the other Candidate to qualify by winning the Chess World Cup (against Ding Liren). At age 35, he has been on the top of the world chess scene for many years, including a peak rating of 2830 – the 4th highest in chess history! He is currently the World’s 5th highest rated player with a rating of 2794.

Aronian is known as one of the world’s most creative players. He is a strong tactician with a subtle and deep understanding of positional chess. When observing Aronian’s game, you will often notice that his pieces are beautifully coordinated while he often leaves his opponent with a piece or two shut out of the game. He is a true artist at the chessboard.

Aronian comes into the tournament having enjoyed a very successful 2017. He started the year off by winning the Grenke Classic Tournament in Baden-Baden, Germany ahead of Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana. In June 2017, he won the strong Norway Chess tournament ahead of Carlsen, Vladamir Kramnik, and Sergey Karjakin. As mentioned, he won the Chess World Cup in September 2017. Finally, he started 2018 off strong with a win in the strong Gibraltar Chess Festival, beating French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the tiebreaker. Can he build on this momentum with a strong showing in the Candidates?

The following game demonstrates Aronian’s creativity and tactical acumen. In this game, he defeats the world champion on Carlsen’s home turf during the Norway Chess tournament in June 2017.

3. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Shahriyar Mamedyarov in 2016. Photo by Eteri Kublashvili.

GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan qualified by finishing atop the FIDE Grand Prix – a series of four tournaments featuring 24 of the strongest players in the world. In the Grand Prix, he shared first place in the Sharjah leg of the series in February 2017. He placed clear second place behind Ding Liren in the Moscow stage in May. Finally, he tied for 4th place in the Geneva stage in July 2017.

Besides his strong finish in the FIDE Grand Prix, GM Mamedyarov’s other notable finishes in 2017 were winning the elite-level Gashimov Memorial in April and leading a team victory in the Russian Team Championship. At age 32, he is currently the world’s 2nd highest rated player with a rating of 2809.

Mamedyarov is no stranger to high-level tournaments. He has already competed in the Candidates tournament twice – in 2011 and 2014. Having won the World Junior Chess Championship twice (in 2003 and 2005), Mamedyarov has competed at the highest levels of chess since his youth.

Mamedyarov is known for an aggressive, attacking style. He is a master of exploiting the initiative and his play may remind you of the romantic attacks of the 19th and early 20th century masters.

To illustrate Mamedyarov’s creativity and style, enjoy this attacking gem from last year’s Russian Team Championship against GM Evgeny Najer.

4. Alexander Grischuk

Alexander Grischuk in 2015. Photo by Regani.

GM Alexander Grischuk from Russia is our 2nd qualifier from the FIDE Grand Prix, finishing 2nd in points behind Mamedyarov. Grischuk tied for 1st in the Sharjah stage along with Mamedyarov and GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. He tied for 2nd place in the Geneva event.

GM Grischuk is a master tactician and attacker. In part due to his incredible calculating and tactical ability, he is also one of the world’s top speed chess players. Grischuk is currently 12th on the FIDE rating list with a rating of 2767.

The following game is not only a demonstration of his attacking style, but also of the incredible depth and complexity behind his play. Check out 34.Rb5! in this game against GM Boris Grachev in the Russian Team Championship.

5. Fabiano Caruana

Fabiano Caruana in 2016. Photo by G. Hund.

American GM Fabiano Caruana qualified for the Candidates tournament by having one of the top two average ratings in 2017 among players who played in both the World Chess Cup and FIDE Grand Prix. At 26, he is among the youngest players in the tournament. However, he has played at the top levels for several years, including reaching as high as 2nd in the overall rating list. He is currently the 8th highest ranked player in the world with a 2784 rating.

He tied for 3rd in the US Chess Championship in April 2017. He finished the year off strong by winning the elite London Chess Classic (beating GM Ian Nepomniachtchi on tie-breaks). Although he has had a quiet 2017, he is not one to be underestimated in the Candidates tournament.

Caruana is known for his strong calculating ability and aggressive style. He also has a reputation for hard work away from the board. The following game from the London Chess Classic demonstrates Caruana’s classical attacking style against former World Champion Vishy Anand.

6. Wesley So

Wesley So in 2015. Photo by Euku.

American GM Wesley So is the 2nd qualifier based on his 2017 rating average.

As I’ve written about in a previous article, Wesley So had an incredible unbeaten streak that reached 67 games. During that streak, he won the super strong Tata Steel Masters tournament ahead of Magnus Carlsen. He also won the 2017 US Chess Championship ahead of fellow American Top 10 players (at the time) Fabiano Caruana and GM Hikaru Nakamura. So finished 3rd in the Shamkir Chess tournament in Shamkir, Azerbaijan in April 2017 – where his unbeaten streak was broken by Mamedyarov.

At 25, he and GM Ding Liren are the youngest participants in the Candidates tournament. He is currently the 4th highest ranked player in the world, with a rating of 2799.

Wesley So’s style has evolved into an accurate, technical style. Although his play is nearly risk-free, he has also shown the ability to fight back from difficult positions and is not afraid of sacrificing material for dynamic compensation.

The following game is perhaps Wesley So’s best of 2017. It combines his technical accuracy with the brilliant and opportunistic 21…Nxf2! A return to this type of form can spell trouble for the field in this year’s Candidates.

7. Vladimir Kramnik

Vladimir Kramnik in 2016. Photo by A. Kontokantis.

GM Vladimir Kramnik from Russia qualified as the wild card nomination by the tournament organizers Agon. At age 43, Kramnik is the oldest competitor in this year’s Candidates tournament. However, Kramnik’s age comes with experience and Kramnik is a former World Champion – having defeated Garry Kasparov to gain the title in 2000.

Kramnik had a solid 2017. He tied for 2nd with Hikaru Nakamura in the Norway Chess tournament. He tied for 2nd in the Gashimov Memorial with Wesley So and Veselin Topalov. He tied for 3rd in the strong Isle of Man Open with several masters including fellow Candidates competitor Caruana. He also tied for 3rd with Mamedyarov in the 2017 Tata Steel tournament. He is currently the world’s 3rd highest ranked player with a rating of 2800.

Vladimir Kramnik is a master technician. Like most top players and especially a former World Champion, Kramnik is skilled in all phases of the game, but he is particularly astute in positional play and the endgame. His ability to exploit small mistakes by his opponent makes him a threat in any game. Although he’s the senior member of this year’s Candidates class, it would be a mistake for his younger competitors to write him off.

The game chosen to illustrate Kramnik’s strengths is this positional victory against fellow former World Champion Vishy Anand.

8. Sergey Karjarkin


Sergey Karjakin in 2013.

Russian GM Sergey Karjarkin is our final qualifier as a result of

being the runner-up to the 2016 World Championship match against Magnus Carlsen. He fought Carlsen to a tie in the main 12-game match before losing to the champion in the tiebreaker games.

In 2017, he had a quiet year in classical time control tournaments. However, he demonstrated that he is one of the world’s best speed chess players with victories in the Tal Memorial Blitz tournament – he also finished 2nd in the Tal Memorial Rapid section – and the St. Louis Rapid and Blitz tournament in August 2017. He also tied for 2nd in the 2017 World Blitz Championship – he won the 2016 tournament –  behind Magnus Carlsen. He is currently ranked 13th in the world with a 2763 rating.

GM Karjakin is one of the world’s greatest defenders. He is tenacious defending inferior positions and very comfortable in the endgame. Although he doesn’t win very often with his defensive style, he is also extremely difficult to beat. This style may be well suited for the Candidates, where he can allow his more aggressive opponents to overextend themselves and try to pick off a few wins while drawing most of his games.

The following game demonstrates Karjakin’s excellent technique against GM Anton Smirnov in the 2017 World Cup in Tbilisi. He leaves his opponent with doubled isolated pawns then simplifies into an endgame where he wins one of the isolated pawns and the game.

Many Questions

This year’s Candidates Tournament should be an interesting one. We have players of different styles – from aggressive attackers to endgame virtuosos. Among the Candidates we also have both young blood in Ding Liren, Fabiano Caruana, and Wesley So as well as the resourceful veteran in Vladimir Kramnik.

This tournament will not only test the players’ skills – of which they all have in abundance. It will test their preparation, their fighting spirit, and their endurance. Many questions remain as we enter the event:

Will Wesley So return to the form he showed in early 2017?

Will lightning strike twice for Sergey Karjakin?

Can Vladimir Kramnik show the chess world that he’s still a force to be reckoned with?

Can Levon Aronian build on his early 2018 success?

The answers to these questions and many more will be answered in the next few days. No matter what happens, we fans will be the winners as these great players provide us with beautiful chess games.

Check out Bryan’s FREE Candidates tournament tactics book here >

Kasparov on the Candidates and how to beat Magnus Carlsen

By Leon Watson / On / In Chess news, Features

Shortly before Christmas, Chessable had the pleasure of catching up with Garry Kasparov to talk about his work with the Chess In Schools and Communities charity, which helps get kids involved in this great game we play.

Kasparov, who we have a tactics training book on, dominated the world of chess for two decades and is, as everyone reading this will know, without doubt one of the greatest players ever.

But while we were fascinated by him, we also couldn’t stop ourselves from quizzing the former world champion, the “Beast of Baku”, about the current crop of super GMs and, in particular, the upcoming Candidates tournament which starts this week.

Chessable’s Leon Watson meets Garry Kasparov

It has been three months since that chat and tournaments such as the Tata Steel event in Wijk aan Zee have passed. But what Kasparov said was still very interesting.

We thought we would enlighten you on what the great man had to say:

On Magnus’s weaknesses

Kasparov was no doubt excited about the Candidates tournament in Berlin, but finding someone who can beat the reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen – another elite player we have a tactics training book on – is a tall order.

However, Carlsen does have some weaknesses, says Kasparov. But finding them is another matter…

We all have weaknesses, but they are for his opponents to discover. He is a very versatile player, he is probably a bit less confident with positions that are very, very complicated because he likes crystal clear positions and he plays perfectly.

But it would be a mistake to think that you can trick him by complicating things.

All his weaknesses are very relative compared to others because when you say ‘oh he is weak here’ what it means is he is not as perfect as he is in other positions.

But so far his style brings him victories because as I said it is very universal. Also you can see that he totally dominates rapid and blitz because the average score of his moves is phenomenally high.

So I would say that his strongest side is his phenomenal instincts – he just immediately sees the right square for a piece and how to put them together to create the best possible configuration.

On Magnus’s topsy-turvy 2017

On this Kasparov was clear – Carlsen was dominant in rapid and blitz, it was only classical where he showed weaknesses:

Yes, it’s been up and down but that’s in classical tournaments. The people expect him to win all the time, and that’s not easy because you can’t win all the time even if you are Magnus Carlsen.

Players who he faces in classical tournaments they have more time and the gap between him and them is much narrower, and there’s a lot of pressure.

I was there in Magnus’s shoes 20-25 years ago and it’s enormous pressure, it’s a psychological test. You enter a tournament, you face the best in the world, and people still expect you to win because they think if you are world champion you must win anyway.

So that’s why Magnus goes back and forth. He did win the very strong Isle of Man, remember.

Will any of them beat Magnus?

No, in short. Kasparov does not believe any of the Candidates fighting it out to face the world champion really stand a chance. Carlsen is just too strong:

I guess he can hardly imagine he will be in great danger in 2018 in the world championship match.

There was the 2016 match with Karjakin which he had to take very seriously, but I don’t think it will be like that.

There’s getting through and there’s putting him in danger. I don’t think he is in real in great danger from any of the potential candidates judging from the current results and quality of play, it seems Aronian is a favourite.

On Aronians nerves

Yes, the Armenian is bang in form and one of the favourites. But can he keep it together?

The problem with Aronian, well, we all know that he was a favourite many times before and he has to make sure at the critical moment he will not blow it up.

So Aronian’s nerves at the Candidates tournaments have always failed him.

So I don’t know. I would say Aronian has a very good chance, but it’s a very, very level field so we can expect almost any result.

On Kramnik

Any result that is, apart from Vladimir Kramnik winning. The Russian, of course, is an old campaigner who Kasparov faced many times.

I would be surprised if Kramnik does well. He is probably too old, and this is his swansong.

He will have a good time but I don’t see him as one of the real contenders just because the rest of the field is much younger.

On Ding

The newcomer, the dark horse. Does he have a chance?

Looking at this field of contender I would also be surprised if Ding, the Chinese, does well.

He’s a newcomer and it will be very difficult to compensate for lack of experience playing at that level.

And the rest…

And then the rest of the players it will be tight and probably a plus three score could be clean first.

That means that anybody who has a good day so that’s why I would say it is a highly-unpredictable event.

I would not be surprised by almost any result. Except of course Kramnik and Ding – I would be very surprised if one of them wins.

Check out our Tactics Training: Garry Kasparov book here to learn to play like the great man:

John Bartholomew tops group but narrowly misses out on second GM norm

By Leon Watson / On / In Chess news, Chessable news

He almost did it – but Chessable’s own John Bartholomew fell just short of winning a hard-fought second GM norm today.

The Scandi king put in a phenomenal performance on the final day of the Charlotte Chess Center’s GM/IM Norm Invitational tournament to top his group above three GMs and the much talked about Indian super talent Ramesh Praggnanandhaa.

But when his final game ended in a hard-fought draw, he just missed out on the norm.

John Bartholomew at a chess club
John Bartholomew at a chess club

Unlucky John, it’s only a matter of time!

Going into rounds 8 and 9, John was out in front on 5/7 needing to hit the 6.5 mark to pick up the norm.

In round 8 John faced 2430-rated IM Denis Schmeliov, and picked up a vital half-point with this quick 24-move draw in the Slav Defense, covered in his 1.d4 Repertoire for White:

That left John with everything to do in the final round – an all-or-nothing win with black was needed against the teenage IM David Brodsky (2405), a player he hadn’t faced in classical chess before.

Going into it he tweeted:

So #finittiwinit it was and John received a host of replies urging him on. Among those wishing him good luck were the Ginger GM Simon Williams:

The English IM Lawrence Trent also pitched in along with the host of the Perpetual Chess podcast, Ben Johnson, and yours truly.

Here’s how the game went:

Afterwards, John tweeted:

John has been made to wait for his second norm. He picked up his first GM norm in December 2013 at the Saint Louis Classic so when it does happen we expect he’ll be very pleased.

The final results table from the Charlotte Chess Center event
The final results table from the Charlotte Chess Center event

John, of course, is co-founder of this chess training site and an avid user. The Minnesota master has also authored several chess opening books here including his hugely popular 1.d4 Repertoire for White and his IM John Bartholomew’s Scandinavian opening trainer. The title for that may have to change soon, we hope.

All that remains to be said is another well done to John for getting so close – you’re an inspiration to so many chess players here and we’re proud of you.

Now go and get that norm… make it GM John!

John Bartholomew’s win over Indian wonderkid Praggnanandhaa

By Leon Watson / On / In Chess news

We don’t want to get you too excited, and we don’t want to pile too much pressure on John Bartholomew to get his next norm.

But we thought you’d like to know Chessable’s resident IM has beaten the 12-year-old Indian super talent Ramesh Praggnanandhaa at the GM Norm Invitational in Charlotte.

Praggu, as he is known, is of course the wonderkid everyone is talking about who is launching an assault on Sergey Karjakin’s long-standing record for being the youngest ever grandmaster.

John Bartholomew in action. At the weekend he beat Praggnanandhaa
John Bartholomew in action. At the weekend he beat Praggnanandhaa

Against John though, he came unstuck. Playing white, John essayed a nice win out of the Zurich Variation of the Nimzo-Indian. This opening is covered in IM John Bartholomew’s 1.d4 Repertoire for White chess opening trainer, but Praggu played an early move order shuffle with 3… Nc6 and then departed entirely with 11… a5.

John took full advantage, pressing him with solid positional play before Praggu blundered then wilted in the endgame. It was another impressive win for John at the tournament.

John now needs 6.5/9 to secure his second GM norm. Praggu, unfortunately, is now out of the running for a norm in this tournament, but has the Gibraltar Masters to look forward to.

Here is the game:

After the game, John said: “I’m very happy with this game, I think it was my best game of the tournament. A pretty smooth, strategic win.

“Every game is tough, you can’t expect to enter a tournament like this and beat up on anyone really… I’ll do my best with my remaining games here.

“It’s just cool to play a guy like Praggnanandhaa, he’s a fantastic player and 12 years old just to see the focus he has is incredible. I think this time next year he could be 2600.”

John is currently leading the pack in Charlotte with 5/7, and needs 1.5 from his remaining two games today. But he has two tough games – against GM Denis Schmeliov (2420) and in the afternoon IM David Brodsky (2405).

If you want to cheer him on, the Charlotte page is here.

And if you haven’t already, check out John Bartholomew’s 1.d4 Repertoire for White – we think it is one of the best chess books on this site – it is rated 5-stars by our users, and it is free.

Praggu’s race to be youngest ever chess Grandmaster

By Leon Watson / On / In Chess news

While Chessable’s own John Bartholomew is continuing his quest to get the Grandmaster title, time is running out for another International Master hoping to secure what would be an even more incredible achievement.

On January 10 Indian super talent Ramesh Praggnanandhaa, or Praggu as he is known, was exactly 12 years and five months old, meaning he has just two months left to write himself into chess history.

The boy from Chennai is in the final straight of his race against the clock to become the world’s youngest-ever Grandmaster, a feat that would put him in an exclusive club of chess greats who’ve held the record.

Ramesh Praggnanandhaa at the London Chess Classic. Photo by LENNART OOTES
Ramesh Praggnanandhaa at the London Chess Classic. Photo by LENNART OOTES

If he does it, it will be some feat. The most famous member of the youngest club is of course the American genius Bobby Fischer who became the world’s youngest Grandmaster at 15.

Yet that achievement that now looks rather paltry compared to Sergey Karjakin‘s long-standing current record of 12 years and seven months.

If – and it is a big if – Praggu breaks the Russian’s mark, predictions that he will one day emulate his hero Vishy Anand and become world champion will start looking very serious indeed. The big guns will really start looking over their shoulders.

Norway’s reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen, for example, only achieved it at a relatively late-to-the-party 13 years four months.

Right now Praggu has one GM norm (a high level of performance in an elite chess tournament) and needs two more to qualify for the title, and it has to happen before March 10. That is a very tall order.

His next tournament, the Winter 2018 CCCSA GM/IM Norm Invitational in Charlotte will take place between January 11 and 15, where he is expected to face a certain John Bartholomew, IM. It may be that our own Scandi master has a part to play in this.

He’s not norm-al!

In his last norm attempt at the Rilton Cup in Stockholm, Sweden, Praggu had a torrid time. But afterwards he was typically sanguine about his chances.

“I am not thinking about it,” he told Norwegian channel NRK Sport this week. “It’s fun to play some good chess. But if I can achieve it, I will be very happy.”

Don’t be fooled by that though – Praggu clearly wants it.

Praggu is gunning for his final two Grandmaster norms. Photo by LENNART OOTES
Praggu is gunning for his final two Grandmaster norms. Photo by LENNART OOTES

After starting out at the Rilton with two wins, Praggu’s attempt to bag a second GM norm ended in round 8 of 9. He finished the tournament with a performance rating of just 2485 – way below what he needed.

In a large part that was due to a final round loss to the English International Master David “Eggy” Eggleston after the chance of a norm had gone, but it has led to doubts over whether the youngster will manage it.

Before Christmas Praggu fell agonisingly short of snatching the record outright at the World Junior Championship in Tarvisio, Italy.

In the final round he had the chance to win the tournament, which is unique in that it carries an automatic GM title for the winner, but ended up finishing fourth (joint second).

It followed a similar close but no cigar performances at the Isle of Man International in September and before that the HZ Tournament in August.

However at the Isle of Man he did play this brilliant 18-move miniature against one of the best players in South America, a 2645 GM from Paraguay:

The other wonderkids

Praggu, who is sponsored by an Indian property entrepreneur, has not been the only wonderkid in the running to beat Karjakin’s 2002 record. But now he is the only realistic chance right now who’s still standing.

Praggu’s international compatriot Nihal Sarin, now 13, and Nodirbek Abdusattorov of Uzbekistan both battled hard to get there.

Grandmaster hopeful Praggu with his mother. Photo by LENNART OOTES
Grandmaster hopeful Praggu with his mother. Photo by LENNART OOTES

Abdusattorov, who is nine months older, had long been considered a potential record-breaker after he beat two GMs in a tournament aged just nine.

But time ran out on him in July leaving the younger Praggnanandhaa in pole position.

Praggu, meanwhile, hit the 2500 rating requirement on his birthday in August at the HZ Tournament in the Netherlands, but just missed out on a first norm when he lost in the last round.

Disappointment then followed again at the Isle of Man International tournament where he missed another chance to secure the required norm.

Next up is the Charlotte event. And then Praggu is targeting the Tradewise Masters, a 10-round open tournament in Gibraltar that starts on January 21.

Gibraltar has a stellar field that includes Armenia’s in-form Levon Aronian, the US blitz king Hikaru Nakamura and the French number one Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

And after that he will have to find another high-level tournament to enter – and do it fast.

After all, time waits for no man – or boy.

Learn chess tactics: for beginners and beyond!

By David Kramaley / On / In Chess news, Chessable news, Features, Learning chess

Today we’ve reached another milestone. You can now learn chess tactics for beginners (and beyond) right here on Chessable. We’ve taken the classic puzzle book, 1001 Chess Exercises for Beginners, by New in Chess, and made it fully interactive! Ever wanted to apply the Woodpecker method to an excellent tactics book? Well, here is your chance.

There are plenty of chess tactics training resources out there, so why another one? Here are three good reasons. Every tactics trainer that I know of has lacked at least in one of these categories:

We wanted to offer guided tactics courses with puzzles of the highest quality
We don’t want you to study any randomised tactic set. We are working with some of the most highly regarded chess trainers and authors out there. In this manner, we can bring you some of the best-curated tactics compilations that exist. The author’s teaching experience shines through, maximising instructional value.

We wanted for tactic solving to be all about learning and nothing else
Many of the existing tactics trainers constantly remind you of your changing rating (or unchanging!). In others, you are stuck with a very fast timer. It shows you how much faster others are than you. Having carefully studied the psychology of learning, I assure you none of these things are optimal or conducive to good learning. We want you to be free to take as much time as you need and we won’t give you a tactics rating. Instead, you should care about solving for accuracy, ultimately increasing the number of tactical patterns you know.

We wanted to take advantage of spaced repetition, and the Woodpecker method
In his award-winning book, GM Axel Smith credits the “Woodpecker method” for a large part of his quick improvement.  In a nutshell, it involves selecting a set of chess tactics exercises, and once you have solved them all, to repeat them many times. This is a good strategy, but inefficient. With Chessable’s spaced repetition, you will go over the same set of exercises as many times as you need (the Woodpecker method). However, we will show you the ones you know really well, less often, and slowly phase them out. The ones you struggle with? We’ll give you a nudge!

For those reasons and more, we are super excited to have 1001 Chess Exercises for Beginners on Chessable. Of course, there will be more exciting books to come! So for the new year, let us know what you’d like to see. Do you want to learn more chess tactics? Or would you prefer more opening books? Send us a tweet or an e-mail and let us know. Happy holidays, and enjoy your chess learning.

Do you want to learn chess tactics, chess openings, something else? Let us know!Click To Tweet

The Grand Prix: Everything you need to know about Fide’s flagship event and why it’s so controversial

By Leon Watson / On / In Chess news

Fide’s big event, the Grand Prix, is back for another round starting today in Moscow. Here are all the details and main talking points.

What is it?

The Grand Prix is a series of four elite-level tournaments taking place from February to November. It is organised by Fide, or more specifically Fide’s commercial arm Agon/World Chess.

The first round took place at the impressive 4000 sq ft Sharjah Chess & Culture Club, which claims to be the biggest chess club in the world.

It was won by Alexander Grischuk on tiebreaks after a three-way tie with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

French number one MVL in action at Sharjah
French number one MVL in action at Sharjah

The second will be between May 12 and 24 in Moscow’s Telegraph building, which is just a few hundred meters from the Kremlin.

Dates or venues have not been announced yet for the next two rounds scheduled for Geneva in July and Palma de Mallorca in November.

Why is it important?

Put simply, Fide has made the Grand Prix an essential part of the World Chess Championship cycle.

Win one of the two spots available, and you secure a place in the Candidates tournament scheduled for March 2018.

Win that and you will get a crack at Magnus Carlsen. However, that is a long and arduous journey.

Who’s in it?

There’s an 18-player line-up of elite grandmasters taking part, with each playing three of the four events which are run as a nine round Swiss contest.

The field at Moscow is headed by MVL and Hikaru Nakamura while Mamedyarov, Grischuk and Michael Adams, the English number one, return.

Grischuk picking up his prize
Grischuk picking up his prize

Anish Giri has been back in form recently and takes his place while the cricket-loving Russian Peter Svidler and Boris Gelfand, the oldest in the field at 48, also make up the numbers.

Hou Yifan, the world’s leading female player, is also competing.

Players qualify to the Grand Prix series by rating or by being nominated by World Chess by Agon Ltd, with one addition coming from the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP) or Fide.

Who’s going to win it?

That is absolutely impossible to say. However, for players like Nakamura, MVL and Mamedyarov the Grand Prix may offer the best chance they have to get to the Candidates next March so they might have that extra push.

Grischuk eventually came out top in Sharjah and will be dangerous.

What is the prize money?

This is a touchy subject.

World Chess have offered up prizes purses of 130,000 euros per Grand Prix, or 520,000 euros for the total Grand Prix series.

Sergey Karjakin at the launch of the Moscow Grand Prix, with Fide president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
Sergey Karjakin at the launch of the Moscow Grand Prix, with Fide president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

However, the prize for first place is “only” 20,000 euros and given the long, drawn-out nature of the event that has put off some of the top players.

As a result the Super GMs weren’t exactly falling over themselves to enter.

So, who’s missing?

Well, Magnus Carlsen obviously. He has no reason to enter given the main motivation for most grandmasters is the chance to enter the Candidates tournament which is the final play-off before the World Championship match.

But apart from that there’s a whole host of stars who aren’t there for various reasons.

Hikaru Nakamura will be gunning for glory at the Grand Prix
Hikaru Nakamura will be gunning for glory at the Grand Prix

Out of the top 10 Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik, Fabiano Caruana, Vishy Anand and Sergey Karjakin won’t be at Moscow.

More noticeably there will be no Wesley So, the current world number two. He is focusing his energies on the rival Grand Chess Tour.

Also missing is the combustible Bulgarian Veselin Topalov.

The former world champion, who dropped out of the world’s top 20 at the end of last year, wrote a piece on his website saying he was refusing his invitation because of the “unfavourable conditions” offered to grandmasters.

By that we can assume he meant the prize money.

World Chess responded by saying it was “a shame that Mr Topalov chose not to take part”.

What do Fide say about it?

They say it’s incredibly important, as you would expect.

At the launch of the Moscow event Ilya Merenzon, the chief executive of World Chess, made some pretty big claims.

Ilya Merenzon, the chief executive of World Chess
Ilya Merenzon, the chief executive of World Chess

He said: “The eyes of the chess world will be on Moscow once more. We are expecting thousands of spectators at the venue and millions more will watch every move at

In the build up to the Moscow event, Georgious Makropoulos, acting president of FIDE, said: “With so many top players in the line-up, the Moscow Grand Prix will undoubtedly feature some classic match-ups for chess fans around the world.”

What does everyone else say about it?

They say the prize fund is paltry, and doesn’t provide enough motivation for the top GMs.

The high number of bore draws has also led to criticism.

Malcolm Pein, for example, said in his Telegraph column that Sharjah was “one of the dullest events in recent memory”.

Topalov, who never wastes an opportunity to criticise Fide, said the game’s governing body is “failing to summon top players”.

Another ageing legend not shy of sticking the knife into Fide is English GM Nigel Short.

After claiming Fide was selling places on the Grand Prix for $100,000 a spot, Short said the process has been “utterly prostituted”.

It is fair to say the Fide Grand Prix is splitting opinion at the moment.