Four of the biggest names in chess have been added to the line-up for the inaugural Global Chess League (GCL), yet another stellar event added to the crowded chess calendar.
New World Champion GM Ding Liren will face his predecessor and world number-one GM Magnus Carlsen, plus India’s five-time World Champion GM Viswanathan Anand and the world’s top-ranked female player, GM Hou Yifan, in the new event starting next month.
Unsurprisingly, there will be a wealth of Indian talent on show. Anand will be joined by Gukesh D, Arjun Erigaisi, Vidit Gujrathi, Praggnanandhaa, Nihal Sarin, Raunak Sadhwani, Humpy Koneru, and Harika Dronavalli.
The inaugural edition of Tech Mahindra Global Chess League will make history, featuring numerous chess icons, including World Champion Ding Liren, World #1 and five-time World Champion Magnus Carlsen, five-time World Champion Viswanathan Anand and four-time Women’s World Champion… pic.twitter.com/hqvM0xSfSI
— International Chess Federation (@FIDE_chess) May 23, 2023
Among the other top names are GMs Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Leinier Domínguez, Alexander Grischuk, Teimour Radjabov, Yi Wei and Yu Yangyi of China, Ding’s world championship second Richard Rapport, Kirill Shevchenko, Salem Salah, and Daniil Dubov. The list goes on.
The GCL is a joint venture between FIDE, the game’s world governing body, and Indian IT services giant Tech Mahindra. It will be held in Dubai from June 21 to July 2 in association with the Dubai Sports Council.
Carlsen said: “Global Chess League will be a great new event in over-the-board chess that has never been done before. I am excited to be a part of this unique mixed-team format.
“Chess is played by many people worldwide, but it needs to catch up to other major sports as a spectator sport, and I am optimistic that GCL will contribute significantly to this. I look forward to meeting the team, competing against India’s exciting new generation of players, and enjoying the league’s team spirit.”
The league will feature a “one-of-a-kind” joint team format, with each team consisting of six players, including a minimum of two women per team.
FIDE has billed the GCL as “the world’s first and largest official franchise chess league”—although the already well-established Pro Chess League could challenge the veracity of that claim.
Indeed, the GCL joins an already packed calendar of upcoming rapid events in 2023, which includes three more Champions Chess Tour tournaments and the Tour Finals.
The final takes place a day before Carlsen, Anand, and Duda are expected to arrive in Zagreb for another elite event, the Grand Chess Tour’s Super United Rapid & Blitz Croatia. The closing ceremony for the Zagreb tournament takes place on July 9, and then the next day the as-yet-unnamed fourth stage of the 2023 Champions Chess Tour gets underway.
The GCL also claims to be “the first-ever live televised chess event of its kind that will offer fans a unique viewing experience, and it aims to take the game to fans worldwide.”
Anand, the five-time world champion and India’s top-ranked player for three decades, said: “The Global Chess League is an incredible opportunity for the entire chess ecosystem, and I am honored to be a part of the new chess revolution. I am looking forward to competing against the best in the world.”
Hou added: “Global Chess League has already sparked widespread interest, and it is amazing to witness such fervor for the game of chess. I am grateful to Tech Mahindra and FIDE for inviting me to participate in the league’s inaugural season, and I cannot wait for the season to begin.
“GCL, with its unique joint format of men and women players on the same team, is certain to take the game in new directions and open doors that have never been explored before. Chess fans all over the world are in for a treat.”
Six franchises will compete in the GCL. The format will be a double round-robin, with each team playing a total of 10 matches. The winner of each match will be determined using a best-of-six board scoring system played simultaneously. The top two teams will advance to the final on July 2, where they will compete for the title of World Champion Franchise Team.
FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich said: “We are thrilled to welcome Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand, and Hou Yifan to the Tech Mahindra Global Chess League.”
The GCL’s chairperson Jagdish Mitra said: “We are honored to have Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand, and Hou Yifan as part of the GCL family.
“All three are the greatest players in the long history of chess, and with them on board, GCL only adds another feather to its cap in becoming a true game changer for the chess ecosystem by introducing a mixed-team format in chess in which men and women players will play on the same team.
“This is a true testament to our belief in providing equal opportunities to all, regardless of gender. We are certain that the league will drive and inspire a new generation of players to be interested in the growing chess community.”
The league has also promised to “explore innovative ways to promote the game through interactive technology-enabled platforms by leveraging next-generation technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality, among others.”