World Chess Elite in Bilbao 2014

ECCC Bilbao 2014The 30th European Club Cup and the 7th Masters Final will be held simultaneously in Bilbao, turning the city into the world capital of chess thanks to the number of participants as well as their very high level. Amongst them are 9 of the 10 world top grandmasters and most of the world’s top 50 chess players.

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Participating in these two events in Bilbao will be Caruana (world #2), Aronian (#3), Grischuk (#4), Topalov (#5), Anand (#6), Karjakin (#7), Nakamura (#8), Vachier-Lagrave (#9), and Mamedyarov (#10).

The only Top 10 player missing will be world #1 and current World Champion Magnus Carlsen (also twice winner of the Masters Final), who refused to play this year in order to prepare well for the World Championship rematch against Anand.

Bilbao mayor Ibon Areso chaired today the official launch event of Bilbao Chess 2014 (the name that comprises the two chess events) and welcomed a delegation of participants of both the Masters Final and the European Club Cup.

The four contenders of the Masters Final were present — five-times World Champion Viswanathan Anand from India, the youngest World Champion in chess history Ruslan Ponomariov from Ukraine, double Olympic champion Levon Aronian from Armenia, and the best Spanish player of the last decade, Paco Vallejo.

Representing the teams that will compete in the European Club Cup, both in the overall and in the women’s categories, were the first boards of Basque clubs Sestao and Gros, David Anton and Santi Gonzalez de la Torre, as well as Harikrishna, playing for the European cup-holder G-Team Novy Bor from the Czech Republic, and Alisa Galiamova, playing for the Russian women’s team Ladya Kazan. FEDA, Javier Ochoa de Echagüen, completed the list of institutional representatives.

Simultaneously with the Masters Final 2014, the European Club Cup (overall and women’s) will bring together about 400 players of the world chess elite playing for clubs from European federations between 14 and 20 September. The venue for both events will be the Euskalduna Congress Centre, and they will be free of charge for all visitors. The games will start at 15.00 every day.

The opening ceremony of Bilbao Chess 2014 will take place tomorrow Saturday 13th September at 19.30 at the Euskalduna Congress Centre for all European sports delegations attending the event.

After one part of the World Basketball Championship was held in Bilbao, chess will now take over the international promotion of the city, with an event that will gather during eight days an estimated one thousand visitors (including players, institutional charges, and chess fans) coming from multiple European countries.

The clubs participating in the so-called Champions League of European chess come from the following federations: Germany, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Belarus, Denmark, Scotland, Slovakia, Spain, Finland, France, Wales, Georgia, the Netherlands, England, Iceland, Israel, Ireland, Italy, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Macedonia, Monaco, Norway, Russia, Serbia, Sweden, and Switzerland.

These teams classified according to their ranking in each federation, and among them in the overall tournament are the two best Basque clubs, Sestao from Bizkaia and Gros Xake Taldea from Gipuzkoa, champion and runner-up of the Spanish club Cup 2013 respectively. The other two Spanish clubs are Solvay from Cantabria, and from Catalonia.

The current European champion, G-Team Novy Bor, from the Czech Republic, together with Socar from Azerbaijan and Malakhite from Russia (second and third in last year’s European Club Cup in Greece), and the Italian Obiettivo Risarcimento, are the four favorites.

The Italian club features three world top-ten players: Fabiano Caruana from Italy, Hikaru Nakamura from the US, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave from France, all of whom have participated in previous editions of the Masters Final, as well as Veselin Topalov from Bulgaria, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov from Azerbaijan, and Michael Adams from the UK, who play for the strong Socar, from Azerbaijan. Sergey Karjakin and Alexander Grischuk (world #4) from Russia lead the strongest Russian team, Malakhite.

Participating in the women’s championship will be the best woman chess player in the world, Yifan Hou from China, who at 21 is on her way to being recognized as the best woman chess player in history, taking up the baton from recently-retired Judith Polgar from Hungary, who was once amongst the overall world top-ten rated players. This young talent from China will play for Cercle D’Echecs from Montecarlo, the current women European Champion and favorite of this edition, together with the Russian club Ladya Kazan.

Spain will be mainly represented by Basque clubs Sestao and Gros, champion and runner-up of the Spanish Club Cup 2013 respectively. Playing on the first board of the club from Bizkaia is David Anton, an 18-year-old grandmaster who, at such a young age, is already runner-up of the European Championship and of the U18 World Championship. Playing for Gros from Donostia is Santiago Gonzalez de la Torre, the best Basque player of the last few years.

These European stars will be joined from 14 to 20 September at Euskalduna Barria by the four contenders of the 7th Grand Slam Masters Final — the two World Champions Viswanathan Anand and Ruslan Ponomariov, twice Olympic gold medalist Levon Aronian, and the best Spanish player Paco Vallejo.

This year’s favorites are last year’s winner (and also winner in 2009) Levon Aronian from Armenia, and five-times World Champion Viswanathan Anand from India, who lost his World title to Magnus Carlsen in 2013 and will face him again for the World rematch in November after winning the Candidates Tournament last March.

Their rivals are the best Spanish player of the last decade, Francisco Vallejo from Mallorca, who relaunched his career in 2014 with his brilliant performance in the Olympiad and his recent victory at the Spanish Championship, and Ruslan Ponomariov from Ukraine, who in 2002 became the youngest World Champion in history at 18 years of age after defeating his countryman Vassily Ivanchuk.

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