MOST experts don`t expect Wesley So to continue his unprecedented no loss performance in 60 games against elite players this year although former world champion Vishy Anand described his performance so far as “effortless”.
After winning Tata Steel last January, the next elite event is the US Chess Championship, which also features Fabiano Caruana, Ranked No. 3 in the world, and Hikaru Nakamura, who has won the US Championships four times and recently won the prestigious Tradewise Gibraltar Open for the third time. Wesley is now ranked No.2 in the world. Another exciting contender is young talent GM Jeffery Xiong who, in 2016, became the first US player to win the World Junior Championship in almost two decades.
They will compete in St. Louis, Missouri starting this month March 28 through April 10. Average rating of all the 12 participants is 2727.
After that, his next elite events are the first leg of the Grand Chess Tour starting June 18-26 in Paris and the second leg in Leuven, Belgium from June 27-July 3. Both of these events are in Rapid and Blitz formats.
Both Paris and Leuven will have a prize fund of $150,000. In addition to these two events, the Tour will have not one but two events in St. Louis this year, Classical and Rapid. The final Classical will be in London on December. The Classical events will have a prize fund of $300,000.
The Leuven leg is exceptional. It is considered the strongest tournament in the history of chess ! with the top 10 players at the moment competing: World Champion Magnus Carlsen, former World Champions Viswanathan Anand, Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov, as well as Fabiano Caruana, Anish Giri, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Hikaru Nakamura, Aronian Levon and Wesley So. Five are rated over 2800.
The Classical event in St.Louis will start July 31-August 12 followed by the Rapid from August 13 to August 20.
The fixed 6 players on the tour are Wesley So (winner, 2016 GCT); Hikaru Nakamura, (runner-Up, 2016 GCT); Fabiano Caruana, (3rd place, 2016 GCT); Magnus Carlsen, (world champion and 1st slot, 2016 average Rating); Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (3rd slot, 2016 average Rating); and Levon Aronian, 1st alternate.
The wild cards are Sergey Karjakin, Ian Nepomniachti, Viswanathan Anand, Alexander Grischuk, Shakriyar Mamedyarov and Veselin Topalov.
The organizers of the Grand Chess Tour stated that wildcards have been selected using two criteria: the players URS standings (the GCT's own "Universal Rating System"),as well as their recent exceptional performances.