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Viswanathan Anand at the Global Chess League press conference in Dubai last month. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: The battle lines have been drawn for the inaugural Global Chess League (GCL) after the draft of players for the six-team event was held in Mumbai. The highly anticipated tournament is scheduled to take place from June 21 to July 2 at the Dubai Chess and Culture Club, in association with the Dubai Sports Council.

A joint venture between Tech Mahindra and Fide, the GCL has captured the attention of chess enthusiasts worldwide, with renowned players like Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand, Ding Liren, and Hou Yifan leading the pack. The draft witnessed the selection of 36 of the world’s best chess players, days after the league confirmed the identity of the six franchise owners and the team names. The players were divided into four categories: ICONS, Superstars Men, Superstars Women, and Prodigies.

They are: Ganges Grandmasters owned by Suresh Kotak led-Insurekot Sports (ISPL), Triveni Continental Kings owned by Triveni Group, SG Alpine Warriors owned by APL Apollo-led SG Sports, Chingari Gulf Titans owned by Chingari App (Tech4Billion Group), upGrad Mumba Masters owned by Ronnie Screwvala led-U SPORTS, and Balan Alaskan Knights owned by Punit Balan Group (PBG).

1,000 points each

Each team was allocated a total of 1,000 points to be used while choosing players from categories two, three and four, barring the icons. The icon players were selected based on a preferential draft system.

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Magnus Carlsen, the five-time World Chess Champion and the top-ranked player in the world was selected by SG Alpine Warriors. Image Credit: Twitter

Magnus Carlsen, the five-time World Chess Champion and the top-ranked player in the world was selected by SG Alpine Warriors. A five-time World Chess Champion, Viswanathan Anand, joined the Ganges Grandmasters. The current World Champion, Ding Liren was drafted by Triveni Continental Kings. Other notable selections included Grandmaster Jan-Krzysztof Duda by Chingari Gulf Titans and Grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi by Balan Alaskan Knights. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave joined upGrad Mumba Masters as their icon player.

Each franchise picked up the mandatory quota of two male players in their squad. In this category, the maximum points 350 were used to acquire Grandmaster Nodirbek Abdusattorov to the Balan Alaskan Knights.

Superstar Women

Next up were the Superstar Women and all the franchises went all out to garner the services of Hou Yifan. The world’s top-ranked women Grandmaster attracted the highest points’ bid in the first edition’s draft across both Superstar Men & Women categories. Ganges Grandmasters picked her for 470 points.

Yifan said: “I am happy to know that I was the highest-bid player among the three categories. I am looking forward to being on the same team as Viswanathan Anand and also to have the likes of Richárd Rapport, Leinier Domínguez, Bella Khotenashvili, and Andrey Esipenko on our team. With the draft concluding, we are up for an exciting contest in Dubai.”

upGrad Mumba Masters picked up the Indian pair of Koneru Humpy and Harika Dronavalli at 360 and 330 points, respectively. Grandmasters Alexandra Kosteniuk & Polina Shuvalova were drafted into Chingari Gulf Titans. Triveni Continental Kings picked up Grandmasters Kateryna Lagno and Georgian Nana Dzagnidze. Balan Alaskan Knights got their preferred picks in Tan Zhongyi and Nino Batsiashvili. SG Alpine Warriors added Elisabeth Pähtz and Irina Krush from the Superstar Women category.

Prodigy category

The last category in the draft was the prodigy category, each franchise picked up 1 each. Praggnanandhaa R became the highest-bid player among the U21 category, won by SG Alpine Warriors at 290 points. Nihal Sarin went to Chingari Gulf Titans. Andrey Esipenko went to Ganges Grandmasters in a lucky draw after receiving an equal point bid by Triveni Continental Kings, who got Jonas Buhl Bjerre eventually.

“From being on opposite sides of the table with most players to being on the same team, I am excited to meet my teammates and see how we can make the most of this experience and apply it to future competitions,” said Praggnanandhaa.

To ensure the smooth progress of the tournament, there are 3 Chess players who have been chosen as reserve players who will be assigned to the particular team in case, due to any unforeseen circumstances, the current squad member/s cannot participate.

Best-of-six board scoring system

The six teams will engage in a double round-robin format, playing a total of 10 matches. The matches will be decided using a best-of-six board scoring system, played simultaneously, adding an extra layer of excitement to the tournament. The top two teams will advance to the final on July 2, where the coveted title of World Champion Franchise Team will be awarded.

TEAMS (Icon, Superstar Men (2), Superstar Women (2), Prodigy):

Balan Alaskan Knights: Ian Nepomniachtchi, Teimour Radjabov, Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Tan Zhongyi, Nino Batsiashvili, Raunak Sadhwani.

Chingari Gulf Titans: Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Daniil Dubov, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Polina Shuvalova, Nihal Sarin.

Ganges Grandmasters: Viswanathan Anand, Richárd Rapport, Leinier Domínguez Pérez, Hou Yifan, Bella Khotenashvili, Andrey Esipenko.

SG Alpine Warriors: Magnus Carlsen, Gukesh D, Arjun Erigaisi, Elisabeth Pähtz, Irina Krush, Praggnanandhaa R.

upGrad Mumba Masters: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Vidit Gujrathi, Alexander Grischuk, Koneru Humpy, Harika Dronavalli, Javokhir Sindarov.

Triveni Continental Kings: Ding Liren, Wei Yi, Yu Yangyi, Kateryna Lagno, Nana Dzagnidze, Jonas Buhl Bjerre.