The London Chess Classic has become a major fixture on the chess calendar and the line-up for this year’s tournament which starts on December 4  has just been announced – and what a line-up!

Magnus Carlsen 2853 (world ranking 1), Viswanathan Anand 2816 (2), Veselin Topalov 2816 (3), Hikaru Nakamura 2814 (4), Fabiano Caruana 2808 (5),  Anish Giri 2793 (6), Alexander Grischuk 2771 (9), Levon Aronian 2765 (11), Michael Adams 2740 (18), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2731 (24).

This gives it an average rating of 2791, a category 22 tournament and only nine points off category 23. With seven of the world’s top ten competing – alas no place for Wei Yi – it will be one of the strongest chess tournaments ever played in this country and, indeed, the world. The London Chess Classic is one of three ‘super’ tournaments that make up the Grand Chess Tour, the others being the Norway Chess Tournament played in June and the Sinquefield Cup in St Louis which begins on August 22 – no world top ten players at this year’s Thanet Congress then.   The 2015 Sinquefield Cup has an average rating of 2799.6 so depending on what stage its category is announced, it could be a category 23 tournament which probably makes it the strongest ever.

But how can we compare modern tournaments with those of the distant past when ELO ratings were only introduced in 1970?  If you Google ‘strongest chess tournaments’ you get any number of suggestions, not least the Sinquefield Cup of 2014 but if we want to compare it with tournaments of the early 20th and even late 19th century then we need to devise an alternative measure. An excellent article originally published in Chess Base in 2009 suggests that a simpler way to measure the strength of a tournament is to give points to the number of top ten players in the world taking part. With four points for the top two, three for numbers three and four, two for five and six, and one for seven to ten, that gives the London Chess Classic a total of twenty.  According to the article, this puts it on a par with the strongest tournaments ever played, including the AVRO tournament of 1938, often quoted as the best ever, including in its line-up Alekhine, Capablanca, Botwinnik and Euwe i.e. the then world champion and all his nearest challengers. The tournament was won by Paul Keres, considered by many to be the strongest player never to be world champion.   For more information on the article click here.

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