Paco Vallejo, the Spanish under 18 ex-world champion, (20th in the overall world rankings since July 1st) has accepted the invitation to the IV Grand Slam Masters Final, which will take place in Sao Paulo from September 25th to October 1st and in Bilbao from October 5th to 11th.
Vallejo will face five of the seven best players in the world in a double round-robin.
The world champion Viswanathan Anand of India and the world number one Magnus Carlsen of Norway will be joined by the world number three and winner of the 2009 championship Levon Aronian of Armenia, and two other members of the super elite: Hikaru Nakamura of the USA (the world number 6) and Vasili Ivanchuk of the Ukraine (number 7).
All of them will accompany Vallejo in Ibirapuera Park in the center of the Brazilian mega-city and in the Alhóndiga in Bilbao. In both places the tournament will be played in the revolutionary sound-proof and air-conditioned glass venue that was inaugurated in the 2008 Masters Final.
After various days of negotiating, Vallejo reached an agreement with his German club, Baden-Baden, to be released from the commitment to play the European Cup which is scheduled to be played at the same time. This will enable him to participate in the most difficult tournament of the year.
The Spaniard, from the island of Menorca, will take the place of Russia’s Sergei Karjarkin. The Russian had gained his place in the tournament with his second placing in the Bazna Tournament in Romania.
However, he later told the organization that he was unable to accept the invitation to play due to “an excess of tournaments and training sessions”. This rejection caused a serious problem for the organizers given the proximity of the start of the tournament.
Andoni Madariaga, the Grand Slam General Secretary, explains the substitution process as follows:
“Vallejo is, without doubt, a very attractive option, and we have been very lucky that he was able to accept, because the five other players in the top ten have unavoidable professional or personal commitments for those dates. Paco is the top Spanish speaking player in the world rankings. His style is very creative and he has a lot of experience against the big stars. On top of that he was negatively affected by the cancellation of the Linares tournament due to the economic crisis.”
The other substitution has been that of the 2010 winner, the Russian Vladimir Kramnik, by Ivanchuk. The presence of Carlsen is due to his triumphs in the Nankin (China) and Bazna (Romania) tournaments. Anand, current world champion, was second in both the Tata de Wijk aan Zee (Holland) and Nankin tournaments. Nakamura was the winner in Holland. And Aronian
has been invited as he is the world number 3.
After the great success of the 2010 edition, whose first stage was played in Shanghai, both the public sponsors (the Bilbao City Hall, the Biscay County Council and the Basque Government) and the private ones (BBK, Euskaltel and Meliá Hotels) gave their approval to the following edition being shared with Sao Paulo because of Brazil´s current economic strength.