The ground-breaking Challengers Chess Tour reaches its climax with the end-of-season Final Four event this weekend featuring four of the top rising talents in the game. Grandmasters Andrey Esipenko, Pranav Venkatesh, Raunak Sadhwani and 13-year-old International Master Ihor Samunenkov will bid for the title in a two-day blitz knockout.
The semi-finals on Saturday will see Esipenko vs Pranav while Sadhwani is drawn against Samunenkov. The winner of each semi will face-off on Sunday in the final, while the losing semi-finalists will play-off for third place. Esipenko qualified for the Final Four having scored an undefeated 41/45 points to win the Julius Baer Challenge, the first leg of the Tour. Sixteen-year-old Sadhwani, from Nagpur in central India, qualified in second after scoring 31/45 pts. Qualifying from the second event on the Tour, the Julius Baer Challenge, was Pranav who scored an unbeaten 38/42 pts to win the $2,000 top prize and Samunenkov, who scored 35/42 pts, to finish as runner-up.
Esipenko, who at 20 is the oldest finalist in the event, will start as favourite as the players face each other in matches consisting of four blitz games. All four players have been mentored by legend of the game Judit Polgar in preparation for the event which carries a $10,000 prize pot, with $4,000 going to the winner.
The event is the culmination of a second season of Challengers Chess Tour action. The Tour‘s first edition was won by the Indian sensation Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, who has since become a superstar in chess.
In December, the overall 2022 Tour Champion will go on to face 17-year-old Pragg, the 2021 Tour Champion, in a finale to the season worth a further $10,000 in prize money. That match, named the Julius Baer Challenger Championship, will be held on-site in Tel Aviv, Israel.
The Challengers Chess Tour is a unique award-winning event organised by Play Magnus Group that focuses on promoting youth.
It was shortlisted for a prestigious ESG Award for promoting gender equality in 2021 and, along with the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, is a recipient of the 2022 Digital Entertainment award from Leaders in Sport.
Polgar, the strongest female player in history, will return to the commentary box to give her expert insights on their players along with the popular Spanish Grandmaster Pepe Cuenca.