Added on 2/27/2022

The ICC is excited to continue its collaboration with GM John Burke.

John became an IM at 14, in 2016, and a GM in 2018, at 16.  

In 2020, John won the US Junior Championship. That qualified him for the 2021 US Championship, where he was able to score 5/11 with a performance rating north of 2650, despite being the lowest-rated player. Currently, John is a junior at Webster University, where he's able to study chess with his teammates and his coach GM Liem Le.

Here is John's article on the 2nd FIDE Grand Prix 2022.

"The second leg of the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix will take place in Belgrade, Serbia from March 1 to March 14. The format will be the same as the first leg in Berlin, with four separate pools of four players each. The winners of each pool will move on to a knockout stage to determine the champion. At stake are points in the overall Grand Prix standings, which will determine the two players who qualify for the upcoming Candidates Tournament. Since all the players play two out of the three total events, we will see a mix of new and returning faces from the first leg. The winner of that event, Hikaru Nakamura, as well as the runner-up, Levon Aronian, will not be present in Belgrade, and will instead compete in the third leg, which will return to Berlin. The same goes for Leinier Dominguez. This leaves Richard Rapport as the only one of the four pool winners from the first leg to rejoin the action.

One piece of news should be dealt with upfront, and that is the status of Ding Liren and Dmitry Andreikin. They were forced to withdraw from the first leg amid travel restrictions, with their status unclear for the rest of the series. Now we have an update – Ding will not be able to play in either of the two remaining events, and Andreikin will be playing both of them, functioning as Ding’s replacement in Belgrade. Even though the chances were slim, the chess world was still holding out hope that we’d be able to see Ding back at the board, but it is sadly not to be. On the other hand, Andreikin will now be pleased that he can fulfill his full quota of events, instead of being limited to one, which seemed likely.

Some members of the absolute elite will be joining the fray. Anish Giri, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who all sat out the first leg, will attempt to take a giant leap towards qualifying for the Candidates. Two qualifiers from the 2021 World Cup, the American Sam Shankland, and Iranian Amin Tabatabaei, will make their debut in the Grand Prix series. Yu Yangyi from China and Alexander Predke from Russia both qualified from the 2021 Grand Swiss. The last new player that I have yet to mention is the Russian Nikita Vitiugov, who was invited based on rating.

Finally, besides Rapport, who I briefly touched on already, the players who participated in the first leg and will play their final event in Belgrade are Grischuk, Bacrot, Harikrishna, Vidit, Fedoseev, and Shirov. I would like to analyze the makeup of the pools and immediately highlight Pool D, which I would call the “Pool of Death.” This group consists of Mamedyarov, MVL, Yu Yangyi, and Predke. I think Mamedyarov and MVL got the short end of the stick and are incredibly unlucky to be in the same group as each other. They have both been top players for a very long time and are former 2800s. To put things in perspective, in the other three pools, the gap between the top seed and the second seed is over 30 points. Yet, in this group, they both run a very high risk of not making it to the knockout stage, leaving them with absolutely no chance of qualifying for the Candidates, no matter how well the next event goes. Let’s not forget that the other players in this group are hardly slouches either. Yu Yangyi had a peak rating of about 2760, and Predke, while he may not be as well known as the others, is a very solid player who is close to 2700.

Pool A consists of Grischuk, Andreikin, Shankland, and Bacrot. Grischuk is the favorite on paper, but his play in Berlin was rather unconvincing, and he only managed to score 50%. One could guess that Bacrot, the lowest-rated, will be viewed as a target, and the other players will view their games against him, particularly those in which they have the white pieces, as critical.

In Pool B, we have Giri, Vitiugov, Harikrishna, and Tabatabaei. Giri is the favorite here and is probably satisfied with his group allotment. Watch out for Tabatabaei, though. He might not be a household name, but he's a young and very promising player. His showing in the World Cup, where he reached the quarterfinals, is proof of that.

Pool C consists of Rapport, Vidit, Fedoseev, and Shirov, who all played in the first leg, so rust should not be a factor for any of them. Rapport is likely the only one who has a chance to finish in the top two for the overall series, as he won his pool in Berlin's leg. However, his opponents surely will not make it easy for him! Vidit and Fedoseev are dangerous opponents on any given day, and Shirov, despite being a member of a previous generation, continues to constantly create his patented “fire on board,” which can have spectacular consequences, both positive and negative for him! I particularly look forward to his battles against Rapport, as you don’t see games between two such creative and exciting players every day. This is only the second of three legs, but after this event we will have a clear picture of who the favorites are to qualify for the Candidates, and what scores will be necessary in the final leg. With each and every point being so valuable, we should expect very fighting chess!"


GM John Burke