The 2021 Champions Chess Tour has reached a halfway point of sorts. With two majors and four tournaments in the books, the tour has awarded half of its points on the way to the final in September, meaning the Champions Chess Tour standings are beginning to take shape.

Champions Chess Tour standings
Anish Giri stands during a final round game at the 2021 Tata Steel Chess Tournament. Giri won the Magnus Carlsen Invitational, and sits fourth in the Champions Chess Tour standings. (Image: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021)

Wesley So currently leads the tour standings with 140 points, just five ahead of World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen.

Radjabov, Giri book guaranteed spots in tour final

So has won both non-major events on the Champions Chess Tour so far – the Skilling Open and the Opera Euro Rapid — and is one of just four players to reach the knockout stages in all four tournaments thus far. The American grandmaster has earned $85,000 in prize money, which also leads all players.

Carlsen also belongs to that list of players who have yet to miss a knockout stage. That – and two finals appearances, both resulting in losses to So – have kept the Norwegian near the top of the standings with 135 points and $65,000 in winnings.

But one thing that neither Carlsen nor So can claim is a major title. That distinction earns players an automatic bid into the Champions Chess Tour final. So far, Teimour Radjabov – winner of the Airthings Masters – and Anish Giri – who won the Magnus Carlsen Invitational – are the only players who can book a ticket to the final thanks to their victories in their respective majors.

Radjabov currently sits in third place in the tour standings with 108 points, while Giri is close behind on 105.

Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi jumped into fifth place after reaching the final of the Magnus Carlsen Invitational. Nepomniachtchi has 83 tour points. Levon Aronian (67), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (54), and Hikaru Nakamura (40) round out the top eight.

Nakamura, Dubov on the bubble

Finishing in that top eight could prove critical for players who want to make the Champions Chess Tour final. Along with the three major winners, the top five remaining players in the tour standings will automatically qualify for the season-ending event. With major winners likely to finish in the top eight, it’s probably that everyone who finishes in that range will end up qualifying for the final.

Daniil Dubov currently sits on the outside of that bubble in ninth place. With 23 points, he trails Nakamura by 17 for the critical eighth position. Alizera Firouzja (6) and Jan Krzystof-Duda (3) are also on the board, while the other 15 players who have participated in at least one Champions Chess Tour event have yet to make a knockout stage – the only way to earn points.

Even for players who have clinched a spot in the tour final, earning more points is critical. Much like in the PGA’s FedEx Cup Final, those who come in with more points will have an edge over the field. Every full 10 points in the standings will be worth 0.5 points in the Champions Chess Tour final, a 10-person round robin that awards three points for a match win, two points for a win in tiebreakers, and one point for a tiebreak loss.