Top-flight chess will be returning to Northern California this winter, as the third installment of the Bay Area International is officially set for January 2-8, 2014 at the Hilton in Santa Clara, CA. The tournament is designed as a norm-hunting opportunity, as only players with ratings above FIDE 2000 are eligible, and a maximum of one-third will be below FIDE 2200.
The tournament will be a hybrid of European and American Swiss schedules. The nine rounds will be played over seven days; players will only play two games per day twice and will get the "relaxed" one game per day for most of the event. First prize will be $3000 out of more than $7500 in total prizes.
As usual with these sorts of events, GMs get free entry, as do foreign IMs and anyone that is FIDE 2500+. Players already committing to play include American GM Sam Shankland, who is cresting 2600, and who won clear first last year with an undefeated 7/9. Another notable registrant is Turkish GM Alexander Ipatov, the reigning World Junior Champion.
2012 Champion Sam Shankland
The tournament begins a few days after the conclusion of the North American Open in Las Vegas, so players can play in both by staying on the West Coast. The tournaments are about eight hours away by car, and there are many direct flights on Southwest Airlines from Las Vegas into San Jose, the nearest airport.
Other grandmasters who have signed up include Georgian GM Giorgi Margvelashvili and Americans GM Alex Lenderman and recent U.S. Open Champion GM Josh Friedel.
Among the IMs who will be hungry for a chance to earn a norm include IM Edward Porper (Canada), IM Victor Shen (USA), IM Zhanibek Amanov (Kazakhstan), and IM Alfonso Almeida (Mexico). Californian WGM Tatev Abrahamyan will drive upstate and is currently the highest-rated woman in the field (important, as there is a "mixed doubles" prize).
Shankland, Lenderman, Friedel and Abrahamyan (and other past Bay Area International players) have all contributed videos and articles to Chess.com. Last year another familiar face competed - IM Danny Rensch, Director of Content and Professional Relations for Chess.com LLC. He finished with 6/9 and a tie for fifth place.
"It has always been a fantastic experience for me to play in the Bay Area International," Rensch said. "Having limited opportunities to play these days, I love the life and culture of the surrounding area. For several years I've made the trip, and I'm hoping to again this year."
The 2012 Bay Area International (GM Yury Shulman at board on left)
Other world-class players who competed in 2011 or 2012 include GM Loek van Wely, GM Sergey Erenburg, GM Timur Gareev, GM Georg Meier and GM Bartlomiej Macieja, all of whom are over 2600 (last year saw 61 total players).
The tournament is once again the brainchild of organizer Arun Sharma, who is jointly running it with Salman Azhar. The hosts have negotiated a special $79 hotel rate for reservation made before December 3. Early registrations are also discounted. You can register and find out more by going to the tournament's website.