Women's Candidates' Tournament To Start Friday

Women's Candidates' Tournament To Start Friday

| 111 | Chess Event Coverage

The Women's Candidates' Tournament, an eight-player all-play-all that will determine the challenger for Ju Wenjun in the next Women's World Championship match, will start Friday in Kazan, Russia.

It was one of the first decisions of the new FIDE leadership, after Arkady Dvorkovich took over from Kirsan Ilyumzhinov as the FIDE President: to change the women's world championship cycle and make it much more similar to the 'general' cycle. 

Alternating a title match with a knockout tournament was always somewhat strange, especially because sometimes they would take place in the same year. Eventually, the situation led to the best active female player, Hou Yifan of China, to withdraw from the cycle in 2016. She stated that she liked knockouts but did not think that it should generate the new world champion.

FIDE has now done away with the knockout tournament and reinstated the Candidates' Tournament, which historically existed in women's chess as well. The first, in Moscow in 1952, was won by Elisaveta Bykova who would then defeat Lyudmila Rudenko to become the third world champion.

Elisaveta Bykova
Elisaveta Bykova, the third women's world champion and winner of the first women's candidates' tournament. | Image: Wikipedia/Creative Commons 3.0.

The 2019 Women's Candidates' tournament, the first one of its kind in 20 years, is held May 30-June 18 in Kazan, Russia. The format has been copied from the one we know of the regular world championship cycle: eight players play a double round robin, and the winner will then challenge the world champion, Ju Wenjun.

Ju Wenjun
World champion Ju Wenjun will be following the Candidates' Tournament with great interest. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Hou Yifan, who has been studying for a Master of Science in Education at Oxford University since September 2018, unfortunately had to decline participation for this event as well, despite liking the new system. She told

"I cannot take part due to the conflicts of dates as the playing period is during trinity term here at Oxford and it is very difficult to get permission to play a chess tournament, though I have tried hard to negotiate. Apart from the fact, I actually communicated with FIDE couple of times in advance to discuss the possibility of changing the playing dates, unfortunately it doesn't work out according to FIDE.

"For me, the timetable of my master's program at Oxford is announced far earlier in advance, therefore with the decision of FIDE I could not make myself available to play in Kazan. However, if there are any appropriate opportunities in the future, I would love and will try my best to get involved with suitable chess tournaments and events."

Hou Yifan
Hou Yifan. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

But even without Hou Yifan, and Ju Wenjun (as the reigning world champion!) this first Women's Candidates' tournament will be very strong anyway. Six of the current top 10 are playing, and also the world numbers 11 and 13.

2019 FIDE Women's Candidates' | Participants

# Rank Country Name Rating B-Year
1 3 Muzychuk, Mariya 2563 1992
2 4 Lagno, Kateryna 2554 1989
3 6 Kosteniuk, Alexandra 2546 1984
4 7 Muzychuk, Anna 2539 1990
5 9 Goryachkina, Aleksandra 2522 1998
6 10 Tan, Zhongyi 2513 1991
7 11 Dzagnidze, Nana 2510 1987
8 13 Gunina, Valentina 2506 1989

Tonight is the opening ceremony, but the full pairings are already known. The drawing of lots was performed on May 1 by Judit Polgar and Arkady Dvorkovich at the Central Chess Club in Moscow. The first round on Friday will look like this (with pairings numbers):

1. Gunina vs. 4. Lagno
2. Kosteniuk vs. 3. Goryachkina
5. Dzagnidze vs. 8. Tan Zhongyi
6. M. Muzychuk vs. 7. A. Muzychuk 


According to the rules, the representatives of the same country have to play each other in
the first round of each half of the tournament. This means that the Muzychuk sisters are meeting in rounds 1 and 8, and the four Russian players also play each other in the rounds 1 to 3, and 8 to 10.

The playing days are May 31 – June 2, 4-6, 8-10, 12-14, and 16-17. Tie-breaks (if needed) and the closing ceremony will take place on June 18.

The official promo video of the tournament.

Organized by the Ministry of Sports of the Republic of Tatarstan, FIDE, and the Russian Chess Federation, the Women's Candidates' has a record prize fund of 200,000 Euros with a first prize of 50,000 Euros. The winner will become Ju Wenjun’s challenger, with half a million euros at stake in the title match.

The tournament venue is the Nogai Hotel in Kazan, Russia. Kazan is Russia's seventh city by population, with roughly 1.3 million inhabitants. Its beauty and rich history make Kazan often regarded as the "Third Capital of Russia" after only after Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Kazan is a famous sports center in Russia, having hosted the 2013 Universiade and many
national hockey, boxing and swimming championships. It was one of the hosting cities of 2018 FIFA Football World Cup and it also held the 2011 Candidates' tournament, won by Boris Gelfand.

The rounds start 3 p.m. local time, which is 14:00 CEST, 8 a.m. Eastern, 5 a.m. Pacific. You can watch the games of the Candidates' Tournament here as part of our live portal. The official website is here.

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