Alekseenko's Candidates Participation Confirmed As MVL Appeals With Open Letter
Kirill Alekseenko and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Photos: Maria Emelianova/

Alekseenko's Candidates Participation Confirmed As MVL Appeals With Open Letter

| 309 | Chess Players

On Monday morning the Russian Chess Federation confirmed Kirill Alekseenko as the wildcard for the 2020 Candidates' Tournament, shortly before the manager of Maxime Vachier-Lagrave wrote an open letter asking them to reconsider.

In early November at a press conference in Moscow, the federation announced that the wildcard for the next candidates would go to a Russian player. Furthermore, they came up with the novel idea that if Alexander Grischuk and/or Ian Nepomniachtchi didn't qualify via the Grand Prix, they would play a playoff with Alekseenko, the only other eligible player from Russia for a wildcard (as he came third in the FIDE Grand Swiss).

As it happened, both Grischuk and Nepo qualify directly, so the playoff won't be necessary. Alekseenko is in!

On Monday, in an open letter, team MVL asked the RCF and the sponsor of the candidates, Andrey Simanovsky (president of the Sverdovsk regional chess federation), to reconsider. Because the tournament already has two Russian participants, they argue that it makes sense to choose world number-four Vachier-Lagrave instead of Alekseenko, who is number-37.

Open Letter to the Russian Chess Federation

Qualification for the Candidates Tournament to be held in Yekaterinburg, March 2020, concluded yesterday in Jerusalem. Congratulations to Ian Nepomniatchi for winning the tournament, and for taking the 7th qualifying spot. The 8th and last place will be awarded by the organizers to a player eligible according to FIDE rules ("wild card"); a questionable privilege that we hope will disappear for the next world championship cycle.

On November 11th, in a press conference announcing the Russian international chess events of 2020, the President of the Russian Chess Federation (RCF), Andrei Filatov, had stated that he was pleased with the organization of the Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg, because it "guaranteed the presence of a Russian player."

The situation has changed since then, as Sacha Grischuk and Ian Nepomniatchi both qualified via the FIDE Grand Prix. The RCF could therefore choose to give the wild card to the only eligible Russian player, Kirill Alekseenko, for his third place at the Grand Swiss that took place on the Isle of Man. But on a purely sporting level, it could legitimately pick Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (MVL), three times eligible and first non-qualified player by 2019 average rating, 2019 World Cup, and 2019 FIDE Grand Prix!

Whether it opts for a third Russian player or for the most obvious sporting choice, the RCF remains sovereign in its decisions. However, we suggest it takes into consideration the possibility of organizing a MVL-Alekseenko match in order to earn the wild card spot. It would have the merit of preserving sporting equity and would, I believe, meet the wishes of a vast majority of chess enthusiasts throughout the world.

Laurent Vérat,

MVL Manager

However, even before the letter was issued, the RCF had already confirmed the choice for Alekseenko. The RCF President, Andrey Filatov, said: 

"According to the FIDE Regulations, [Alekseenko] can be nominated by the organizer of the Candidates Tournament. I'd like to thank the head of the Sima-Land company, President of the Sverdlovsk Region Chess Federation Andrey Simanovsky. His company has become the main sponsor of the Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg and thanks to it another Russian player got an opportunity to get a wild card." 

Therefore, it seems all eight candidates are now known:

2020 FIDE Candidates Tournament | Participants

# Fed Name Rating Rank B-Year Criterium
1 Caruana, Fabiano 2822 2 1992 Loser 2018 match
2 Ding, Liren 2801 3 1992 World Cup
3 Grischuk, Alexander 2777 5 1983 Grand Prix
4 Giri, Anish 2769 8 1994 Average rating*
5 Nepomniachtchi, Ian 2767 9 1990 Grand Prix
6 Radjabov, Teimour 2765 10 1987 World Cup
7 Wang, Hao 2756 16 1989 Grand Swiss
8 Alekseenko, Kirill 2704 37 1997 Wildcard

*Pending official confirmation

The tournament is scheduled to take place Mar. 11-Apr. 5 in Yekaterinburg, Russia. The winner will earn the right to challenge World Champion Magnus Carlsen in a match in November next year.

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