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Candidates In Berlin; Who Will Play?

Candidates In Berlin; Who Will Play?

The 2018 Candidates' Tournament, scheduled for 9-28 March 2018, will be held at the Kühlhaus Berlin in the German capital. This was announced by Agon/World Chess, the organizer of events in the FIDE World Championship cycle.

Like in recent years, the format for the Candidates' will be a double round robin over 14 rounds, with eight players. The prize fund will be €420,000 "or an estimated $460,000 at the current exchange rate," as Agon/World Chess wrote in a press release.

Venue

The venue is the Kühlhaus Berlin at Luckenwalder Strasse 3. Its name ("cool house") suggests its original purpose in the late 19th century: a cooling place to keep foods fresh. It barely survived the Second World War and subsequent decades, but after it was declared a monument in the early 1990s many redecorations took place. 

With simple, basic architecture, these days the Kühlhaus Berlin is being used for art, concerts and exhibitions. It consists of seven floors, if which five will be used during the tournament.

The venue seems similar to that of the 2015 World Rapid and Blitz Championship: the former dairy company BOLLE Meierei, built in the same architectural style.

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An interior photo courtesy of the Kühlhaus website.

Ilya Merenzon, CEO of World Chess, announced that local fans will be specially treated. "We are also developing custom commentary and experiences in German for local audience." 

He stated that "23% of Germans play chess regularly" but no source for that number has been given. 

Tickets

Tickets will cost from €20 to €40 a day, and tournament passes will be €170. VIP options will also be available.

Following the match online will not be free either. For $15, the same price as two years ago, spectators can by "pay-per-view tickets" which will include German and English commentary, "advanced analytics, behind-the-scenes footage, options to choose camera angles, and more," according to World Chess, who announced that 10% of the pay-per-view revenue will be paid to the players on top of the base prize fund.

Sponsors

The sponsors (or "supporters," as World Chess refers to them) are still the same: EG Capital Advisors (investing), Kaspersky Lab (cyber security), S.T. Dupont (pens and luxuries) and Isklar (mineral water). It remains to be seen whether Kaspersky's recent negative media attention will affect this event.

Who will play?

After the final Grand Prix, next month in Palma de Mallorca, the FIDE Candidates' Tournament is going to be the last event in the 2017-2018 world championship cycle—except for the title match itself, obviously.

In that Candidates' Tournament, eight players will fight for the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen in November 2018. It will be Carlsen's fourth match, after gaining the title in November 2013 in Chennai vs Vishy Anand, defending it in 2014 in Sochi against the same opponent, and defending it against Sergey Karjakin in New York last year. 

So, which eight players will be playing?

Three grandmasters are known at the moment. Karjakin qualified as the loser of the last title match, and last month Levon Aronian and Ding Liren qualified from the World Cup in Tbilisi. 

Five names will be added: two from the Grand Prix, two by rating and one wild card.

Grand Prix

This year the Grand Prix is held over just four tournaments:, all being 18-player, 9-round Swisses. Three have been played so far (in Sharjah, Moscow and Geneva) and the last one will take place in November in Palma de Mallorca. 

FIDE Grand Prix 2017 | Top 5 Standings After 3 Legs

Rk. Fed Name Sharjah Moscow Geneva Palma Total
1 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar 140 140 60 x 340
2 Grischuk, Alexander 140 71,4 125 x 336,4
3 Radjabov, Teimour x 71,4 170 ? 241,4
4 Ding Liren 70 170 x ? 240
5 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 140 71,4 x ? 211,4

The fight for the two qualification spot will go between Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (not playing, having played in the first three legs), Alexander Grischuk (also not playing), Teimour Radjabov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

A first place earns 170 Grand Prix points, second 140, third 110, fourth 90, fifth 80 and so on. Mamedyarov has the best chances to qualify, but can get in trouble if more than one of his rivals will be doing (very) well.

Ratings

The rating story is not a simple matter either. FIDE has chosen to take the average ratings of the 12 ratings lists between January and December 2017, which means that the two names will be definite only when the December list is published.

However, FIDE's calculation is also being done (unofficially) by Martin Bennedik, whose Google Doc is quite famous by now. According to his calculations, for a few months already only three players have actually been in the race: Fabiano Caruana, Vladimir Kramnik and Wesley So.

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A screenshot of Bennedik's current Google spreadsheet (click to enlarge).

As was discussed at length in our reports on the Chess.com Isle of Man tournament, Kramnik's performance there—a loss to Caruana (!) but also to James Tarjan, and a draw vs Lawrence Trent—made things hard for the 14th world champion.

Kramnik's live rating is 2785.6 and according to Bennedik he needs to get his rating to 2802 to overtake Wesley So. Kramnik can start his race early: he will be playing in the European Club Cup in Antalya, which starts this Sunday, and he hasn't ruled out the possibility of making an appearance in the European Team Championship in Crete, at the end of October.

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Vladimir Kramnik vs Fabiano Caruana in Isle of Man. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

On a side note, one member wrote to Chess.com and called FIDE's system of using 12 rating lists to calculate an average rating "statistically flawed" if it is intended to create a measure of each player’s performance over the whole of 2017. The reason is that it gives results at the start of the year a much greater weight than results at the end of the year.

"[This] analysis is mostly correct, and one reason why I always calculate the average of 12 lists, with the not yet published lists using the live ratings from 2700chess as the best estimate," Bennedik commented to Chess.com by email. "For example, let's say player A has 2700 in January, and 2800 in February, and player B has 2800 in January and 2700 in February. If you only take the average of the first two lists they are equal. Where as if you take 12 lists, player A is a clear favorite."

So, using the average of 12 rating lists is not measuring the "best performance of the year" but to measure that is not easy. Bennedik: "Personally I think FIDE just intended to create an interesting criteria based on ratings, and believe that they succeeded with that."

Wild card

The wild card is normally speaking going to be chosen by the local organizer, who must pick a player who had a rating of at least 2725 on any 2017 FIDE list. Usually it's a sponsor who has an important say here.

In the next two months more will be clear, with the European Club Cup, the European Team Championship and the Mallorca Grand Prix as the main events to be played. 

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