Karjakin Headlines Thursday's Fischer Random Chess Championship Knockout Qualifier
Karjakin will look to use his defensive magic to emerge victorious from his difficult Knockout Qualifier bracket.

Karjakin Headlines Thursday's Fischer Random Chess Championship Knockout Qualifier

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With an open qualification process that began in April, the FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship continues the final qualification phase as it plays down to the final six players who will qualify for the quarterfinals in early October.

The third of six knockout qualifiers will be hosted on Chess.com this Thursday, Aug. 22, featuring some of the strongest players in the world including 2016 world championship challenger Sergey Karjakin, who will be playing during the rest day of the Sinquefield Cup, and GM Vidit Gujrathi as they headline a pack of 16 players vying for their chance to qualify for the next phase, the quarterfinals. You can watch coverage of the Knockout Qualifiers at 8 a.m. Pacific, Aug. 22, on Twitch.tv/chess, with commentary by GM Aman Hambleton.

Vidit Gujrathi Fischer Random Chess Championship
Vidit Gujrathi will headline Thursday's qualifier which will feature four players over 2700

The first two Knockout Qualifier saw Ian Nepomniachtchi and Alireza Firouzja advance after marathon performances in brackets which lasted 6.5 and 7.5 hours, respectively. Because the brackets are played in full on a single day, players are required to come prepared both mentally and physically as they strap in for a long session of Fischer Random chess.

Karjakin's first round opponent, untitled Alexandr Lauda, qualified for the Knockout Qualifier by advancing through each previous stage of the qualification process. After finishing as one of the top players in a non-titled qualifier, he outlasted myriad titled players during the play-in phase, earning the right to face Karjakin on the big stage. The U2000 Moldovan now has his eyes set on a stunning upset as he attempts to qualify for the quarterfinals and the $10,000 minimum prize attached to qualifying for that stage.

On the other side of the bracket, Vidit will likely be looking ahead to a potential semifinal encounter with GM Le Quang Liem, a player who is actually rated ten points higher than Vidit in the FIDE ratings. Le, a PRO Chess League and Chess.com regular, will be looking to use his online experience to pull off the upset over the invitee in the event they end up battling for a spot in the finals.

Sergey Karjakin Fischer Random World Championship
Sergey Karjakin will look to use his defensive prowess to outlast his challengers

The Fischer Random Chess Championship is recognized by FIDE, the international chess federation, and is hosted by Dund AS in partnership with Chess.com. 

The championship seeks to crown the best Fischer Random (also known as Chess960) player in the world. All games will be played in the popular chess variant with shuffled starting positions, first promoted by the former world chess champion Bobby Fischer.

After hosting over 40 qualifiers that saw nearly 2,000 players participate, the Fischer Random action speeds up even more as the first knockout bracket begins, featuring two-game mini-matches of 15+2 time control with tiebreaks along the way to decide who moves on to the next round. Players were expected to play the entire bracket over the course of a grueling five-hour span, but because of the close matches that have played out in the first two qualifiers, a more accurate prediction is a nail-biting seven hours of play for these elite players.

Among the other well-known players in Thursday's bracket are American phenom Jeffery Xiong, Evgeny Najer and Chess.com commentary mainstay GM Robert Hess.

Fischer Random Knockout Qualifiers Bracket
The full bracket for Thursday's Knockout Qualifier

So far, the following top Fischer Random grandmasters are confirmed to participate as invited players in the six knockout tournaments:

  • Wesley So
  • Jan-Krzysztof Duda
  • Pentala Harikrishna
  • Peter Svidler
  • Alexander Grischuk
  • Ian Nepomniachtchi
  • Alireza Firouzja
  • Parham Maghsoodloo
  • Sergey Karjakin
  • Frode Urkedal
  • Vidit Gujrathi

The following players have qualified for or been invited to the quarterfinals stage:

  • Fabiano Caruana
  • Hikaru Nakamura
  • Ian Nepomniachtchi
  • Alireza Firouzja
Wesley So.
Wesley So is a confirmed participant in the Fischer Random knockout phase.

In addition to the notable grandmasters participating in the knockout qualifiers, four players have qualified all the way from the initial phase, the open qualifier. These four underdogs, including August 22 participant Lauda, will look to keep their Cinderella stories alive as they now face the daunting task of taking on multiple grandmasters—some of whom are ranked in the top-50 players in the world.

One more of the world's top grandmasters will be added to the later knockout tournaments, which continue on Aug. 22, Aug. 25, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1

You can watch all knockout tournament coverage live on Twitch.tv/chess with commentary from top grandmasters during each Knockout Qualifier.

The six survivors of the knockout brackets will join Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana, who were seeded directly into the quarterfinals, already recognized as two of the strongest Fischer Random masters in the world.

Fabiano Caruana
Fabiano Caruana is through to the Fischer Random quarterfinals.
Hikaru Nakamura
Hikaru Nakamura is seeded directly into the Fischer Random quarterfinals.
Magnus Carlsen, the current world chess champion and unofficial champion of Fischer Random chess, will be seeded directly into the semifinals. Carlsen will face the top three finishers from the quarterfinals round as he looks to add the official Fischer Random crown to his greatest-of-all-time resume.
Magnus Carlsen
Magnus Carlsen, the unofficial Fischer Random champion, is seeded straight into the semifinals and  awaits the top-three finishers to fight for the title.

For more in-depth information on the FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship, including all titled player qualifiers, visit the official Chess.com guide here.

For the official rules of the FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship, see this PDF

Remember to watch all upcoming FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship coverage on Twitch.tv/Chess starting this Thursday, Aug. 22, and continuing throughout the knockout phase until Sept. 1.

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