Moscow To Host 2016 Candidates’ Tournament; Aronian Wildcard

Moscow To Host 2016 Candidates’ Tournament; Aronian Wildcard

| 66 | Chess Event Coverage

Moscow will be the location for the 2016 Candidates’ Tournament, with Levon Aronian as the wildcard participant. This has been announced by Agon and the World Chess Federation.

The Candidates’ Tournament, which will provide the next challenger for World Champion Magnus Carlsen, will be held in Moscow from March 10 to 30, 2016. The winner will play Carlsen in a match scheduled for November 2016.

The news was proudly announced earlier today by Agon, FIDE's commercial partner, on its brand new website worldchess.comFIDE, on its turn, decided to bury it deep down in an article titled “FIDE President's working visit to Yerevan.”

Agon's press release quotes Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the FIDE president: “We are looking forward to an exciting tournament in Moscow. The Candidates tournaments usually receive wide media attention, and this one is likely to be one of the most televised chess events as FIDE and its partners are working to make chess a spectator sport. We hope chess fans around the world will follow the tournament and will enjoy it.”

The press release also mentions the “eight participants,” even though strictly speaking not all eight are known yet. Anish Giri, one of the two rating qualifiers, can theoretically still be caught by Vladimir Kramnik. 

The rating qualifiers will be decided in December, based on the average of the 12 rating lists published in 2015. It looks like Kramnik isn't going to play rated games anymore for this period, whereas Giri is unlikely to lose dozens of rating points at the European Team Championship next month.

The first player to qualify for the tournament was Viswanathan Anand, as the loser of the last world championship match. He was the winner of the 2014 Candidates’ Tournament, after having lost the 2013 world title match.

The next two players to qualify were Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura, as the winner and runner-up of the FIDE Grand Prix Series. Then, Sergey Karjakin and Peter Svidler qualified as the winner and runner-up of the FIDE World Cup in Baku.

Veselin Topalov was next. At the end of the summer it became clear that the Bulgarian GM would be the first to qualify by rating. Since rating qualifiers are only eligible if the candidate played in either the Grand Prix or the World Cup, he basically qualified for the Candidates’ as soon as he played his very first move in Baku.

For each Candidates’ Tournament, one of the eight names is an organizer’s wild card. This year that had to be a player with a rating of at least 2725 in the July 1 FIDE rating list. 

With Moscow as the location, one would expect a Russian player but no, it turns out to be Levon Aronian.

This choice can be explained by the fact that the main sponsor will be Tashir Group, a large real estate firm with 45,000 employees, founded by the Armenian-born businessman Samvel Karapetyan. 

With a net worth of $4.7 billion according to Forbes magazine, Karapetyan is no stranger to the chess world. He was also the man behind the Petrosian Memorial held in November 2014.

The tournament will be organized by Agon and the Russian Chess Federation. The actual location in Moscow will be revealed at a later stage. The prize fund will be at least 420,000 euros (U.S. $457,000). received comments from a number of participants of the Candidates’ Tournament.

Hikaru Nakamura: “I'm a little bit disappointed about the choice of location after what I had heard in recent months. With FIDE you don't know what's going to happen; you kind of have to wait and see. I'm not surprised that it's in Russia. I don't think it impacts my chances at all. Everyone's in the same situation except Sergey. Maybe it helps Sergey a little.”

Peter Svidler: “Glad it's finally settled. Playing in Moscow makes it much easier logistically, but I would have been fine with any of the choices I've seen mentioned. Happy for Levon, and there is precedent for the wildcard being from outside the host country — but with so many eligible Russians, it's bound to raise a few eyebrows.”

Anish Giri: “In Russian, which is my first language, there is a saying: ‘Who pays, gets to order the music.’ Laughing Thus with an Armenian sponsor in Moscow, Levon and Moscow is the obvious choice. There were a few juicy options for a wildcard and Levon is one of them, although obviously not the only. To name a few: Kramnik, Grischuk, Ding Liren, Wei Yi, So -- all have some reasons to be backed up as well. I found it a little unprofessional, by the way, to put me on the list before December 1, but on the other hand it is nice to see people's strong faith in the stability of my results. Laughing” 

Veselin Topalov: “The choice of Moscow as a venue shows the incapacity of FIDE to find sponsors that are not Russian related. I don't think yet another top event in Russia will change the popularity of chess in that country, meanwhile a good chance to promote our sport in a different country or even a continent is missed once again. Levon is at the moment the strongest player that did not qualify by results, so his nomination is completely logical. I am waiting for the contract before taking my final decision if to play or not.”

If one of the participants decides to withdraw, the first replacement will be Dmitry Jakovenko. The Russian grandmaster finished third in the FIDE Grand Prix.

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