So, Dominguez Headline Weekend's Fischer Random World Chess Championship Qualifiers
Can Wesley So best the field on his way to a quarterfinal spot?

So, Dominguez Headline Weekend's Fischer Random World Chess Championship Qualifiers

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21 | Chess Event Coverage

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 final two Knockout Qualifiers will be hosted on Chess.com this Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, featuring some of the strongest players in the world, including two of the top-ten players in the world in Leinier Dominguez-Perez and Wesley So, who will headline their respective qualifying brackets as they hope to punch their tickets for the next phase, the quarterfinals. You can watch coverage of the Knockout Qualifiers at 8 a.m. Pacific on both Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 on Twitch.tv/chesscomevents and Chess.com/TV with commentary by GM Aman Hambleton and NM James Canty III.

Leinier Dominguez-Perez
Leinier Dominguez-Perez will hope to flex his muscles as the FIDE number-10 on Saturday.

The most recent Knockout Qualifier saw Peter Svidler advance after an eight-plus hour performance in a bracket that also featured Alexander Grischuk, whom he defeated in the final to qualify for the quarterfinals. The qualifier was thrown into chaos by a few surprising upsets and near-upsets that caused a stir on social media. Although that bracket was one of the strongest of this stage featuring four players over 2700 FIDE, this weekend's brackets are signalling fireworks with reigning world junior champion Parham Maghsoodloo and blitz-and-bullet phenom Daniel Naroditsky among the participants in Saturday's and Sunday's brackets, respectively.

Also participating in Saturday's bracket is GM Frode Urkedal, who won entry into the Knockout Qualifiers by winning the 2019 Nordic Championship in July. In that tournament, he bested 65 other participants, most of whom were Norwegian, and earned his invitation to the FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship. Urkedal also won entry into the 2019 World Cup where he will face some of the top players in the world beginning in approximately one week. In short, Urkedal, who will be the lowest-rated number-two seed in the Knockout Qualifiers by nearly 200 ELO, will need to score a series of upsets to advance. He may be forced to pull out the big guns early with a potential quarterfinal match against Naroditsky looming.

Sunday's bracket will feature the mercurial Maghsoodloo, who is coming off an appearance in the Junior Speed Chess Championship where he was eliminated in the semifinals by Jeffery Xiong, who crashed out of an earlier Fischer Random bracket in the quarterfinal round. Maghsoodloo will be looking to right the ship after a string of lackluster over-the-board results which has seen his standard rating stagnate. The player whose Chess.com avatar reads, "I need new haters, the old ones became my fans," will hope to harness his attitude to turn in a performance that bests So on Sunday.

Parham Maghsoodloo Fischer Random Chess Championship
Can Parham Maghsoodloo pull off the ultimate victory and down So in Sunday's qualifier?

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 three qualifiers, a more accurate prediction is a nail-biting seven hours of play for these elite players.

Among the other well-known players in Saturday's bracket are French GM Marie Sebag, who played in this year's Women's Speed Chess Championship, as well as the Russian duo GM Grigoriy Oparin and GM Vladimir Fedoseev, the latter of whom is currently the sixth-highest rated blitz player on Chess.com.

Fischer Random Chess Championship Bracket
Saturday's full bracket.

Sunday's bracket features a stellar lineup, including 2700+ GM Evgeny Tomashevsky, who holds the affectionate nickname "Professor" among his peers due to his studious nature. On the other side of Tomashevsky and Maghsoodloo's bracket, the ever-present GM Daniel Fridman will hope to bring some of his 2018 Olympiad gold medal-winning form to the Chess.com servers if he wants to shock So in a potential semifinal encounter. But first, he'll have to get through another of the Junior Speed Chess Championship participants, Peruvian GM Jose Martinez Alcantara.

Fischer Random Knockout Qualifier
Sunday's full bracket.

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

  • Wesley So
  • Leinier Dominguez-Perez
  • 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
  • Peter Svidler
  • Hikaru Nakamura
  • Ian Nepomniachtchi
  • Vidit Gujrathi
  • Alireza Firouzja
Wesley So.
Wesley So will be playing in Sunday's qualifier.

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 Aug. 31 participant 14-year-old untitled Singaporean Ethan Poh, 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.

Poh's first-round opponent for Aug. 31, Dominguez-Perez, recently accepted an invitation to play in the qualifiers as the top-10 FIDE Cuban-American looks to avoid an upset on his way to the quarterfinal berth. This weekend's qualifiers conclude the grueling qualification process that has seen participation from over 1,500 players from around the world in a first-of-its-kind event.

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 Nakamura and 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. You can also visit the official website here: www.frchess.com

Remember to watch all upcoming FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship coverage on Twitch.tv/Chesscomevents starting this Saturday, Aug. 31, and continuing on Sunday.

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