Svidler, Grischuk and Ivanchuk qualified for... what exactly?

0 | Chess Event Coverage

In this year's FIDE World Cup, which concluded last Monday, the first three players qualified for the next Candidates event. But what will this event look like? What we know is that, like in Kazan in May this year, there will be eight players. But will there be matches again, or will there be a round-robin tournament?

Until early September, the regulations stated that we'd see matches again. But last week one of our readers discovered that FIDE had changed the regulations and suddenly they were speaking of a round-robin! Unsurprisingly, over the last week the FIDE website hasn't seen any press release mentioning this massive change. Instead there are lots of copied round reports from the World Cup website (so that everyone can read them at as well).

However, last Monday FIDE did mention the new regulations, but hidden as a footnote to the bidding procedure. All the way at the end of the page there is a link to the regulations, which is the same as the one in the Handbook, where a new version has been uploaded, as it seems on September 7th, overwriting the previous one. But our reader ebutaljib managed to find the previous version and you can download it in PDF here. See? Matches. And in the current one, tournament.

The most important aspects of the current regulations are:

2.    Qualification for the 2012 Candidates Tournament

The players who qualify for the Candidates Tournament are determined according to the following, in order of priority:

2.1 World Cup 2011 - The three (3) top winners of the World Cup 2011 qualify.
2.2 World Championship Match 2012 - The player who lost the 2012 World Championship Match qualifies.
2.3 Average FIDE Rating List of July 2011 & January 2012 - Three (3) players qualify to participate by rating (excluding the players who qualify from articles 2.1 and 2.2 above). For the purpose of deciding the 3 rated player qualifiers, the average from the following lists will be used: rating of July 2011 plus rating of January 2012 divided by 2. In case of equality two decimals will be taken into consideration. If the numbers are still equal then the number of games from the twelve months covering the whole year 2011 shall be decisive. That means the player with the greater number of games shall qualify. If the numbers are still equal then the list of March 2012 shall be decisive. If the rating in the March 2012 list is still the same, the player with the greater number of games in this list will qualify. Players who appear in the inactive list in both July 2011 and January 2012 will not be able to qualify as a rated player. If the player is inactive in one list but appears in the other, then the single rating that is published shall be taken as the average.

2.6 One nominated player by the Organiser - A player, nominated by the organiser, with a rating of at least 2700 in the FIDE rating list of January 2012.

2.7 Replacements - Any replacements necessary will be fulfilled from the average rating list of July 2011 & January 2012.

3. Candidates Tournament Regulations

3.1 Tournament Format & System

The 8 players shall play a double round robin tournament (14 rounds). The players who are from the same federation will play each other in rounds 1 and 8 (if only two) and if up to four players are from the same federation in rounds 1, 2, 3 and 8, 9, 10.

If a player withdraws after completing 50% or more of the games, the rest of his games are lost by default. In case a player completes less than 50%, all his results are annulled.

OK, maybe this change doesn't come as a big surprise, and maybe we shouldn't make such a fuss about it? It doesn't come as a big surprise because already on August 15th, Israeli GM Emil Sutovsky told Chess News that the next event to decide the World Championship challenger will be an 8-player double round-robin tournament. And maybe we shouldn't make such a fuss about it because, as Sutovsky told us on Skype, the majority of the top players who filled out his questionnaire, prefer a round-robin. This was the survey which he sent to the twenty top-rated players just after Kazan:

Dear colleagues,

On behalf of the World Championship and Olympiads committee ( WCOC ), I'd like to ask your opinion regarding the format of the future World Championship Cycles.

As we all know, opinions differ, and it is not easy to find a solution that will satisfy all the leading players. However, we shall try to find a system which will be both professional and realistic. In this regard, I would appreciate hearing your thoughts before the topic is discussed on the next WCOC meeting in the beginning of June and important decisions are taken.

As the topic is too complex, I've prepared several questions. It would be nice to have your answers, but of course, you are most welcomed to present your vision as a separate letter. The questions:

  1. What is more suitable system for Candidates – matches or double round robin?

  2. If the match system is used, what format would you prefer (4+4+6, like in Kazan, 6+6+6, other...) Do you have positive/negative remarks about the format used in Kazan?

  3. Should the World Champion's privilege stay intact or should the World Champion join the Candidates in the future cycles?

  4. Do you think FIDE should preserve two-year cycle or consider switching to a yearly Championship?

I would appreciate having your response before May 30, so that it can be presented on the WCOC meeting.

Best regards,
Emil Sutovsky

As said, most of the top players prefer a tournament over matches. So why are we using so many words to point out the change? Well, because of the timing, and because of the typical FIDE way of dealing with such important aspects of chess.

The timing, for example, is wrong. Again FIDE is making changes during a cycle, which is wrong on principle. If they wanted to make changes to the Candidates format, they could have proposed if for the Candidates in 2015, but not the one that is connected to the current World Cup, i.e. the current World Championship cycle. OK, when most of the top players actually prefer a tournament over matches, then an even better way of dealing with it would have been to make these change before the World Cup had started, by organizing an extra General Assembly, or whatever is needed.

Besides, it's ridiculous that the participants of the World Cup didn't even know what exactly they were playing for. Until September 7th the participants were qualifying for Candidates matches, and during the finals they were suddenly qualifying for a Candidates tournament. A few days before the tournament ended in Khanty-Mansiysk, we asked Ruslan Ponomariov and Peter Svidler if they received a email or letter from FIDE which informed them about the change, but of course they didn't.

And then FIDE' style, their way of dealing with such matters, doesn't deserve praise either. In the last cycle they at least announced the changes; now they changed the regulations on their site without a word, probably hoping that noone would notice. In this respect we couldn't agree more with Mark Weeks, who nicely summed up things in his still topical blog post of July 27th called 'FIDE's got a secret'. We quote it in full:

Q: How do you pack a four stage qualifying cycle into three years? • A: You hold one stage per year and let the first stage of a new cycle overlap the last stage of the previous cycle. This is how the World Championship was organized from 1950 until 1990, when the title match for cycle X was held in the same year as the zonals for cycle X+1. This worked for 14 cycles.

Q: How do you pack a four stage qualifying cycle into two years? • A: No one seems to know. • FIDE's solution: You schedule the second stage of the cycle, aka the 'World Cup', every two years, preferably at Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. This fixes the schedule for the first stage -- the zonals and continental championships -- during the months before the World Cup. As for the third and fourth stages, you issue regulations and bidding procedures whenever you think the time is right and hope that someone is paying attention (or maybe you hope that no one is paying attention, thereby sparing you any criticism).

According to Google, the Rules & Regulations for the Candidates Matches of the FIDE World Championship cycle 2011-2013 were published on 16 May 2011. They were unaccompanied by any of the usual marketing nonsense like a press release or a news item on Why let your light shine when you can hide it under a bushel basket?

Why all the hush-hush? One reason might be that we are once again faced with that situation peculiar to today's FIDE that I call Two Overlapping World Championship Cycles. This guarantees that no one can follow the events except FIDE insiders, of whom there are few; it helps them feel important. Another reason might be that we are faced with the exact same format that bored everyone and was roundly criticized in the recent 2011 Candidates Event at Kazan, Russia. Yet another reason might be that FIDE can make changes to the 'Rules & Regulations' whenever they fancy, then claim, 'But it wasn't official!' Still another reason might be the chronic incompetence that plagues FIDE leadership.

I suspect it's all of the above and then some. Come on, FIDE, you've had six years since Kasparov handed you exclusive ownership of the World Championship. It's time you start acting like professionals. Do you really want to be the world's largest *amateur* sports organization?

In the same style, FIDE included an intriguing paragraph in their aforementioned article about the bidding procedure:

6. Τhe commercial agency of FIDE (CNC) reserves all rights for the live transmissions of the event and its games. The organiser of the event can have its own website and if the organiser wishes to implement the live transmission of the games, CNC must be consulted beforehand.

There we go again. We've dealt with the issues of copyright many times here at and the conclusion was always two-fold: it doesn't make sense, and it's not possible. The latter was confirmed once more in the recent Bulgarians vs. Chessbase case. FIDE, what is all this?

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