2020 World Chess Championship: 14 Games, Double The Prize Fund
The start of game 12 of the Carlsen-Caruana match in November 2018 in London. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

2020 World Chess Championship: 14 Games, Double The Prize Fund

| 61 | Chess Event Coverage

FIDE has increased the length of the next world championship match from 12 to 14 classical games, and now recommends a prize fund of two million euros. These are some of the changes in the new regulations for world championship matches.

The new regulations for the next FIDE World Chess Championship Match and the next FIDE Women's World Championship Match 2019-20 were published earlier today on the FIDE website. The regulations were devised by the new FIDE global strategy commission, chaired by FIDE Director-General GM Emil Sutovsky.

Below we highlight the major changes from the earlier regulations.

1. Number of classical games increased from 12 to 14 games

For the first time since the 2004 match between Vladimir Kramnik and Peter Leko in Brissago, Switzerland, we will see a match that is longer than 12 classical games. Two games have been added so that the 2020 match will be 14 classical games if needed—just like in 2004, in fact.

Since the mid-1990s, world championship matches have only become shorter. Kasparov-Kramnik, London 2000 was a 16-game match; Kasparov-Anand, New York 1995 was a 20-game match and before that, world title matches were scheduled for 24 games or more.

The call for returning to longer matches has been around for quite some time, and especially after all 12 games ended in draws last November, the question was raised again. Somewhere during that match, Magnus Carlsen said he would not mind an extension of the match to more games, and after game 12 had ended, Fabiano Caruana agreed:

"I actually wouldn't mind more rounds," he said. "I think 16 or 18 rounds would be fine. It's not like we're exhausted after 12 games or anything, I don't think so. I'm sure we can play a few more. But we kind of play with the system that we have."

Caruana, Carlsen and Danny King at the press conference in November. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Caruana, Carlsen and Danny King at the press conference in November. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The members of the global strategy commission decided to make only a modest and somewhat conservative change by adding just two games. At the same time, the number of rest days has been decreased from six to five, making the match last 19 days in total (not counting a playoff).

The same 19 days could have been reached by having a match of 16 games, with three rest days, e.g. one after every four games. Top players are used to tougher schedules these days anyway; for instance they play in open tournaments that last nine or 10 rounds without a single rest day.

Sutovsky told that it was not just the commission who decided, but that many current top players were contacted.

"We actually contacted all participants of world championship matches of the last 30 years, including Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov," said Sutovsky. "We received feedback from everyone except Vishy Anand, Veselin Topalov and Fabiano Caruana, and also got answers from e.g. Levon Aronian, Ding Liren, Anish Giri and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave."

Based on this feedback, a first proposal was made, which led to "a heated discussion" on the presidential board, according to Sutovsky. After that, FIDE president Arkady Dvorkovich asked some more players face-to-face in Shamkir recently.

Sutovsky: "It was clear that 14 or 16 games were the two main options. We decided that the match should be longer, but at the same time we didn't want a considerably longer time frame than the three weeks we're having now. We removed one rest day but not more, because everyone agreed that the championship match has an absolutely different scale of tension, so you cannot apply the same principle as with tournaments."

Emil Sutovsky
Emil Sutovsky. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The number of days was increased, but the number of free days was reduced. "A clear improvement is that with the new schedule we are making sure that weekend days will be playing days," said Sutovsky.

In the new regulations for the women's title matches, the number of classical games has been increased from 10 to 12. This begs the question why this was not set at 14 as well, especially since the women's world championship cycle has been altered to match the overall cycle as much as possible.

Sutovsky: "We considered this but the thing is, women never play in an event longer than 11 rounds. The Candidates' Tournament in May in Kazan will be first time. So for the match, we decided 12 is fair."

Ju Wenjun Tan Zhongyi
The last women's world championship match was last year between Ju Wenjun and Tan Zhongyi. | Photo: Gu Xiaobing/official website.

Interestingly, Sutovsky suggested that this also is related to a difference in playing style between men and women. "In general, the fewer the games, the less inclined men are to take risks," he said. "You get the problem of too many draws, like in November. In women's chess we do not have such a problem; they make much less draws. So we found it not to be that critical to extend it even more."

2. Prize fund doubled

The previous regulations always spoke of a prize fund of "a minimum of" one million euros. In the new regulations, this amount has been doubled to two million. However, the phrasing is changed as well; now it is a "recommended" prize fund. This suggests that FIDE has the intention to at least double the prize fund, but doesn't want it to be a deal-breaker for organizers to host a match.

Sutovsky: "I strongly believe that we will receive at least one bid in excess of two million, but we decided to phrase it this way from a legal point of view."

3. Rate of play: no increment before move 61

The rate of play used to be 100 minutes for the first 40 moves, 50 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game plus an additional 30 seconds per move starting from move one. This has been changed, with the major difference being that there won't be increment anymore before move 61. In other words, we might see time scrambles again with players having only a few seconds to make their moves before the time control.

The new rate of play is very similar to the one that was very common in the 1990s and early 2000s: 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting from move 61. 

World Chess Championship media attention
Lots of media attention at the last world championship match . | Photo: Peter Doggers/

This rate of play should get the sign of approval from Carlsen, who recently stated that handling your clock time is part of the game.

The time control for the women's match will still have the more regular FIDE rate of play, with increment from the start. Why the difference?

"Women almost never play with any other time control," explained Sutovsky. "It would be very strange to suddenly request them to play with the long time control."

4. No draw offers before move 40

Following the practice at many top tournaments these days, FIDE has decided to try and ban short draws even further. From now on, in world title matches players are also not allowed to offer a draw before move 40 where this used to be move 30. The same rule is in effect at e.g. the Grenke Chess Classic, which is underway this week.

The change from move 30 to 40 might have been related to Carlsen's unexpected—and to many, disappointing—draw offer on move 31 in the final game of his match with Caruana. With the new regulations, a player needs to find a way to repeat moves, or just continue playing if move 40 hasn't been reached yet.

The bidding procedure for the 2020 match has just been opened. It is known that Stavanger, Norway has expressed interest in organizing it. "We have seen interest from other parties as well," said Sutovsky, "but we will only take them into serious consideration when they come with an actual bid."

You can find the new regulations for world championship matches here in PDF and the new regulations for women's world championship matches here in PDF.

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