Candidates Tournament

Candidates Tournament

Candidates Tournament? Candidates for what? Let’s find out all about the Candidates Tournament and its importance in the world championship cycle!

Here is what you need to know about the Candidates Tournament:

What Is The Candidates Tournament?

The Candidates Tournament is the final event in the World Championship cycle before the World Championship match itself. It is the second most important tournament in the World Championship cycle, as the winner of the Candidates Tournament plays the reigning world champion in the championship match. FIDE has organized the Candidates Tournament, as well as the entire World Championship cycle, since 1950. Since 2013, the Candidates Tournament has occurred every two years.

Candidates Tournament
The playing hall for the 2020 Candidates Tournament. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Why Is The Candidates Tournament Important?

The Candidates Tournament is important because it selects the challenger for the World Championship match. Multiple tournaments are part of the World Championship cycle, but the real point of all of them is to qualify for the Candidates Tournament. The FIDE Grand Swiss tournament is an excellent example of a celebrated top-level event whose main purpose is to award a spot in the Candidates Tournament.

Candidates Tournament
The winner of the 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss tournament, GM Wang Hao, earned a spot in the 2020 Candidates Tournament. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

How To Qualify For The Candidates Tournament

The Candidates Tournament is an eight-player, double round-robin event. The ways that the eight players are selected for the Candidates Tournament are currently:

  • One "wild card" selection is normally picked by the tournament organizer (although specific criteria must be met for the selection). 
  • The top two finishers of the FIDE World Cup qualify for the Candidates Tournament.
  • The top two finishers of the FIDE Grand Prix qualify for the Candidates Tournament.
  • The Winner of the FIDE Grand Swiss tournament qualifies for the Candidates Tournament.
  • The player with the highest average rating for the year qualifies for the Candidates Tournament.
  • The runner-up in the previous World Championship match qualifies for the Candidates Tournament. 
Candidates Tournament
Fabiano Caruana qualified for the 2020 Candidates Tournament because he finished as the runner-up in the 2018 World Championship match. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Candidates Tournament History

FIDE first started overseeing the World Championship in 1948. The candidates process has changed many times throughout the years, with different time periods between World Championship cycles and different formats to select the challenger. Between 1950 and 1965 a round-robin tournament was used to select the challenger, and the championship cycle lasted three years.

The winner of the first Candidates Tournament in 1950 was GM David Bronstein, who drew his world championship match with GM Mikhail Botvinnik (who retained his title). Bronstein wrote a famous book on the 1953 Candidates tournament, which is still considered a classic today. GM Vassily Smyslov, who won the 1953 Candidates Tournament, also drew his world championship match with Botvinnik. Smyslov won the next Candidates Tournament in 1956 and then defeated Botvinnik in the 1957 World Championship (although Botvinnik won their 1958 rematch to regain his chess crown).

candidates tournament
Bronstein wrote a famous book on the 1953 Candidates Tournament. Photo: Amazon.

The next winner of the Candidates Tournament was GM Mikhail Tal, who defeated Botvinnik in the 1960 World Championship match. History repeated itself again when Botvinnik won the rematch against Tal in 1961. GM Tigran Petrosian was the victor in the 1962 Candidates Tournament. He defeated Botvinnik in the 1963 World Championship match, and Botvinnik stepped away from the championship cycle. GM Boris Spassky won the 1965 Candidates Tournament and lost to Petrosian in the 1966 World Championship (although he would be the challenger again in 1969 and become world champion).

After the 1965 Candidates Tournament, the challenger was selected by winning or placing high in Interzonal tournaments and then winning the knockout Candidates matches. Other formats were tried until deciding on the format that is currently used: an eight-player, double-round robin format. 

The 2020 Candidates Tournament started in March 2020 with the following GMs playing: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Fabiano Caruana (the challenger in 2018), Anish Giri, Wang Hao, Alexander Grischuk, Ding Liren, and Kirill Alekseenko.

Round 7 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Score SB
1 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 2767 2876 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 4.5/7 15.25
2 Nepomniachtchi, Ian 2774 2875 0 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 4.5/7 14.25
3 Caruana, Fabiano 2842 2764 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 3.5/7 12.25
4-5 Giri, Anish 2763 2775 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 3.5/7 11.25
4-5 Wang Hao 2762 2775 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 3.5/7 11.25
6 Grischuk, Alexander 2777 2773 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 3.5/7 12.25
7 Ding Liren 2805 2667 0 0 1 ½ 0 ½ ½ 2.5/7 8.25
8 Alekseenko, Kirill 2698 2683 ½ ½ 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 2.5/7 9.25

The first seven rounds were played before the second half of the Candidates Tournament was postponed on March 26, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia's travel restrictions. The delay of the 2020 Candidates Tournament disturbed the 2020 World Championship cycle, and the World Chess Championship match will now take place in 2021.

Candidates tournament
The winner of the 2020 Candidates Tournament will face Magnus Carlsen in the 2021 World Chess Championship.


You now know what the Candidates Tournament is, why it is important, how to qualify for the Candidates Tournament, and more! Head over to the top players page to find out more about the Candidates Tournament participants.