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Friday, Nov 15, 2019

Magnus Carlsen - Challenging the relevance of Chess World Cup, Candidates

Magnus Carlsen, the current reigning world champion, will take part in the upcoming Chess World Cup and should he reach the final, he will present FIDE a new challenge and raise questions on the Chess World Cup and Candidates tournament.

other-sports Updated: Sep 07, 2017 20:30 IST
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Norwegian Magnus Carlsen is the reigning World Chess Champion and there is a possibility that if he wins the World Cup and the Candidates, there might not be a world championship.
Norwegian Magnus Carlsen is the reigning World Chess Champion and there is a possibility that if he wins the World Cup and the Candidates, there might not be a world championship.(AP)

The Chess World Cup, which will be held in Georgia from September 2, is considered to be one of the strongest tournaments in the calendar in 2017. It has been enhanced by the participation of Magnus Carlsen, the reigning world champion and the No.1 chess player by a distance.

The reactions have been largely positive. FIDE’s executive director, Nigel Freeman told a chess website, that they were delighted with Carlsen’s preparation while the head of the Organising Committee of the Chess World Cup has expressed pleasure that Georgians would get a chance to have a glimpse of the world champion. Everything seems fine on the surface. However, Carlsen’s participation has also presented FIDE a new challenge. If he reaches the final of the tournament, then the relevance of the tournament and that of the subsequent Candidates tournament comes into focus.

READ | Viswanathan Anand returns to chess World Cup after 15 years, eyes Candidate spot

Rule loophole

The world No.1 is a huge fan of the knock-out system and that was the reason why Carlsen had wanted to play the Chess World Cup in 2015 but had to skip it because of scheduling issues. Having gotten the chance, he will want to make full use of it as technically, there is no such rule that bars a reigning champion from playing.

The stipulations in the Chess World Cup state that the two finalists get direct entry into the Candidates. If Carlsen enters the final, then there is a provision in the Chess World Cup for a third place play-off. Rule 4.1 in the Chess World Cup manual states, “If there is a 3rd place qualification, a match will be organised together, and with the same terms, with the final match of the World Cup to decide the 3rd place.”

FIDE might have covered up the potential of Carlsen entering the final. The third-place play-off, along with the losing finalist, will qualify directly for the Candidates.

READ | Viswanathan Anand among 7 Indians participating in Chess World Cup

Candidates relevance

With a potential of Carlsen winning the Chess World Cup following Sergey Karjakin’s elimination from the tournament, what happens to the nature of the Candidates tournament? Karjakin has already entered the tournament directly. However, what will make the situation interesting is - you guessed it - Carlsen. If he decides to play the tournament and goes on to win it, then will Carlsen play himself or a super computer in the next championship?

READ | Viswanathan Anand finishes ninth in St Louis Rapid and Blitz

This kind of situation might result in changes. Speaking to Hindustan Times, Indian Grandmaster Dibyendu Barua stated FIDE might have to tweak their qualification criteria in the case of that eventuality. “The time has come for a world championship to be held every 3-4 years. Having this contest every alternate year is not good. FIDE must make a concrete qualification system, maybe somewhere along the lines of the FIFA World Cup Football. This tournament is held every four years and in this, even the champions qualify,” Barua said.

FIDE will come up with provisions in the eventuality of these scenarios, but Carlsen’s participation, although good for fans, has thrown a real challenge to FIDE’s rules and made it a touch unfair on the other players who would want a shot at the World Championship.