29 April 2020

90th FIDE Congress : Whither the World Championship?

A couple of months ago, mid-February 2020 to be exact, I had a couple of posts continuing an annual series on this blog, Whither the World Championship?: The Missing Link and The GSC. I ended that second post with a wish:-
I hope we'll learn more from the 90th Congress, although based on recent performance it might take a long time before anything is formally announced.

It only took a month before I was able to report on my main blog that the Minutes of the 90th FIDE Congress (April 2020) were available. They comprised two documents. I'll highlight a few paragraphs that touched on the World Championship.

First, here are extracts from the minutes for the 90th FIDE Congress; FIDE Extraordinary General Assembly; Abu Dhabi, UAE; 28th February 2020 :-

1. FIDE President address

The President's address is always a good source for current FIDE thinking. The 90th Congress featured FIDE President Dvorkovich's first address since his election in 2018. The first highlight answers a question from late last year, WADA Ya Know? (December 2019):-

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sanctioned Russia for doping practices and there was the risk that our Chess Olympiad could be under threat. However, following the discussions we had with WADA, it was agreed that most of the FIDE tournaments are not under threat. This was the result of our good collaboration with WADA.

Another point listed changes adopted for the current cycle:-

Mr. Dvorkovich illustrated the new projects for the future, firstly focusing on the World Championship Cycle. A new system of qualifications for the Candidates Tournaments was introduced, including the new tournament Grand Swiss, that allows more players to compete and have a chance to become a candidate in the World Championship Cycle. Another important point was the knock-out format of the Grand Prix Series, which increased the visibility and competitiveness of this stage of qualification. A more inclusive World Cup format has been developed, increasing the number of participants both in the open and women’s tournaments, thus allowing more countries to participate to the World Cup, which will start already this year in September in Minsk. [?]

I question that last sentence, because the Minsk World Cup is currently scheduled for August 2021. Another paragraph mentioned women's events, where I also had a small problem with the last sentence (what 'tournament'?):-

Mr. Dvorkovich is confident that there have been improvements in gender equality. The World Championship Cycle was reformed in such a way, that it could be the same as open tournaments. This goal has not been achieved yet, but FIDE is on the right track. We are also working on establishing the Women’s Grand Swiss Tournaments by this year. Moreover, the prize money for women has been substantially increased. According to the recommendations from the Women’s Chess Commission, a quota for the participation of women in management positions has been introduced, which means that there will be more space for women in the management positions and in the tournament. [?]

Another point mentioned WCC sponsors:-

Total (one of the main sponsors of the Women’s Grand Prix Series), [...] Algorand (for the World Championship Cycle) and a few other companies that supported the Women’s Grand Prix tournaments.

In the past I've been critical of FIDE communication under the Dvorkovich management, and I know I'm not alone. This is being addressed:-

He added that FIDE needs to improve its communication practices. FIDE already counts on multiple channels of communication, but it is still not enough. One of the initiatives which will start today is the publication of the electronic FIDE Newsletter.

The biggest news came at the end of the minutes, although it's entirely possible that the next title match will be postponed because of scheduling complications caused by the coronavirus:-

7. 91st FIDE Congress 2020 [...] Mr. Dvorkovich also announced that FIDE has almost finalized its negotiation with the organizers of Dubai Expo 2020 regarding the World Championship Match, which will most probably take place in the United Arab Emirates. The most likely starting date for the tournament will be the 20th December.

Second, the relevant extracts from the minutes for the 90th FIDE Congress; FIDE Executive Board; Abu Dhabi, UAE; 29th February 2020 came entirely from the report of the GSC:-

5.9 Global Strategy Commission • Mr. Dvorkovich reported about the activity of this Commission. Regarding the World Cup, it was established to increase the number of players who could participate to the tournament, thus increasing the representation of the national federations on this occasion.

The qualification requirements for both Grand Prix and the Candidates Tournament represent another issue to be focused on. Many players complained that the qualification requirements used for the current Grand Prix and Candidates Tournament had a bias on the initial rating. Therefore, it is necessary to change these requirements. This is one of the issues the Global Strategy Commission is discussing about and all the Federations are invited to share their opinions about this matter.

The Global Strategy Commission report was unanimously approved.

I'll come back to that so-called rating bias another time. It's an issue that has been simmering for some time.

22 April 2020

2019-20 WGP, Lausanne

In my first post on the 2019-20 Women's Grand Prix (WGP; December 2019; 'second event in that Grand Prix, held in Monaco'), I wrote,
The FIDE handbook still points to the document for the previous cycle, which does not mention a FIDE Women Candidates Tournament. [...] The third leg of the Women's Grand Prix will take place at Lausanne in March 2020. Will the necessary documentation be available by then?

Short answer: No, the necessary documentation is still not available, nor is there any sign of activity. • Long answer: The handbook entries for 'FIDE Individual World Championship Cycles' have since been reorganized. The chapter titled 'Regulations for the Women's World Chess Championship Cycle' has been removed, but chapters for the 'Women's World Cup' and the 'Women’s Grand Prix Series 2019-2020' have been retained. The chapter 'Regulations for the FIDE Women's World Championship Match 2020' is the document used for the 2020 Ju Wenjun - Goryachkina Title Match. No new Women's documents have been added.

I gathered and saved the files necessary to document the Lausanne Grand Prix. I'll continue to hold off creating a page for the current Grand Prix until FIDE formally documents the entire cycle.

The page for the Women’s FIDE Grand Prix Series currently says that the fourth and last leg of the WGP will be held at 'Sardinia 02.05.20 – 15.05.20'. That starts at the end of next week. I couldn't find any mention of the event's cancellation or postponement. Is FIDE setting itself up for another fiasco like Yekaterinburg Candidates - Second Week?

There was no second week. Shortly after I finished the 'First Week' post, FIDE announced, FIDE stops the Candidates Tournament (fide.com; 26 March 2020).

At this point, nothing would surprise me.

15 April 2020

Yekaterinburg Candidates - Video Commentary

A few days ago on my main blog, I featured a video showing GM Anand on the Lockdown. I introduced the topic saying,
As I prepared the short list for this month's video feature, I found two themes repeated again and again. By coincidence, they echoed the two words in the title of last month's news highlights: Coronavirus Candidates (March 2020). I'll look at the 'Coronavirus' side in this post, then look at the 'Candidates' side on my World Championship blog. Another theme that cropped up repeatedly was 'streaming'.

The 'Candidates' theme and the 'streaming' theme fused in a series of live commentaries from the main chess news sites, each commentary covering a round in the Candidates tournament. With only a little effort I put together four such series of streams from the four Youtube channels shown in the following table. It's a logical continuation of the previous post on this blog, Yekaterinburg Candidates - Intermezzo.

Chess.com Chess24 FIDE chess STLChessClub
Rd.1 Rd.1 Rd.1 Rd.1
Rd.2 Rd.2 Rd.2 Rd.2
Rd.3 Rd.3 Rd.3 Rd.3
Rd.4-1Rd.4-2 Rd.4 Rd.4 Rd.4
Rd.5 Rd.5 Rd.5 Rd.5
Rd.6 Rd.6 Rd.6 Rd.6
Rd.7-1Rd.7-2 Rd.7 Rd.7 Rd.7
PostponedRadjabov Stopped Postponed Adjourned

That last set of videos covers the abrupt termination of the tournament with a choice of words to describe the decision: Postponed, Stopped, Adjourned. It's too early to say which word will best describe the ultimate fate of the tournament, because the planet is nowhere near a solution to tame the coronavirus that caused it. I'll go with 'Stopped', after everyone agrees that the year 2020 should be forgotten and summarized by an asterisk, with all future plans for 2021+ advanced by one year. 'World Title Match 2020': No; 'World Title Match 2021': Yes!

The table doesn't show who were the various commentators, so it's worth noting that World Champion Carlsen was listed in the titles of four Chess24 videos: Rd.1, Rd.4, Rd.5, Rd.7. This shouldn't raise any eyebrows after we recall 'Smart Is the New Sexy' (September 2019), where 'I remembered an announcement from a few months ago, Chess24 and Play Magnus join forces (chess24.com; March 2019)'. That was exactly one year before the Candidates Tournament.

Given (1) seven rounds in the tournament plus a round diagnosing its termination, (2) multiplied by four sources, and (3) assuming four hours per stream -- this results in approximately 128 hours (8 x 4 x 4) of video viewing. If I watch all of this in one week I'll have just enough time for sleep to fill the 168 hours (24 x 7) in the week. I'd better get started as soon as I post this.

08 April 2020

Yekaterinburg Candidates - Intermezzo

Where do we go after Yekaterinburg Candidates - Second Week? The stopping of the Candidates Tournament produced three themes:-
  • Official reactions (FIDE)
  • Player reactions
  • Questions about resumption, e.g. GM Radjabov

The major chess news sources had plenty of commentary, from the pundits and from the fans, but which site to use as a reference? Since I had four references from each, I decided to go with all three (in no particular order).


Chess.com (Peter Doggers):

Chess24.com (Colin McGourty):

Re GM Radjabov, my page on the 2020 Candidates Tournament, Yekaterinburg quotes the announcement from FIDE (6 March): 'Teimour Radjabov has informed FIDE about his decision to withdraw from the Candidates Tournament, citing personal reasons.' That statement, making no mention of the coronavirus pandemic as the underlying 'personal' reason, is about as intellectually dishonest as any statement I've seen from FIDE, including the weirdness that emanated frequently during the Ilyumzhinov reign.

How FIDE treats Radjabov in any resumption of the tournament will again show what it really thinks of its top players. Are they partners -or- Are they pawns?


Later: I should have mentioned a related FIDE announcement that appeared a day before the Candidates tournament was stopped.

  • 2020-05-25: Statement by the FIDE Council regarding the Chess Olympiad (fide.com) •: 'FIDE has decided to postpone the 44th Chess Olympiad (including the competition for players with disabilities) and the FIDE Congress. These events, to be held in Moscow and Khanty-Mansiysk during the summer of 2020, are rescheduled to the summer of 2021 at the same locations.'

The FIDE calendar currently shows:-

World Chess Cup 2021 • Minsk, Belarus • 01 Aug 2021 • 28 Aug 2021

The World Cup will be one of the most important qualifying events for the World Championship cycle, 2021-2022. Many players who participate in the World Cup also represent their country in the Olympiad. Something's got to give.

01 April 2020

Yekaterinburg Candidates - Second Week

This might become one of the shortest blog posts I've ever written. After last week's post, Yekaterinburg Candidates - First Week, there was no second week. Shortly after I finished the 'First Week' post, FIDE announced, FIDE stops the Candidates Tournament (fide.com; 26 March 2020). The announcement said,
Today, the government of the Russian Federation announced that starting March 27, 2020, Russia interrupts air traffic with other countries without indicating any time frames. FIDE can not continue the tournament without guarantees for the players' and officials' safe and timely return home. In this situation and on the basis of clause 1.5. Rules of Candidates Tournament, the FIDE President decided to stop the tournament.

It will be continued later, with the exact dates to be announced as soon, as the global situation related to the COVID-19 pandemic will allow. As it was stipulated by the special rules agreed with the players before the start of the event, the results of the 7 rounds played remain valid, and the tournament will be resumed in the same composition starting with the games of the 8th round.

I added a link to that announcement -- along with subsequent, related announcements -- to my page 2020 Candidates Tournament; Yekaterinburg (Russia), III-IV, 2020. Eventually I'll expand the months 'III-IV, 2020' to include whatever FIDE decides, although I doubt we'll see that decision anytime soon. The result of the first half of the tournament is shown in the following chart.

FIDE Candidates Chess Tournament 2020

In the 'First Week' post I noted a curious coincidence about the last four Candidates tournaments : 'The winner was one of the leaders after the first half of the tournament.' Would Yekaterinburg have continued the sequence? The leaders after seven rounds were GMs Vachier-Lagrave and Nepomniachtchi, with the Frenchman beating the Russian in the seventh round. My explanation about the success of the leaders after the first half has to do with momentum and motivation. Since there will now be a months-long pause before the tournament recommences, momentum will not play a role.

The tournament should have been postponed before it started. FIDE's lack of good judgement and its disregard for the safety of the players and officials will not be forgotten.