25 November 2020

2019 World Cup - Qualified Players

Last week, in a post on my main blog, 2020 Candidates - Early World Championship Steps, I ended with a couple of actions:-
To do: (1) Fill in those three blanks for the nominees to '2019 WCup'. (2) Crosslink (in both directions) the IZ/KO/WCup pages with the corresponding QP page for faster navigation between them.

That first action was a continuation of a post from last year, C29 Zonal Qualification Paths (December 2019), on this World Chess Championship blog. After researching the 'three blanks', I added the necessary info to the December post. Most of that post was about discrepancies between the list of players who qualified for the 2019 World Cup and the players who eventually appeared for the event. At the time I identified a further project:-

Try to apply [the methodology] to the players listed on Zonal Qualifiers 2016-2017 (C28). Ditto for previous cycles.

As for that second action stemming from the '2020 Candidates', to crosslink pages, I'll tackle it another time.

18 November 2020

Zonal/Continental World Cup Qualifiers

Before continuing with last week's post Opens for Discussion (ACP: 'make the open tournaments part of the World Championship cycle'), I should catch up on the changes that have already been made to the next World Championship cycle. Fortunately, in the post from two weeks ago, Notes on the Women's Championship, I have a snapshot of the structure of the FIDE Handbook as of February 2020. Comparing that to the current FIDE Handbook reveals a number of differences. Here is the current structure:-
D. Regulations for Specific Competitions
01. FIDE Individual World Championship Cycles
   01. Scope
   02. Zonal Tournaments
   03. Regulations for the FIDE World Cup
   04. Regulations for the FIDE Grand Prix Series
   05. Regulations for the FIDE Grand Swiss
   06. Regulations for the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2020
   07. Regulations for the FIDE World Championship Match 2020

What was previously called '01. World Championship General Provision' is now called '01. Scope', which is much clearer. Its essence is captured in the following image:-

The table at the bottom of the chart, 'Table of Zonal Divisions', gives basic information about the different FIDE zones, from Zone 1.1 through Zone 4.4 . For example, 'Zone 2.1 (1); USA; 5M 2W' means Continent no.2 (the Americas) Zone no.1 ['2.1'], which includes one country ['(1)'], the USA. When organizing zonals, the USA is entitled to five men and two women ['5M 2W'] qualifying into the respective World Cup events. Paragraph 'B. Zonal Tournaments' is expanded in handbook chapter '02. Zonal Tournaments', which looks like a cut-and-paste job. It starts with an annex...

Annex A. Specific Regulations for the Men's and Women's Zonal Tournaments

...that incorporates 'General Assemblies' by reference, then skips sections 1-6 to cover the following sections:-

7. Organization
8. Participation
9. Prize Fund
10. Costs
11. Appeals Committee
12. Qualification for the World Championship

Back to '01. Scope', where are 'C. Continental Chess Championships' described? They are included in '03. Regulations for the FIDE World Cup', for which there are already regulations for both the World Cup 2021 and the World Cup 2023. The number of qualifiers has been expanded from 128 in 2019 to 206 in 2021:-

2. Qualification
2.1. Two hundred and six (206) players take part in World Cup. Players qualify for World Cup by the following paths:
I. Reigning World Champion.
II. Winner, runner-up and two (2) other semi-finalists of the FIDE World Cup 2019 – four (4) players.
III. Reigning Women's World Champion.
IV. World Junior Champions U-20 of 2019 & 2020 – two (2) players.
V. Qualifiers from the Continental events (see Annex 2) – eighty (80) players.
VI. Highest rated players from the average of the twelve (12) standard FIDE rating lists - thirteen (13) players, who have notqualified by any path from I to V.
VII. Highest placed player of the ACP Tour 2020, who has not qualified by any path from I to VI.
VIII. One hundred (100) players are determined according to the Final Ranking of the Chess Olympiad 2020 open section.
IX. Nominees of the FIDE President – two (2) players.
X. Nominees of the Organiser – two (2) players.

Section 'V. Qualifiers from the Continental events' mentions 'Annex 2', which is structured like this:-

Qualifying events for the FIDE World Cup
1. Zonal Tournaments
2. Continental Championships
3. Tie-break

An important paragraph in '1. Zonal Tournaments' is:-

1.2. Where a Continent decides to have zonal tournaments for qualification to World Cup, the number of zonal qualifiers shall be restricted to the approved figure by zone; the extra qualification places for each Continent shall be given to the Continental Championship to determine the remaining qualifiers to the World Cup.

Back to our example of 'Zone 2.1 USA', if the Americans decide not to hold a zonal, which has historically been the U.S. championship, their qualifying places '5M 2W : shall be given to the Continental Championship', depending on whether it is the zonal/continental for men or women. Why would any zone want to give up its right to a guaranteed number of qualifiers into the World Cup? That is a question I can't answer. Perhaps the Europeans can explain.

11 November 2020

Opens for Discussion

The Association of Chess Professionals (ACP) recently issued a Proposal For The World Championship Cycle (chessprofessionals.org), where the essence of the proposal is:-
It seems natural then to make the open tournaments part of the World Championship cycle.

How did the group arrive at the conclusion that 'it seems natural'? The argument starts with a curious observation:-

Chess is often unfavourably compared to tennis. Unlike the tennis world, chess lacks an open, all-inclusive cycle that would encompass the top and the bottom of the pyramid. [...] Needless to say, a bottom-to-top cycle is a product that sponsors love to be part of.

Instead I would have guessed that what sponsors love is tennis as a superb spectator sport. It has action that is simple to understand, coupled with a scoring system that provokes many critical moments throughout a hard fought match. I'm a terrible tennis player, but I love to watch a close match between top players because of the drama and suspense. Sponsors love tennis because the public loves it and because the public's many eyeballs are associating the match with their product.

Maybe a 'bottom-to-top cycle' is indeed a hook for sponsors. I would better trust that statement coming from a sports marketing organization rather than from an elite group of top-level chess players. I could give other examples of suggestions by chess professionals to make their game more marketable, but none of them have succeeded in the past. Remember FIDE Commerce? Chess Network (CNC)? Worldchess.com?

Let's assume for a moment that the ACP has identified a game changer for chess marketing. Here is the next piece of their argument:-

In chess we have a well-established upper part of the pyramid. The World Championship match is the cherry on top, the Candidates Tournament is the most-awaited tournament, the Grand Prix tournaments, the World Cup and the Continental Championships all form a coherent system of qualification.

Overlooking the bizarre image of a cherry on top of a pyramid, can we really talk about a 'coherent system of qualification'? The top players at the Continental Championships qualify into the World Cup, which along with the winners of the Grand Prix and the Grand Swiss qualify into the Candidates. (Or does the Grand Swiss only qualify into the World Cup? I'm too lazy to look it up. If the system were coherent, I wouldn't have to.)

And what about the Zonals, which are on the same qualification level as the Continentals? There are presently four levels of qualification : Zonals, Continentals; World Cup, Grand Prix, Grand Swiss; Candidates; World Championship. What's coherent about that? To return to the ACP proposal:-

The lowest entry point for qualification in the World Championship cycle are the Continental Championships and these are not easily accessible to the lower-rated professionals, among other things because they are very expensive tournaments to play in. What is obviously missing here is the bottom part of the pyramid.

Again there is no mention of the Zonals. The Europeans eliminated their Zonals in 2001 (for cycle no.20 in my system of counting -- we're up to cycle no.29 now) and have been complaining ever since that the three other continents (the Americas, Asia, and Africa) kept their Zonals. Under the new ACP proposal, would the Zonals continue or would they be replaced by the opens?

As for the Continentals being 'expensive', is that because of travel costs -or- is there another reason? If it's because of travel costs, how would a series of open tournaments be less expensive? That would partially depend on the next question: Would a player who finishes 1st in one open have a better or worse chance of qualifying than a player who finishes 10th in 10 opens? (Or 5th in five opens, etc.) In the Zonals, the top finishers qualify into the World Cup after a single tournament. The proposal continues:-

We would like to propose a concept where many open tournaments are part of a World Open Circuit. For this purpose the already well-established ACP Tour system or a similar one may serve as a basis on which the Circuit can be built.

Without doing any research on existing tournaments that might be incorporated into this scheme, I imagine they are concentrated in Europe. In a future scheme, would they be evenly distributed across the four continents? (I'm again wondering about travel costs.) On top of that, will ACP membership continue to be a requirement for eventual qualification?

The ACP ends the proposal with its weakest arguments. The first is a non-sequitur:-

The pause in over-the-board activities that the pandemic has forced us to have is an excellent opportunity for FIDE to prepare and reform the World Championship cycle by including the open tournaments in it.

The second is based on a work of fiction:-

Thanks to the popularity brought about by Netflix’s "The Queen’s Gambit" series, where such a climb from bottom to top is at the very center of the story that is currently inspiring the whole world.

All of the major chess news sources have issued reports on the ACP proposal. All have received comments from chess fans around the world. I'll try to find the time to review the many comments to see if I've overlooked the most important points.


Not long after I posted this essay, it appeared on the list of 'Popular Posts (Last 12 months)' at the bottom of every page on this blog. That in itself is unusual. At the same time, an older post appeared on the popular list: Dual Qualification Paths (July 2007). I knew that the two posts were related, but when I wrote the newer post, I didn't have the time to locate the older post. By some small twist of fate, it was done for me!

04 November 2020

Notes on the Women's Championship

While working on last week's post, Interview with Dvorkovich (October 2020), I noted a couple of points concerning the Women's World Championship. Both were in the two excerpts of the interview in English on Chesstech.org. The first was in Part 1: FIDE’s next steps:-
Dvorkovich is concerned about the next World Cup and Women’s World Cup, that were supposed to take place in Minsk in summer 2021 respectively spring 2022: "The World Cups have never been popular among organisers. The players love them, the audience loves them, but it’s a nightmare for the hosts. We are looking for a way to allow all players that qualified to play and at the same time make the life of organisers easier, the events shorter and more spectacular."

That explains why, for the last few cycles, the unrestricted version of the World Cup has always been given to the organizer of the Olympiad. If you want the Olympiad, you have to organize the World Cup in the preceding year. It also explains why the Women’s World Cup was called a World Championship -- it added prestige to the event. The second point was in Part 2: "I am not used to discussing politics":-

After two hours Dubov ran out of questions and asked if Dvorkovich wanted to address anything else. The FIDE President was still agile and raised several issues: The promotion of women by aligning their world championship cycle with the men and providing more playing opportunities. [...]

This reminded me of my current pet peeve regarding the 2019 Women's Title Match (February 2020). After the match, played in January 2020, I observed,

[My page on the match] included a short explanation about the change of regulations that went into effect between the time they were announced and the time the match was played. It's a pity that FIDE still hasn't updated the obsolete regulations, especially since the announcement of the change is buried in the Fide.com Archive.

Nine months later, FIDE still hasn't documented the cycle. The top section of the image below shows the table of contents for the FIDE handbook at the time of the match. Chapters 7 and 12 have since been removed. The other chapters have been renumbered, but their content hasn't changed. FIDE recently announced two more pieces of the current cycle for the Women's World Championship:-

Both of the Grand Swiss tournaments are described in 'Draft Regulations'. That gives us no regulations describing the entire current cycle, especially the candidates tournament, *plus* draft regulations for a new event that qualifies into the candidates tournament and that is already in the bidding stage. C'mon FIDE; you should be able to do better than that. Anyway, here is the list of documents that were available at the beginning of the year.

While I'm on the subject of women's chess, I have a small change to the Index of Women Players. The Vikipedija page for Eva Karakasa (lv.wikipedia.org) links to five of my pages for the Women's World Championship. The first link is to the 1955 Candidates Tournament, where 'Karakas' is not found. The second link is to the 1959 Candidates Tournament, where we find '07 Karakas'. The other three pages also list 'Karakas'.

The bottom section of the image above, from Jeremy Gaige's 'Chess Personalia', explains the discrepancy. In the 1955 Candidates event we find '14 Kertesz', and assume that she must have remarried between the 1955 and the 1959 events. I updated the 'Index of Women Players' accordingly.