31 March 2021

A New Cycle Is Struggling to Survive

It's been two years since FIDE restructured its World Championship qualifiers, as I documented in FIDE Starts the New Cycle (May 2019; 'I added three new pages to my site for the World Chess Championship'), meaning it's time to start the next cycle. Although the coronavirus pandemic has played havoc with tournament plans, the FIDE Calendar shows that many qualifying events are already scheduled. The following table gives an overview of those events.

Source: FIDE Calendar
[World Events 2021]
Candidates Tournaments Yekaterinburg, Russia 19 Apr28 Apr
FIDE World Cup Sochi, Russia 10 Jul03 Aug
FIDE Women's World Cup 2021 Sochi, Russia 10 Jul06 Aug
FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss and Women’s Grand Swiss 2021 Isle of Man 25 Oct08 Nov
FIDE World Chess Championship Dubai, UAE 24 Nov16 Dec
European Hybrid Qualification event for the FIDE World Cup Online 22 May30 May
('No Data')
Asian Continental Open Chess Championship Hybrid 20 May30 May
Zone 3.1 Zonal Open Championship Hybrid 01 Jun09 Jun
Zone 3.2 Zonal Open Championship Dhaka, Bangladesh 01 Jun09 Jun
Zone 3.3 Zonal Open Championship Hybrid 01 May10 May
Zone 3.4 Zonal Open Championship Tashkent, Uzbekistan 06 May15 May
Zone 3.7 Zonal Open Championship India 2021 2021
2021 African Online World Cup Pre-Qualifying Chess Championship Tornelo Platform 23 Apr02 May
African Individual Chess Championship 2021 (Open & Women) Lilongwe, Malawi 17 May28 May
Zone 4.1 Individual Chess Championship 2021 (Open & Women) Algiers, Algeria 29 Oct06 Nov
Zone 4.2 Individual Chess Championship 2021 (Open & Women) Lomé, Togo 03 Sep11 Sep
Zone 4.3 Individual Chess Championship 2021 (Open & Women) Libreville, Gabon 01 Oct09 Oct
Zone 4.4 Individual Chess Championship 2021 (Open & Women) Kigali, Rwanda 27 Aug04 Sep
Zone 4.5 Individual Chess Championship 2021 (Open & Women) Maseru, Lesotho 05 Nov13 Nov

[World Events 2021] - My most recent posts on these subjects were:-

[Europe] - See also European hybrid qualification tournament for the FIDE World Cup (chessbase.com), which starts,

The European Hybrid Qualification Tournament for the FIDE World Cup will take place on May 22-30 and will be played Online as a hybrid event. 36 players will qualify for the FIDE World Cup 2021. The event will be played under a knock-out system with matches consisting of 2 standard games plus tiebreaks if needed.

[Americas] - The calendar section of the FIDE America site returns an error message: '404 Error : Article not found'. A recent page, Participants in the World Cup, says,

FIDE has asked the Continents to send the names of the participants in the World Cup before May 31st, 2021, also approving to organize Continental Hybrid Championships where no titles will be granted.

[Asia] - Zone 3.5 is missing. Zone 3.6 was covered on 2021 Oceania Zonal (chessexpress.blogspot.com). That kickoff post explained,

The 2021 Oceania Zonal is now going ahead as a 'hybrid' event. This means that the players will be playing online, but supervised by an in place arbiter. Due to the logistics of organising such an event, it will be a round robin tournament, with 1 player per country, except Australia, who can nominate 2 players.

[Africa] - I first mentioned the new zone 4.5 in FIDE Details the New Cycle (May 2019).

For more about the hybrid format, see my recent post FIDE Hybrid Competitions: 'In a few months we'll learn how well this works for World Championship qualifiers.' The experience started with zone 3.6.

24 March 2021

A World Correspondence Champion's Games

The subject of last week's post, Three Time World Correspondence Champion (March 2021), was ICCF GM Aleksandr Dronov. Wanting to know more about GM Dronov's games, I downloaded the PGN file from his ICCF player page (see the 'Three Time WCC' post for a link) and started to analyze it.

Although the ICCF page promises '149 games completed' (three more than last week), I received 150 games. Dronov is currently playing the 'World Championship 31 Final' and the crosstable for the event indicates that three of his games, all draws, have been added since a week ago.

Of the 150 games, there was a preponderance of games where Dronov was Black. It turned out that two of the earliest events had him as Black in nearly all of his games. These games in the PGN file were only stubs -- no moves available -- a bookkeeping convention I've also used to build crosstables. Going a little deeper, I counted 34 such games without moves.

The following chart gives an overview of Dronov's opening repertioire. Of course, it doesn't pretend to be complete. He has also opened 1.Nf3 and 1.c4 in a few games. Where he plays several different moves in a position, his most frequent choice is shown first. It's also worth noting that 1.d4 as his first move was more frequent in older games, while 1.e4 was more frequent in newer games.

What more can I say about this chart? Not much. These are all popular lines and the moves shown here are all well known. The same chart would apply to many of today's titled correspondence players. The choice of move depends not only on a player's experience (i.e. repertoire), but also on the opponent's repertoire, previous experience against the opponent, the objective against a specific opponent, and up-to-date engine analysis.

Two games were mentioned in the AJEC interview, already referenced in the 'Three Time WCC' post. Both games were from the WC22 Final, the event that gave Dronov his first World Champion title. The first game mentioned was a controversial decision on an adjudication:-

Q: Several strong players (Langeveld, Hamarat and Timm) are convinced that the [win] which you have been granted in the arbitration against Rune Holmberg is completely fanciful and that you wouldn't you have won this game against one of them.

Dronov answered with a few specific points and summarized,

A: The arbitrator (just like me), had no doubts about the outcome of this game and that is why he awarded me the win.

The second game mentioned was the last to finish in the tournament, and allowed Dronov to tie for first place, thereby winning on tiebreak:-

Q: What was your most difficult part in this world championship? • A: The last, decisive game against Buecker was the most difficult and the most interesting.

Both of those games are worth a deeper look. Since the purpose of this blog is not to analyze games, I'll leave that exercise for another place.

17 March 2021

Three Time World Correspondence Champion

In a recent post, Small Projects for 2021 (February 2021), I wrote,
The ICCF started one new World Championship, the 32nd, but finished none. It might be worthwhile to write a post about three time ICCF winner Aleksandr Dronov, so I'll keep that in mind.

My first stop was the ICCF site, from which I cobbled together the following composite image. It shows GM Dronov's titles and ICCF events

140915 RUS GM Dronov, Aleksandr Surenovich

Comparing the 146 games there with The chess games of Aleksandr Surenovich Dronov (chessgames.com; 'Number of games in database: 47'), shows that many of his games are not in the online databases. If the best correspondence player in the world is underrepresented, the same must be true for lesser players.

My next stop was Wikipedia's page, Aleksandr Dronov (en.wikipedia.org). The following 'snippet' repeats nearly the entire content of the page.

Aleksandr Surenovich Dronov is a Russian International Correspondence Chess Grandmaster. He is most famous for being the 22nd, 27th, and 29th World Correspondence Chess Champion.[1][2][3] He is the only person to win the World Correspondence Chess Championship three times.

Country: Soviet Union; Russia
Born: 6 October 1946 (age 74) Moscow, Russia
Title: ICCF Grandmaster (2005)

The footnotes '[1][2][3]' lead to the relevant crosstables on ICCF.com. That English language page is not very informative, but indicates that Dronov also has Wikipedia pages in six other languages. Only one of these, the German language page Alexander Surenowitsch Dronow (de.wikipedia.org), has much to add. Google Translate informs,

Dronow began in 1988 at the age of 41, inspired by the successes of Fritz Baumbach with correspondence chess. Before that he had tried his hand at local chess without any notable success and had been taking a break there since 1981. After taking 3rd place on the first board of the 13th Correspondence Chess Olympiad behind Baumbach and Chytilek, he won the gold medal on the 1st board of the opening group for the 18th Correspondence Chess Olympiad.

My final stop was a French language page, AJEC - 01.01.2011 - Interview d'Aleksandr Surenovich Dronov (ajec-echecs.org; AJEC = 'Association des Joueurs d’Échecs par Correspondance'). Taking only a small portion of the interview, Google Translate again informs,

Q: Do you have any favorite books? A: 'My System' by Aaron Nimzowitsch and 'Zurich 1953, The Art of Chess Fighting' by David Bronstein. • Q: What do you think is the essential trait that enabled you to win this [World Championship] tournament? A: A very solid confidence in [myself]. • Q: How do you prepare your games with Black? A: I always look for positions with counterplay. I always play to win.

Correspondence chess grandmasters don't get the attention they deserve, but we knew that already.

P.S. In the final of the 31st ICCF World Championship (follow the link under the image above), the leader is presently on plus-2 with all games completed. Dronov is on plus-1 with four games unfinished. He might win a fourth title!

10 March 2021

FIDE Hybrid Competitions

Earlier this year we had an announcement from FIDE about online chess rules, including the concept of 'hybrid competition'.
  • 2021-01-04: FIDE approves Online Chess Regulations (fide.com) • 'The FIDE Council has approved a new set of rules to be applied to official online chess competitions. The document, which will be incorporated into the laws of chess, is the result of a joint effort by a dedicated task force, in which several FIDE Commissions were involved. [...] The so-called "hybrid competition" is a new format where the games are played online, but the participants are physically present in a public place like a club, federation headquarters, hotel, et cetera. [...] FIDE expects the hybrid format to be used in some official events in the near future, and some Continents have expressed their intention to hold their Zonal and even Continental Championships under this format.

A few weeks later we learned that the hybrid competitions would be rated.

  • 2021-01-18: FIDE approves hybrid competitions valid for rating (ditto) • 'A few weeks ago, the FIDE Council approved a new set of rules to be applied to official online chess competitions. The document also established the framework for “hybrid” events [...] After receiving some additional input from the Qualification Commission, and adding some minor amendments to the first version of the regulations, the FIDE Council has approved that hybrid competitions are officially rated in equal terms with traditional games.'

Just a few days ago we learned that hybrid competitions were valid for World Championship qualifying events.

Shown below is the table of contents for the 'Online Chess Regulations'. Note specifically 'Part III b: Regulations for Hybrid Chess Competitions'. In a few months we'll learn how well this works for World Championship qualifiers.

FIDE Handbook E. Miscellaneous / 04. Online Chess Regulations

03 March 2021

FIDE Candidates Tournament, Final Chapter?

Regarding the February announcement, FIDE resumes the Candidates Tournament (fide.com), shouldn't that say, 'FIDE plans to resume...'? The announcement started,
The Candidates Tournament, the biennial 8-player event that decides who will be the Challenger for the World Chess Championship title, will resume on the 19th of April in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

It also gave an overview of the tournament standing, reproduced below, when it was interrupted after the first half had been completed.

I added a link for the announcement to my page, 2020 Candidates Tournament; Yekaterinburg (Russia), III-IV, 2020. There are now 19 Fide.com links on that page, which might be some kind of a record. For the recent announcement about the subsequent title match, see Expo 2020 Dubai (in 2021).