Candidates will take place in March in Moscow

by Johannes Fischer
11/5/2015 – FIDE has announced the dates for the next candidates tournament. It will take place in Moscow from 10. to 30. March. Main sponsor is the Tashir Group, and the wildcard goes Levon Aronian. Six players had already qualified: Anand, Nakamura, Caruana, Karjakin, Svidler, and Topalov. Anish Giri has the best chances to become candidate number eight.

Candidates Tournament 2016 in Moscow

Today, a a rather inconspicuous article titled "FIDE President's working visit to Yerevan" appeared on the FIDE website. But the article contained information a lot of chessplayers all over the world were waiting for: details of the Candidates Tournament 2016. To quote:

"FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov arrived on a working visit in Yerevan where he met with the President of Armenia, President of the Armenian Chess Federation Serzh Sargsian. The two Presidents discussed several issues related to the organization of the Candidates' Tournament. The FIDE President informed Mr. Sargsian that the event would be held in Moscow the next year as it has been planned. The organizers will be FIDE and AGON with the support of Russian Chess Federation. The partner of the tournament will be a famous Russian company Tashir. The organizer will nominate GM Levon Aronian to participate as their nominee."

Tashir might be a "famous Russian company" but head of the group is the Armenian millionaire Samvel Karapetyan and this might explain why the organizers gave the wildcard to Levon Aronian. Last year the Tashir Group also sponsored the Petrosian Memorial.

Now the following seven players are nominated for the Candidates:

Viswanathan Anand (World Championship finalist)
Hikaru Nakamura (Grand Prix)
Fabiano Caruana (Grand Prix)
Sergey Karjakin (World Cup)
Peter Svidler (World Cup)
Levon Aronian (Wildcard)
Veselin Topalov (Average rating in 2015)

Topalov was nominated because of his high rating average in 2015 and the last remaining place will also be given to the player with the best average rating. Here Anish Giri and Vladimir Kramnik have the best chances though at the moment Giri would qualify as the following table which was published on Wikipedia and is based on calculations by Martin Bennedik shows.

"The following table lists the projected top 10 players by average ratings in the 12 monthly rating lists for 2015. ... With just one more rating list to be released, Veselin Topalov and Anish Giri are virtually assured of qualifying."

Rank Player Estimated 2015 average
(assuming no more games played)
2015 average
(as of October 2015)
1  Veselin Topalov 2804 2805.3
2  Anish Giri 2788.6 2788.5
3  Vladimir Kramnik 2780.3 2780.6
4  Alexander Grischuk 2780 2785.6
5  Wesley So 2774 2777.4
6  Ding Liren 2762 2758.2
7  Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2752 2750
8  Dmitry Jakovenko 2745 2746.1
9  Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2744 2744

Source: Wikipedia, "World Chess Championship 2016", retrieved 5. November 2015

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Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".
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fusoya fusoya 11/5/2015 05:02
Aronian is a strong player but the wildcard system is a farce for the candidates. Make money in other tournaments, but the candidates should be close to sacred, let the players in who have earned it, not just the pet of whatever corporation or nation wants pub or prestige.
guest1227491 guest1227491 11/5/2015 05:56
The wildcard system may be a farce in general, but NOT in this case. Aronian is a fantastic choice for a wildcard, and I think he has good chances to win the whole thing.

Seriously, what an exciting lineup! The best of the young players, along with the best of the old guard. There is no favorite -- I think the top 5-6 players by rating all have almost equal chances of winning.
gmwdim gmwdim 11/5/2015 06:27
Aronian is getting in on past tournament play reputation. He was in a slump until a couple months ago, and he's never done well in the candidates. I don't expect him to be in serious contention this time either.
Nino-sp Nino-sp 11/5/2015 06:56
I would like to see Kramnik there. First because he is the next guy by rating average. And second because it would be nice to see another Kramnik x Topalov crash in such a important tournament.
LAMIB LAMIB 11/5/2015 07:26
The players qualify for the candidates after grueling competitions stretching months and even years. There are many strong players who missed qualification by the skin of their teeth. The wild card system does not do justice to those players in anyway even if it is for getting a sponsor. Aronian is a great player but there are other equally deserving players. The status of the candidates seems degraded after this.
Denix Denix 11/5/2015 09:22
Levon Aronian is the rightful wildcard IMHO. Go fund your own version of Candidates tournament and you can make your own picks as well. Like any other sports, chess is business, and it is the funding that makes the game itself a success. Let's go Aronian!
idratherplay960 idratherplay960 11/5/2015 09:31
I like the wildcard. It is a nice incentive to the investing party and after all chess needs motivated sponsors. Aronian is still clearly a top player. No one predicted Anand would win last year. Aronian has as many titles as any top GMs. Bravo
daftarche daftarche 11/5/2015 09:52
@denix try to make more sense next time.
excalibur2 excalibur2 11/5/2015 10:12
@LAMIB Agreed. I like Lev, but this is a farce that needs to be addressed in the future.
stephen brady stephen brady 11/5/2015 11:10
I like Peter Svidler, and he's a fantastic player. No way should he be on the list of candidates vying for the World Championship at this point in his career.
anonimous anonimous 11/5/2015 11:28
Honestly the only reasonable choices for a wildcard, considering the current state of form, would have been Kramnik (back to number 4 in the world, former World Champion...) or Aronian (Sinquefeld Cup). Every other choice would have only made sense from a patriotic point of view, if for instance the USA had hosted the Candidates and given So the wild card, or Azerbaijan hosting the candidates and giving the wild card to Mamedjarov.

That said, I'm a tad surprised the wild card didn't go to Kramnik, considering that Russia is hosting the event. Perhaps the organizers are not in good terms with Big Vlad?
Peter B Peter B 11/5/2015 11:34
Svidler qualified fair and square in the World Cup.

I'm not happy with a wild card system either. But given his Sinquefield Cup win - ahead of Carlsen and 5 other candidates - Aronian is as good a choice as any.
tom_70 tom_70 11/6/2015 02:11
It won't make any difference. No human on earth can beat Carlsen in a head to head match at this point in time.
thlai80 thlai80 11/6/2015 02:31
Fact is either you give some rights to the sponsor to nominate a wildcard or FIDE funds itself for the candidates. Afterall it is only 1 wildcard, and if he is not as good as everyone thinks, he will not win the candidates to face Carlsen. So, what's the fuss? Is there a need to bash Aronian, who until his recent slump was once on top of the world barring Carlsen?

Because Kramnik fans wanna see him instead? I like both Aronian and Kramnik, but if the argument is about ratings only, then there's no need for all the tournaments at all, just purely base on ranking. The point is, FIDE created a lot of different paths to qualify to the candidates. Ranking is just one of them, together with World Cup, previous World Championship runner-up, GP and wildcard. Take away the wildcard and fans may not even get to see the candidates funded and hosted at all.

Don't forget Aronian is not just another participant. He won Sinquefield this year ahead of Carlsen, Nakamura, Giri, Caruana, So, Anand, Topalov, Grischuk and MVL.
ChiliBean ChiliBean 11/6/2015 03:11
Aronian or Kramnik would have been my best choices for a strong tournament. Happy one of them was chosen and really looking forward to seeing some great chess.
Barry Bague Barry Bague 11/6/2015 03:15
Carlsen's reign will still last a long long time..
amarpan amarpan 11/6/2015 06:15
Between Giri and Kramnik I would vote for Kramnik. He is a former world champion, and the only player to beat Kasparov in a championship match. He could very well be the only player who can beat Carlsen as well. Having said that Giri, is an upcoming player and a potential world champion, so this could prove to be his break, who knows. Moreover, he has been the more consistent performer between himself and Kramnik. Nevertheless, I hate to see Kramnik's name to be missing.
daftarche daftarche 11/6/2015 10:59
the point is money should not buy you a place in candidates. i understand aronian is an amazing player but still he failed to qualify. we have a rating system, a world cup and grand prix tournaments to qualify and he still did not manage to go through. sport should be competitive and he failed to compete and go through.
it is all about endurance in sport. i wish soviets could buy a place for leonid stein in his time...
TheBishop TheBishop 11/6/2015 12:07
A candidates, without Kramnik, is a tournament who lose in high top chess. Imo, I think, if is anyone, in the chess high top ranking, which who Carlsen have some difficulties, is Kramnik in his best form. I guess, in his Carlsen mind, the only player which Carlsen don't fell relax and sure for his superiority, is Kramnik. Excuse me my bad english.
VVI VVI 11/6/2015 01:29
As a matter of fact , Anand In his 2007-2010 form would be able to beat Carlsen.
daftarche daftarche 11/6/2015 02:09
i have no doubt giri has no chance to win the candidates. he is more than happy to finish with 50% or +1 but anyway it is nice to see young new faces in candidates like caruana, nakamura and giri.
GregEs GregEs 11/6/2015 02:40
It would be interesting and more correct (IMO) if participants at Candidates are chosen by just grabbing the top 15 on FIDE rating list and an all-play-all single round robin format. Ofcourse the top 15 should be active in the last 1 month or 2.
Exabachay Exabachay 11/6/2015 05:02
Sponsors are Armenian so naturally the wild card goes to Aronian; no need to complain.
imdvb_8793 imdvb_8793 11/7/2015 12:25
"It won't make any difference. No human on earth can beat Carlsen in a head to head match at this point in time."

Based on what?! Two easy matches against a clearly intimidated (and playing below his level because of it) Anand and an extremely lucky Candidates Tournament? Or the "wonderful" performances he's had this year in the Grand Chess Tour? I don't think so... He's beatable. Not by just anybody, but there are a few who can do it. And I think whoever wins the Candidates, except for Anand and Naka (who simply don't do well against him - the other six have quite decent records against Magnus, at least in classical chess, and some even have plus scores, like Giri and Topalov, if I'm not mistaken), has at least a decent chance. Not that they'd be a favorite, I'm not saying that (although some might be, arguably). But they'd definitely have a serious chance.
Besides, no need to worry - Wei Yi is coming! Give him 5-6 years and Carlsen won't stand a chance... If there's a Wei Yi - Carlsen match any time soon, for the title, I will bet my house on the Chinese kid without much deliberation. He's just much, much stronger mentally. If he ever gets anywhere near Carlsen's strength (and all indications are that he will), then he's just going to crush him.

"As a matter of fact , Anand In his 2007-2010 form would be able to beat Carlsen."

I obviously agree. Not saying it's a given - but probably...

"i have no doubt giri has no chance to win the candidates. he is more than happy to finish with 50% or +1"

Ever heard of progress? It's this thing that happens sometimes, particularly to young people who work hard...
LAMIB LAMIB 11/7/2015 06:06
I wonder what it would be like if the main sponsors of World Cup Football get to field their wild card entries. But then FIFA is not FIDE who is at the mercy of their very scarce sponsors.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 11/7/2015 11:30
In the World cup football the hosting country gets an entry card without qualifying. Or countries, if I remember correctly both South Korea and Japan got free rides when co-hosting.

I think the wildcard idea, copied from tennis, is pretty crappy, there are few enough spots as it is. I think too that qualification based on rating should be scratched, as it may be an incentive not to play and muddles the qualification process.
Nisarg Nisarg 11/8/2015 03:02
@imdvb_8793 I wouldn't write off Naka against Carlsen. Remember, Fischer hadn't won against Spassky before their World Championship match?
DBRussell DBRussell 11/8/2015 09:21
"gmwdim 11/5/2015 06:27
Aronian is getting in on past tournament play reputation. He was in a slump until a couple months ago, and he's never done well in the candidates. I don't expect him to be in serious contention this time either."

Agreed.

Aronian has a LOT to prove in the candidates. Every time he played he always choked.
Actually, I was thinking Kramnik would be chosen as the wild card so it was midly surprising for me that was Aronian.

I like Aronian and he played a brilliant SQFCUP2015 but the fact remains that he always faltered at this decisive tournament. Kramink generally puts up a great fight. The 2013 Candidates was great, decided on the very last round.

Don't be Erronian this time Levon, grab your chance!


thlai80 thlai80 11/9/2015 04:11
imdvb_8793, interesting comment. But Wei Yi does not fare too well vs 2700+ players now. As a matter of fact, Carlsen did much better in his age. And Carlsen does not rely on opening too much, very strong in middle game, and exceptionally difficult to play in the endgame. If there's anyone who would beat Carlsen, it is himself looking at the way he's going about his chess. He practically is over-confident and doesn't do much due to the lack of serious competition from the rest of the players. What we are seeing now is a half-effort Carlsen. If you see his video, he easily beat the crap out of computers even in fast time control, all he needs is at most a move (if he ever needs it at all) take back.

Wei Yi is good and promising, though I wouldn't say Carlsen won't stand a chance 5-6 years later(!). It will depends heavily if Wei Yi can find the necessary breakthrough gear to switch and play vs super GMs. We are witnessing him steamroll past 2600+ GMs with his brand of attacking style but a more positional and long term planning needs to be more prominent in his arsenal to challenge the top. We have seen how attacking players ran into Carlsen and failed miserably, notably Nakamura still seeking his 1st win in classical.
Bostonian Bostonian 11/9/2015 11:47
Kramnik would have made the field stronger but in the end it does not matter. In their current form, none of these players will beat Carlsen.
imdvb_8793 imdvb_8793 11/11/2015 08:16
"Remember, Fischer hadn't won against Spassky before their World Championship match?"

I know! :) That's, like, the only hope I have in case Naka does win the Candidates... But, really, I think there's a difference in the level of understanding there (compared to Carlsen's), in Naka's case. Otherwise he should be a very tough opponent for him. But I don't think he can get past that, which is why I hope someone else wins. But, hey, if he proves to be the best in Moscow, I hope he does win, even if he does go on to lose the match. If he's the "best of the rest", he at least deserves a shot at it!

"But Wei Yi does not fare too well vs 2700+ players now."

True. My conclusion, based on what I saw at the World Cup, was that his technique isn't quite up there with the best of them just yet, plus he's still maybe a bit naive in his opening preparation sometimes. But those are the parts that I think are by far the easiest to improve for a hard-working player (which he definitely seems to be) of his talent, so I'm not too worried about it at all. :) Carlsen was more mature early on, of course, which is normal, in my opinion, given his style of play. He was predisposed to that sort of thing. Wei Yi is the aggressive type, so he'll have to learn the finer points and nuances of technique and strategic play that the very top players are aware of the hard way, through experience. And I see no reason why he shouldn't. Of course, it's not a given. That's the risky part about taking this bet, that he'll beat Carlsen in 5-6 years, which I'm willing to make right now. There's always an element of risk involved with these things, but I like my chances very much...

Apart from those two things he still needs to work on, I see absolutely no weaknesses in his game, and many, many strengths that Carlsen I'm not at all convinced possesses to the same degree (I stress the "to the same degree" part, because, of course, compared to 99% of all other players, Carlsen DOES possess these as well - just not as much as Wei Yi and a few others), and which are far more intrinsic to one's personality and work ethic and, thus, much, much harder to work on and improve: mental toughness, defensive ability in tactically complex positions (especially when the king is in jeopardy - reference intended), the ability to outprepare the opponent in the opening and so on...
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