Winners of the Asian and Canadian Zonals qualify to the World Cup

by Diana Mihajlova
6/19/2021 – With the World Cup just around the corner, players from all over the world are fighting to get a spot in the event scheduled to take place next month in Sochi. Diana Mihajlova tells us all about the Zonal Tournaments that were played in Asia and Canada.

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Asia and Canada

Asian Chess FederationThe Asian Chess Federation has been very active over the last couple of months. After the big Asian Hybrid Individual Championship, several Zonal tournaments were organized as qualifiers for the highly anticipated World Cup that starts in less than a month. 

It would be interesting to note that players can participate and qualify both via the Continental Championships and the Zonal competitions. This was the case of GM Ehsan Ghaem Maghami, the multiple Iranian national champion who did not fare well at the Asian Individual Championship but got a ticket to Sochi as a winner of the  Zone 3.1 Championship. 

Ehsan Ghaem Maghami

Second time lucky — GM Ehsan Ghaem Maghami from Iran

Zone 3.1

The FIDE Middle East Zone comprises Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. A total of 23 players from 8 of these countries — namely Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman and Palestine — participated in a 7-round Swiss tournament on June 1–7. 

Until the fifth round, Iraqi FM Salih Akar Ali was the sole leader with 4½/5. However, he faulted in the last two rounds and remained with 4½ points, which was only enough for fourth place. He could not qualify through the Zonal, but he will still head for Sochi as a representative of the Iraqi Chess Federation. 

Salih Akar Ali

FM Salih Akar Ali from the Kurdistan region of Iraq | Photo: Khanzad Chess Club

In the last two rounds, the battle was fought between the three top Iranian players, who eventually won the three top spots. GMs Ehsan Ghaem Maghami and Aryan Gholami both scored 6/7 points, but Ehsan came out on top thanks to a better tiebreak. They were followed by GM Idani Pouya (5½/7), who was the tournament’s top seed.   

Sarasadat Khademalsharieh

Top Iranian woman chess player, IM Sarasadat Khademalsharieh, won a spot at the Women’s World Cup

Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh

Chief Arbiter Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh of Iran watches games with four computer systems   

Zone 3.2 

The Asian Zonal 3.2 Hybrid Championship was sponsored by Saif Powertec Limited, the Bangladeshi engineering services company. It took place on June 1-9 as a 9-round Swiss tournament. A total of 39 players from Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka participated. Only Bhutan — out of the six federations comprising Zone 3.2 — did not have any representatives in the competition. 

Bangladesh was represented by the largest number of players, with 21 out of the total of 39 participants.    

As they were the most numerous, it was obvious that Bangladeshi players would be paired against each other while playing at the same venue, as it is allowed in hybrid tournaments. 

Asia Hotel & Resorts in Dhaka

The Bangladesh venue, the Asia Hotel & Resorts in Dhaka — Bangladeshi players face each other over the board  

GM Ziaur Rahman of Bangladesh was the unbeaten champion. He scored 8 points out of 9, clinched the title and qualified for the forthcoming FIDE World Cup. The veteran Bangladeshi grandmaster (b.1974) holds no fewer than 14 national champion titles, the latest having been obtained in 2018. 

Ziaur Rahman

GM Ziaur Rahman (far right) is crowned champion at the prize-giving ceremony in Dhaka

His compatriot, GM Enamul Hossain Razib, was a runner-up with 7½/9 points. 

Sri Lankan national chess champion CM Ranindu Dilshan Liyanage won the Bronze Medal (6/9). His place at the World Cup is secured as the representative of the Sri Lankan Chess Federation. 

Ranindu Dilshan Liyanage

CM Ranindu Dilshan Liyanage from Sri Lanka, bronze medallist 

Among the Bangladeshi squad, an 11-year-old player shone thanks to a stellar performance. CM Manon Reja Neer, seeded 14th, shared 3rd-4th place after collecting 6/9 points. He did not get the bronze medal only due to his tiebreak score.  

Manon Reja Neer

Bangladeshi rising star, CM Manon Reja Neer

The winner of the women’s section in Zone 3.2, who will participate at the World Cup, is yet another Bangladeshi representative, WIM Sultana Sharmin Shiri. 

Sultana Sharmin Shirin

WIM Sultana Sharmin Shirin | Photo: The New Nation

Zone 3.3

The Zone 3.3 Hybrid Championship was held on May 1–10 as a 9-round Swiss competition. A total of 52 players competed from six federations: Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Laos. The other countries that belong to this zone are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Laos, Macau, Mongolia, Myanmar, South Korea, Timor-Leste and Vietnam.

Two Filipino teenagers, IMs Daniel Quizon (17 yrs) and Michael Concio Jr. (16 yrs), finished first and second respectively and both qualified for the World Cup. 

Daniel Quizon (left) and Michael Concio Jr.

Daniel Quizon (left) and Michael Concio Jr.

Medina Aulia Varda

IM Medina Aulia Varda from Indonesia won a spot at the World Cup | Photo: Facebook

The Zone 3.3 Chief Arbiter IA Reden A. Cruz in his report, among other things, wrote:

The Zone 3.3 Hybrid Chess Championship 2021 was successfully conducted amidst trials and difficulties we are facing during this global pandemic. This Zonal Chess Championship is highly commendable and congratulatory through the initiatives and joint efforts of all players, participating federations and event’s officials.

As we work as one, we can survive challenges in this new normal. Everyone was so happy and satisfied with the success and result of this Zonal Hybrid Chess Tournament. Zone 3.3 Member Federations are so thankful to FIDE and to ACF  for approving this kind of tournament even during the pandemic, and it would have been even better if this event was  a FIDE Rated Tournament.

Surely, approved FIDE Rated Hybrid Tournaments would spark the support and ignite a greater cooperation among member federations amidst this global situation.

This statement opened up a question and pushed me to seek clarification on the rating issue of the Hybrid tournaments, which was provided to me by the Asian Chess Federation’s Executive Director, Casto Abundo:

FIDE rated the Zone 3.6 Oceania Zonal, but changed course and decided that no World Cup qualifier would be rated. The reason I think is that some top-rated players (not in Asia) refused to play hybrid events if they are rated. Therefore, to attract top players, hybrid events are not rated. So, no hybrid zonal or continental is rated (except the Zone 3.6 Zonal which was held early in the year).

Zone 2.2 (Canada) 

On the other side of the globe, the Chess Federation of Canada (CFC) organized World Cup qualifiers from May 31 to Jun 4, 2021 in which 12 players participated. GM Razvan Preotu (1st) and GM Evgeny Bareev (2nd) were winners in the Open;  WGM Qiyu Zhou (1st) and WIM Svitlana Demchenko (2nd) were winners in the Women’s Qualifier. All four got spots for the World Cup.

ChessBase author WGM Qiyu Zhou | Photo: ChessBase

Svitlana Demchenko

ChessBase author WIM Svitlana Demchenko | Photo: Facebook / Victoria Jung-Doknjas

With the World Cup just round the corner, this is our last report about the qualifiers. We have covered most of the major qualifiers leading to this world chess event. Starting July 10 in Sochi, Russia, 206 players will participate in the Open event. For the first time, a separate Women’s World Cup will take place at the same venue, in which 103 players are registered to participate.  

All photos by the Asian Chess Federation, unless otherwise indicated 


A former university lecturer in Romance philology, she is currently a painter as well as a chess journalist, and reports regularly from the international tournament scene.


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Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 1/1/2022 04:03
And we don't have photographs of GM Razvan Preotu (1st) and GM Evgeny Bareev (2nd) were winners in the Open of the Canadian zone?
dianche dianche 6/20/2021 11:01
@John Upper
I received the information directly from the Canadian Chess Federation. Actually, they did not precise who is the winner of the Zonal and who is the 'joiner' but just supplied me the names of 'the winners who got spots for WC'. However, in the lists of participants on the World Cup's official website (, Bareev and Demchenko are listed as the Zonal's winners and Preotu and Zhou as Federation Spots.
John Upper John Upper 6/20/2021 08:40
You have the winners and "joiners" reversed for the Canadian Zonal.
Preotu and Zhou won; Bareev and Demchenko were each second, and so will also qualify.
algorithmy algorithmy 6/20/2021 09:21
at first I thought the tournament is held in Iran because of all these women wearing scarf, but then I realized that they are Muslim players!