Top GMs to fight for Candidates spots at Grand Swiss in Riga

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/26/2021 – The 2021 FIDE Grand Swiss is set to take place from October 27 until November 7 in Riga, Latvia. An open tournament and a women’s tournament will take place concurrently, each an 11-round Swiss event. The participants’ main focus will be to finish in the top two places, as the tournaments grant two spots in the next edition of the Candidates (Open and Women’s respectively). | Photo: Mark Livshitz

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Exempt from restrictions

FIDE Grand Swiss 2021After a Grand Swiss tournament was organized for the first time in 2019, the International Chess Federation decided to once again include the relatively large 11-round Swiss event in the current World Championship cycle. Moreover, in their attempt to create a women’s cycle similar to the open cycle, they announced a parallel Women’s Grand Swiss would be played in the same venue.

At first, the tournaments were supposed to take place on the Isle of Man, but due to strict Covid-19 restrictions on the island, FIDE decided in August that the events would be relocated to Riga. The decision was well-received by the chess community, especially after the pandemic-related difficulties that surrounded the 2020 edition of the Candidates Tournament. However, unfortunately for FIDE, a few weeks before the start of the event, Latvia declared a state of emergency, which includes a nationwide lockdown that runs from October 21 until November 15, due to a spike of Covid-19 cases.

Six days before the start of the tournament, it was officially announced that the tournaments received an exemption by the Latvian government. As stated on FIDE’s official site:

The 2021 FIDE Grand Swiss and Women’s Grand Swiss have been allowed to take place after the organizers have provided guarantees of strict healthcare measures at the event, ensuring the tournament will be a safe, closed environment. In light of the new restrictions, the event will be closed to the public, and only players and accredited staff, as well as a limited number of accredited journalists, will be allowed to attend.

A more in-depth look at the conditions can be found at the tournaments’ official site, where a list of 23 FAQs are responded in detail. Some salient measures include:

  • The use of facemasks will not be compulsory.
  • No more than two-three people should stand closer together unless it is necessary for them to do so (for example, when discussing something with the arbiters).
  • The players are not allowed to socialize with anyone outside the secure epidemiological bubble, which is confined to the venue and the hotel.
  • Players and their team members are not allowed to use public transport.
  • The meals will be provided in the official hotel, and players will eat in their rooms.
  • Players are not allowed to go to visit grocery shops or any other shops. A list of popular delivery apps and services has been provided.
  • The players and staff who don’t feel well should immediately self-isolate, follow the procedures from the Health Protocol, contact the Medical Officer and strictly follow their advice.

Emil Sutovsky, Dana Reizniece-Ozola

FIDE officials — Emil Sutovsky and Dana Reizniece-Ozola | Photo: Mark Livshitz

This is not the first massive event organized by FIDE amid restrictions. The World Cup in Sochi had a setback early on, with Indonesian players testing positive for Covid-19, which prompted a number of retirements, some forced and some voluntary. Fortunately, no more positive tests were seen at the lengthy event.

Given the current conditions, a few players have already announced their withdrawal, with Hikaru Nakamura one of the first participants to retire from the competition:

Vidit Gujrathi also decided not to play due to pandemic-related issues, while Wesley So, among others, had already announced they will not participate for other reasons — the Filipino-born grandmaster mentioned during the US Championship that he is exhausted, and that playing such a tough tournament without the proper preparation and energy levels is a recipe for disaster.

Full lists of players at Chess-Results: Open | Women’s

FIDE Grand Swiss 2021

Participants of the Grand Swiss already in Riga | Photo: Mark Livshitz


Both tournaments are part of the qualifications for the 2021-23 World Championship cycle, with the top two players in the open event qualifying for the 2022 Candidates Tournament and the following six securing spots in the Grand Prix. The winner of the Women’s Grand Swiss will qualify directly for the Women Candidates and four best players will qualify for the next year’s Women’s Grand Prix.

The total prize fund is $550,000, with $425,000 for the Grand Swiss and $125,000 for the inaugural Women’s Grand Swiss.

The time control in the Grand Swiss is 100 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 50 minutes for the next 20 moves, and finally 15 minutes for the rest of the game. There is a 30-second increment starting from move 1.

The time control for the Women's Grand Swiss is somewhat shorter: 90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game, also with a 30-second increment starting on move 1.


  • Rounds 1 - 6: October 27 - November 1
  • Rest day: November 2
  • Rounds 7 - 11: November 3 - 7

Rounds kick off at 14.00 local time (13.00 CEST, 7.00 ET, 16.30 IST)

There is a tiebreaker system rather than additional games, which is as follows. Descriptions are from the FIDE Handbook.

  1. Buchholz Cut 1 (the sum of the scores of each of the opponents of a player reduced by the lowest score of the opponent)
  2. Buchholz (the sum of the scores of each of the opponents of a player)
  3. Sonneborn-Berger (the sum of the scores of the opponents a player has defeated and half the scores of the players with whom he has drawn)
  4. Direct encounter between the players in tie
  5. Drawing of lots

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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