Proposal For The World Championship Cycle

11/9/2020 – 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. In chess there is a well-established upper part of the pyramid, with the World Championship match being the cherry on the top. It is an elitist system. Now the Association of Chess Professionals has a proposal to make open tournaments part of the World Championship cycle. This would ensure that chess is as meritocratic as it can be and as it should be.

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 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. In tennis we have the Grand Slams at the top, but also the local Futures tournaments at the bottom. The structure is clear, easy to understand and  the players see the way to the top ahead of them. Needless to say, a bottom-to-top cycle is a product that sponsors love to be part of.

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.
The system works, but it is an elitist system. 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.
The bottom part of the pyramid is formed by the numerous open tournaments, which are the bread and butter of the chess world. It is in opens that the vast majority of chess players participate in. However, many chess players feel trapped in this “swamp” of opens without a clear idea how to go “upwards,” how to feel integrated in the big picture and feel part of the whole chess family. In its current state the chess world is a segregated place with the elite and the rest living in different worlds.
It seems natural then to make the open tournaments part of the World Championship cycle.
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.
At the end of the year, the top 20 of the World Open Circuit qualify for the first round of the World Cup, thus providing direct access to the World Championship Cycle. This would ensure that chess is as meritocratic as it can be and as it should be.

The current FIDE leadership has proven to be very pro-active and has shown willingness to live up to its motto. We see this as a historic chance for FIDE to unite the chess world.
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.
Having an all-inclusive World Championship cycle from the bottom to the top will be invaluable and will revolutionise the chess world. We would like to emphasise 3 main advantages:

  1. The whole system will be all-inclusive and based on merit where EVERY chess player in the world can see the perspective and the way forward from start (the opens) to finish (the World Championship match).
  2. A unified cycle can be sold as a product, just like in tennis. The sponsors can choose to support a single open, the World Open Circuit (in which case there can be money prizes for the top finishers of the Circuit), the whole cycle, or anything in between as they see fit.
  3. The perspective of being part of the World Championship chain will incentivise players, sponsors, organisers, arbiters and national federations given that sponsoring, organising and playing in over-the-board tournaments that are part of the great cycle will be an honour for all stakeholders. In the long term, this may well cause chess to flourish, also 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.

By making the open tournaments part of the World Championship cycle FIDE will give hope to every chess player on earth and by doing so affirm its unifying role in the chess world. Every chess player will feel part of the big chess family. After all, gens una sumus, aren’t we?
The ACP Board 

The Association of Chess Professionals (ACP) is a not-for-profit organisation, whose main purpose is the protection of chess professionals’ rights and the practice and promotion of chess worldwide, in particular through the organisation of chess tournaments and other chess events.

The ACP encourages the civil engagement of chess professionals, interacts with national federations, international corporations, government agencies as well as other not-for-profit organizations.

ACP members are experts in all aspects of chess related activities. The world’s top players and renowned journalists, tournament organizers and the most respected arbiters and trainers have joined the ACP in order to make the professional chess world a better place. 

Download the ACP Brochure 2015 here.


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fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 11/12/2020 04:40
One world championship that was elitist: the last (and inaugural) Fischer Random World Championship - players were seeded based on their chess518 ratings, right up to final round. Because of this oversight, the next Fischer Random world championship should have everyone start at the beginning, and see who the best players are. From then on the chess960 rating can be used to seed future events.

For the regular chess world championship, it is possible to use geographic variation and merit. Just have a series of events throughout the world, with qualifiers advancing to the next level of events, right up to the Candidates/World Championship, and so as to make it purely merit-based based on performance, calculate the # of qualifiers from each event based on the rating of the entrants. So that will not discriminate against a country that happens to have a new phenom, who would otherwise be limited if there were a fixed number of spots per region.
Steven E DuCharm Steven E DuCharm 11/12/2020 06:26
I propose two additional candidates spots for the players who 1. won the most games (worldwide) -casual games included -and 2. the player who played the most games (same conditions)
lajosarpad lajosarpad 11/11/2020 02:48
@TwoZero I absolutely agree.
TwoZero TwoZero 11/10/2020 09:26
How about we start with having the Classical Chess World Championship not being decided by rapid games...

16-20 games and give the Champion draw odds. (And fewer rest days between games.)

You want to be the man? You need to Beat the man.

Make the Challenger go for it. To overcome draw odds you need to push for a win.

Right now they just stare at each other with nobody wanting to take any risks. Champions prerogative, but now even the Challenger does it due to the looming specter of rapid games that make it easier for any champion to go on a run and cancel out Classical game wins.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 11/10/2020 11:32
World Champtionships are by definition elitist. We need to choose the absolute best from a group separated from their peers by merit. Their peers is a larger group, also separated by merit from the rest and so on.

Being part of the elite among chess player is earned by hard work, a dedicated life and sheer talent.

It is easy to prove that the current elite is better than the rest. One can take a look at their ÉLŐ points and compare. Or, if still skeptical, then one can organize rather one-sided matches between the elite and players from the rest of the world.

So, since the system "works", as the article admits, that is, the best players will get the chance to become world champion, then climbing that ladder "only" requires to become a very strong chess player. Including open tournaments into the cycle is not a bad idea, because it will provide the chance of identifying talents earlier and to see some romantic-style combinations played by very strong players against the average club player.

If being elitist is a problem by itself, then why do we want to choose who is on the top? Let's provide everyone a world champion title.
Scorpion29 Scorpion29 11/10/2020 10:04
I think these people have taken only part of the suggestions given in the following article: Goes to show how slow ACP is compared to people of deep thought. High time this change came.
Marozka Marozka 11/10/2020 10:04
The proposal claims a system "based on merit" while it labels today's system "elitist". But isn't today's candidate players the ones with most merit? And wouldn't the proposal eventually produce roughly the same elite players anyway?
The dichotomy between merit and elitist is false.

The real argument in favor of the new proposal is PR value: any club player can dream of a quicker route to becoming WC (which of course he will never achieve) and any sponsor can advertise that their open tournament is a direct route to becoming WC.

Rather stick to that argument than claiming the new proposal is fair and based on merit, while the current one is elitist. This argument is BS.
Peter B Peter B 11/10/2020 06:37
But already any player (if they are good enough) can qualify for their local Zonal, win it, and get into the World Cup.

In fact on the last cycle, a sub-2000 player (Shaun Press from PNG) played a good Zonal, and got into the World Cup.

I don't mind an alternate path to the World Cup, but it isn't really necessary.
Vidmar Vidmar 11/10/2020 04:33
Top chess is already the utmost meritocracy; every ladder step is laboriously earned.
Don't cheapen the World Championship cycle.
There will be no Rocky Balboas, or even Beth Harmons ; forget it.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 11/10/2020 01:49
A step in the right direction....frankly ideal would be to go back 30 yrs or so to how things once were: Zonals -> Interzonals -> Candidates Matches to decide a challenger was a picture perfect idea in itself. Yes, it took a while, but it was very democratic. Good times.
Ajeeb007 Ajeeb007 11/9/2020 10:18
Chess is already very meritocratic (means selected by merit) because every FIDE registered player has the same opportunity to play, increase his rating, win certain events and get entered into the candidates tournament. The charge that it is an "elitist" system is nonsense. FIDE doesn't randomly pick 8 players, they set the conditions and let all players compete for those positions. Magnus Carlsen was once a 2400 player and now he's world champion. Every 2400 player today has the same opportunity he did.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 11/9/2020 08:22
In general, a great idea, but the implementation and details are important. What is described above is not very inclusive if only 20 players get seeded into the World Cup, from where only 1 player advances to the Candidates. But since ratings are accurate and the competing option is to select the top players, it's hard to envision a system whereby everyone in the world would feel they had a chance. If there were many levels, then qualifying for the next higher event would be an accomplishment in itself. This does not sound at all like what is described above, but this is the model I would consider.

I proposed the same idea for US scholastic chess many years ago, since the local, state, regional, and national tournaments were all independent of each other, and for similar reasons as given in the article above, but there was not much interest in it.
chessgod0 chessgod0 11/9/2020 08:21
This is an interesting idea...but why not just go back to the zonal-interzonal-candidates cycles of yesteryear which basically did the same thing?

No need to reinvent the wheel, unless I'm missing something.
syuanjiang syuanjiang 11/9/2020 07:10
Brilliant Idea!

Actually zonal, interzonal, candidate cycle in the past did similar thing. Today FIDE just gets lazy and randomly pick 8 players directly participating candidate. (well, not random, but exclude majority of players)