The race for the last Candidates spots

by Georgios Souleidis
10/30/2019 – In Candidates Tournament 2020, eight players will compete to determine the challenger for the current World Champion, Magnus Carlsen. Four participants have been confirmed and four more are still being sought. Two of them will be determined by the FIDE Grand Prix, the third stage of which will take place from November 5th to 17th in Hamburg, with the first round less than a week away!

Navigating the Ruy Lopez Vol.1-3 Navigating the Ruy Lopez Vol.1-3

The Ruy Lopez is one of the oldest openings which continues to enjoy high popularity from club level to the absolute world top. In this video series, American super GM Fabiano Caruana, talking to IM Oliver Reeh, presents a complete repertoire for White.


Coming next week...

A draw against the World Champion Magnus Carlsen, even a win, is granted to very few of us. Levon Aronian knows how both feels. But he also now knows how it feels miss out (with virtual certainty) on a chance at the next Candidates tournament. 

The Armenian grandmaster showed a fantastic performance at the FIDE Grand Swiss at Isle of Man finishing in 4th place. At the end even a win in the last round against Magnus Carlsen would not have been enough to qualify for the Candidates, but after the draw against the 28-year-old Norwegian the spectators witnessed a disappointed Aronian like hardly ever before in front of the camera. Always friendly to everybody and normally ready for a joke, he was obviously contrite, as he knew that his next attempt to conquer the throne will not start before the year 2021. Instead, Wang Hao, as the winner of Isle of Man, qualified for the Candidates in Yekaterinburg next March.

Although Levon Aronian (on the right) won against Wang Hao in their individual pairing, the Chinese won the ticket for the Candidates | Photo: John Saunders

The significance of the Candidates tournament for the top players is huge, as they only have a chance every two years to qualify or even win this prestigious tournament in order to challenge the World Champion. Basically only six players can qualify in a transparent way, as the runner-up of the last World Championship is pre-qualified — in this case Fabiano Caruana — and then there's the organizers' nominee. Several grandmasters come into question for this "wildcard" spot by the order of their results at the qualification tournaments and by their Elo rating, but no one can take this for granted.

Currently, only four participants are certain. Apart from Caruana and Wang Hao, Teimour Radjabov and Ding Liren qualified as winner and runner-up of the World Cup. So three spots are remain. One spot is reserved for the player with the best average Elo rating during the months spanning February 2019 to January 2020. Right now Anish Giri is leading this race, but there are still two months left, in which the situation could theoretically change. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Ian Nepomniachtchi are hot on his heels. Two further spots are awarded via the FIDE Grand Prix.

Teimour Radjabov (left) def. Ding Liren in the final of the World Cup | Photo: Kirill Merkuryev (FIDE)

The FIDE Grand Prix 2019 consists out of four tournaments. The first two legs took place in Moscow and Riga. The third leg will take place in Hamburg, and a final tournament will be played in Jerusalem. You can see the current standings of the FIDE Grand Prix in the following table. The green check marks show which players will participate in the respective cities.

Only a few players from the 21 who started are in the running for the two Candidates spots via the FIDE Grand Prix at this point. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Alexander Grischuk are leading with ten points, but will participate only in one of the remaining legs. Mamedyarov has the advantage of knowing how he needs to perform in Jerusalem, while Grischuk needs to perform as well as possible in Hamburg.

Standings in the FIDE Grand Prix before Hamburg

Pl. player country Elo GP Moscow  Riga       Hamburg Tel Aviv
1 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov AZE 2767 10 0 10
2 Alexander Grischuk RUS 2759 10 7 3
3 Jan Nepomniachtchi RUS 2776 9 9
4 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave FRA 2774 8th 8th
5 Radoslaw Wojtaszek POLE 2748 5 5
6 Wesley So USA 2767 4 1 3
7 Hikaru Nakamura USA 2745 3 3 0
8th Peter Svidler RUS 2729 2 2 0
8th Daniil Dubow RUS 2699 2 2 0
10 Wei Yi CHN 2721 2 2
11 Jan-Krzysztof Duda POLE 2734 1 0 1
12 Sergey Karjakin RUS 2760 1 0 1
13 Yu Yangyi CHN 2763 1 1
14 Veselin Topalov BUL 2736 1 1
15 Anish Giri NED 2780 0 0 0
15 Levon Aronjan POOR 2758 0 0 0
15 Nikita Vitjugov RUS 2732 0 0 0
18 Teimour Radschabow AZE 2758 0 0
18 Pentala Harikrishna IND 2748 0 0
20 David Navara CZE 2717 0 0
20 Dmitry Jakovenko RUS 2681 0 0

Table courtesy the German Chess Federation

The Grand Prix points per tournament are as follows: winner 8 points, second 5 points, semi-final loser 3 points, quarter-final loser 1 point. In addition, players receive an additional point each match won without recourse to a tiebreak.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov after his victory at the FIDE Grand Prix in Riga | Photo: World Chess / FIDE

Behind these players Ian Nepomniachtchi and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave have reasonable chances, as they only played one tournament with a good result. Theoretically even players like Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Wei Yi could qualify, but they would probably need to win both remaining events to have a chance. 

The local chess fans can follow live in Hamburg how the race for the spots at the Candidates will proceed. After the 2015 Blitz and Rapid World Championship and the 2018 Candidates tournament in Berlin the local lovers of the royal game have again the benefit of visiting a top-level chess event in Germany. FIDE and World Chess obviously have realized that Germany is one of the favourite locations to present a chess event to a wider audience and decided to come back again.


The description and the photo gallery on the website of the venue is promising:

"The Theater Kehrwieder is an extraordinary location in the centre of Hamburg's Speicherstadt [warehouse district]. This charming theatre offers a combination of a historic atmosphere and impressive, modern facilities. The classic variety seats and red velvet walls of the theatre are in contrast to the industrial look of the house and the modern, white-furnished foyer. The flexible furnishing makes every event easy to realize."

Theater Kehrwieder, Kehrwieder 6, 20457 Hamburg


Times in UTC (CET -1).

Date Time round
Nov. 5 14:00 Round 1 game 1
Nov. 6 14:00 Round 1 game 2
Nov. 7 14:00 Tiebreak
Nov. 8 14:00 Round 2 game 1
Nov. 9 14:00 Round 2 game 2
Nov. 10 14:00 Tiebreak
Nov. 11 14:00 Round 3 game 1
Nov. 12 14:00 Round 3 game 2
Nov. 13 14:00 Tiebreak
Nov. 14   Rest day
Nov. 15 14:00 Round 4 game 1
Nov. 16 14:00 Round 4 game 2
Nov. 17 14:00 Tiebreak


A knockout (KO) tournament. In each round, two games are played against each other with players receiving 90 minutes for the first 40 moves plus 30 seconds bonus per move. If there is a draw then it continues until the decision with further two-party matches with ever shorter thinking time.


Day tickets for the event are available from €36.35 (€24.35 reduced). Online at Eventim and Ticketonline and at the box office. VIP tickets can be found at Daimani.


Georgios Souleidis is an International Master with a degree in media and communication studies. He is an experienced journalist, author, photographer, chess trainer, editor-in-chief for the German Bundesliga, YouTuber, a regular contributor to the chessbase website, German chess magazine SCHACH, and previously blogged on his own site


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register