The Candidates Tournament 2020-21 resumes

by André Schulz
4/13/2021 – Probably the Candidates Tournament 2020-21 will go down in history as the longest over-the-board chess tournament of all time. It started on 17 March 2020 and was interrupted for more than a year after the outbreak of the Corona pandemic. Now, it is scheduled to resume next Monday, 19 April 2021, in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

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Back then...

The 2020 Candidates Tournament began in Yekaterinburg on 17 March 2020. Eight players had qualified and the winner, in addition to a handsome prize money, would receive the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship.

At that time the Corona pandemic was already in full swing and had also gripped Russia, but the FIDE still hoped to be able to hold the tournament under strict security measures. However, Teimour Radjabov refused to play under these circumstances and was replaced by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

Fabiano Caruna, the world number two and Carlsen's challenger in 2018, and the world number three Ding Liren were seen as the biggest favourites to win the Candidates.

But other players dominated the event and after seven of 14 rounds Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Ian Nepomniachtchi lead with 4.5/7. Fabiano Caruana, Anish Giri, Wang Hao and Alexander Grischuk follow one point behind with 3.5/7. Ding Liren, somewhat surprisingly, and Kirill Alekseenko hold the red lantern with 2.5/7. The field is close together and nothing has been decided yet though it will be difficult for the former favourite Ding to play his way to the top.

Standings after seven of 14 rounds:


When the Russian government announced at the end of March that it would soon close its borders because of the rising number of infections, FIDE decided to interrupt the tournament and the non-Russian players and their seconds left Yekaterinburg as fast as they could. In retrospect, it seems that Radjabov was right when he claimed that the tournament should perhaps not have started at all under these circumstances. And you could tell from Alexander Grischuk's play and especially his press conferences that he didn't really want to play the tournament under those conditions. And some other players felt the same way.

Now the Candidate Tournament is resumed and continues. But in how far is the situation different from last year with regard to the pandemic? Since March 2020, the third wave of the Covid 19 pandemic with various mutants of the original virus has spread across the world. The second wave at the end of 2020 was much stronger than the first wave at the beginning of 2020, and the third wave that is now spreading seems to be almost as violent as the second wave. But on the other hand, with the vaccines now available, people are trying to get the pandemic under control, and we will see to what extent the players can cope with the new conditions.

Some of the eight candidates have been very active in the last year, especially in various online tournaments, Nepomniachtchi, Giri and Caruana for example. Others played less and Wang Hao and Alekseenko seem to have played almost no public games in the last twelve months. Co-leader Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had a disastrouns tournament in Wijk at the beginning of the year, Anish Giri came close to winning Wijk. Whether and how that will affect the second part of the Candidates Tournament will be seen.

In any case, chess fans can look forward to a strong and exciting over-the-board chess tournament.


All rounds begin at 16:00 local time (13:00 CEST, 7:00 EDT)

April 19 2021, Round 8

Caruana - Vachier-Lagrave
Wang Hao - Ding Liren
Nepomniachtchi - Giri
Alekseenko - Grischuk

April 20 2021, Round 9

Alekseenko - Caruana
Grischuk - Nepomniachtchi
Giri - Wang Hao
Ding Liren - Vachier-Lagrave

April 21 2021, Round 10

Caruana - Ding Liren
Vachier-Lagrave - Giri
Wang Hao - Grischuk
Nepomniachtchi - Alekseenko

April 22: Free Day

April 23 2021, Round 11

Nepomniachtchi - Caruana
Alekseenko - Wang Hao
Grischuk - Vachier-Lagrave
Giri - Ding Liren

April 24 2021, Round 12

Caruana - Giri
Ding Liren - Grischuk
Vachier-Lagrave - Alekseenko
Wang Hao - Nepomniachtchi

April 25 2021: Free Day

April 26 2021, Round 13

Wang Hao - Caruana
Nepomniachtchi - Vachier-Lagrave
Alekseenko - Ding Liren
Grischuk - Giri

April 27 2021, Round 14

Caruana - Grischuk
Giri - Alekseenko
Ding Liren - Nepomniachtchi
Vachier-Lagrave - Wang Hao

April 28: Tiebreaks (if required)

Tiebreak Regulations

If two or more players score the same number of points, the tie is decided by the following criteria, in order of priority:

a) The results of the games between the players involved in the tie.
b) Each tied player’s total number of wins in the tournament.
c) Sonneborn-Berger System.

If there are two players in tie for the first place after applying the procedure described above, a tie-break play-off is held between these players to determine the winner and the runner-up.


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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