The participants of the Candidates

by André Schulz
1/3/2024 – With the publication of FIDE's January rating list, the participants in the Candidates Tournaments in April have been practically finalised. Alireza Firouzja and Humyp Koneru qualify thanks to their ratings while Magnus Carlsen is formally qualified, but has already stated that he does not wish to play.

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At the end of 2023, some top players made great efforts to secure their ticket to the Candidates Tournament, either through the FIDE circuit or by rating. In India and France, tournaments were organised at short notice to give players from these countries a chance to qualify at the last minute.

Gukesh made the most of this opportunity - he won the Chennai Grandmasters and qualified via the FIDE circuit. In France, Alireza Firouzja qualified by winning the Rouen Open with 7 out of 7. The first prize in this Open was 500 euros, but he also gained the necessary rating points to overtake Wesley So in the FIDE rankings from 1 January. Firouzja is now the player with the highest Elo who has not yet qualified for the Candidates and who wants to play. Magnus Carlsen, the world number one and winner of the 2023 World Cup, is no longer interested in the classical World Championship and does not want to start in the Candidates.

During the World Cup in Baku the Norwegian said:

"I think everyone should assume that I won't be playing in the Candidates and that everyone else who is in the semi-finals will qualify for the Candidates."

The nation with the most participants in the two candidate tournaments is India. This also documents India's emergence as one of the leading chess nations. In the country ranking, which is based on the Elo rating of the ten best players in the country, the USA is in first place, but India has been in second place for some months now, ahead of Russia, once the biggest chess nation.

The participation of Praggnanandhaa and Vidit after their successes at the World Cup and the Grand Swiss has already been widely celebrated in India. Now Gukesh is the third Indian player in the Candidates Tournament, while R. Vasihali, Praggnanandhaa's elder sister, and Humpy Koneru will be representing India in the women's event.

Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana are playing for the USA in the Candidates. At the 2018 World Championship Caruana held Carlsen to 6-6 in the classical games, losing only in the rapid tiebreak, and at that time Caruana was also very close to the World Champion in the rating list. After the match, Caruana suffered a few setbacks that cost him a lot of Elo, but he is now the world number two again. 2023 was a very successful year for Caruana, who qualified for the Candidates Tournament by rating, by finishing third in the World Cup and by winning the FIDE Circuit. But it is the result in the World Cup that counts.

Russia is still represented by Ian Nepomniachtchi, who won the last two Candidates Tournaments.

The players who qualified for the Candidates:

Player Qualification Elo World ranking
Ian Nepomniachtchi Runner up of the World Championship match 2023 2769 5
Magnus Carlsen* Winner of the World Cup 2023 2830 1
R. Praggnanandhaa Second place at the World Cup 2023 2743 13
Fabiano Caruana Third place at the World Cup 2023 2804 2
Santosh Gujrathi Vidit Winner of the Grand Swiss 2023 2742 15
Hikaru Nakamura Runner up of the Grand Swiss 2023 2788 3
D. Gukesh Winner of the FIDE Circuit 2023 2725 25
Alireza Firouzja  Rating 2759 6

*Magnus Carlsen is expected to withdraw from the Candidates Tournament. He has already made statements to this effect in interviews. In this case, Nijat Abasov (Azerbaijan, Elo 2641, world rank 102) will move up to fourth place in the 2023 World Championship. If any other qualifiers withdraw, players from the world rankings will move up.

Women's Candidates Tournament

The women's qualifying race was a little quieter and finished earlier. Lei Tingjie, the runner-up at the last Women's World Championship, and Tan Zhongyi, the former Women's World Champion, will play for China. India will be represented by Vaishali and Humpy Koneru and Russia by Ekaterina Lagno and Alexandra Goryachkina. They will be joined by Ukraine's Anna Muzychuk and Bulgaria's Nurgyul Salimova, who like Vaishali is a newcomer to the Candidates. Six of the eight players are close together in the rankings. Vaishali and Salimova are slightly behind, but both are on the rise and always good for a surprise.

The players who qualified for the Candidates

Player Qualification Elo World ranking
Lei Tingjie  Runner-up of the World Championship match 2023 2550 4
Ekaterina Lagno Winner of the Women's Grand Prix 2022–2023 2542 6
Alexandra Goryachkina Runner-up of the Women's Grand Prix 2022–2023 2553 3
Nurgyul Salimova Runner-up of the Women's World Cup 2023 2426 38
Anna Muzychuk Third in the Women's World Cup 2023 2525 7
Humpy Koneru Rating 2554 2
R. Vaishali Winner of the Women's Grand Swiss 2023 2481 14
Tan Zhongyi  Third in the Women's Grand Swiss 2023* 2521 8

* Grand Swiss runner-up A. Muzychuk qualified via the World Cup.

The Candidates' Tournament for the absolute World Championship and the Candidates' Tournament for the Women's World Championship will be held at the same time and place this year, from the 2nd to the 25th of April in the Canadian metropolis of Toronto.

The tournament is sponsored by the Canadian Scheinberg family, long-time sponsors of the Isle of Man Open, which has been upgraded by FIDE as the "Grand Swiss" to a qualifying tournament for the Candidates Tournament. FIDE has been able to win over the Scheinberg family for a long-term commitment to chess. The Scheinberg family is providing a prize fund of USD 750,000 for the two Candidates' Tournaments in Toronto.

FIDE reforms the qualification paths to Candidates Tournament

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