The Way to the Candidates: Firouzja is getting closer

by André Schulz
12/22/2023 – In the "Way to the Candidates" match series, which takes place in Chartres, France, and was designed to help Alireza Firouzja to reach the Candidates, Firouzja has won five of the six scheduled games, overtaking Wesley So on the live-ranking list. However, Firouzja still has to win his second game against Sergey Fedorchuk today. Many chess fans criticised the event, and the US federation asked the FIDE not to rate the games played in these matches.

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Alireza Firouzja, who wants to qualify for the Candidates Tournament via Elo with three matches scheduled at short notice, won two of these matches 2:0 and took the lead in the third match against Sergey Fedorchuk by winning the first game.

Firouzja's club C'Chartres Echecs is organising the match series with a total of six games from 18 to 22 December 2023 in Chartres. Spectators can watch the matches live on site at the Hôtellerie Saint-Yves (3, rue des acacias, 28000 Chartres, starting at 15.00 CET).

In the first two matches, Firouzja defeated Alexander Dgebuadze and Andrei Shchekachev both 2-0. A curious incident happened in the first game of the Shchekachev-Firouzja match: In an objectively equal position Shchekachev suddenly resigned, apparently because he overlooked a possible defence.

Firouzja has now overtaken Wesley So in the live rating list and would qualify for the Candidates as the player with the highest rating who did not already qualify for the Candidates by other means. However, Firouzja still needs to win the sixth game of the series. With a draw he would again fall behind So in the live rating list.

However, FIDE has stated that they will look very closely at the matches and then decide whether to rate the results.

There has been much criticism of the way in which these matches against older opponents with an Elo rating over 200 points lower were organised for the sole purpose of giving Firouzja the chance to gain enough rating points to make it to the Candidates. The US Chess Federation complained in an open letter to FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich (see below).

However, the actions of the organisers do not violate the current FIDE rules, though it seems that FIDE needs to come up with a better qualification system for the Candidates.


In an open letter to FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich on 20 December, the US Chess Federation protested against these matches, which were organised on short notice, and demanded that Alireza Firouzja's games in these mini-matches should not be rated and that rules should be drawn up to prevent this kind of distortion of competition.

20 December 2023 

Arkady Dvorkovich 
1007 Lausanne, Schweiz 
Avenue de Rhodanie 54 

Dear President Dvorkovich,

The United States Chess Federation is concerned about the conduct of the qualification tournaments related to the Candidates tournament. We believe that scheduling last-minute events to assist an individual player gain rating points to qualify for the Candidates tournament  is neither sporting nor transparent, and it taints the selection process for FIDE and all of international chess.

As you know, we are supportive of the recent changes made to qualification for the cycle. We believe in the power of the biannual cycle to select the best players to compete. Just missing the qualification is no doubt frustrating for the players, but the cycle is intended to provide an open and fair competitive environment for all players. Organizing a last-minute event that is practically non-inclusive goes against the spirit of fair competition.

We continue to believe that when the final selections are made, the players should be those who throughout the cycle are most deserving of the honor of playing in the Candidates tournament. There will also undoubtedly be many great players who will miss out. Because of this, we believe it is imperative that the selection criteria are clear and transparent and have widespread support within the FIDE family.

We urge FIDE to not rate the French event and take steps to require that all FIDE events be registered at least 30 days in advance of their start date. This will reduce the amount of gamesmanship that thwarts the spirt of fair competition during the biannual qualification cycle.


Randy Bauer
US Chess President


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