Who has the best chance to make it to the Candidates?

by ChessBase
11/3/2023 – The FIDE Candidates is scheduled to be held in April 2024 in Toronto, Canada. There are eight spots in the open section and one of them will be decided by the FIDE circuit 2023 – on the 1st of January 2024. What is the FIDE circuit? Who are the players who have the best chance? And what are the events remaining in the year? Shahid Ahmed answers all your questions.

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The regulations of FIDE circuit 2023

The idea of the circuit is to award a candidates spot to a player who has strong performance during the course of an entire year. The way the rules work is that players get points for performance in tournaments depending on where they finish and how strong the tournament is.  The points are awarded in a tournament in this fashion: top 8 players score 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 base points and the base points scores are multiplied by a tournament strength factor, where the tournament strength factor = (average rating of top 8 players – 2500)/100. So for example a tournament has a rating average of 2600 of top 10 players then 2600-2500/100 = 1. And so the winner of this tournament would get only 10 points. 

The top 5 scores of each player over the course of a year is what counts to your total. If you score a higher score in a 6th eligible event, then the lowest score of your five events is replaced by the 6th event score. For an event to be eligible, it needs to have more than 2550 average rating of the top eight players, and not more than 50% of the players can be from one federation (except national championships) in addition to other minor criteria. 

Rapid and Blitz tournaments are also eligible, but they respectively offer 0.6x and 0.4x the points of a classical tournament of the same strength. The winner of the FIDE circuit 2023 will be decided on the 1st of January 2024.

Current standings

The current standings of the circuit

The two players who have the maximum chances of getting the Candidates spot through the FIDE circuit: Anish Giri and Gukesh at the Qatar Masters 2023 | Photo: Aditya Sur Roy

Gukesh is on top of the standings as it stands! However, we could argue that that Anish is actually better placed to win. This is because Anish’s lowest score of the 5 events is 2.0. So any new event where he scores more than 2 points helps him increase his total score. If he scores more than 5.7 points in any of the events, then he overtakes Gukesh (assuming Gukesh doesn’t improve his score). On the other hand, Gukesh needs a score of 12.2 to improve his score, which is much tougher than scoring 5.7.

One cannot discount Wesley So from the race | Photo: Grand Chess Tour

Wesley is closer to Gukesh than Anish, but his lowest event is only 13.6, so he needs a score of 14.3 to overtake Gukesh.  On the face of it, Arjun, and Abdusattorov are far away, i.e. 17.5 and 25.3 away from Gukesh, but they still have a realistic chance. That is because Arjun has two very low scores - 4.9 and 8.3, which is an advantage as they can easily be replaced helping him boost his score. Similarly, Abdusattorov has only used four of his five event quotas, so he has a free event to add. His lowest score is only two points. So he effectively has two almost free events to add to his score!

Don't discount these two youngsters. If there is someone who can make the impossible possible, it's these young champions! | Photo: Tata Steel Chess 2023

Tournaments left

While any tournament with average top eight player strength >2550 counts for the circuit, the points of offer will be low and irrelevant unless this average rating is at least 2650 for top 8 players. So considering this, there are a few tournaments which are definitely eligible.

The FIDE Grand Swiss is currently happening at the Isle of Man | Photo: FIDE/Anna Shtourman

Grand Swiss right now has points from 3rd place (18 points) to 8th place (5.2 points). This is because the top two directly qualify for candidates making this irrelevant. For Sinquefield cup and St. Louis Rapid and Blitz, only the top five score points because in closed events, only players in top 50% can score points. Anish and Wesley have a huge advantage because they are playing both these GCT events. Anish specially, can easily overtake Gukesh’s current score with a top half finish.

The Sinquefield Cup and Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz 2023 will provide a huge opportunity to Anish Giri and Wesley So to get ahead on the FIDE circuit leaderboard | Photo: Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz

Finally the year ends with World Rapid and Blitz 2023! Assuming same average rating as last year, these tournaments can easily give 15+ points for top three in Rapid and winner in Blitz, despite lower point multiplier for rapid and blitz events. How much fun would it be if a candidate is decided by who wins World Rapid?

Magnus Carlsen is the current reigning World Champion of the Rapid and Blitz formats | Photo: FIDE

Then there are potential open tournaments, of which one that we know is strong is Ellobregat. Arjun is currently registered to play, and it would be in Gukesh and Abdusattorov’s best interest to play too, which would increase the ratings and make it attractive for all.

Starting rank of Elllobregat Open 2023

No. Name FideID FED Rtg RtgI sex Club/City
GM Alekseenko, Kirill 4135539 AUT 2670 2670 Austria
GM Narayanan, S L 5058422 IND 2668 2668 AICF
GM Shirov, Alexei 2209390 ESP 2668 2668 Silla
GM Vallejo Pons, Francisco 2205530 ESP 2668 2668 Stadium Casablanca
GM Pichot, Alan 110973 ESP 2650 2650 Magic Extremadura
GM Aravindh, Chithambaram Vr. 5072786 IND 2638 2638 AICF
GM Aryan, Chopra 5084423 IND 2626 2626 AICF
GM Ter-Sahakyan, Samvel 13302531 ARM 2618 2618 Armenia
GM Mendonca, Leon Luke 35028561 IND 2614 2614 AICF
GM Safarli, Eltaj 13402129 AZE 2610 2610 Azerbaijan
GM Sanal, Vahap 6300545 TUR 2608 2608 Türkiye
GM Sethuraman, S.P. 5021596 IND 2603 2603 AICF
GM Yuffa, Daniil 24131423 ESP 2600 2600 Silla
GM Daneshvar, Bardiya 12576468 IRI 2591 2591 Iran
GM Pultinevicius, Paulius 12809390 LTU 2589 2589 Lietuva
GM Jumabayev, Rinat 13702661 KAZ 2588 2588 Kazakhstan
GM Albornoz Cabrera, Carlos Daniel 3518736 CUB 2585 2585 Tajamar
GM Peralta, Fernando 105309 ARG 2580 2580 CE Valls
GM Nasuta, Grzegorz 1141686 POL 2579 2579 Poland
GM Kozak, Adam 753246 HUN 2578 2578 Hungria

Complete list

Ding Liren was supposed to play in Sinquefield Cup, but has since been replaced by Leinier Dominguez Perez as a wild card. While completely understandable that the organizers would give a wild card to a local player, one can’t help but think how much fun it would have been if all of the top three had the opportunity to battle it out in a super tournament with a candidates spot on the line. FIDE circuit is set to come to a very exciting end. Who do you think will win it?

This entire FIDE circuit regulations and qualification is explained by of Prakhar

About the author

I am Prakhar Sinha. I am an engineer and an MBA, and work as a management consultant. Born and brought up in Ranchi, did my engineering in Delhi, MBA in France and now work in London. I am a huge sports fan and love chess, football, F1 and most other sports. You can get to know more about me via Twitter.

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