Will Singapore host the World Championship match?

by André Schulz
5/17/2024 – The Straits Times, the largest daily newspaper in Singapore, reported that the Singapore Chess Federation is interested in organising the World Championship match between Ding Liren and Dommaraju Gukesh. According to SCF executive director Kevin Goh, it is hoped that this will create a boom for chess in the country. However, the cost of organising the event is high.

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The Candidates Tournament in Toronto attracted a lot of international attention, was extremely exciting and produced the youngest participant, Dommaraju Gukesh, as the winner. The 17-year-old Indian will challenge defending champion Ding Liren for the world title.

Shortly after the end of the tournament, the World Chess Federation launched its call for bids and put the total cost of the event at USD 8.5 million. This impressive sum is made up of prize money for the players of USD 2.5 million (the prize money has been increased by USD 500,000 compared to the 2023 World Championship), a FIDE licence fee of USD 1.1 million and the costs of staging the event. The match is scheduled to take place from 20 November to 15 December 2024 and will consist of 16 games.

The enthusiasm for Gukesh's victory was great in his home country and it is expected that the Indian Chess Federation will find enough sponsors to organise the World Championship match in their own country. On the other hand, chess is not nearly as popular in China as it is in India and the Chinese Chess Federation will probably find it more difficult to raise the necessary funds. In addition, China will almost certainly already be organising the Women's World Championship, in which both players - reigning women's world champion Ju Wenjun and challenger Tan Zhongyi come from China. On the other hand, China will want to have a say in the choice of venue to ensure equality of opportunity.

In the past, players could prioritise a number of bids and FIDE would select the venue according to the lowest common denominator. But with the high costs of such sporting events, the number of interested parties has dwindled. And unlike top events in football or the Olympics, a chess tournament, despite the current popularity of the game, might easily cost money.

In this sense, an application for a neutral venue has a good chance of success if the amount requested for the organisation of the event can be provided there.

Located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, the city-state of Singapore is one of the region's strongest economies. Singapore is the only country in Asia to have a AAA credit rating from all rating agencies. The population is made up of Malaysians, Chinese and Indians.

The active chess community is of course not particularly large compared to other countries in the region, but it is growing. With Tin Jingyao, Goh Wei Ming Kevin, Buenaventura Villamayor and Wong Meng Kong, Singapore has no less than four grandmasters.

One of them, Kevin Goh, is the executive director of the Singapore Chess Federation. He was national champion six times between 2006 and 2024. The 40-year-old has represented his country at chess Olympiads since 2004. He was awarded the title of Grandmaster at the age of 36.

Kevin Goh | Photo: Taterasia

Of course, he followed the Candidates Tournament in Toronto closely and during the exciting games he had the idea of perhaps organising the next World Championship in Singapore.

He believes that a World Chess Championship in Singapore would create a new generation of strong young players. Goh told the Straits Times that the US$8.5 million required by FIDE is a high bar to clear, but said that a smaller amount might be enough if the other conditions are right. Goh expects a strong bid from India. Argentina is also interested in hosting a world championship, but Kevin Goh believes that a world championship match between a Chinese and an Indian might not be the right constellation for a match in Argentina. In this sense the Singapore Chess Federation can be hopeful.

Last year Sagar Shah interviewed the driving force behind chess in Singapore.


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