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Candidates Pairings Up

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At least the first round. I don't see a bracket anywhere to figure out the semis, but ChessVibes has plenty of info. They begin on May 3 in Kazan, Russia.

Topalov (BUL) - Kamsky (USA)
Kramnik (RUS) - Radjabov (AZE)
Aronian (ARM) - Grischuk (RUS)
Gelfand (ISR) - Mamedyarov (AZE)

The matches, with the above pairings, will be played over four games. Two days after these matches end, the second round starts, with the winner of Topalov-Kamsky against the winner of Gelfand-Mamedyarov and the winner of Kramnik-Radjabov against the winner of Aronian-Grischuk. These matches will also consist of four games. The final match will consist of six games.

Not a slouch among them, naturally. Feel free to pick your winners and also to rant about the injustice of your choice. I'm the Carlsen discussion can be kicked around the block a few more times, too. I do wish he'd followed up with more of an agenda. I am glad that when they replaced Carlsen, a rating qualifier, they went to the Grand Prix. World championship cycles should be based on playing in them and rating qualification should be as far removed as possible. (That is, most of the Grand Prix players were there by rating, and the World Cup players, etc.) Sadly, that only raises the number of players who directly qualified for this cycle to four.

It's very hard to pick against Kramnik in match play, but these are so short, four games, that a single loss is likely fatal and rapid tiebreaks loom. So it's a crapshoot, but one with very high stakes.


4 games is too short without a doubt.

But nowadays opening prep is so important that these short matches are going to make it interesting from another perspective.

There will be stalling, trying to trick the other guy into a sideline with white, failing and agreeing to a draw on move 20.

Aronian is in Armenia preparing with a whole bunch of Armenian GMs+one of the top Chinese guys. Movsesian who now has switched federations and will play for Armania will join them. They're going to stay there for a month or so.

I pick him over Grischuk, Kramnik over Radjabov and Aronian vs Kramnik should be close.

Gelfand-Mamedyarov is close, Topalov is a favorite against Kamsky.

How can one raise the numbers of direct qualifiers after the fact?

Kramnik is likely to have to beat Radjabov, Aronian, Topalov and Anand to regain the title. Wont be easy ........... but theres sure to be some surprises. If he does happen to face 1.e4 I
reckon because of recent Berlin's it has to be the Petroff :-) I wouldn't be at all surprised if he changes from Catalan to Reti or English. Like everyone else it's a pity about the short matches but I much prefer these to any tournament Linares/Corus (cant get used to Tata!) etc

'...to figure out the semis' - not sure if I understand you right but with just eight players the second round should be considered semis already, and the pairings for these are known!? I added a bracket to the article.

Mig: "World championship cycles should be based on playing in them and rating qualification should be as far removed as possible."

Generally speaking that is very true. However, it comes down to the definition of "cycle" and what it means to "play in them".

After all, rating does not come from nothing but from playing. One can argue that e.g. Carlsens rating did not come from playing "in the cycle", whatever that would mean.

Leaving event like Tata, Linares, Nanjing, MTel, Dortmund, etc. completely OUT of the cycle while on the other hand implementing new tournaments like the Grand Prix series, is not the best solution either.

Maybe one can put them together, where players can collect points for the candidates both in "normal supertournament" as well as in the Grand Prix series. This does not force all player to participate in the Grand Prix while it opens chances for other player to participate (and collect points).

Rating qualification is not good if too many qualify on virtue of it, but playing a candidates match without the highest rated player seems bad too.

Mig might be thinking of the WC match against Anand is the "final", in which case the semi-final would be the final match in the candidates.

And thanks for the bracket.

"Leaving event like Tata, Linares, Nanjing, MTel, Dortmund, etc. completely OUT of the cycle while on the other hand implementing new tournaments like the Grand Prix series, is not the best solution either."

Its always good to see more tournaments and it does not matter if its Grand Prix or tata. If one set would be used for cycle and other not, its fine. They all have their purpose. The main thing is to not have much lull periods in professional chess.

off topic: India a possibility to host title match 2012. It will wait for a challenger who then has to accept to play in India before it finalizes. http://chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=7003

I also agree on the argument that rating should be removed from qualification. Lets say the qualification is based on rating average of three different months. Then players will try to avoid certain tournaments in fear of losing ratings if they happen to achieve a one time high. So qualification to candidates should be based on winning in the cycle qualification process. And that means a specific set of tournaments where the goal primarily is to pick candidates and eventually a challenger.

Aronian is very strong in these mini-match type of tournaments.

The comment there about FIDE wanting to wait until after the Candidates Matches looks like the key point - presumably they thought that e.g. if Topalov wins then they can try to get the Bulgarian government to outbid London (with a similar situation for Russia, Armenia etc.).

Of course from London's point of view (or that of any other normal venue) it would be too late to organise things properly - especially given you'd have to have a bidding process dragging on after the matches. And why should London let FIDE delay as long as possible in the hope of finding a different venue? It's not a great basis for a commercial partnership.

""FIDE can't finalize any venue before the Candidates matches are over in May because the venue should be acceptable to the challenger as well. So the bids would be finalized only in May. Unfortunately, London said they could not wait that long,"

Hmm, why would anyone have problems playing in London - neutral ground (all English players have long been eliminated) and far from any war zone? And why is this mentioned only now after the London bid is, sadly, "history"? Actually I had 'somehow' assumed that London was already the confirmed venue, and contracts had been signed.
Maybe Topalov has problems playing at any non-Bulgarian venue (for me another reason to root against him in the candidates matches), but otherwise your interpretation makes much more sense.

The format does not matter so much, but please FIDE stick to it forever.

I do not understand you all being angry about the FIDE and still playing ELO rated tourneys. I only play national one and will never ever pay FIDE. If everybody would just do it, they will feel it. But when every crappy 2200 is buying a worthlesss candidate master title, worth ever less than FM, only to be proud of themselves, FIDE will apply soone the 2100+ Lowmaster title, LM, i am sure...

I'm not sure I'd call a 2200 player "crappy"--they're probably stronger than 95% of tournament players. And "worth even less than FM" is even weirder--FMs are very strong players.

But yeah, the new titles from FIDE are clearly money-making ploys.

Agree. The low regard that this clown, talk - no action, holds a 2200-rated player suggests that he must be at least a sour-speaking IM. If he is not, he should put a sock in it, and find a can to kick around, or make a valid point w/o denigrating players known to be tough competitors very possibly better than himself.

Well, I could buy myself a CM. But we have to stick together and not giving FIDE money. When we laugh about CM- Titels, not their strength, less people would buy it. That was my point.

I do not understand engslih so well. So ,what does "The low regard that this clown, talk - no action," mean? An insult?

Whoever wins this will have played 14 games of classical chess. Very reasonable and I am sure whoever wins will be a worthy challenger to Anand. I would put my money on Aronian. Matches of only 4 games are not ideal of course, a 6 game match for the first two rounds would have added only 4 additional days to the overall schedule and would have made a big difference. Anyway 14 games in total is not bad, I am sure we will see some exciting chess.

Whoever wins this will have played 14 games of classical chess. Very reasonable and I am sure whoever wins will be a worthy challenger to Anand. I would put my money on Aronian. Matches of only 4 games are not ideal of course, a 6 game match for the first two rounds would have added only 4 additional days to the overall schedule and would have made a big difference. Anyway 14 games in total is not bad, I am sure we will see some exciting chess.

Radjabov has the toughest road to become a World Champion

He has to beat the following in order


Radjabov has the toughest road to becoming a world champion

He is has to beat


"Whoever wins this will have played 14 games of classical chess. Very reasonable"

The winner will have played 10-14 games of classical chess, but four of the eight players will have played 3 or 4 games of classical chess. Six of the eight players will play 6 to 8 games of classical chess. To me it could be much more reasonable than that, considering how many years this cycle is going on. Half the field will play no more than 3-4 games, against one single opponent...

These "matches" are much less than the Bled '59 "tournament."

What's the point of having ratings, if you then ignore them? The main problem is we have pointless things like Bundesliga team games infecting the same system as top chess. There is also needs to be a "tournament result" system like in tennis rather than just game based. Who cares if you go -1 or -3 on a bad hair week, but ELO says it's the same difference as +3 versus +1. Make the important "majors" more important too like tennis does, so Wijk aan Zee counts more than Gibraltar and Moscow Open. The FIDE Grand Prix point system was a start, but they need to overall the ratings more fully. And DONT have scoring be 3:1 if the ratings aren't proportional!

Yes, in Bled everyone played at least 28 games each, here the total number of games played will be between 22 and 30, it doesn't give a particularly serious impression.

Not to mention it's ridiculous to give absolute veto power to the players regarding the venue.

Is there any other sport that does that? What are the player's 5 years old?

If they don't like the venue then they can just go home.

Topalov (BUL) - Kamsky (USA)
Kramnik (RUS) - Radjabov (AZE)
Aronian (ARM) - Grischuk (RUS)
Gelfand (ISR) - Mamedyarov (AZE)


Here I pick Kamsky over Topalov. V.Topalov is a slow starter (though he did win Game #1 vs. Anand). Topalov's form and motivation are mystery at this point. Plus, the fact that the brackets were doctored to favor him might possibly engender a sense of guilt that will prey on Topalov's mind.

Kramnik over Radjabov. You just know that Radjabov is going to get caught out in one of the games.

Aronian over Grischuk Aronian should win this. The combination of Grischuk's chronic Zeitnot issues, with Aronian's ability to conjure up tactical tricks and traps, does not augur well for the Russian.

Gelfand over Mamedyarov. Gelfand's nerves are solid, and Mamedyarov has never played an eliminatin match at this level.


Gelfand over Kamsky. Gata is psyched out by Gelfand.
Aronian over Kramnik. Should be a close match, settled in tiebreaks. But Aronian is no slouch at Rapid Chess.

Finals: OK, I pick Aronian to win. I'm aware that Gelfand has had Aronian's number, and is not a comfortable opponent. But in a 6 game match, ELO will probably have the final say.

I believe Kamsky's opening prep is a major problem especially with Topalov.

I think the challenger for Anand will come down to the Aronian-Kramnik match. Whoever wins that match will go on to face Anand.

Almost all other match-ups you can be reasonably sure of who will win. But in this match I really could see it going either way. I will definitely be rooting for Aronian to win but Kramnik is so tough to beat that it's a tough call.

"Almost all other match-ups you can be reasonably sure of who will win"

To me the whole event is very unpredictable, it is after all only four games and then rapid/blitz. I think there will be several sensations, as it often is in knockouts.

Looking at the year Pono won the FIDE title four game semis and eight game final were all won by the underdog. The next time, when Kasim won, two of three minimatches of four to six games in semis plus final were won by the underdog.

Being reasonably sure of who will win a four game match between two top players is difficult. The biggest difference should be between Kamsky and Topalov, but given the form of the latter and the higher rapid chess level of the former it's hard to predict.

Kramnik-Radjabov may also be more even than most people think. The last decisive game between the two was eight years ago, and Kramnik has had white in the last draws between them, but that was a while ago.

Although I don't like him because of Danailov's shenanigans, I have a feeling that Topalov will first crush the field in this competition, with none of the matches going to rapids, and then comfortably beat Anand.

He has taken a long rest from competitive chess so he will be charged for this. He has got married so he is more settled now. He is approaching the optimal age for a chessplayer and he probably feels that it is now or never. He will be spurred on by the memory of the two lost world championship matches. He really thirsts to join the exclusive list of Steinitz, Capablanca, Fischer, Kasparov, Anand et co and we do know the heights he has shown he is capable of. For a few years he was a steady 2850 level player before what seemed like exhaustion.

But that is in the past now and we should see fresh ideas and energetic play.

I totally agree that anything can happen, I don't mean to write anyone off, it's just that if I was going to bet - then in most other matches I would know who I would bet on. But Aronian-Kramnik I would NOT want to bet on, because it really could go either way.

I really hope we do not see any major upsets. All are worthy (except maybe Kamsky) so in a sense there can't be upsets, but realistically if anyone other then Topalov, Kramnik or Aronian win the candidates matches it will certainly lead to questioning of the current system. Because based on past results it is obvious that these 3 players are ahead of the rest.

Having said all that - I am very confident that 1 of these 3 players will win. I could see one or maybe even 2 of them faltering and losing to a lower rated opponents, but I seriously doubt all 3 will falter in this way. One of these 3 will win and challenge Anand.

While it's great to see the cycle progressing, I fear that there will be more than 2 tie-breaks in the 7 matches, which is really not great for determining the challenger. Also the time between matches is so short, that the quality of opponent-specific prep cannot be that high.

An alternate cycle (that's very similar in most ways and would have perhaps also been acceptable to Carlsen would be):

Play a double-round robin candidates tournament among the 8 qualifiers. The top 2 play an 8-game match (a few months later) to determine the challenger. The winner of the candidates tournament has draw odds in the match and so there is a real incentive to win the tournament AND the entire cycle (including the candidates final match) would have NO rapid tie breaks!

A steady-state 2-year cycle could look like:

April 2012 - World Championship Match (12+ games)

October 2010 - World Cup to give all top 128 players a chance to qualify for the candidates tournament

April 2013 - Double round-robin candidates tournament (8 qualifiers)

August 2013 - Candidates final match (8 games)

April 2014 - World Championship Match

This way you have 2 high-quality events every year (Championship match and World Cup every even year; candidates tournament and candidates final match every odd year), no rapid tie breaks in the candidates tournament/final, value for both tournaments and matches, and I'd be reasonably sure that conditional on starting with the 8 top challengers, this method has a better chance of finding the strongest challenger than the current short matches (and the likely use of rapid tie breaks in many matches).

What do you think?

PS: There can be different algorithms for picking the 8 players for the candidates tournament. Here's one option:

3 automatic qualifiers:

Loser of world championship match
Loser of candidates final match
3rd place in the previous candidates tournament

Top 3 World Cup finishers

Top 2 players in the world by rating (averaged across the entire 24 months between the time the previous selection was made) who are not in the 6 above

Today's story suggests a different explanation: http://chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=7006

I don't always believe whatever FIDE says, but it sounds more plausible to me that it was the Londoners who got cold feet, than that FIDE was trying to drag on the bidding process.

Sorry, didn't notice your post on the same news in the other thread.

With Matches, Rapid Games, Blitz Games, and the final Armageddon Game, there is no chance of a tie, which almost happened at the end of the 1962 Curacao Candidates--Petrosian ended up winning by 0.5 points.

FIDE likes this because it provides a Challenger to Anand, at relatively little expense or hassle. It doesn't matter that this process leads to more upsets. For FIDE, that is precisely its virtue.

In essence, FIDE has taken the basic elements of the 24 Game World Championship Match/Candidates Match Era, from the mid-1960s through to the 1980s, and simply lopped everything in half, but adding Rapid, Blitz Tiebreaks.

One wonders whether some of the players eliminated in the 1st Round will stick around to join as "seconds" for one of the advancing players?

It's hard to tell - personally I believe Pein when he says they made FIDE an offer for more than the money provided by the organisers in Sofia (though it worked out as less for the players). It's possible they knew FIDE would reject it, but it's a big risk to take if you don't want the matches at all.

I'm not sure why they're using Sofia as a guideline in any case - they apparently ended up bidding far more than they could raise from any sort of commercial funding and just had to get the government to bail them out.*

*reading between the lines - formally they claimed commercial funding, even if the companies were all heavily involved with the Bulgarian government.

I think this would be a *great* cycle, and I fully agree with it. If only FIDE had an ear... :-(

I think the whole cycle is a mess and i really hope MCarlsen is already in touch with NDShort to create an alternate federation!

Not sure I'm digging a 4 game match. Even 6 would be so much better.

Do you think the extraordinary explosion of opening knowledge at the supergrandmaster level makes faster time limits somewhat more reasonable than they once were?

I hope you are right. He plays the most interesting and exciting chess of the world's leading players. In other words his approach is the opposite of the present-day Petrosian: Kramnik.

The bluff is called off finally by Israel Gelfer! Let's face it, CPL = Carlsen Promotions Ltd, no?? ;)

May be that is not accurate. CPL = (in the name of) Carlsen Promotions Ltd.

Kamsky the obvious favorite over Danailov

I wouldn't ever do business with someone who publishes accusatory open letters to the media when things go sour. It might work like that in Kalmykia, but not in the West. And now other Western organizers will see this and think twice about any possible involvement with FIDE. Shame.

Totally 100% brilliant kxm. Thank you. Spot on.

Sorry kxm but that makes too much sense and probably not enough dollars for FIDE. As for the tournamen I would choose Topalov cause of his draw but they are all very strong and no one,even Grischuk would shock me.

Note to Kirsan:

Hire kxm, let him set it up, back away, then take credit for the success.

Ilya Levitov, a FIDE Vice President and Russian Chess Federation honcho (I've given up working out his official title!), gave an interview with more details on the collapse of the London match. It's mainly what we've seen before:

"I think London’s refusal was directly linked to Magnus Carlsen refusing to take part in the World Championship cycle."

More interestingly, perhaps, he also reveals the plans for the next cycle. They wanted a Grand Prix, but if that doesn't happen there'll be more candidates matches with World Cup winners + highest rated players + nominee + WC loser.


Off topic sorry. I've the honour of playing against Nigel Short in a simul soon - he's giving the simul :-) Does he open 1.e4 on all boards does anyone know? Trying to get my killer opening prep ready :-)

John, I'm in total agreement.

He's seen your question here and will play Grob to avoid your prep.

Will Kamsky get a chance in the next championship cycle because he participated in this one bravely, in spite of the entire world knowing he would get his ass kicked? I mean, come on, its not like we have a lot of players in the 2700's better than him to challenge the top dogs.

There, that was my rant. Now its your turn.

He will probably get his chance - just like 127 other World Cup participants ,:) .

Play the Open Ruy!

He will play King's Gambit

Around the Anand-Kramnik match people started to dig Kramnik's record in match play, only to find out he was something like 3-3 or so. Ok, he beat Kasparov, that's certainly huge, but he also lost very important matches against Shirov and Anand. After all, he can't be considered a genius in match play based on only one result...

I bet on Aronian as the candidates winner, and I hope this 'nominee' figure will disappear for good in next cycles...

Good point. But have no fear! Lots of nice lines against that!

It may or may not play a role - I also think the candidates matches are wide open - but there are two more aspects to Kramnik's match record:

1) Technically, his matches against Leko and Topalov were drawn (in classical games), but in both cases it meant "mission accompplished". Against Leko, both players (and everyone else) knew that Kramnik had draw odds, and he needed to win the final game on demand. Against Topalov, Kramnik played with a handicap.
Winning close matches says more about specific qualities in match play than 6-0 walkovers (where Fischer was simply the better player).

2) Anyone correct me if I am wrong, but (regardless of the results) to me it seems that he has more match _experience_ at the highest level than the other seven players. Maybe except Kamsky if we include matches before his career break?

Kamsky before his break had a terrific record incl beating Kramnik (4.5-1.5 !), Short and Anand.

4 game match is a joke. Even though I haven't seen him mention it, that's the best reason for Carlsen not to participate, IMO.

Why wouldn't FIDE just require a certain number of games against a certain level of opposition over a specified period of time? Wouldn't this prevent players from protecting their ratings by inactivity?

Excellent points. Thanks.

To get an invitation to a tournament is not in your hands. So having a certain number of games against certain opposition is not feasible. Lets say FIDE uses just rating, how will someone in the low 2700 ever get a chance at the wch. Thats they there is the world cup where there is a chance to more people. By using ratings people get in the grand prix, so its not that rating is not used at all. I am just saying that just using ratings will be a useless system for selecting candidates.

Ratings are not ignored as Thomas also pointed earlier. They are being used in a lesser and indirect way. You are talking about a complete change in the way ratings are calculated. And then after that try and use it in the candidate selection. Dont start comparing to other games likes tennis. They dont have any wc. The discussion it seemed more about using ratings for selecting candidates and thats where there seems no value if one were to just use ratings and pick the top 8 or so candidates. We get into problems of rating preservations and no chance for lower level players to participate since they dont get invites to top chess that often. The grand prix system, the world cup all seems like things are getting back into place.

6-0 walk overs say the one thing that I would want to say -I am far better than you and just kicked your @ss :)

I really believe that one day we might have a decent discussion about the WCH cycle without fanatic americans shouting the F word in it, like nowadays we don't mention Lasker, the man who, no matter exactly how, retained the crowd for more than 20 years...

Yesterday Vishy Anand has said that he believed Gelfand or Kramnik will be more likely to challenge him. Vishy was in Kolkata, India to attend the marriage reception of GM Surya Sekhar Ganguly. He also said that he will be taking part in Monako and will be having a tour of Uzbekistan.

BTW Anand also praised Nakamura, said he is playin superbly at the moment.

"To get an invitation to a tournament is not in your hands."
Spot on - and while a high rating is a prerequisite for supertournament invitations, they also depend on various subjective preferences of organizers, e.g. they usually don't invite several players from the same country. As an example: Before the first edition of London, organizers said that unfortunately they don't have room for Nakamura AND Kamsky - they picked the younger, more mediagenic and, at the time, slightly higher-rated one (2715 vs. 2695 in the Nov 2009 list). It seems that Kamsky would have been invited "if there was no Nakamura"!?

Razpy's proposal comes down to separating the happy few (maybe 10-20 players getting regular top invitations) from the rest even more. The tennis comparison is misleading because Wimbledon starts with 128 players (preceded by qualifiers?).

[Razpy] "Wijk aan Zee [should count] more than Gibraltar and Moscow Open"
This is already the case, a 50% score (or any other result) in Wijk is worth more. It isn't "easy" to gain Elo in Swisses or team events - indeed, some people criticize top players who don't participate in such events, suggesting that they don't want to risk their rating.

Finally, there is already a difference between rating (from any event) and "standing" (from results in top events). If Kamsky or Vachier-Lagrave does extremely well at the Aeroflot Open, he might enter the top 10. Would either one immediately be a (re-)established top 10 player? No, he will have to prove himself in supertournaments - while Aeroflot might trigger the required invitations (Dortmund automatically for the winner, other events might follow), it's just a starting point.

kxm = genius.

Probabilities of winning (calculated from expected results given ratings differentials):

Player Rating Rnd1 Rnd2 Rnd3
Aronian 2808 0.622 0.367 0.216
Topalov 2785 0.623 0.350 0.183
Kramnik 2775 0.570 0.276 0.146
Mamedyarov 0.590 0.307 0.152
Grischuk 0.378 0.177 0.083
Radjabov 0.430 0.180 0.083
Gelfand 0.410 0.177 0.072
Kamsky 0.378 0.166 0.066

Thanks for the kind words (also to the others who supported this idea).

It would not cost much more than the status quo - and may even be cheaper because you don't need the Grand Prix tournaments (which really seem like overkill to identify 2-3 participants for the candidates).

In the proposal I laid out, the World Cup slots provide democratic access to a wide range of players, the ratings slots provide insurance against the consistently best players in the world being left out, and the slots based on the previous tournament ensure incentives to give the very best till the end even if not in contention for the top 2 spots.

I am just a lowly lurker (albeit with a 20-year history of following high-level chess), but maybe Mig or some of the GM's who occasionally show up here could take this idea up more formally. It really defeats the purpose to do so much work to get to the candidates and then see them decided in such short matches - with many likely to go to tie breaks :(

"...AND the entire cycle (including the candidates final match) would have NO rapid tie breaks!"

So instead of rapid tie-breaks, your system chooses the qualifiers based on some mathematical tiebreak (to determine the top 2 in the 8-player qualifier, if there is a tie) and then by draw odds (to determine the final challenger if the top 2 tie in the match)?

There is a way. Improve enough so that your rating reaches the 2800 range so that you would be a worthy contestant. Don't worry, when you reach 2800 you will get invites to all the super tournaments.

Mig: "World championship cycles should be based on playing in them and rating qualification should be as far removed as possible."


I'm sure Kasparov wishes he had followed this advice instead of cheating Shirov out of his deserved shot at the title in 1998.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on February 8, 2011 3:44 AM.

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