Sounds easy, doesn't it?. The truth is that it is. You only have to win one match and with that you will be the world chess champion. Thanks for reading and see you next time.!
Just kidding. Well, the fact is that it's a little more difficult...
Chess is a super competitive sport. Throughout the year there are a several number of tournaments of great importance. Each of these are sorted according to specific criteria: Elo, age, country, etc.
In a previous post I talked about that the particular results of a match at elite level are relative. A kind of strong player could be defeated by a "weaker" one. However, within the whole cycle of international competitions we have a title that is definitely "absolute": The World Chess Champion.
As I mentioned at the beginning, there are many categories so we could say that there are "many world champions": Youth World Champion, Junior World Champion, Senior World Champion, etc. However, in this post we will focus on the "most important" title awarded by the International Chess Federation (FIDE): The absolute champion.
In chess, being the best of the best does not necessarily mean that you can automatically beat anyone. Of course it is true that if you are the absolute world champion, your skills on the board are probably above a large number of players.
So, how can the world chess champion be determined? The ways of choosing the champion have changed throughout the entire history of the game itself. I am not pretending to make a bible talking about the history of the world chess championships that is interesting but too long to do it in one post. Today I will talk about the current process of selecting the world champion.
Ok let's get straight to the point: to become World Chess Champion you have to win the world championship match.
Currently this is held every two years and is a confrontation between two players: The current World Champion vs The challenger for the title. This encounter consists of playing a certain number of games with an extremely long reflection time. In the most recent match the time control was 2 hours for the first 40 moves, 1 hour for the next 20 moves and 15 minutes for the rest of the game. The increment of 30 seconds per move was applied from move 61.
In another post we will talk about the tiebreaks in the match for the world championship.
All right, to be the champion we have to win this match. Obviously the champion has already assured his place so we still need to know the following: How is the challenger determined? To become the challenger for the title you have to win the Candidates Tournament.
In this tournament 8 chess beasts play, "8 candidates". In theory it is the strongest tournament that exists. Some say that this event is even stronger than the world championship itself, because the preparation you have to have to face the rest of the candidates is insane. In addition, in this event the players have to face each other in a double round-robin.
Being one of the candidates not only your level of play is quite high, also your physical endurance must be extremely good because the body must withstand all that fatigue, stress that this competition involves.
How do you become a candidate?
The first ticket to the Candidates Tournament is awarded to the runner-up of the world, in another words, the player who lost the championship match in the last edition. The 2nd player will be a special guest of FIDE. A somewhat polemic issue because it is not known exactly what are the criteria to define it. Certainly the invited player is a strong one but in the world there are many "killer machines" that could deserve to be there.
The 3rd and 4th candidates will be the winners of the FIDE GRAND SWISS tournament. It seems to me that this is one of the most difficult ways to get in the Candidates tournament because in this event play a lot of chess players that have a high level, for example: the woman world champion, world junior champions, many grandmasters from all over the world, etc. The number of players in the Swiss tournament exceeds 160, so you need a higher performance than all those chess players, good luck with that :).
The 5th and 6th players will be the champion and sub champion of the World Cup, this is a single-elimination tournament in which you face your opponent in a match, the best of 3 games advances to the next round of the tournament and the loser is automatically out. That's right, if you lose the match you go home so make sure you don't lose. At this point of the post there is no need to mention that the players of the world cup are real monsters, right?.
Finally, players 7 and 8 will be the FIDE GRAND PRIX champion and runner-up.
I talked a little about this event in this post. It is currently taking place and the excitement is high because in a short time we will know who will be those two remaining players who will go to the candidates tournament in July of this year.
At the moment we have the first 6 players confirmed:
Ian Nepomniachtchi who is the current world sub champion, Alireza Firouzja and Fabiano Caruana got their classification by winning the Swiss Tournament, Jan-Krzysztof Duda champion of The World Cup, Sergey Karjakin sub world cup champion and Teimour Radjabov as a guest of FIDE.
As you can see the chess tournament cycle is extremely rigorous so it is totally indisputable to say that the world champion has very well deserved his place. It must also be said that the challenger for the championship has an even greater challenge since he has to go through all this series of tournaments and filially face the current world champion who only has to "wait" for his rival sitting on the throne.
This way of classifying to the World Championship has been criticized by many chess players. The truth is that it is difficult to think of the "perfect way" to do things. There will always be details that slip through the cracks but it seems to me that FIDE is doing its best to improve playing conditions and make tournament planning fairer.
The current world champion is fed up with the championship
Magnus Carlsen is the current world champion. Since 2013 he has keep the title in every match he has played. At the end of the December match he has said that he does not want to continue playing this championship unless the 18 year old Alireza Firouzja, the superstar of the moment, wins the Candidates tournament.
This seems like an excuse to give up the fight for the world championship. On the other hand, I understand what Magnus says because being there is a torture. The preparation of the games, the psychological preparation, in short, being world champion is one of the hardest things especially in the days of competition.
The Norwegian holds the record for the highest ranking in history so his playing strength is already proven. However, he still has a challenge to break and that is the most number of years keeping the world title, he has just 9 years compared to the 27 years that Emanuel Lasker held the crown.
Thanks for making it to the end of the post. I really appreciate your visit. Let me know in the comments what you think of this ranking system, could you suggest a better one?
The images in this post are from my chessbrothers project