A change to the world championship candidates rules has raised hopes that India’s Vishy Anand, the holder, will meet Norway’s Magnus Carlsen, 20, who tops the rankings, in a 2012 or 2013 title match.
The 2011 candidates in Kazan was settled by knock-out, where Russia’s Alex Grischuk controversially made quick draws in the long classical games to reach the final via blitz tie-breaks. Subsequently, elite grandmasters voted for an all-play-all format.
APAs were used from 1950 until 1962, when Bobby Fischer claimed that his Soviet rivals had arranged results to minimise the American’s chances. The tournament was replaced by matches, in which Fischer famously destroyed two opponents by 6-0 margins en route to winning the crown from Boris Spassky.
But the 10-12 game matches in the Fischer era shrank to only four games at Kazan, facilitating Grischuk’s strategy. Now the International Chess Federation (Fide) has switched back to an eight-player double round all-play-all for the 2012 candidates.
Carlsen, who dislikes the short matches, refused to play at Kazan. The new system clearly favours him as his tournament record is peerless while 14 games gives far less chance of a fluke result than four. Carlsen stated in a recent interview that he he could invite Garry Kasparov as his aide in a title challenge, implying both that he would compete in Fide’s new system and that his acrimonious break last year with the all-time No 1 has been healed.
The eight candidates will include a wildcard chosen by the host nation, and this opens the door for a bid to stage the tournament by US billionaire Rex Sinquefield, who aims to make his home city St Louis into a major chess centre and is also backing America’s best hope, 23-year-old Hikaru Nakamura. Nakamura reached the world top ten when he won Tata Steel 2011 in Holland ahead of Carlsen, but his only chance to play in the candidates is as a wildcard.
A candidates event in the US would be a boost for chess, especially if Carlsen or Nakamura wins. Anand and Israel’s Boris Gelfand, two over-40s, will contest next year’s world title series in Moscow whereas most fans regard Anand v Carlsen as the ultimate showdown.
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– GM Susan Polgar