Game of Thrones at the Toronto Candidates Tournament

This Wednesday the main event in world chess in 2024 begins in Toronto. Sixteen chess players will compete for two places: the winner of the Candidates tournament will become official challengers of the respective world champions, the Chinese grandmasters. Ding Liren and Ju Wenjun. Chess players from at least two generations will fight to the death to get a ticket to Olympus, in a competition where silver and bronze are worthless. The great absentee is Magnus Carlsen number one in the world, oblivious to the whims of the throne but fond of forecasts: his favorites are the thirty-something Americans Hikaru Nakamura (36) y Fabiano Caruana (31).

After loading with the pressure to Alireza Firouzja and if he was pointed out as a possible successor in the previous appointment (Madrid, 2022), now the triumph of the 20-year-old Frenchman of Iranian origin would seem like an absolute surprise. And if he were to win any of the other four contenders, including the Indian trident, Magnus admits that he would enter shock.

For the first time, the International Federation (FIDE) will hold the absolute and women’s Candidates tournaments on the same dates and at the same venue. It is a risky decision, with the aim of highlighting the tournament reserved for women, which could however be overshadowed. After all, the level of the absolute tournament is much higher and the majority of the public is still just enough interested in women’s competitions, except when there are mixed duels that provide some morbidity.

late arrivals

Here the prize pool also makes a difference, given that the candidates will share twice as much money as the female candidates: $500,000 versus $250,000. Despite the controversy of the distribution, it is not so easy to talk about discrimination: in chess there is not a men’s and a women’s tournament, but rather one for women and another absolute, or mixed, in which they can also participate as long as they qualify.

In the 80s the situation was much worse: Hungary Susan Polgar He qualified in 1986 for the absolute zonal tournament, in a phase prior to the Candidates, and FIDE did not allow him to play because the competition was part of the men’s World Championship cycle. That’s what it was called, masculine, because no one thought that a woman could end up among the chosen ones. When the eldest of the Polgars achieved it, they did not have the decency to rectify their rules, something that her little sister was able to take advantage of, Judiththe best player in history.

Canada, on the other hand, has experienced the preparations for the Candidates with anxiety due to the late arrival of several chess players. The reason was the obstacles of the Canadian immigration department to citizens of countries such as India and Russia. The alarm went off and there was speculation that the tournament could end again in Madrid, but a desperate appeal from FIDE through social networks bore fruit. The government of Justin Trudeau expedited the procedures just in time, but the visa crisis revealed the delicate relationship of FIDE, chaired by the Russian Arkady Dvorkovichwith a country that unambiguously condemns the invasion of Ukraine.

The spectacle of the Indians

In Toronto there will be three Russian chess players: Ian Nepomniachtchi, Alexandra Goryachkina y Kateryna Lagno (born in Ukraine but Russian for a decade). There is no shortage of those who criticize that players of this nationality can participate, because it represents possible support for the propaganda interests of the government of Vladimir Putin. FIDE’s position until now has been not to punish athletes and allow them to play in their competitions under a neutral flag, except in some extreme case of unbridled war enthusiasm, such as that of Sergey Karjak toowhich cost him the expulsion of the previous Candidates.

But the real protagonists in Canada will be the Indian chess players, who, even if they do not start as favorites, will provide a spectacle. As the former world champion highlights Viswanathan AnandFor 30 years he was the only player from his country invited to those parties.

In Canada there will be five, two women and three men, a dominance that marks the trend toward which world chess points for the next decade. Extreme discipline, great coaches and an idol to follow are an ideal breeding ground so that the factory of young prodigies does not stop. As if that were not enough, it is a country with an overwhelming population, dedicated to one of the cheapest sports that exists.

Five hours on average

The competition format will be a double round league between the eight participants in each category. There will be 14 days of classical chess, from April 3 to 22, in games lasting five hours on average, exciting for fans and a somewhat more debatable spectacle for the uninitiated, who do not know what they are missing.

These are the candidates: the Russian Nepomniachtchi, the Indians Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, Dommaraju Gukesh y Vidit Gujrathithe Frenchman Firouzja, the Americans Nakamura and Caruana and the Azerbaijani Nijat Abasov, who takes the place of the self-excluded Carlsen. The participants of the Female Candidates are the Russians Goryachkina and Lagno, the Chinese Lei Tingjie y Tan Zhongyithe Ukrainian Anna Muzychukthe Bulgarian Nurgyul Salimova and the indians Humpy Koneru y Rameshbabu Vaishali (Pragg’s sister, who plays the senior tournament).

By Editor

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