Columns | January 07, 2009 22:22

The new founding fathers in chess?

Henrik Carlsen and Vladimir KramnikIn the first week of 2009, both Henrik Carlsen (representing his son Magnus) and Vladimir Kramnik (since December 28 the proud father of a baby girl) have expressed their thoughts on the current world championship cycle as well as their ideas for a future set-up. It's interesting to see that Kramnik's opinion is diametrically opposed to Carlsen's.

There's much uncertainty about the world championship cycle, that we know. And it won't be solved in the near future - that we also know. In a recent column, co-editor Arne speculated which top player could be the one to stand up and fight for the players' rights. Magnus Carlsen's potential role was diminished for being "too young", but perhaps Arne forgot about the fact that the 18-year-old Norwegian in fact has arguably the best manager of all players: his father Henrik.

FIDE's changes of the current world championship cycle led to protests by several players and that's why President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov invited a number of top players, including Anand, Aronian, Carlsen and Topalov, to take part in a Skype phone conference on December 27th. FIDE promised that the recording of this highly interesting online meeting would be made available to chess journalists but thus far there's been nothing but silence.

However, foreseeing that it was going to take some time, on New Year's Day Henrik Carlsen already posted the text of the statement they made on December 27th. It's a great example of an independent, thoughtful and balanced look at the current situation. The Carlsens stress the importance of transparency in the decision processes within FIDE, and predictability and fairness in the world championship cycles.

Henrik Carlsen watching, in September 2008 in BilbaoTransparent decision processes require a democratic and open dialogue with the parties involved prior to making decisions. Important issues need to be raised well in advance of major decision points and the decision process needs to be well documented and communicated timely and widely. The process of proposing to change the current cycle as brought forward at the FIDE General Assembly in Dresden last month on short notice, does not meet these requirements.

Predictability is necessary to ensure the trust and commitment of chess players, chess federations, sponsors, organisers and top players in contention for the World Championship title. We need to introduce mutually binding agreements in line with the practice in other top chess tournaments. The current practice of having one-sided escape clauses in the championship regulations and/or players undertaking, for instance stating that the FIDE Presidential Board or the FIDE President may change this or that, is simply unacceptable. The many examples from recent years of players that has qualified or is in the process of qualifying for a subsequent step in the championship cycle or for a match, experiencing multiple delays or downright removal of rights, must come to an end.

The third notion that needs to be taken into account according to the Carlsens is fairness. They are sick of all the priviliges that have been handed out in chess history:

In addition to having predictability, there should not be arbitrary granting of privileges, well, as few privileges as possible really. In the future Magnus would like to see a world championship cycle with a minimum of privileges, or no privileges at all. If any it should be early in the cycle and based on rating and not money. The transition to such a situation has been difficult in the past due to the legacy of our history.

We strongly disagree with the way FIDE has tried to remedy this by handing out further privileges. After the unification process from 2005 to 2008, we may be in a unique situation to transcend historical problems and privileges, and it was with disbelief and disappointment we received the news about the proposal to introduce new privileges by creating 4 new spots in the next step of the 2008-2011 championship cycle.

One player who didn't join the Skype conference was Vladimir Kramnik. He had a good reason: as reported by Chessbase, on 28th December, early morning, his wife Marie gave birth to a girl, whose name is Daria. (Congratulations!) As a father, but especially as an expert in the field of world championship cycles, we should expect a grown-up attitude towards the current situation, but we have to say that Kramnik disappointed us this time. In the same Chessbase article Kramnik comments on FIDE's recent changes to the current cycle:

Vladimir KramnikTo be honest, I don’t even understand why it is so much against Carlsen or Aronian, this change of the system. Now if the decision is made, two players will qualify from the Grand Prix instead of one, which might be helpful also for these players. Okay, they have a tournament instead of a match, that is true. But it is not such a big difference; it is the final of the Candidates, just a different format. So I don’t think that the interests of any players who are currently participating in the Grand Prix are compromised.

What's this? Has he lost it? A child can tell you that the chances to become world champion decrease significantly when as a winner of the Grand Prix you suddenly have to play a tournament to qualify for the world title match, instead of a semifinal match. For other players, who have a slim chance to finish second in the Grand Prix, the chances increase, but for players like Carlsen and Aronian, who both already won a GP event and are going for first in the overall standings, the situation has become clearly worse.

Besides, hasn't Kramnik always stated that playing a match is something completely different than playing a tournament? In another Chessbase interview, published on June 1st, 2007, he says about the upcoming World Championship Tournament in Mexico City:

The next match which I will play, if I manage to keep my title or if I play to gain a title, for me – again I don’t want to insult anyone – for me it would be much more valuable than winning a tournament. (...) Again I would repeat that I think that a title which is won in a match to me is more valuable than the title which is won in tournament.

Back to this week's interview. To the question why FIDE changed the current world championship cycle and created a Candidates Tournament, Kramnik answers:

I can only speculate. It is pretty clear that in the new system there are two people who are gaining a lot of advantages. They are Topalov and Kamsky. First of all there is this match between the two of them, which actually should never have happened – it was basically created out of nothing. Now the loser of this match is getting a chance to play, without qualification, in the final stage of the next world championship. That is quite a serious privilege. You can speculate yourself why this was done. I really don’t know.

Here one would expect a critical question by the interviewer, something along the lines of: but Vlady, you must know that with a Candidates Tournament your own chances to get back into the cycle have increased significantly? You do remember the Sport Express interview with Ilyumzhinov (November 27, 2008) in which the FIDE President stated: “Vladimir Kramnik could be nominated by organisers as a participant in the Candidates Tournament in case the event will be held in Russia,” don't you?

Instead, the monologue continues:

The only thing which I can personally say – I mean it is concerning my personal position in the cycle – is that I am very unhappy, to put it mildly, with the situation that the loser of the Topalov-Kamsky match is inside the final stage of the qualification, and I, as the loser of my parallel match with Anand, am not. I believe that is totally unfair. I would like you not to misunderstand: I am not asking for any privileges. The only thing I am asking for and insisting on is that I must have exactly the same rights as the loser of that match. If the winners have the same rights I do not understand why one loser has much less rights than the other. [italics - CV] This is something that has absolutely no logical explanation. The only thing I can understand is that there are certain powers inside FIDE who simply do not want to see me in the cycle. Unfortunately I have to draw this conclusion, because I do not have any other explanation.

Now that he has lost his world title both in a tournament and in a match, Kramnik still feels he should have the right to a "revanche" semifinal match (although he refrains from saying it out loud), despite the fact that he agreed on his current rights when he signed for the 2006 match against Topalov and then agreed to play in Mexico in September 2007.

Vladimir Kramnik is a proud man, and he's got every right to be proud. We're not referring to his baby girl here, no, we're talking about the man who has beaten the best chess player of all time in a match! Kramnik is a great player and we still admire his chess, but his recent remarks concerning chess politics are lacking transparancy, predictablility and fairness.


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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Seppe's picture

Nice analyses Peter, i completely agree with you !

The thing is, like every "state", Fide responds to other interests than is that easy, i have been living many years abroad now, and i must say only in SOME european countries people worry about "democracy" the rest of the world it doesnt even exist as an idea.

pete's picture

Chessbase really sucks with that interview. The guy is not asking good questions, only the ones that Kramnik wants to hear. When Kramnik commented about the Topalov-Kamsky match:

"First of all there is this match between the two of them, which actually should never have happened – it was basically created out of nothing."

I would have loved to hear the following questions:

"But Vlad, don't you remember you were given the same privileges yourself? You played in Mexico and you lost your title there, but then u had the chance one more time in a match which came out of nothing?"


"But don't u remember that in your contract with fide there was a clause which said Topalov can demand a rematch if some conditions are met ...and the Bulgarians met those conditions ... why didn't you accept the rematch?

etc. etc.

Johannes's picture

"Just think: in the whole history of chess the loser of the final world championship match was always in the final of the world championship qualification – whether it was candidates tournaments or candidates matches, but I am not even getting this. So I am not asking for privileges, I am just asking for basic fairness."

To put it mildly, the remark seems at least questionable, especially if you remember the days of Lasker, Schlechter, Alekine and Capablanca. And Leko did not get any privileges after he "lost" the match against Kramnik. He qualified for the candidates by his rating.

Jonah's picture

I hate those questions "why is Topalov playing?" and other questions in the same fashion... haven´t you thought that maybe it is because he was the World Champion?! And because he has won more elite tournaments than any of the others since Kasparov left? And because he has had the world´s #1 spot on the FIDE list more times since Kasparov left (now surpassing Anand, they were tied)... So I ask you, if he does not deserves it, who does?

Regarding Kramnik, is not the same situation. He lost HIS REMATCH against Anand. Topalov lost HIS TITLE against Kramnik. Is not the same. What Kramnik got is much more than what Topalov got (ie, Kramnik got a rematch when he lost, Topalov got a semifinal match when he lost). Even more, Topalov lost in 2006, so it has taken more than 2 years for his shot at the title, Kramnik waited only one year... Do the math!

Im not a fan of anybody, but a lot of people are not thinking straight... Even Chessvibes and Chessbase have asked in recent posts if maybe Topalov is the best since Kasparov left... Accept once and for all neither of this guys cheated, that they are great players, and that they are humans and as such will make mistakes...

Jonah "The Judge" has spoken!

guitarspider's picture

Jonah, Kasparov was World Champion, Kramnik was. Should they be in the cycle? Maybe lets seed Karpov? In my opinion there is no reason why Topalov should be in the cycle, because what I'd like to see is a cycle without privileges. And Topalov did not qualify, he got seeded. He shouldn't be in the cycle. The candidates tounament shouldn't be there, and the players who will be directly seeded into the tournament shouldn't be there. It's as simple as that.

Declan's picture

Kramnik's the same bitter player he has always been, he only wants more privileges, as always, and when things don't favour him, he just cries like a baby. He should start playing and stop his nonsese.

Manu's picture

When did Topalov asked for privileges after the Kamsky match?
Never , because he didnt need those privileges .In fact just the day before the changes were anounced he spoke against more changes.
This is part of the plan ,they gave him something he didnt want or need so the russian player has yet another way to be seeded to the main event.
And all of this while the number one rated player in the world is accused of pushing for privileges by other players and media.
I really want to hear Topalov´s opinion in that skype conference with FIDE.

VB's picture

Topalov didn't play Mexico, do you remember other case when ex World Champ was exluded from the cycle?

I see Topalov about 2850 if he keep with this pace.

frogbert's picture


very good article. I've expressed more or less the same view in posts over at Mig's yesterday and today, as well as in posts at

I'm happy that one of the major chess news sites addresses the obvious "short-comings" in Kramnik's statements, both regarding internal inconsistency and lack of perspectives on the future. Repeated "every man for himself" only serves those in position to "deal" with FIDE. It's about time more players in such a position say a clear "NO" to further unfair privileges and dealings behind closed doors. It's unfortunate that Kramnik doesn't want to join the ranks of such players. I consider it a half-way confirmation that he's rather happy with how things work at the moment.

Theo's picture

Why be so hard on Kramnik? It's just his personal view.

xtra's picture

because his personal views have a great deal of impact on the chess world, and at the same time aren't (arguably) as great as those of the Carlsens?

Castro's picture

Why is FIDE so late in organizing the cycle to find the world champion after Bobby Fischer's passing? Like it was done pos-Alekhine. Some potencial candidates are retiring, and some are even already retired! ;-)

test's picture

If you are going to ask the players who are currently in the running, of course they are going to defend their own turf, angle for privileges. They should ask ALL grandmasters how a fair world championship cycle should look like. BEFORE it starts. FIDE messed things up in the middle and are now trying to save face.

Arne Moll's picture

No matter how inconsistent Kramnik's point of view is, the main problem lies with FIDE. They promised to publish the transcripts, but we're still waiting. And how amateuristic an organisation is FIDE really, when the audio quality of a simple telephone conversation is so poor that the publication is delayed so much? This won't go away even if Kramnik would have made the most reasonable statement in the world.

adam's picture

I agree with Declan, Kramnik is crying out like a baby. Utter bitterness combined with complete memory loss. Faking the facts. Lying. He talks about being consistence and so on, some later I read this:
“I can fully understand people like Aronian or Carlsen, because I myself also think that if FIDE wants to be a serious organisation such things should not happen.”
Jumping 3 (three) sentences ahead:
“To be honest, I don’t even understand why it is so much against Carlsen or Aronian, this change of the system.”

I imagine him playing in a 128-player knock-out. LOL. I could go on, but it’s simply ridiculous. He should have gone to politics. The strange thing is that after reading this incoherent mess some of you are ready to spit on the Carlsens. Yeah, let’s just compare being in a tough tournament series aiming for the clear first place (which would however, bring previously contracted privileges) and quitting upon drastic changes, with loosing two consecutive world championship finals and still begging for the next semifinal seat. Or asking for transparency, predictability, and fairness with denying your very own opinion a single minute later and doing so on and on.

Btw, there is one thing which is worth to consider out of Kramnik’s “thoughts” is that questionnaire. I, as most of the amateurs, have my own dreams about the future system, but I would definitiely be curious about a clear math the current top 30 (say, 2700+) gamers have on mind. It would perhaps bring the elite together regarding the upcoming cycles…

leigh's picture

Why FIDE keep so complicated cycle? it has too much disputation?
make it simple like other sports:

a world championship decided by a tournament like women world championship;
a world cup championship decided by a world cup tournament
a world Olympic championship decided by a olympic game

Frans's picture

Kramnik has been known to contradict himself. Ask him about his match-record, he wil not give realistic score. That's what he did in a NIC-interview few years ago.

Maybe he is becoming so politic that he speculates on the human deficits, ie loss of memory. Or he suffers from amnesia himself ofcourse....

Jonas's picture

Very good informative article.

Kramnik talks what's best for him at that particular day, even if that contradicts logics and his previous statements. He was never honest (that's why he uses phrase "to be honest" so much in his interviews).

Without these changes Kramnik is out of the cycle. Most probaly these changes was iniciated just to get Kramnik in the cycle.
Apparently Kramnik has big influence in FIDE...

Richard DeCredico's picture

Carlsen loves chess.

Kramnik loves Kramnik.

guitarspider's picture

Carlsen loves Carlsen. He's proposing these things because the way things went hurt him. His proposal are good, but I don't think he's doing it "for chess". He's doing it for himself, which is accidentally beneficial for chess.

I can understand Kramnik. If FIDE is handing out privileges left and right, why not hand them out to him? Even so, having Kramnik seeded into the cycle again is no more logical than getting Topalov in. There's simply no reason for Topalov to be in this cycle at all. There is no reason for Kramnik to be in the cycle. Yet they are/will be. I'm beginning to wonder why I'm not in the cycle.

ok, I admit the reason may be that my chess is somewhat worse than Kramnik's and Topalov's ;-)

Manu's picture


Manu's picture

Sorry to double post , but i agree with the article not with the previous poster.

samthecat's picture

Why does FIDE make it all so complicated-the more complications the more chance of disputes.
2009-a free year
2010-a candidates tournament of the top 10 players as rated 30/06/2010.
2011-a world championship match of 16 games.
How difficult is it?

Eiae's picture

I think your interpretation of what Kramnik says is much too harsh on Kramnik. I suggest you read what he said again and refrain from taking things out of context this time.

Bert de Bruut's picture

@Eiae: elaborate, for I see very little taken out of context ...

JM's picture

I somewhat agree with Eiae that the article is a bit harsh on Kramnik. I must admit that after I first read the interview, I was of a similar mind as the writer of the article. After critically reviewing my own opinion, I think I had become biased against Kramnik because of the first quoted part of the Kramnik interview above. He states he doesn't believe the situation for Aronian and Carlsen has become worse. Statistically, this is obviously incorrect, but I don't think that his opinion is as ridiculous as the author believes ("a child can tell you..."). For example, one could argue the new situation is more favourable for those whose playing style favours tournament play. Looking objectively at Kramnik's arguments, he states that he personally doesn't think it is that much of a difference but does respect the opinion of Aronian and Carlsen. Furthermore, he states in the interview that he specifically dislikes changes to an ongoing cycle.

I'm not saying the author's interpretation of Kramnik's words is wrong per se. I had similar feelings myself at first, but it seems a somewhat unbalanced opinion. I think my alternative interpretation is also perfectly viable. I do not know which one is correct, so I'll reserve judgement.

Regarding the other main critique, i.e. Kramnik is asking for privileges, I don't believe the situation is that clear cut either. Again, I do believe the author's interpretation is a viable one, but it is not the only one. It's about how you value the disputed world championship titles of Topalov (San Luis) and Kramnik (Kasparov match). One could regard Topalov and Kramnik as some kind of 'semifinal winners in the unified world championship' or 'half-world-champions'. If you completely seperate the seperate and the unified world championship cycle, Topalov and Kramnik are in a similar position.

Although I can kind of understand this position as well, I'm still quite sceptical of Kramnik's argumentation in this. If you want to cut back on privileges, neither Kramnik nor Topalov should have them. I share Carlsen's preference against privileges, Kramnik doesn't. OK, that's his opinion.

Concluding, I feel one could disagree with Kramnik about the desirability of privileges. Nevertheless, I do feel the author's opinion on Kramnik is not as balanced as I would have liked for the excellent quality, critical view and mostly very objective comments of

Manu's picture

Maybe is your understanding of Kramnik's words that makes you feel that, JM.
So far Kramniks interview is making a lot of people feel more or less in the same way as Peter does.
IMHO the disgusting way in which the interview is presented says a lot about the authors (Kramnik ,chessbase).
Its a very calculated mix of babys and bitter complains , a desperate try to manipulate the public's perception of Kramniks rights.
And the worst part of that is that it is also a work in progress , because they will publish a second part of that soon.
I bet chessbase is reading the repercusions of the first part in the media and surely editing and rewriting the second part in consecuence.
I wont be surprised if Kramnik appears holding a puppie in the second part.

Alexei Shirov's picture

Hello everybody,

I believe there is still one thing Mr. Hans Arild Runde and Mr. Henrik Carlsen miss - the way the cycle 2008-2011 was presented lacked fairness as well. It meant the match between winner of the World Cup and the winner of Grand Prix, fine. Then the winner of their match against the World Champion, fine. But what about the loser of the World Championship match?
As it was more or less clear that the World Championship match would not happen before 2010, the only chance for both contenders to be in the next cycle would be to play in the World Cup 2009. But then what if none of two players even qualifies for the final? What sense it makes their WC match then and the subsequent match of the new World Champ with the winner of the cycle?
It's really very difficult to find a perfectly fair and transparent system, therefore an attempt to create the Candidate's torunament wasn't so bad itself in my opinion. As long as there are no further intrigues such as Topalov/Kamsky's privileges and obscure potential privileges to Kramnik.
For Kramnik's privileges there is one more thing to add. At the moment it seems that the only potential offer for the Candidate's tournament is Bonn and they would want to include Kramnik. So sad is the reality of chess that unfortunately the most players would still prefer to play the tournament rather than play nothing at all. And here it comes - the Bonn tournament was possibly already in Ilyumzhinov's mind when he offered the privileges to Topalov and Kamsky. A typical one move calculation honestly believing that the move would make everybody happy. But he forgot that the organizers' nominee (which normally shouldn't exist but that's a different matter) CAN NOT be confused with the sporting part of the system that shoul be fair otherwise. In tennis local nominees exist too, of course.
Still, I'd like to remind the chess world that when Carlsen joined the Grand Prix, Henrik didn't seem unhappy about the local nominees (which, I for example strongly opposed to, in my opinion they could play one but not four events) neither the President nominees nor the general stupidity of the system. Therefore, I still can't fully understand the decision to withdraw from Elista.

As for me, I didn't play in Grand Prix from the beginning but I should admit I also had personal reasons for that, the issue of local nominees was only one of them.


Alexei Shirov, Riga 09.01.2009

Jan's picture

Wow. Fire on Chessvibes :-)

guitarspider's picture

Very interesting points indeed. But I still think the Grand Prix system as a whole was good enough to make a new start. With certain modifications (i.e. no World Cup, no local nominees, etc) it would've made for a good start. At least it was a reliable cycle without big possibilities to abuse it and claim privileges. Until Fide decided to change it and seed people and create new tournaments of course.

lulin's picture

To be fair and simple, I propose this format for world championship:

1. all 2700 above players (the current champion Anand excluded) play a 9 or 10 round in SS (final record will be based on tiebreak, no rapid chess will be played)

2. the first 5(maybe 7) players from 1 plus the current champion (Anand) play with double RR

3. if the current champion wins in 2, he/she holds the title

4. if the current champion loses in 2, he has the right to be challenged in match format by the winner in 2.

Castro's picture

Sorry, just to add: Another problem is that the reigning champ would be less than motivated to play your phase 2, because he'd knew he could even loose all of the games, as he'd have a final match with the winner, saving all of his preparation for that...

Castro's picture

Very interesting idea, indeed, but

First, it is as fair as, say, 10 other different systems.

I once proposed 64 of the top GMs in 3 elimination small match steps, then a doble RR with the remaining 8 players, and then a match winner-WC. It would gather, in this searching for the new champion, a) A lot of many top GMs, from many origins; b) Match strengh; c) Tournament strengh d) Possibility of many different organizing sites, thus easier to find sponsors (for instance, many different cities arround the world could organize just one elimination match step between just 2 players), thus more chances to get almost all of the top GMs playing.

Second, your sistem could also be not as simple as one would desire, precisely because of the money/sponsors involved:

Either you have a huge (I mean HUGE) amount of money to distribute, or you can only gather a small number of 2700+ GMs playing at the same moment, at the same place, because they have their different agendas, with different and interesting alternative offers, all the time. If you end up with just say 15 of the 2700+ players because of that type of reasons, I say it's somewhat a fake. Also, the SS would be an interesting phase, yes, but only with a larger set of GMs.

Eiae's picture

The interpretations by Peter in this article are made out of context. A good example is that he concludes Kramnik feels he should have the rights for a rematch, when what Kramnik actually said was that if others had that right he should have that right as well. Go read the whole interview and you will see he also says he is OK with having no privileges if it applies to everybody. What Kramnik complains about is the blatant favoritism by FIDE, but Peter totally disregards this and prints quotations out of context.
I love Peter's work, it's the best in chess journalism, I just don't think this particular article is any good and is very atypical of his usual work.

Ben's picture

Their two statements are not contradictory. Mr. Carlsen wants transparency and predictability, but that could easily be in the context of a semifinal tournament. He just didn't want FIDE changing things in the middle of the current cycle.

A tournament is a great idea, much better than a match. Having the winner of the random Grand Prix already a semi-final candidate was a bit over-the-top. A real cream-of-the-crop tournament of the best super GMs to see who gets to fight for the world championship is absolutely awesome. I hope FIDE does this and I hope Peter fights FIDE only when they go against Mr. Carlsen's ideas (which did not include format).

Castro's picture

And, of course, sorry for my extremely bad English... hehehe

Castro's picture


I agree. We know that journalists are human. This and some of Peter's recent articles somewhat suffer with that, but it's important to say one's heart , views and convictions, as long as bewaring of trying to pass them as facts (and sometimes they're presented as so. After all, it's normal, I do that too, even if subconsciently(?), or merely in ironic fashion).
It's so easy to present Topalov here, or Kramnik there, or Ihliuminov or... anyone! as the bad guys...
My defense of Fischer being the reining champion (now waiting a succesor) is also made of that: a plausible and defendable issue.
Makes one wants to ask, as another of Peter's interesses: What deserves to be news? And what doesn't? And -- continuing is as to journalism concerns -- "Deserving" in which sense? ;-)

cyronix's picture

Kramnik speaks of honesty.
How did Kramnik get to be wch?
Right he lost in the semi final against shirov,
but got into the final nevertheless, because it was decided shirov is not a worthy opponent and Kramnik agreed to this. I have to say a very honest act from Kramnik.
Kasparov was in bad form and lost his title to kramnik, but kasparov recovered fast, won one tournament after another, was clear #1 on the rating list all the years he played, whereas kramnik was nothing, did not play much and made many shortdraws.
The most normal thing would have been to give kasparov a rematch, but Kramnik didn't give him a rematch, he also made no proposal for a clear qualification cycle (that is why Kasparov disagreed to play in Dortmund).
Tbh. this influence of the players should be completely taken away, because there are too many players like kramnik, who chose not to play against the strongest player to guard their title, they do not play for our godess caissa, they only play for themselves.

The whole FIDE stuff suxx, matches are best.
But their should be no "Endboss" automatically getting seeded into the final.
The current Wch has to qualify like everyone else in matches.
Just make a 16 players knock out tournament with the best players.
1/8 final 4 games 1/4 final 4 games 1/2 final 6 games, final 10 games.
Just take 8 players by rating, the two previous finalists, and 6 qualification spots.
It could be as easy as that.

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