Reports | October 21, 2009 22:37

Candidates: half in Azerbaijan, half somewhere else

The 2010/2011 FIDE Candidates matches will be split into two groups and organized in two locations. One part will be held in Azerbaijan, and the other (in which Aronian will play) in a different country. This was decided at the 80th FIDE Congress in Kallithea, Greece and confirmed to us by FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos. Media reported this week that Azerbaijan insisted that the other organizing country can't be Armenia, but we're not sure if that's true.


During the Chess Olympiad in Dresden, November last year, out of the blue FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov announced that the General Assembly had decided on a Candidates Tournament to be held somewhere in 2010, as part of the current world championship cycle. FIDE's move was widely criticized: "one shouldn't make changes in an ongoing cycle" was mostly heard and the subsequent uncertainty and disappointing communication with FIDE led to Magnus Carlsen's withdrawal from the Grand Prix Series. Levon Aronian also expressed disappointed in an open letter and requested the FIDE President to "critically view and question the GA's latest decisions and the processes to which they came."

In March the Candidates Tournament was approved at the Presidential Board meeting in Istanbul, Turkey. On June 22nd the regulations for the event were published and as it turned out, it was decided it won't be a tournament, but matches instead. For the Candidates will qualify:

  • Gata Kamsky, as the player who lost the 2009 Challengers Match
  • The winner of the 2009 World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk
  • The loser of the 2010 Anand-Topalov match
  • The winner (Levon Aronian) and runner-up of the 2008-2009 FIDE Grand Prix Series
  • A nominated player rated at least 2700
  • Two players qualify by rating, based on the average of the July 2009 and the January 2010 lists

Two halves

A few days ago, at the 80th FIDE Congress in Kallithea, Greece half of the event was awarded to Azerbaijan. The other half of the matches will be organized in a different country, to allow Levon Aronian, who already qualified as the winner of the FIDE Grand Prix Series, to participate.

The Candidates matches will be split into two groups, with four players in each. The winners of the two halfs will play a match to decide on the challenger for the 2012 World Championship match against the reigning World Champion - the winner of the 2010 Anand-Topalov match.

"Not Armenia"

Three days ago Chessbase reported on the news by providing a translation of an article from the Azeri sports website ExtraTime. A notable detail is that the part of the matches that won't be held in Azerbaijan,

"must, at the insistence of Azerbaidjan, not be Armenia."

Despite the long-term conflict between the two neighbouring countries, we found this demand by Azerbaijan quite remarkable. In fact, we're not sure whether this summarized version is fully accurate. This is the relevant paragraph from ExtraTime:

If the final Candidates matches will have representatives of Azerbaijan and Armenia, they will be held in a neutral country. If the final Candidates matches will have an Azerbaijani chess player and any other except Aronian, then this fight will be held in Baku. If the final Candidates matches will have Aronian and a representative of any other country except Azerbaijan, it will also be held in a neutral country.

To us the above is formulated rather vaguely, and it might even be the case that it's about the final of the Candidates, between the two winners of the first stage. In that case the above means that this final will be held in Baku if, let's say Aronian, is eliminated earlier in the matches, and if Aronian is in the final and doesn't meet an Azeri opponent, the match won't be held in Armenia. However, the article doesn't state clearly that this last part was a result of a demand from Azerbaijan.

Reaction from FIDE

We asked FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos for some more clarification on the matter. He told us:

The only particular demand of the Azerbaijan Chess Federation was to have at least one Azeri player to play in the Baku group. The request was very logical and was accepted by FIDE. The whole agreement was made in good faith with the Azerbaijan Chess Federation which is also one of the most active federations worldwide in hosting top events.

The Armenian Chess Federation was also asked to submit a proposal to organise half or whole the event but it was impossible for their budget. In all cases, the Armenian Chess Federation has received FIDE's assurance that all Armenian qualifiers will have their rights protected.

There is no co-organiser appointed yet. The right for a wild card has been agreed to go to Azerbaijan as it covers about 60% of the total cost of prize fund, FIDE contribution and stipends (338,000 euros out of a total of 540,000 euros).

Even after Mr Makropoulos' answer things remain unclear as far as the Azerbaijan - Armenia issue is concerned. We'll probably just have to wait until a co-organiser is announced and all names of the eight qualifiers are known, before everything will become clear.

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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.


Thomas's picture

For once Chessvibes is rather late on this (maybe you were waiting for a reaction from FIDE?). There is already a heated discussion on Dailydirt (so far 142 comments). Many deal with political issues of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, with Mig Greengard (influenced by Kasparov?) being critical of Azerbaijan at least in the given chess political context.

One blogger provided the following link (time stamp 19/10/2009 17:25):
"Proceeding from this situation, FIDE has proposed Armenian side to hold the second part of tournament. Armenian Chess Federation hasn’t yet answered this proposal and is still discussing it. Meanwhile, it’s possible that Yerevan will host Tournament Two."

But maybe this is now old news, if your quote from Makropoulos is more recent and definite?

Peter Doggers's picture

Yes, we were waiting for a reaction from FIDE.

gloin's picture

FIDE really does its best to make chess as obscure as possible...

Estragon's picture

Michael Adams also withdrew from the World Cup once the changes were made in medias res.

Interestingly, it seems Carlsen will have a virtual lock on one of the "rating" slots anyway, since either Anand or Topalov will automatically qualify, the other won't play, and Aronian has already clinched. There goes the rest of the top four!

Naturally, Carlsen could have disastrous events at Riga, and London (Corus, I believe, won't make the Jan 2010 FIDE rating list) and blow it, but the way he played in Nanjing reminds one of the type of performance his new coach used to turn in - one which discourages and even frightens the competition.

If he, on the other hand, continues his strong domination in those events, it would almost render the Candidates' - and for that matter Anand-Topalov - moot. A key test could be how he performs against Aronian, who has been perhaps the most difficult opponent for him in the past.

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