Reports | April 27, 2011 22:18

Candidates matches start in one week - who's your pick?

In exactly one week eight days from today, the first games of the FIDE Candidates matches will be played. In Kazan, Russia the first round will have Veselin Topalov vs Gata Kamsky, Vladimir Kramnik vs Teimour Radjabov, Levon Aronian vs Alexander Grischuk and Boris Gelfand vs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Who do you think will qualify for a match with Vishy Anand?

The matches, with the above pairings, will be played over four games. Two days after these matches end, the second round starts, with the winner of Topalov-Kamsky against the winner of Gelfand-Mamedyarov and the winner of Kramnik-Radjabov against the winner of Aronian-Grischuk. These matches will also consist of four games. The final match will consist of six games.

  Quarterfinals (best of 4) Semifinals (best of 4) Final (best of 6)
  1  BulgariaVeselin Topalov 0  
8  United StatesGata Kamsky 0  
4  IsraelBoris Gelfand 0
  5  AzerbaijanShakhriyar Mamedyarov 0  
  3  ArmeniaLevon Aronian 0  
6  RussiaAlexander Grischuk 0  
2  RussiaVladimir Kramnik 0
  7  AzerbaijanTeimour Radjabov 0  

Bracket courtesy of Wikipedia

The dates for the Candidates matches are May 3rd-27th. Although no official message (nor a website) has been communicated by FIDE or the organizers since the official announcement of the pairings on February 7th, we may safely assume that the opening ceremony will take place on May 3rd, and the first game will be played the next day - exactly a week from today.

Update: we've found the official website at There we read that 3 May is the 'Arrival', 4 May the 'Players Meeting / Opening Ceremony' and 5 May 'Game 1, round 1'.

The drawing of colours for all the rounds will be conducted during the opening ceremony. The winner of these Candidates Matches will qualify to challenge World Champion Vishy Anand in a 12-game match during the first half of 2012.

Veselin Topalov qualified as the runner up of the previous World Championship. Vladimir Kramnik qualified by rating. Levon Aronian was the winner of the FIDE Grand-Prix 2008-2009 and Boris Gelfand was the winner of the FIDE World Cup 2009. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was kept as the wild card, originally picked by organizers in Baku, Azerbaijan, before the event was moved to Kazan.

Teimour Radjabov came second in the FIDE Grand-Prix and Alexander Grischuk also qualified from this GP. The Russian replaces Magnus Carlsen who decided not to play early November, 2010. Gata Kamsky is in as the runner up of the Challengers Match 2009.

Time control
The time control will be 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game plus an additional 30 seconds increment per move, starting from move 61. Tiebreaks will consist of four games of 25 minutes plus 10 seconds increment, two blitz games (five minutes plus three seconds) and one sudden death game (five against 4, with 3 seconds increment from move 61, and draw odds for Black).

The four losers of the first round matches will each receive a (minimum) amount of 30,000 euros. The two losers of the second round matches will each receive a (minimum) amount of 60,000 euros. The minimum prize fund for the final match of the 3rd round is 180,000 euros which will be divided 50%-50% between the two players (90,000 euros each).

The matches will be held in Kazan, Russia. It's the capital city of the Republic of Tatarstan is the sixth largest city of Russia. From Wikipedia we learn that it lies at the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka Rivers in European Russia. The Kazan Kremlin is a World Heritage Site and in April 2009, the Russian Patent Office granted Kazan the right to brand itself as the "Third Capital" of Russia. Besides, in 2009 it was chosen as the "sports capital of Russia".



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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.


ebutaljib's picture

He failed to qualify through Grand Prix, World Cup , rating list,...

What more do you want?

Stanley Peters's picture

Kramnik's overall record is awesome. He's still a top class player, and has clearly stated his hunger to win back his world title. And he has seen it all - his success, his failings - and has shown the courage to change his approach to be a better chess player after his loss to Anand in 2008.

Talent, determination, mental fortitude, match temperament, match experience, courage - that is an awesome package and Kramnik has it all, more than making up for any current Elo differences with Aronian.

In short burst matches of this nature, anything can happen but I would be very surprised if Kramnik does not qualify to meet Anand. If Kramnik goes through, we would have a genuine classic on our hands in 2012.

gg's picture

Is Kramnik really a better chess player after 2008 than he was before? In 2006 and 2007 he played excellent chess in every event, and was maybe the best player in the world during that period, but lately 4th-5th has been the normal result for him and he is no longer a top three player.

Stanley Peters's picture

It is difficult to say whether he is a better chess player since 2008 than before, just that he had the vision to realise that his chess style needed some changing to prevail over the world's best in match-play, and then having the courage to follow up on his vision by making changes to the way he played chess to try to be better.

He certainly has shown more enterprise and ambition in his games since 2008, and has got mixed results in tournaments, winning some really big ones. To me it seems he has been steadily and methodically building up towards this very event - to qualify as a challenger to Anand.

Well, we will know soon enough! :-)

Atheistic Bishop's picture

Without Ivanchuk (and Carlsen) it is pointless. Gelfand and Mamedyarov before Ivanchuk? Come on!

quibbler's picture

When it comes to Mamedyarov, because he was a wildcard, I agree. But remember that Gelfand actually qualified, something that Ivanchuk did not. (Although I'd love to see him in the field too, actually.)

ebutaljib's picture

Kramnik to win the Candidates? That would be something new.

Kramnik has failed In all the cycles he ever participated in, and his match record really isn't that good. Him being good in matches is just a myth. Yeah I know, I know he beat Kasparov, but this still doesn't change the facts.

mishanp's picture

There's an element of truth in that, of course, but:

"All the cycles he ever participated in" only really means 3 (match cycles), with two of them back when he was 19.

As well as the Kasparov match he held onto the title against Leko and Topalov - agreed, those weren't stellar performances, but the ability to play well under enormous pressure (the must-win game against Leko or the tie-breaks against Topalov) is also a key factor in matches. Even against Anand he put up a good fight after the opening debacle in the early games.

I think the real point about Kramnik and matches was more that his style from the Kasparov match on was ideally suited to them - i.e. if you're not losing games and still winning regularly with White you might only finish on +2 in tournaments but should be almost invincible in matches. Admittedly, that only really fully worked out against Kasparov , and in any case Kramnik's been playing differently for the last couple of years.

Overall, I think he's got as good a chance as anyone in Kazan, but of course that means he's only got a small chances of winning overall. The new, much more solid Mamedyarov is my dark horse...

ebutaljib's picture

FIDE candidates 1994:
1st round: Kramnik wins against Leonid Yudashin +2 =5 -0
2nd round: Kramnik loses to Gelfand +1 =5 -2

PCA Candidates 1994
1st round: Kramnik loses to Kamsky +0 =3 -3

1998 Challenger match in Cazorla
Kramnik loses to Alexei Shirov +0 =7 -2
(despite the loss he nevertheless gets to play Kasparov)

1999 FIDE World Championship:
In quarter-final Kramnik loses to Michel Adams after 2nd rapid tiebreaks.
(regular, as well as 1st rapid tiebreaks, were drawn +0 =2 -0 each)

2000 Braingames World Championship
Kramnik wins against Garry Kasparov +2 =13 -0

2004 Classical World Championship
Kramnik draws with Peter Leko +2 =10 -2

2006 World Championship
Kramnik draws with Veselin Topalov +3 =6 -3
(wins after rapid playoff 2.5-1.5)

2008 World Championship
Kramnik loses to Viswantahan Anand +1 =7 -3

So Kramniks overall score in match play (only regular classical games) is
+11 =58 -15

And then people still say how he is good in matches. Yes he beat kasparov, but that is basically all he did.

gg's picture

People have been saying forever that Kramnik is a match player and Anand is a tournament player, I guess it's just one of those myths that repeating actual results won't change. Kramnik played better than expected against Kasparov and worse than expected against Kamsky, Gelfand, Shirov, Leko, Topalov and Anand.

Mark De Smedt's picture

You seem to forget that Kramnik-Topalov was +3 =6 -2 with one game forfeited.
After 1994 his match record has been more or less even against opponents that include the very best.

gg's picture

After 1994 it's -2 in the matches against Shirov and Anand, +2 against Kasparov, and even against Leko and Topalov (or +1 if the forfeit isn't counted). Not a big minus for Kramnik if the matches before 1995 aren't counted but Leko and Topalov had no match experience while Anand and Topalov were called typical tournament players (also by Kramnik himself), so a minus against these opponents is hardly a sign of him being a great match player, especially when considering that he has a plus against all of them in tournament games.

christos (greece)'s picture

Kramnik won his match against Kasparov so comfortably that Kasparov looked like he never had a chance. He was proposing short draws with White, practically admitting that his opening preparation was not adequate for this match. And with Black he almost always got a clearly worse position.
This shows Kramnik to be a great match player, because he could outprepare Kasparov (of course, it was also a mistake from Kasparov's part). Kramnik might also have unpleasant surprises for his current opponents.

gg's picture

You pick one match of his last seven to declare him a great match player, but looking at the other six he has excellent results in tournaments against Kamsky, Gelfand, Shirov, Leko, Topalov and Anand while he did much worse in the matches against them. Well, he was indeed a great match player against Kasparov and maybe he will show something similar in another match one day :)

christos (greece)'s picture

I only picked this match because its result was underestimated in the posts to which I replied. But I argued that it was important because
a) the win was so comfortable, and
b) nobody else had beaten Kasparov in such a long match

ebutaljib's picture

All he did is to cought Garry on the wrong foot. He knew that another win against Kasparov was very unlikely just like Alekhine knew that his win against Capablanca was unlikely to be repeatable. Both Kramnik and Alekhine found 1001 reasons to postpone a rematch with Kasparov/Capablanca indefinatelly, when everybody knew that they were the most deserving challengers.

Thomas's picture

Kramnik's overall score against Kasparov was roughly even (the only player to achieve this based on a sizeable number of games?), so did he really have to fear a rematch? But, while it had happened before, why should a (former) world champion get an automatic rematch, i.e. more or less draw odds - if he wins one match out of two, he keeps his title? Kasparov could have played the Dortmund qualifier - he didn't and Leko _earned_ the right to challenge Kramnik.

ebutaljib's picture

It would be no guarantee that Kramnik would play the match if Kasparov won in Dortmund.

Even after Prague agreement Kramnik still said that it is not clerar to him why he should play a match against Kasparov. Kramnik was unwilling to play against Kasparov at all costs.

S2's picture

That's a lie. Well in advance it was known that the winner at Dortmund would get to play Kramnik for the title.

Kramnik was able to lay out fair qualification rules in advance and stick to it. That is something Kasparov never could/would do. He, like Capablanca, was vague and interpreted/mistreated the rules the way that suited him best.

Thomas's picture

As far as I remember, Kramnik always argued that Kasparov "first has to qualify" for a WCh match - anyone's pick whether or not this was a fair demand. But then it's just an insinuation that he would have refused or avoided a match against Dortmund winner Kasparov. If this had been the case (all hypothetical) he would have lost his title, simple as that.

On his match record (in line with what mishanp wrote above):
- Results from the last century/millennium are rather dated by now. Who would even mention pre-2005 results for, e.g., Carlsen or Nakamura?
- In three out of four WCh matches, he did what was required to obtain, then defend his title - "mission accomplished"
- As far as rated games go, his classical score against Topalov was +3=6-2; Topalov reached the tiebreak thanks to Danailov ... .
- There's no such thing as an easy match even when you're the favorite - as Topalov found out against Kamsky, despite the final score. And Kramnik wasn't even pre-match favorite against Topalov.

ebutaljib's picture

Fine Kasparov has to qualify - and then they came up with Prague agreement (which was signed among others by Kramnik) and yet he still said that it is not clear to him why he should play against the winner of Kasparov vs. Ponomariov(later Kasimdzhanov). He said that several times. So why the hell play the match Kasparov vs. Kasimdzhanov if Kramnik is not willing to play afterwards?

And that comes from a man who never qualified for any world Championship he ever participated in.

1) He was chosen by Kasparov eventhough he lost the challenger match to Shirov.

2) He was in the reunification match eventhough he failed to properly defend the title (it's debatable if he even had any title at all, because Kasparov wasn't anykind of champion by then.)

3) He and Topalov signed that the winner will play in Mexico and won't demand any special privilegies. After winning the match against Topalov he extorted FIDE to give him a "rematch" against the winner. So he got another by into the World Championship where he was fortunately thoroughly demolished by Anand who did qualify for all 7 World championships he played in.

mishanp's picture

The Prague Agreement was completely different to Dortmund and normal qualifying, so I don't know why you say "still" or "even" as if it was a more reasonable extension of that. Prague handed Kasparov a semi-final match simply on the basis of his rating. Of course that's something anyone might express concerns about, though I don't doubt Kramnik would have played if FIDE/Kasparov had held up their side of the bargain.

If there was any "extortion" after the Kramnik-Topalov match it was from Topalov. Kramnik signed a contract agreeing to play in Mexico if he won - and then played in Mexico. Topalov signed a contract saying he wouldn't play in Mexico if he lost... but then complained about the injustice, demanded an impossible rematch, threatened legal action, and got FIDE to give him a semi-final match - a recurring theme (after all, Kasparov signed the London contract saying the loser wouldn't get a rematch).

You're right, of course, that Kramnik didn't qualify to play Kasparov - but he's hardly responsible for the mess the chess world's been in during his career.

ebutaljib's picture

No, no, no - it was the other way around. First Kramnik got a "rematch" then Bulgarians raised their voices and bargained out a challenger match for Topalov.

Kramnik threatened not to play in Mexico unless he gets a "rematch". He played only under this condition in Mexico.

mishanp's picture

Actually the Bulgarians were trying to force through a match the moment they returned from Elista - knowing perfectly well there was no way a return match would be played before Mexico. It was a pure negotiating trick.

And Kramnik agreed to play in Mexico regardless of whether he would have a rematch against the winner: Of course the Mexico winner wouldn't have been considered the true World Champion by a large number of chess fans, so wisely (for once) FIDE agreed to hold a match as well.

gg's picture

Yes, but that interview was made after he knew he had been given a match against Anand :)

"If Kramnik does not win Mexico himself he will for the moment recognize the winner of Mexico as the new world champion, but only under the condition that he gets a one-time return match in 2008"

Thomas's picture

@gg: That's, by all appearances, wrong.

The Kramnik interview mentioned by mishanp was held 31st January 2007 (after Corus) and Vlad says "My manager, who is there [at the FIDE Presidential Council] now, told me that there is no clear-cut decision so far and that it will be decided in in the end of February-beginning of March."

The interview you mention (with Kramnik's [former] manager Carsten Hensel) was held July 7th 2011 (after Dortmund).

Anyway, now I am out of this mini-thread. In the beginning (Kramnik's match record) it was still sort of on-topic: the candidates event and Kramnik's chances in it. By now it has turned into good ol'fashioned Kramnik-bashing ....

gg's picture


Well, the interviewer pointed out that Kramnik never had said that he would play in Mexico, and also that FIDE now had decided to give him a title match against the Mexico winner (after negotiations with his manager). Kramnik's saying "maybe it is one of the possibilities that exist" sounds as if it's a small chance that it will happen, but maybe he is playing innocent there :) In any case his manager made it clear many months before Mexico that Kramnik only would recognize the winner there as World Champion if he was given a title match. If Anand-Kramnik hadn't been played Anand would be stripped of the title and it would be handed to Kramnik. This rule obviously didn't exist in 2006, and that Topalov and Kramnik negotiated better deals afterwards is just how it usually is with FIDE, but all that is water under the bridge now anyway.

mishanp's picture

"all that is water under the bridge now anyway."

At least that's something we can all agree on :)

Thomas's picture

One "detail" hasn't yet been mentioned because it doesn't fit into the overall picture of 'privileges for Kramnik': If Kramnik had been winning Mexico, he also needed to confirm/defend his title in a match - in that case against Topalov who would have gotten his beloved rematch, and might have ended up being world champion after drawing (overall) two matches against Kramnik, and not playing Mexico.

As a matter of fact, Topalov might have been secretly rooting for Kramnik in Mexico, while Kramnik himself may not have been THAT interested in winning the tournament - given the choice between a rather friendly match against Anand, and another ugly one against Topalov .... possibly in Sofia.

But indeed that's now water under the bridge, while Topalov's privileges extend to the present day:
- shortcut to another WCh match against Anand
- direct seeding into the candidates event
- privilege of being seeded first with respect to pairings

gg's picture

One of the many weird things with those days was that Topalov would have had to play another title match between Elista and Mexico in case he had beaten Kramnik, and only if he had won also that one, against Radjabov, he would have been included in the World Championship in Mexico. If that would have been tough Topalov has of course been paid back more than enough by FIDE with various privileges.

RealityCheck's picture

@ebutaljib I disagree! I think that re-unification simply took precedence over a silly re-match.

Cheesus's picture

FIDE will win regardless of the result. ;)

RealityCheck's picture

Aronian is the only serious challenge for Anand. Ok. My question is how much weight shd be put on the psychological advantage he gains from having a better personal score against the world champ?

CAL|Daniel's picture

against Gelfand?! I'm taking 99-1 odds on Boris to bring hope the bacon against the joke.

gg's picture

99-1? Mamedyarov is #9 while Gelfand is #16, and Mamedyarov shared first in his last tournament, Tal Memorial. He has improved a lot lately and is hardly a joke.

Jerry's picture

I am 99% sure that Daniel will find a way to refuse a €1000 bet, but I am willing to bet €1000 at his odds against his belief that Gelfand will bring home the bacon against Mamedyarov. If Cal wins (i.e. If Gelfand is victorious), he get €1,000 from me, while if Gelfand does not win, I get €99,000 from Cal. Anyone here (e.g. Thomas) available to make the arrangements between Cal and me for a fee before next Monday noon EST (after which all bets are off)? I won't ask Peter as I am sure he would not want a perception that his site is complicit in sordid gambling activity :-)

CAL|Daniel's picture

I never said I was a casino or placing a bet. I said the odds are 99-1 in Gelfand's favor. This obviously means I would not place a bet here as it has no return but high risk. What you look for in a bet is quite the opposite. I want to find a bet that has high return and low risk.

gg's picture

You never said you were taking 99-1 odds on Gelfand to win? :) Anyway, the actual odds in the match aren't 99 times the money on Mamedyarov to win, one bookmaker gives these odds on the winner of the whole event at the moment:

Aronian 2.85
Kramnik 3.00
Topalov 3.50
Mamedyarov 13.00
Gelfand 13.50
Grischuk 14.00
Radjabov 15.00
Kamsky 22.00

CAL|Daniel's picture

fine go ahead and pay the 1000 then.

CAL|Daniel's picture

Don't forget his Chess 960 WC title :)

R's picture

I was also curious to see how everyone's records are against World Champion Anand. That is, only games against Anand since he won Mexico City are included:

Sorted by total number of encounters:
Topalov (19): +3 =11 -5 --> 44.74%
Kramnik (18): +1 =13 -4 --> 41.67%
Carlsen (15): +1 =10 -4 --> 40.00%
Aronian (9): +4 =5 -0 --> 72.22% (the only positive score on the list)
Ivanchuk (9): +0 =9 -0 --> 50.00%
Radjabov (7): +1 =5 -1 --> 50.00%
Shirov (6): +0 =2 -4 --> 16.67%
Leko (5): +0 =3 -2 --> 30.00%
Wang, Yue (4): +0 =2 -2 --> 25.00%

Dominguez-Perez, Gashimov, Grischuk, Nakamura (3): +0 =3 -0 --> 50.00%

Bacrot (2): +1 =0 -1 --> 50.00%
Adams, Gelfand, McShane, Van Wely (2): +0 =2 -0 --> 50.00%
Ponomariov, Short, Smeets (2): +0 =1 -1 --> 25.00%

Caruana, Eljanov, Giri, Howell, Karjakin, L'Ami, Mamedyarov, Morozevich, Nepomniachtchi, Tiviakov, Vachier-Lagrave, Wojtaszek (1): +0 =1 -0 --> 50.00%
Babula, Kempinski, Macieja, Polgar, Stellwagen, Svidler, Wang Hao (1): +0 =0 -1 --> 0.00%

This doesn't look too promising for most people...

R's picture

Oh, and specifically highlighting the candidates (by seed):

Topalov (19): +3 =11 -5 –> 44.74%
Kramnik (18): +1 =13 -4 –> 41.67%
Aronian (9): +4 =5 -0 –> 72.22%
Mamedyarov (1): +0 =1 -0 --> 50.00%
Gelfand (2): +0 =2 -0 --> 50.00%
Grischuk (3): +0 =3 -0 --> 50.00%
Radjabov (7): +1 =5 -1 –> 50.00%
Kamsky (0): [none]

rajeshv's picture

lol.. but I guess, if we overlook the 1 nominated spot, this is definitely one of the best candidates in a long time, though it has been a very long cycle.

rajeshv's picture

My predictions for the first round are:
Kamsky, Gelfand, Grischuk and Radjabov.

Kamsky, Grischuk

Final winner: Kamsky

Go Gata Go! Show'em what you are made of!!!

Zeblakob's picture

rajeshv = Septimus in reverse :)

Chesser's picture

You must be a comedian

colombeau's picture

very nice very nice but maybe in the next world !

Zacalov's picture

No Carlsen, Karjakin or Nakamura- the future of chess is absent, the event is dull

bhabatosh's picture

this tournament is about present .... you have to wait few more years for these "future" stars ....

gg's picture

Carlsen feels entitled to be World Champion without fighting for it? That must be why he wanted longer matches instead of a knockout.


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