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Giri, Caruana, Aronian Slam “Utterly Damaged” FIDE Circuit

GM Levon Aronian lately wrote, “the FIDE Circuit is type of a joke,” with GM Anish Giri replying to explain it as “fully damaged.” Getting prime grandmasters to agree on something is a problem, however one other, 2023 FIDE Circuit Winner GM Fabiano Caruana, described the system, which can decide two out of eight locations within the 2026 FIDE Candidates Event, as “the dumbest factor I’ve ever seen.” What do they see as the problems? 

GM Gukesh Dommarju has simply gained the 2024 FIDE Candidates Event to earn a world championship match in opposition to GM Ding Liren, however the race to qualify for the subsequent Candidates in 2026 has already begun. A controversial a part of the qualification system burst into the highlight when Aronian tweeted, and was quickly backed up Giri.

Earlier than we get into the main points, let’s take a look at the fundamentals. 

What Is The FIDE Circuit?

The FIDE Circuit is a factors system devised by the World Chess Federation (FIDE) for measuring match performances throughout a yr, with a participant’s prime seven performances added collectively to make an general rating. In 2023, a most of 5 performances was taken under consideration, with Gukesh utilizing this path to qualify for the Candidates (he was second to Caruana, who had already certified through one other route).

Gukesh certified through the FIDE Circuit final yr in an occasion operating December 15-21. This time FIDE give December 15 because the final day occasions can finish! Picture: Chennai Grand Masters.

This time the circuit can be run in each 2024 and 2025, with the winner annually qualifying for the 2026 Candidates, in order that two of the eight spots in that extremely essential occasion will come from the circuit.

There are all types of quirky guidelines and exceptions, however let’s first take a look at these raised by Aronian and Giri.

The American Cup Is Too American

This yr’s American Cup, gained by Aronian, was a formidable high-stakes occasion that includes the world numbers two, eight, 13, and 26, but it surely gained’t depend towards the FIDE Circuit since greater than 50 p.c of the gamers—in actual fact one hundred pc—got here from the identical federation. The one exception is for nationwide championships, so the U.S. Chess Championship will depend.

Aronian was late to the get together, since that restriction on federations utilized in 2023 as properly. FIDE CEO Emil Sutovsky defined that it was partly to counter how China had organized occasions for Ding to qualify in 2022.  

The logic on this case is at the least straightforward to grasp, however the way in which factors have been allotted for the Tata Metal Masters and Challengers was altogether extra puzzling. We have to take a deep dive. 

Tata Metal Chess Reveals “Utterly Damaged” System?

The annual January chess pageant in Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands, is the curtain-raiser for the chess season, however this time the FIDE Circuit factors given after the motion was over raised various eyebrows.

After one occasion there was already controversy. Picture: FIDE.

At a look you’ll be able to see that GM Wei Yi, who gained the Masters, scored the very best variety of circuit factors, as you’ll anticipate, however Challengers winner GM Leon Mendonca outscored Giri, Gukesh, and GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov, who tied for first place on a “plus 4” (4 extra wins than losses) rating with round a 2820 ranking efficiency every.

It’s much less instantly apparent, however younger skills GMs Marc’Andria Maurizzi and Daniel Dardha additionally scored extra factors for ending second within the Challengers than GMs Vidit Gujrathi, Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu, and Alireza Firouzja earned for ending fifth on plus two within the Masters, since these gamers earned… zero!

Wei Yi scored properly by successful the tiebreaks, however the different gamers had little to point out for the grueling occasion. Picture: Lennart Ootes.

“There’s no logic behind it. How did they mess up so badly?” asks Caruana on his podcast about comparable comparisons. Effectively, what we will do is clarify the calculations, with the obvious unfairness partly coming right down to a few new guidelines.

First, each match has a okay issue to point its energy. The components is to take the common ranking of the highest eight gamers initially of the occasion, take away 2500, and divide by 100.

For the Masters the common was a really excessive 2752.75, helped by gamers corresponding to GM Ju Wenjun (2549) and GM Alexander Donchenko (2643) within the decrease half of the sphere not being counted, so the okay issue is (2752.75-2500)/100, or 2.5275, whereas for the Challengers it’s nearly half, 1.3775.

The factors scored in a match are irrelevant, with solely placings mattering. To calculate the Circuit factors you multiply the okay issue by the factors given for every putting (eighth: 2 factors, seventh: 3, sixth: 4, fifth: 5, 4th: 6, third: 7, 2nd 8, 1st 10/11). The system is similar as in 2023, besides that for sole first place you now get a major enhance with 11 factors as a substitute of 10. Mendonca subsequently earned 11 * 1.3775, or 15.15 Circuit factors for his Challengers efficiency.

It’s relating to the tie within the Masters that issues get trickier, nonetheless, and we encounter a significant change in 2024 that basically hits the gamers in an enormous round-robin occasion. As a substitute of giving factors to gamers who end within the prime half as in 2023 i.e. right down to seventh place in a 14-player match, solely the highest three locations in a traditional round-robin achieve any factors in any respect.  

Rank Title Identify FED Score Factors TB Circuit Factors
1 GM Wei, Yi 2740 8.5 1 20.54
2 GM Gukesh, D 2725 8.5 2 14.22

GM Abdusattorov, Nodirbek 2727 8.5 2 14.22

GM Giri, Anish 2749 8.5 2 14.22
5 GM Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi 2742 7.5 0 0

GM Praggnanandhaa, R 2743 7.5 0 0

GM Firouzja, Alireza 2759 7.5 0 0
8 GM Nepomniachtchi, Ian

2769 6.5 0 0
9 GM Ding, Liren 2780 6 0 0
10 GM Van Foreest, Jorden 2682 4.5 0 0

GM Ju, Wenjun 2549 4.5 0 0

GM Donchenko, Alexander 2643 4.5 0 0

GM Maghsoodloo, Parham 2740 4.5 0 0
14 GM Warmerdam, Max 2625 4 0 0

The four-way tie on the prime produced the curious state of affairs that the winners of the occasion have been sharing most Circuit factors for prime spot, in addition to fourth, which provided zero.

The best way FIDE calculates in case of a tie is to base the factors 50 p.c on all of the gamers being equal (10+8+7+0, divided between 4 gamers = 6.25 factors every), and 50 p.c on the locations after any tiebreakers are utilized by the match. So for Wei, who was first after the tiebreaker (10 factors), we get:

First After Tiebreak: 10 * 2.5275 = 25.272 / 2 [50%] = 12.6375

4-Approach Tie: 6.25 * 2.5275 = 15.7969 / 2 = 7.8984
Whole: 20.54 factors

For Gukesh, Abdusattorov, and Giri, who after the tie share 5 factors every (i.e. 8 for 2nd and seven for third, divided between three gamers), we get:

After Tiebreak: 5 * 2.5275 = 12.6375 / 2 = 6.31875
4-Approach Tie: 7.8984
Whole: 14.22 factors

How does that quantity examine to different occasions? Let’s have a look.

Niemann’s GRENKE Open Efficiency Reveals Path To Candidates

GM Hans Niemann scored 20.82 factors for successful the GRENKE Open, scary Caruana to remark: “6.5 extra factors than Gukesh for plus 4 within the Tata Metal Masters. You win an open match, you get six factors extra. What the hell is that this?”

Niemann gained €20,000 and all of the FIDE Circuit marbles. Picture: Angelika Valkova.

The maths, on this case, is easy. The huge open in Karlsruhe solely had one 2700-player, GM Arjun Erigaisi, however eighth-ranked GM Kirill Shevchenko was a really wholesome 2670-rated, in order that the common was 2689.25. By the identical components, that meant a okay issue of (2689.25-2500)/100 = 1.8925.

Once more, it was essential that Niemann took sole first place, in order that he bought the bonus 11 factors, and 11 * 1.8925 = 20.82. After that it was much less spectacular, since, with a nine-way tie for second, gamers scored from 11.25 (GM Ivan Saric, second after tiebreaks), to three.68 factors for IM Bryce Tiglon and GM Matthias Bluebaum in Ninth-Tenth.

The best-rated opponent Niemann confronted was 2617-rated GM Frederik Svane, however that doesn’t imply his efficiency wasn’t spectacular, since scoring extremely in opposition to lower-rated opponents is way from a given. His efficiency ranking was 2813, although a reality test disputes what Sutovsky tweeted.

Gukesh posted a 2847 efficiency to win the Candidates, whereas the gamers tied for second additionally out-performed Niemann numerically: Nakamura (2819), Nepomniachtchi (2823), Caruana (2817). These final three all scored fewer Circuit factors than Niemann. 

No Candidates Increase For The Subsequent Candidates

A lot ache for thus little reward. Picture: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The FIDE Candidates is second solely to the chess world championship when it comes to significance and depth, but it surely’s arguably a lot tougher to win than the title match in opposition to a single opponent. The gamers put together for months and put all the things on the desk as they battle for glory or, for many of the subject, despair. The Circuit factors on provide, nonetheless, shocked Caruana.  

He feedback on his podcast:

“The qualification for the Candidates is an entire mess, I believe, and much more so this time round. The FIDE Circuit might be the dumbest factor I’ve ever seen… it’s so absurd. Maksim Chigaev, who is a wonderful participant and to not take something away from him, bought third place within the Menorca Open. He bought almost the identical quantity of factors [13.54] as I did for plus three within the Candidates [15.92].”

The FIDE Circuit might be the dumbest factor I’ve ever seen.

—Fabiano Caruana

The humorous factor is, if not for a Candidates-specific rule, it could have been worse, since for the Candidates all eight locations are counted and never simply the highest three. Once more, for Gukesh, in sole first, the mathematics is simple. He scored 11 factors * 2.44875 = 26.94 factors, the very best of any participant thus far on the Circuit, although it’s notable that he would have scored extra factors for clear first in Wijk aan Zee (11 * 2.5275 = 27.80, since Abasov retains the common of the “prime eight” within the Candidates decrease).  

The FIDE Circuit factors are another excuse why solely Gukesh might be actually happy together with his Candidates efficiency.

For the gamers tied in 2nd-4th it once more bought extra difficult, however the end result was: Nakamura: 18.37 factors, Nepomniachtchi: 17.14 factors, and Caruana: 15.92 factors. Caruana’s rating wasn’t sufficient to get on the checklist of the highest 10 scores thus far this yr.

High FIDE Circuit Scores In 2024

Rank Participant Event Consequence Factors
1 Gukesh Dommaraju Clear 1st in Candidates 26.94
2 Nodirbek Abdusattorov Clear 1st in Prague Masters 25
3 Hans Niemann Clear 1st in Grenke Open 20.82
4 Wei Yi 1st (1-4=) Tata Metal Masters 20.54
5 Amin Tabatabaei Clear 1st in Aeroflot Open 19.79
6 Hikaru Nakamura 2nd (2-4=) in Candidates 18.37
7 Bu Xiangzhi 1st (1-3=) in Shenzhen Masters 18.15
8 Ian Nepomniachtchi third (2-4=) in Candidates 17.14
9 Nodirbek Abdusattorov 1st (1-3=) in TePe Sigeman Chess 16.21
10 Arjun Erigaisi 1st (1-3=) in Menorca Open 16.19

One curiosity on that checklist is that though official FIDE occasions are nonetheless nominally banned in Russia (even when the Russian Chess Federation boasts about getting across the ban), the Aeroflot Open in Moscow, which gave GM Amin Tabatabaei 19.79 factors, may have an effect on the world championship cycle.

No Norway Chess, And A World Championship Subplot

The Norway Chess super-tournament later this month will function the world’s prime three GMs, Magnus Carlsen, Nakamura, and Caruana, in addition to World Champion Ding and GMs Praggnanandhaa and Firouzja. It appears it gained’t, nonetheless, depend towards the FIDE Circuit, since solely occasions with eight or extra gamers are eligible. There’s additionally a minimal variety of video games—seven, although Norway Chess would haven’t any subject there, because it’s a double round-robin with ten rounds.

Norway Chess this yr has two six-player fields to include a Ladies’s occasion with an equal prize fund. There’s at present no Ladies’s FIDE Circuit.

One occasion that can be counted, nonetheless, is the world championship match between Ding and Gukesh, since this yr the shedding participant doesn’t get an automated spot within the subsequent Candidates—that spot has been given to the FIDE Circuit.

The rules state that for the match the common of participant rankings gained’t be used, however the shedding participant’s efficiency ranking can be. In 2023 Nepomniachtchi tied the classical video games with a 2788 efficiency, however misplaced on tiebreaks, which might have earned him 24.48 factors beneath the brand new guidelines. A 2750 efficiency and second place with no tie would imply 20 factors, and a 2700 efficiency, 16 factors. In brief, the match loser will possible earn a wholesome factors tally, however maybe not one to compensate for the missed occasions whereas making ready for the match.

Democracy, Exploitation, Or Economics?

So why did FIDE select to function the FIDE Circuit because it does? Partly, it’s a long-term dream of Sutovsky, who because the President of the Affiliation of Chess Professionals was answerable for the ACP Tour, a precursor of the Circuit. On social media and in interviews he is been clear that he needs to provide extra alternative for a wider variety of chess professionals to problem for the title by favoring tournaments which might be open to throughout these requiring invites. He wrote to Aronian:

“The system is just not devised to favor a selected participant. However any robust participant, who doesn’t have many invitations to elite occasions, shall have an opportunity. You, Lev and different regulars are already in [a] higher place—primarily based on [your] earlier profession—however the handicap within the race was too huge.”

Any robust participant, who doesn’t have many invitations to elite occasions, shall have an opportunity.

—FIDE CEO Emil Sutovsky

GM Cristian Chirila put an identical case for making issues extra “equitable” to Caruana, scary a elementary disagreement:

“If you wish to do this, then I’ve a quite simple resolution! You simply take [ratings], as a result of rankings are democratic, your ranking goes up or down relying on the tournaments you play. Everybody has an opportunity to be 3000, everybody has an opportunity to be 1000. Should you play properly, in case you win video games continually, then your ranking simply goes up.”

Caruana on the final Candidates Event. Picture: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Caruana means that the entire foundation of FIDE’s argument—that elite gamers with invites to closed tournaments are better off—is flawed. He factors out Arjun has been selecting up ranking factors in opens whereas, for example, Firouzja and different prime gamers corresponding to Giri and GM Wesley So have been shedding factors in small occasions. Caruana notes, as Aronian additionally identified, that the one solution to get to the highest is to win opens, as they did. The U.S. champion questions, “Why do we now have this concept that open tournaments result in ranking loss?” and factors out his personal case: “I grew to become 2770 after which I bought criticized for enjoying open tournaments as a result of I used to be beating up on weaker gamers.”

Why do we now have this concept that open tournaments result in a ranking loss?

—Fabiano Caruana

Giri factors to a unique, financial side:

The FIDE Circuit, with no prize fund or particular occasions, replaces the FIDE Grand Prix, which in 2022 featured three tournaments, 25 gamers, and a €450,000 ($480,000) prize fund. This yr’s change to seven tournaments counting as a substitute of 5 (with a requirement that two have greater than 50 members) implies that gamers who wish to qualify through the Circuit are being inspired to play much more opens, and whereas, as Caruana identified, which may not hurt their Elo ranking, it could imply accepting a a lot decrease degree of monetary safety. These days some opens have important prizes, however a foul and even common efficiency is prone to imply a monetary loss.

Giri’s point out of $1 million displays the truth that FIDE is asking for $1.1 million as a price from anybody bidding for the 2023 world championship match, as a part of a complete funds of a minimum of $8.5 million. It’s comprehensible that gamers would possibly query why a few of that cash couldn’t be redirected into the qualification system for the match.

Nodirbek Abdusattorov leads the 2024 FIDE Circuit after his win in Malmo, although it is exhausting to check gamers till the top of the yr. Picture: Mikael Svensson/TePe Sigeman Chess.

Ought to modifications be made to the FIDE Circuit system, or is it a good means to provide extra gamers an opportunity on the title? Whereas it is most likely too late to vary something in 2024, the 2025 rules are but to be printed.



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