FIDE Grand Prix series announced for Feb-Apr 2022

A 3-tournament FIDE Grand Prix series will be held in February to April next year to decide the remaining two players in the 2022 Candidates Tournament. All three 16-players events will take place in the same yet-to-be-decided city, with each of the 24 players competing in two of the three tournaments. A new format sees the players split into four groups of four, who play mini round-robins before the winners go forward to a knockout. FIDE note that it’s possible a new World Championship match will be held in late 2022 or early 2023.

When FIDE announced that Teimour Radjabov was being granted an automatic spot in the 2022 Candidates Tournament they also announced how players would qualify for the event, though without details of the format or venue for the Grand Prix Series.

After today’s announcement by FIDE and World Chess (or rather from the regulations on the FIDE website) we now know more, though not the venue. What we do know is that there will be only one city for all three tournaments, “a move that will make it easier for the chess players to plan their travel schedule amid the pandemic-related travel and visa restrictions.”

There will be four paths to qualify for the FIDE Grand Prix series:

  1. FIDE World Cup — all players who reached the quarterfinals but didn’t otherwise qualify (e.g. by reaching the final)
  2. FIDE Grand Swiss — all players who finished in the Top 8 but didn’t otherwise qualify (two players qualify based on where they finish)
  3. Rating — 10 or more players are set to qualify based on their place on the December 2021 rating list
  4. Wildcards — both the FIDE President and World Chess will be able to nominate a wildcard

The players who can’t play in the series are players already qualified for the Candidates Tournament (unless they want to give up their spot) and the World Champion, i.e. the winner of the Carlsen-Nepomniachtchi match.

The previous Grand Prix Series was a series of knockout events, with a certain Ian Nepomniachtchi emerging as the winner.

We all know now where that first step took him.

This time around the tournaments will start with a round-robin, or rather four round-robins. The 16 players will be divided into four groups of four, before they play each other twice over six rounds of classical chess. Only the winners of each mini-tournament go forward to the knockout, where semi-finals and a final are held over 2-game classical matches, with potential rapid playoffs. 

Each tournament has a €150,000 prize fund, with €24,000 for 1st place, but the main goal is of course to qualify for the Candidates Tournament and the potential of playing a World Championship match in 2022 or 2023. For that purpose there will be Grand Prix points, going from 0 for finishing 4th in a group to 13 for winning the tournament.

According to World Chess CEO Ilya Merenzon, the venue has not yet been decided:

We are currently on the lookout for the best possible city to hold the Series and are so excited to work with the chess fans and ask their opinion of the next chess capital. In the next week, we’ll issue a global call for suggestions and will talk to the chess luminaries and fans around the world to choose this special city.

Whatever happens, we can expect a very busy 2022 in chess!

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