FIDE Grand Swiss returns to Isle of Man in 2021

The World Chess Federation has accepted a bid by the Isle of
Man to host the 114-player FIDE Grand Swiss on the Isle of Man from October 25
to November 8, 2021. The event will now select two Candidates, one more than in
2019, though if it goes ahead as scheduled it’s likely to finish before the previous
cycle is complete, with Magnus Carlsen’s next World Championship match also
pencilled in for late 2021. The Grand Swiss will now be joined by an inaugural 50-player
FIDE Women’s Grand Swiss, with a combined prize fund of $550,000.

When the bidding procedure for the FIDE Grand Swiss and
Women’s Grand Swiss events was
on October 22nd, eyebrows were raised that only two weeks were
being given to submit bids for such expensive events. From today’s FIDE announcement it’s unclear if anyone
else bid, but the Grand Swiss is returning to the Isle of Man, where it was
held in 2019. Back then it was a 154-player open tournament that selected a
single player for the 2020 Candidates Tournament.

As you can see, Wang Hao was the surprise winner, while in
fact Kirill Alekseenko also made it to the Candidates since his result on the
Isle of Man made it possible for the Russian Chess Federation to select him as
a wild card.  

In 2021 the 11-round open will be limited to 114 participants,
with the world’s Top 100 invited by rating, followed by 9 FIDE nominees and 5
organiser wildcards. It’s not confirmed in the FIDE press release whether the
organisers will again be and the Scheinberg family, as in 2019, though
billionaire Poker Stars founder Isai Scheinberg is a free man again after being
given only a token $30k fine and “time served” (house arrest after surrendering
to US authorities in January) when the Black
Friday case dating from 2011 finally ended in September

The major change is that the chances of qualifying for the 8-player Candidates Tournament from the Grand Swiss have been boosted since now the runner-up as
well as the winner will both qualify automatically.

The prize fund in 2019 was $432,500, but that included a
$32,500 prize fund set aside for female participants. This time there’s a
$425,000 prize fund for the open tournament, but also a separate Women’s Grand
Swiss with a $125,000 prize fund. That event is part of FIDE’s goal of making
the open and women’s World Championship cycles as similar as possible.

The Women’s Grand Swiss will invite the top 40 women on the
rating list as well as 7 FIDE nominees and 3 organiser wildcards, with only the winner reaching the Women’s Candidates Tournament. 

The venue is set to be a return to the Royal Hall of the
Villa Marina in Douglas that was used for the event in 2014-8, a central
location that should avoid some of the complaints from participants in the 2019
tournament about being stranded away from amenities.  

Of course the big question mark that hangs over the
tournament is whether large open tournaments will be possible again by October
2021, but hopeful news on the vaccine front makes a return to normal chess life
by then a real possibility.

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