Radjabov given controversial spot in 2022 Candidates

Teimour Radjabov has, as expected, been given a spot in the 2022 Candidates Tournament after his pandemic concerns saw him replaced by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave for the event that began in 2020. The other spots will go to the loser of this year’s World Championship match, two players in the World Cup, two players in the FIDE Grand Swiss and finally two players from a FIDE Grand Prix Series set to take place from February to April next year. Potentially we can then have the Candidates and another World Championship match in 2022.

It was announced at the closing ceremony of the Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg that instead of the usual 2-year gap we’d have another Candidates Tournament in 2022. The World Chess Federation FIDE today announced how players will qualify.

It’s largely as expected, but a few points stand out. There’s no longer either a wild card or a rating qualifier, two players rather than one will come from the FIDE Grand Swiss open tournament, and the Grand Prix series, that often takes place over two years, will now be compressed into just three months from February to April 2022.

The greatest controversy, however, is that Teimour Radjabov, the 2019 World Cup winner, has now been given a spot in the 2022 event. He was supposed to play in Yekaterinburg in March 2020, but asked for the event to be postponed due to the coronavirus. It wasn’t, and his place was instead given to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

Subsequent events, and above all the Candidates Tournament having to be stopped halfway, seemed to vindicate the Azerbaijan player’s concerns, but was it just unfortunate, or should he be compensated? A place in the next Candidates was soon suggested, but there were differing views, even among World Champions, as you could see from our article What to do now with Radjabov?

14th World Champion Vladimir Kramnik:

It seems to me that the decision with Radjabov is quite obvious – he has to get a wild card for the next Candidates Tournament.

Current World Champion Magnus Carlsen:

Obviously the situation we have now is not ideal, but I think giving Radjabov the wild card for 2022 – that I would find just ridiculous. You could make the case that he should actually play in this one now that it’s been postponed and the situation is different. I don’t feel that way, I don’t know the law, I don’t know what is supposed to happen there, but to me it doesn’t feel justified that he should play even if it resumes, but I would understand it. But 2022… no!

One consequence of the pandemic is that FIDE has been spared a potential situation where Teimour would by now look out of place in the tournament after a run of bad results. The world no. 10 hasn’t played a single classical game since 2019, while online he’s impressed, winning the Airthings Masters Major to qualify for the final of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour later this year in San Francisco.  

At any rate, almost completing Candidates qualification before this year’s match begins is another example of how chess life is hopefully set to return as the pandemic recedes!

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