The Association of Chess Professionals today published a
proposal to change the current system for deciding the World Championship cycle
by forming a “World Open Circuit”. The best performing players in open
tournaments, “the bread and butter of the chess world”, would qualify for the
first round of the FIDE World Cup, thereby gaining access to the World
Championship cycle. The ACP suggests such a system would allow for more rags to
riches stories like the one currently taking the world by storm in The Queen’s
Gambit
.

The ACP suggest that the current World Championship cycle
forms a “well-established upper part of the pyramid”, but that unlike in tennis
there’s no structure lower down. Most chess players spend most of their careers
playing open tournaments (where anyone can pay an entry fee and compete without
waiting for an invitation), but the ACP doesn’t paint a rosy picture of that
situation:

Many chess players feel trapped in this “swamp” of opens
without a clear idea how to go “upwards,” how to feel integrated in the big
picture and feel part of the whole chess family. In its current state the chess
world is a segregated place with the elite and the rest living in different
worlds.

The contrast has become starker in 2020, with open
tournaments the main casualties of lockdowns and anti-virus safeguards. The
events are often no longer feasible to hold over-the-board, while the logistics of
dealing with anti-cheating and entry fees online are difficult if not
impossible hurdles to jump.

The ACP suggest that’s an opportunity, however:

The pause in over-the-board activities that the pandemic has
forced us to have is an excellent opportunity for FIDE to prepare and reform
the World Championship cycle by including the open tournaments in it.

They suggest a model for the year-long tour could be the
existing ACP Tour, where
tournaments are allocated a different number of points based on their average
rating and other factors. The top 20 at the end of the year would then qualify for
the World Cup.

It’s worth noting that FIDE had already decided to expand
the 2021 World Cup from 128 players to 206, giving extra places to individual
federations based on their Olympiad results as well as 80 places decided by
Continental Championships. The ACP calls the latter, “not easily accessible to
the lower-rated professionals, among other things because they are very
expensive tournaments to play in”. The ACP Tour currently supplies just one
qualifier to the World Cup.   

The ACP claim:

By making the open tournaments part of the World
Championship cycle FIDE will give hope to every chess player on earth and by
doing so affirm its unifying role in the chess world.

Check out the full proposal below:


Dear Colleagues,

Chess is often unfavourably compared to tennis. Unlike the tennis world, chess
lacks an open, all-inclusive cycle that would encompass the top and the bottom
of the pyramid. In tennis we have the Grand Slams at the top, but also the
local Futures tournaments at the bottom. The structure is clear, easy to
understand and  the players see the way to the top ahead of them. Needless
to say, a bottom-to-top cycle is a product that sponsors love to be part of. 

In chess we have a well-established upper part of the pyramid. The World
Championship match is the cherry on top, the Candidates Tournament is the
most-awaited tournament, the Grand Prix tournaments, the World Cup and the
Continental Championships all form a coherent system of qualification.

The system works, but it is an elitist system. The lowest entry point for
qualification in the World Championship cycle are the Continental Championships
and these are not easily accessible to the lower-rated professionals, among
other things because they are very expensive tournaments to play in. What
is obviously missing here is the bottom part of the pyramid.

The bottom part of the pyramid is formed by the numerous open tournaments,
which are the bread and butter of the chess world. It is in opens that the vast
majority of chess players participate in. However, many chess players feel
trapped in this “swamp” of opens without a clear idea how to go “upwards,” how
to feel integrated in the big picture and feel part of the whole chess family.
In its current state the chess world is a segregated place with the elite and
the rest living in different worlds.

It seems natural then to make the open tournaments part of the World
Championship cycle.

We would like to propose a concept where many open tournaments are part of
a World Open Circuit. For this purpose the already well-established ACP Tour
system or a similar one may serve as a basis on which the Circuit can be built.

At the end of the year, the top 20 of the World Open Circuit qualify for the
first round of the World Cup, thus providing direct access to the World
Championship Cycle. This would ensure that chess is as meritocratic as it can
be and as it should be.

The current FIDE leadership has proven to be very pro-active and has shown
willingness to live up to its motto. We see this as a historic chance for FIDE
to unite the chess world.

The pause in over-the-board activities that the pandemic has forced us to have
is an excellent opportunity for FIDE to prepare and reform the World
Championship cycle by including the open tournaments in it.

Having an all-inclusive World Championship cycle from the bottom to the top
will be invaluable and will revolutionise the chess world. We would like to
emphasise 3 main advantages:

  1. The whole system will be all-inclusive and based on merit where EVERY chess
    player in the world can see the perspective and the way forward from start (the
    opens) to finish (the World Championship match)
  2. A unified cycle can be sold as a product, just like in
    tennis. The sponsors can choose to support a single open, the World Open
    Circuit (in which case there can be money prizes for the top finishers of the
    Circuit), the whole cycle, or anything in between as they see fit.
  3. The perspective of being part of the World Championship
    chain will incentivise players, sponsors, organisers, arbiters and national
    federations given that sponsoring, organising and playing in over-the-board
    tournaments that are part of the great cycle will be an honour for all
    stakeholders. In the long term, this may well cause chess to flourish, also
    thanks to the popularity brought about by Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit”
    series, where such a climb from bottom to top is at the very center of the
    story that is currently inspiring the whole world.

By making the open tournaments part of the World Championship cycle FIDE will
give hope to every chess player on earth and by doing so affirm its unifying
role in the chess world. Every chess player will feel part of the big chess
family. After all, gens una sumus, aren’t we?

The ACP Board


What do you think — does the World Championship cycle need to
change and would this be the way to do it? 


Chess Mentor

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