The FIDE Candidates Tournament. Let’s discuss.

What a mess!

The big news in the chess world is the decision to pause the FIDE Candidates Tournament held in Yekaterinburg, Russia after the first half. The winner of the Candidates Tournament will challenge World Champion Magnus Carlsen in the next title match.

Logo for the 2020 FIDE Candidates Tournament
Logo for the 2020 FIDE Candidates Tournament

Starting the event was questionable in the first place. While I would have postponed the tournament, I can see the reasoning for going through with it. In my view, it wasn’t just about throwing off the timing of the World Championship Match.

FIDE didn’t want to disrupt the zonals and continental championships for the 2022 cycle. Understandable, but short-sighted.

Around the beginning of March, FIDE apparently issued Teimour Radjabov an ultimatum about playing in the Candidates Tournament or not. When he declined, they inserted first alternate Maxime Vachier-Lagrave into the tournament.

No takebacks

Once Radjabov was out and MVL was in, FIDE was already stuck. They had to start the tournament even though things looked increasingly grim as the March 15 start date approached.

What were they going to do by, say, March 13? Postpone the event, try to send everyone home, and replace MVL with Radjabov again? I’m sure, privately, FIDE already knew before the tournament started that they had messed up. Hindsight really is 20/20.

FIDE took a decision that they would only allow outside forces to stop the event. It was a very risky course and I didn’t agree with it, but now the question is: what to do with half the tournament completed and Radjabov looking for answers?

What should be done about the Candidates Tournament now?

Radjabov can’t be added to the event now. He should be an automatic entry for the 2022 Candidates Tournament, along with the loser of the 2020/2021 World Championship Match, removing one of rating qualification slots. This isn’t fair to Radjabov, but I’m not sure what else to suggest besides additional financial compensation, which would also be appropriate.

The rest of the field should stay as is. Ian Nepomniachtchi and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave can be happy with developments, but just about everyone else will feel that their tournament would have started much better in a more normal environment.

A small rant…

There was so much criticism of Kirill Alekseenko being chosen for the wildcard ahead of Vachier-Lagrave. Well, one of the reasons organizers bid for such events is the ability to name a wildcard. FIDE did the right thing by restricting the criteria so only a small number of players could be named the wildcard, but the organizers chose from that pool of players!

Of course the Russian organizers wanted a Russian player in the tournament! This is not outrageous, corrupt, or anything else. Organizers from any other country with the chance to pick one of their countrymen would also have done the same. MVL had many chances to qualify directly and failed.

It seems there is not enough interest ($$$) from patrons or governments in Western countries to host top-level chess events. The big exception of course is Rex Sinquefield in Saint Louis.

We should be happy there are entities with resources to hold these events and support the players. One wildcard out of eight players seems like a necessary trade to me, in this day and age, for a 500,000 euro prize fund. A lot of fans just don’t like it when higher-rated players aren’t chosen.

Chess School 1b

Chess School 1b will take your tactics to the next level

Chess School 1b by Sergey Ivaschenko is the sequel to Chess School 1a and contains 680 puzzles, bringing the total for the two books to 1299.

Chess School 1b
Chess School 1b

1b is intended for players rated 900 to 1500. In my experience, this range is accurate; students reach that level when they finish the book. It’s important to work on other things, but nothing is possible in chess without tactics.

There are six positions on almost every page, same as the first volume. Diagrams are just the right size — huge diagrams mean a much larger book, and tiny diagrams are hard to see.

You need to find 2-3 move sequences to win material, make a draw, or figure out “How to Proceed?” The last 300+ puzzles don’t give you any clues — just like in a real game!

A lot of tactics books teach patterns; this book will improve the way you see chess.

Your analytical skills will be stronger by the time you finish the book, and your endgame play will also improve. The many endgame positions in books 1a and 1b set them apart from other tactics collections.

The cover art and illustrations show the book was intended for kids, but adults wanting to improve should not be put off by that.

This book has stood the test of time, and there’s no need to search for a flashy alternative.

Chess School 1
If you see this one, buy it!

I should also mention: there is a lime green-colored Chess School 1 which contains Chess School 1a and 1b in one hardcover volume! It’s hard to find, so buy it if you can find it! Not to mention, it’s cheaper than buying 1a and 1b separately.

This book (or 1a and 1b together) will take a beginner to 1500-1600, provided they get some instruction on other parts of the game. Certainly, the downfall of most players — tactics! — won’t be a problem.

Chess School 1a

The tactics book I recommend above all others!

I started assigning Chess School 1a to students circa 2007, and still recommend it in 2020.

Chess School 1aThere are 719 puzzles in this book, with an intended audience of absolute beginnners up to an approximate rating of 1000. I definitely recommend it as a first tactics book, and it can help a player for awhile.

The book starts with mate-in-1 positions where you are told what to mate with, followed by mate-in-1s where you aren’t told what to use. Next are puzzles where the object is to win a piece. Later come mate-in-2 puzzles, drawing combinations, endgame puzzles, and more.

I love the variety of the examples chosen and the gently increasing difficulty.

Directions are given at the top of each page in English, German, Russian, and Spanish. There are puzzles for white and for black, and the solutions are at the end of the book.

Chess School 1a will improve your pattern recognition and tactical skills. This book is not always easy to find, but it’s definitely worth it. I have ordered it from overseas in the past, but at the moment this isn’t necessary.

When you finish the book, be sure to move on to Chess School 1b!