Chess: countdown to candidates as favourite Firouzja reappears after five months
Bucharest hosts the opening event of the US-backed Grand Tour this week, with Alireza Firouzja, 18, the centre of interest. The former Iranian, who now represents France, is in the eyes of many fans the likely next challenger for Magnus Carlsen’s world crown and will be favourite for the Candidates at Madrid in June. Firouzja has been absent from both over the board and online events for the past five months, for unclear reasons.
Fide, the world chess organisation, has announced that the Grand Tour for 2023 and 2025 will qualify two players for the 2024 and 2026 Candidates. It was a low-key statement with few details, but has significant implications.
The Grand Tour includes slow play classical events at its start in Bucharest and at its climax, the Sinquefield Cup in St Louis, but sandwiched in between there are rapid and blitz speed tournaments.
If a Fide world championship qualifier can include speed games in its format, then so might the world championship series itself. This would fit in with Carlsen’s often expressed wish for a different format, and could be a way to persuade the No1 to overcome his current reluctance to play any more title matches.
England’s girl chess players won five gold medals at the weekend European Schools and World Youth Rapid and Blitz championships in Rhodes, as a campaign to attract more female participants to the game gathers momentum. One useful contact is She Plays to Win, which offers free online coaching and support for girls from beginner level upwards.
Bela Sandor v Zoltan Herendi, Budapest 1948. Black (to move) resigned here. Can you do better?
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