The FIDE World Chess Championship Match, which was scheduled to start on Dec. 20, 2020 in Dubai, has been postponed to 2021. The second half of the Candidates Tournament is still planned to take place before the end of this year, said FIDE Director General Emil Sutovsky.
While many countries are easing up their lockdowns, others are seeing new spikes of COVID-19 cases. The coronavirus crisis is far from over, and long-term planning has become almost impossible—also for the chess world.
The likelihood of a world championship match still happening this year was already small. That was not just because the Candidates Tournament, which will select the opponent for World Champion Magnus Carlsen, had to be paused half-way.
The title match was supposed to start on December 20, 2020, in Dubai, UAE. However, it was planned to be held alongside the Dubai Expo, which was postponed to 2021 a few months ago. Now it is certain that the chess match won’t be held this year either.
“We came to an agreement that scheduling it for this year, as originally planned, is impossible,” Sutovsky said to chess24. “Two options are on the table now: spring 2021 and autumn 2021.”
The Dubai Expo is currently scheduled to start on Oct. 1, 2021. Even if the chess championship were to start in the spring of next year, there can still be collaboration, Sutovsky told Chess.com: “We are working with them to see if the match will be a part of their early activities, or the Expo itself.” In the early scenario, the match would be part of the promotion for the Expo.
The International Chess Federation still intends to hold the second half of the Candidates Tournament before the end of this year. Sutovsky mentioned September or October, and noted that FIDE is considering other locations than Yekaterinburg, Russia, where the first half was held.
Scheduling the second half will be an arduous task. Current amounts of corona cases and deaths in countries are based on infection events that occurred two to three weeks earlier. Therefore, even if a country like the Netherlands is doing well now, it’s hard to predict if it would be safe to host a candidates tournament in a month from now.
Asked how to deal with such uncertainty, Sutovsky said he couldn’t go into detail because it depends largely on the safety and health regulations of the hosting country. He hopes that it will be possible to make a decision in July, adding: “Of course, even once taken, we will monitor the situation and be ready to adjust if needed.”
The 2021 World Chess Championship match will be played between Carlsen and the winner of the Candidates Tournament. There will be 14 standard games and a rapid/blitz tiebreak in case of a 7-7 tie. The prize fund hasn’t been announced yet. In the regulations, FIDE “recommends” a prize fund provided by the organizer of two million euros net of any applicable local taxes.