Chess scandal of the year: dirty fight for the championship ended in something unexpected
Mikhail Chesalin December 24, 2023, 11:00 Moscow time Audio version: Your browser does not support the audio element.
Alireza Firouzja once again appeared in a bad situation.
The end of 2023 turned out to be hot for world chess: throughout December, the community passionately discussed how the chess player Alireza Firouzja, representing France, was trying to enter the Candidates Tournament. And this attempt, according to many, was not clear at all.
The fact is that, according to FIDE rules, a place in the tournament, the winner of which will play with Ding Liren for the title of world champion, should be awarded to the best chess player in the world ranking at the end of 2023. If it has already been selected the best according to some other criterion, then the second. If the second has already secured the right, then the third. Etc.
A difficult selection system for the Candidates Tournament:
How to get to the chess crown match? New selection system for the Candidates Tournament
In December it became clear that sixth place would be acceptable. Liren (fourth number) does not need to qualify, Carlsen (first) is not going to play for the title, and Caruana (second), Nakamura (third) and Nepomniachtchi (fifth) have already qualified for the 2024 TP.
This sixth place in the last great classic of 2023 was occupied by Wesley So, representing the United States. At some point, the native of the Philippines seemed to exhale and began to pack his bags for Canada, but it was too soon. After him, the Frenchman of Iranian origin Alireza Firouzja decided to take advantage of every opportunity to reach sixth place in the ranking, and in this he was helped by the national chess federation, which hastily organized a small tournament in Chartres. You don’t have to be a detective to understand that the competition was created for Alireza to get a rating.
Photo: RIA Novosti
After the first two days, when Firouzja twice defeated Alexander Dgebuadze, representative of Belgium, without apparent difficulty, the International Chess Federation (FIDE) woke up. They realized that they were closely following the tournament in France and if something went wrong, they would not calculate the qualification.
But in Chartres everything went as it should, especially for Firouzja. In the next two games he defeated Andrei Shchekachev, representative of France, while Alireza’s victory with white caused a stir because his opponent folded in a tied position. It is true that before this he was under serious time pressure.
Look at the position in which Shchekachev surrendered:
Grandmaster Shchekachev surrendered to Firouzja in the draw of the Chartres tournament
Two games against Sergei Fedorchuk should have finally pushed Firouzja to sixth place and allowed him to establish himself there. The Frenchman won with black and thus beat poor Wesley So, but with white… he tied! Admittedly, no one expected this. A draw in a match with a significantly weaker chess player deprived Alireza of almost three rating points and he fell to seventh place.
Ian Nepomniachtchi reacted cleverly to this giveaway:
Ian Nepomniachtchi – on the tie between Firouzja and Fedorchuk: reminiscent of a famous tale from Soviet times
Now no one will answer us what it really was. Either Alireza was simply nervous and overloaded at the most crucial moment, or someone hinted to him that he should not escalate the matter into a colossal scandal. But, be that as it may, many in the chess community are of the opinion that justice has triumphed. After all, Firouzja, with whom even Magnus wanted to play for the title in 2023, spent the entire new championship cycle more in show business than in chess. And many didn’t like the fact that he was able to pin Wesley So, who had been working hard on the board all year.
But it’s too early to congratulate the American on making it to the Candidates Tournament. Alireza has withdrawn from the World Rapid and Blitz Championship, which will be held at the end of December, and many believe that he can play a couple more classic games to get ahead of his opponent.