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