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World Chess Championship 2016

The World Chess Championship 2016 is a planned match between reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen and a challenger, to determine the World Chess Champion. It is planned to be held under the auspices of FIDE, the World Chess Federation, with the "sole and exclusive" organisation rights belonging to Agon, its commercial partner.


During the closing ceremony of the 2014 Championship, the FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov said the match would be held in the United States. He reiterated this in October at the Chess World Cup 2015, saying that the date and place were already final, it would occur in October 2016 in the USA, with five or six sponsors involved, and many cities (New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago) offering themselves as a venue. Other information has placed the event in November 2016, with Chicago replaced by San Francisco as a possible venue (see next paragraph).

FIDE's commercial partner Agon reported to the September 2015 FIDE Executive Board as a special annex. Here they demonstrate four major sponsors for 2016: Goldman Sachs Investment Banking, Audi, E.ON, and Isklar Water. Regarding the World Championship specifically, the report says "Agon has secured a prize fund (€2,000,000) and is working on developing sponsorship contracts. We’ll inform the Board and, if approved, announce the city and venue in November of 2015, exactly a year before the championship. We are looking at New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. We are also working with ESPN and Sky Sports to make sure the Championship is on TV."

However, all plans must be considered to be on hold, as on November 25, 2015 Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was named a Specially Designated National by the United States Department of the Treasury (Office of Foreign Assets Control), which in particular prohibits US persons from transacting with him. Ilyumzhinov commented that the action was a provocation, as he was to be in New York on the ensuing Sunday to sign the contract for the World Championship. Agon's news website declares that the sanctions will "probably not" affect the organization of the World Championship in the United States. In an emergency FIDE Presidential Board meeting in early December, Ilyumzhinov temporarily suspended his authority in FIDE, delegating this to Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos. The CEO of Agon, Ilya Merenzon, commented that this should make it easier to finalize a World Championship deal in the USA, but by early January (40 days after Merenzon's original deadline), there has been no announced progress with concluding a deal. All then has been seen from FIDE is a January 8 news item briefly saying that AGON "has launched a site and an official broadcasting platform for the World Chess Championship cycle events" (, when in fact this site had become operational in early October 2015.

Feeling among Players

Given that Merenzon's desire to announce the World Championship one year in advance has passed, there is now some skepticism among top players that FIDE/Agon's plans for the World Championship in the USA in November 2016 will indeed materialize as hoped. For instance, on January 7, 2016 in an interview with Candidate Hikaru Nakamura with commentator Alex Yermolinsky, it was mentioned that now there was some waiting to see who would win the Candidates before finalizing the World Championship planning, and that if an American (Caruana or Nakamura) did not win, then probably the match would not be in the United States after all.

Candidates Tournament

The Candidates Tournament is traditionally considered to be the most important part of the FIDE World Chess Championship cycle. It will be held 10-30 March 2016 in Moscow, Russia, with FIDE's commercial partner Agon as the official organizer, with support from the Russian Chess Federation. The official partner (sponsor) will be the Tashir Group, owned by Armenian-born real estate magnate Samvel Karapetyan. The President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan has been invited to open the Tournament.

The tournament will be contested as a double round-robin over 14 games, with four rest days after Games 3, 6, 9, and 12. The winner of this 8-player Candidates Tournament will be the challenger for the 2016 World Chess Championship against Magnus Carlsen.


There were five different qualification paths to the Candidates Tournament. In order of priority, these were: loser of the World Chess Championship 2014 match, the top two finishers in the Chess World Cup 2015, the top two finishers in the FIDE Grand Prix 2014-15, next two highest rated players (average FIDE rating on the 12 monthly lists from January to December 2015, with at least 30 games played) who played in Chess World Cup 2015 or FIDE Grand Prix 2014-15, and one player nominated by the organizers (Agon).

Qualification path Player Age Rating
Loser of the World Chess Championship 2014 match Viswanathan Anand 46 2784
The top two finishers in the Chess World Cup 2015 Sergey Karjakin 26 2769
Peter Svidler 39 2751
The top two finishers in the FIDE Grand Prix 2014-15 Fabiano Caruana 23 2787
Hikaru Nakamura 28 2787
The top two players with highest average 2015 rating who played in World Cup or Grand Prix Veselin Topalov 41 2780
Anish Giri 21 2798
Wild card nomination of Organizers (Agon), with FIDE rating in July 2015 at least 2725 Levon Aronian 33 2792

FIDE has given the qualifiers until January 11 to decide upon participation.

Note: the ratings given above are not used for anything (such as seeding), but are completely informational in nature. They are from the December FIDE list. The age column is in years based upon 15 March 2016. FIDE uses a country-diversion system, so that Svidler and Karjakin, similarly Nakamura and Caruana, will be paired together in rounds 1 and 8, to avoid conflicts in late rounds.


Should any player withdraw from the tournament, the first replacement would be Dmitry Jakovenko, the third place finisher in the FIDE Grand Prix. After this, players will be selected in order of average rating in 2015 as per the qualification method achieved by Topalov and Giri. The next player in line on this basis is Vladimir Kramnik, who although is currently #2 with a rating of 2801 on the January 2016 list, languished much of 2015 behind Giri and especially Topalov in the race for the ratings-based qualifiers.

Such a withdrawal is not just a theoretical possibility, as Veselin Topalov has been outspoken in his complaints, and upon hearing of Moscow as the location, told that he was "waiting for the contract before taking my final decision if to play or not". His manager Silvio Danailov commented "It is simply outrageous... As if there is no other place to host the Candidates. It's in Russia for the third time already" to a Russian/Bulgarian news source.