General Apr 26, 2019 | 6:00 PMby Colin McGourty

14 games in the 2020 World Championship match

The World Chess Federation (FIDE) today announced that the 2020 World Championship match between Magnus Carlsen and the winner of the next Candidates Tournament will be fought over 14 games rather than 12, with the minimum prize fund doubled from 1 to 2 million euros. The time available to the players is unchanged, but increments have been removed before move 61. There will also be no draw offers allowed until move 40.

Game 12 of Carlsen-Caruana would be a great fight, but it was still a 12th draw in a row | photo: Niki Riga

London 2018 - too many draws?

The 12 draws in the 2018 World Championship match sparked heated discussion about what, if anything, needed to be changed.

The arrival of FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich and a new team meant everything was up for discussion, with World Champion Magnus Carlsen himself coming up with some bold suggestions:

In the full interview Magnus elaborated on his preferred format:

My current favourite, which it has been for a while, is to keep the same format as now, except that each day you play 4 rapid games instead – relatively short rapid games, let’s say 15+10, as you play in the World Rapid – and you get one point for each day. If you want to see who the best player is make them play as many games as possible, and if you keep the rapid format then there’s still room for opening ideas, preparation and everything, but the time allowed to conceal your weaknesses and everything is not there. You just up the stakes, you increase the chances for errors and everything, and I think it makes it more exciting and it gives a more real picture of the best players.

As we see today, rapid chess isn’t the direction FIDE has chosen.

FIDE’s new World Championship match plan

FIDE’s announcement outlines the following changes to the match format:

  • 14 classical games instead of 12
  • 5 rest days instead of 6, with 3 games in a row on 3 occasions rather than the current format of 2 games and then a rest day – play will take place on all Saturdays and Sundays of the match
  • The time allocated to the players is the same – 120 minutes for 40 moves, 60 minutes for the next 20, then 15 minutes to the end of the game – but there are no increments until move 61 (the increment = 30 seconds added to a player's clock after a move)
  • No draw offers allowed before Black’s 40th move – in 2018 it was the 30th move
  • The “recommendation” for the prize fund has been raised to a minimum of 2 million euros rather than the 1 million in 2018 and 2016
  • FIDE will take full technical and commercial control of the match, with Agon/World Chess no longer involved in the Candidates Tournament or match
  • The Women’s World Championship match will follow a similar format, with Ju Wenjun playing the winner of this year's Candidates Tournament. The match will be over 12 games, with a 500,000 euros prize fund

Some of the changes, such as doubling the minimum prize fund, will be welcomed by all, while increasing the number of games was something most chess fans and many players advocated. Reducing the number of rest days was also a popular suggestion, though our GRENKE commentary team of Jan Gustafsson and Peter Leko felt that would be very tough on the players, with Peter assuming the intention is, “we put more pressure on you so we want you to blunder later on!” They also questioned whether this would help prevent draws, since the players and their teams require time to try and find a chink in their opponent’s preparation.

Perhaps the major change is the removal of increments, which can again be seen as an attempt to create more excitement and blunders by making potential time trouble in the games much more dramatic. We saw how Magnus used the clock to his advantage in the recent Shamkir Chess tournament, and he advocated for not having increments in classical chess there:

In general I believe in classical chess it’s a good idea not to have increments because it gives an extra dimension to the game in that you have to spend your time well and ration it rather than just relying on the increment… It’s a very nice change of pace.

He did, however, point out that overall he preferred faster time controls.

What do you think of the changes to the World Championship match format? Let us know in the comments!

See also:

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