Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian are the top picks in a spot poll launched yesterday to chess24 fans, from among the ten highest rated players participating. The 2013 winner Vladimir Kramnik was voted third.
For Aronian and Kramnik this is likely to be their last chance to qualify for the 2016 Candidates tournament (scheduled for March 9-28, in a city to be determined). The two finalists from the World Cup will qualify. Here are the full poll results:
The current qualifiers for next year's 8-player round-robin Candidates Tournament are:
Also likely to qualify:
The two finalists from the World Cup qualify if they have not already qualified via the Grand Prix.
Finally, a nominee from the Candidates organizer (must be rated 2725 or higher on the July 2015 list).
If our poll respondents are right, and Nakamura wins, then he qualifies from Baku, and his Grand Prix spot in the Candidates passes to the 3rd place finisher Dmitry Jakovenko. Should the final be Caruana vs. Nakamura, then even the 4th place finisher in the Grand Prix Evgeny Tomashevsky could theoretically qualify.
UPDATE: As Eyal01 notes in the comments, "Nakamura & Caruana are on the same half of the bracket, so they can't both reach the final."
Further alternates if needed would be drawn from the highest average rating (e.g. potentially Grischuk or Kramnik).
It's important to note that in order to qualify by rating the player must have competed in either the Grand Prix or the World Cup, which is one reason why, for instance, Topalov is playing in Baku.
Download qualification regulations from FIDE (PDF)
Replay all games from the 2013 final, or use the round selector to open games from prior rounds:
Shortly after the 2013 World Cup, Andreikin became a father, and now it appears to be Karjakin's turn:
For some players, just getting to Baku was complicated by a Lufthansa pilot's strike which caused flight cancellations on Wednesday and Thursday. In the end, however, there were not any first round forfeits.
Players are staying at the strikingly designed Fairmont Baku Flame Towers hotel:
For Aronian, in addition to the pressure of Candidates qualification there is also the fact that he is participating against a backdrop of frayed diplomatic relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which has prevented him from agreeing to play events in the country before.
In the lead up to the World Cup, Aronian was laudably magnanimous in comments at the close of the Sinquefield Cup.
I’ll just try — as many people from our artists and musicians go to Azerbaijan — to perform as people who want to bring peace to the region. I’ll just try to continue doing the same thing, showing that I respect the neighbouring country.
It also cannot be easy for Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Teymour Radjabov with heightened national interest focused on their play.
Watch all games with live commentary in our Live Tournaments area.
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