Features Mar 10, 2016 | 7:12 PMby Carlos Colodro

The History of the Candidates, Part 2

Until 1990, Garry Kasparov had beaten a tireless Anatoly Karpov repeatedly over the board, then suddenly the rhythm changed. Nigel Short beat Karpov and together with Kasparov formed a breakaway organisation that changed the system used to decide the World Champion. Fifteen years of uncertainty and many controversies followed. However, the idea of deciding the challenger through a Candidates Tournament remained. Let's take a look at the events that have taken place since 1993.

Kasparov and Anand at the top of the World Trade Center in 1995 | photo: Garry Kasparov/Business Insider

After the last victory of Kasparov in New York and Lyon, another cycle began. For the first time, the Interzonal Tournament - played in Manila - was a Swiss Open. In the ensuing Candidates, Anatoly Karpov was surprisingly eliminated in the semifinals by the talented Englishman Nigel Short, who was 27 at the time. After that feat, Short beat Timman in the final played in San Lorenzo de El Escorial.

When FIDE tried to impose a venue on Kasparov and Short the players decided to organise their match independently under the auspices of the newly created PCA (Professional Chess Association), alleging that FIDE was a corrupt organization lacking professionalism. The World Chess Federation continued to conduct its own cycle, though of course with the great absence of the best player in the world. A confusing period marked by controversy and disputes followed.


Classical World Chess Championships 

Kasparov had little difficulty beating Nigel Short in the match played in London in September-October 1993. The next PCA cycle then began with an 11-round Swiss tournament, which served as a qualifier for the Candidates. With 16 players involved, a series of matches took place, maintaining the format used by FIDE in previous years. Viswanathan Anand won the final against the American Gata Kamsky.

The match for the World Championship that followed was held on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center. Garry Kasparov defended his title with a fairly comfortable 10.5-7.5 victory, although the match had started with eight draws and Vishy winning game 9.

Five years passed before Kasparov would face a challenger again. The PCA lost its main sponsor Intel and ceased to exist in 1996, leaving no-one to sponsor qualifying matches. Eventually, Kasparov announced that Anand and Vladimir Kramnik had won the right to a match to decide who would be his next opponent based on ratings. Anand, who at the time was participating in the FIDE cycle, decided not to play due to contractual requirements. Consequently, Kramnik faced the next best-ranked player, Alexei Shirov. Shirov beat Kramnik and won the right to challenge Kasparov.

Kasparov and Kramnik in their 2000 London match | source: Diagonale TV

The events that followed still stir up discussion among those interested in the subject. The Kasparov-Shirov match collapsed in long drawn-out negotiations, and Kramnik was eventually granted the right to play for the title. In the famous match that took place in London in 2000, Kramnik beat Kasparov, pulling off what no-one else had managed in the last 15 years.

After a "cycle" without a Candidates Tournament, it was decided that the next challenger would be chosen via the 2002 Dortmund Tournament. Garry Kasparov refused to participate (demanding a direct rematch) and the youngest player, a 23-year-old Peter Leko, emerged as the winner after beating Veselin Topalov 2.5-1.5 in the four-game final. In the World Championship match, played in Brissago, Switzerland, Kramnik retained his crown after beating Leko in the last game to tie the match.


FIDE World Chess Championships

When Kasparov withdrew from the events organized by FIDE, the International Federation decided that the 1993 Championship final would be between Karpov and Candidates Tournament finalist Jan Timman. Karpov won the 24-game match 12.5-8.5, after 21 games.

The next cycle continued the tradition of organizing an Interzonal event. This time, however, there was no Candidates Tournament, but a tournament for the World Championship. This format did not give the defending champion, Anatoly Karpov, the privilege of simply waiting for the winner of the event, but seeded him directly into the semifinals. Karpov defeated Gelfand in that phase and faced Gata Kamsky in a 20-game match to decide who would be the new champion. The Russian player retained his title without having to play the maximum number of games - he won by 10.5-7.5 in 18 games.

Anatoly Karpov and Gata Kamsky during their 1996 match | source: de.chessbase.com

In 1998 the idea of an Interzonal and a Candidates Tournaments was abandoned and the FIDE World Championships became knockout events. In the first edition, defending champion Karpov got to face the winner of the 100-player knockout. The Russian kept his crown once again after beating Vishy Anand in a 6-game match that was only decided in the rapid playoff.

Starting in 1999, FIDE decided to take away the privileges of the reigning champion, who would have to play the knockout tournament from the second round. Karpov didn't accept this condition and ceased to be part of the competition. With a much more flexible format, far more players were suddenly in with a realistic chance of becoming World Champion. Four tournaments were held under this system - the winners were Alexander Khalifman, Viswanathan Anand, Ruslan Ponomariov and Rustam Kasimdzhanov.

Rustam Kasimdzhanov against Michael Adams at the 2004 FIDE World Championship final in Tripoli | source: FIDE

The winners of these tournaments were not accepted unanimously as World Champions, so FIDE decided to seek the reunification of the title. With Kasparov retired, it was more feasible to propose a tournament that would result in an undisputed champion. On this basis, an eight-player double round-robin event was organized in San Luis, Argentina.

Vladimir Kramnik, who was the Classical World Champion, chose not to participate despite being invited, but declared that he was willing to play against the winner of the tournament to, finally, have an absolute champion. And so it was. Veselin Topalov steamrollered to victory in San Luis and challenged Kramnik in a match played in Elista in September-October 2006. The Russian was declared World Champion after rapid playoffs, in a match tainted by accusations made by Topalov and his team of cheating by his opponent.


Slowly going back to where it all began

With an undisputed champion, the chess world slowly started to look for a system that would be accepted both by the players and the fans.

In 2007, though, it was still very complicated, with the 2005 World Cup partly determining the qualifiers for a 16-player Candidates Tournament, where Aronian, Leko, Gelfand and Grischuk qualified by winning two rounds of mini-matches. In the eight-player final tournament, played in Mexico City, Anand was crowned as World Champion after scoring 9 points out of 14.

Vishy Anand during the World Championship tournament in Mexico | source: public domain

Vladimir Kramnik played in that tournament, but it was agreed in advance that if he didn't win the new champion would concede him the right to a match. The battle was held in Bonn, and Anand defended his title.

Given the fact that Topalov was relegated from the 2007 tournament, FIDE gave him the privilege to qualify directly to a challenger match. The Bulgarian faced Gata Kamsky - who had won the World Cup - and managed to beat him in seven games. In the 2010 World Championship in Sofia Anand retained his title thanks to a win in the 12th and final game.

The "classical" format to decide the challenger made its comeback in the next cycle. With the Grand Prix series and the World Cup as pre-qualifying events, the Candidates Matches returned. In an 8-player knockout played in Khanty-Mansiysk, Boris Gelfand won the final match against Alexander Grischuk and got the possibility to play for the biggest honour. In his match against Anand in Moscow, the Israeli went down in the rapid playoff, after putting the reigning champion under a lot of pressure.

The process to determine who would play in the 2013 Candidates was very similar to the one used the previous year. This time, however, the knockout was replaced by a double round-robin event. In a dramatic finale where both leaders lost, Magnus Carlsen was proclaimed winner on tiebreaks after tying on points with Vladimir Kramnik. The Norwegian overcame multiple champion Anand in a match played in Chennai in November 2013.

Carlsen won the 2013 Candidates despite losing against Peter Svidler in the final round | source: official website

For the first time in a long time, a similar procedure was followed in the next Championship cycle. This time the Candidates was played in Khanty-Mansiysk in March 2014. Viswanathan Anand won the right to a rematch after finishing unbeaten with an impeccable performance, but once again, Carlsen beat him in the World Championship match, held in the Russian city of Sochi.


The next chapter starts tomorrow in Moscow. Many experts have declared that this is the least predictable Candidates in recent years. Who do you think will win the right to play Magnus Carlsen? Will the new generation of ambitious chess players - Giri, Nakamura and Caruana - seize their chance to fight for the title for the first time, or could Vishy play a sixth consecutive World Championship match?

The time has come. The clocks are about to start and chess24 will be covering the event from all angles. Don’t miss it!

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