Return of the Candidates II
The FIDE Candidates tournament is supposedly going to resume again next week, and I’m very excited about it. I say supposedly because after it got adjourned at the midway last March (when it blatantly shouldn’t have gone ahead in the first place), its second half was due to be played last autumn, only for it to be postponed again. Some would say this was an incredibly obvious outcome and one that should’ve been foreseen by FIDE, world chess' governing body, and I would be one of those people.
It’s a shame such a prestigious tournament has been handled so badly; this is meant to be the peak of its participants careers, and second only to the world championship match itself in terms of fan enjoyment. Whatever its outcome, it will be marred by both the virus and poor decisions, and if my dim opinion of FIDE hasn’t already been made plain enough, there’s still plenty of opportunities for them to fuck this up even more, if you’ll pardon my French.
With that being said, it is the biggest event since the last world championship match, and maybe it’ll be a huge hit. Interestingly, the whole chess landscape has changed since the first half of the tournament - the Queen’s Gambit garnered critical acclaim and fostered a newfound admiration for chess amongst the previously largely uninterested populace, and combined with the pandemic, has seen chess boom on Twitch. Chess.com has blogged plenty of times in the last 6 months about having to upgrade their server capacity in order to meet the unprecedented surge in demand for online chess. If the Candidates goes smoothly, is accessible to newer players, has some interesting storylines, and crucially reaches a conclusion at the end of next week, it could herald in a new era for chess. If it goes poorly, newer players might not have any interest in the elite game, and chess in a post-pandemic era might look even more different than previously expected, with a further move away from over-the-board tournaments with classical time controls.
Obviously I’m hopefully for the former, as a big fan of said classical, over-the-board chess. But I’m not holding my breath either.