What system should be used for the World Championship?

Magnus Carlsen recently provoked a lot of discussion on the format of the World championship by giving his support to a knock-out system (see the ChessBase report here). What do you think is the best format for the World Championship?


The results of last week’s poll gave a healthy majority in favour of Carlsen retaining World Number One status, and with no clear indication of who is most likely to challenge him.


31 thoughts on “What system should be used for the World Championship?”

  1. I voted for the current system of classical match.

    While I agree that the champion does have an abnoxious advantage in this system, I am of the opinion that:

    a) Traditions are important in everything, and the world champion tradition may be our best.

    b) The match format is one which while not offering the best chess nor the best fighthing, can be the most interesting, with many matches decided in the last game.

    c) I like having only a very limited amount of people being world champion. That offers the tittle very high importance. Many people compare the world championship with the soccer system, but in soccer there are say 10 teams with realistic chances to win, and it is only played every 4 years, so at the end you have a very limited number of champions. That is what I want for chess, being able to remember every one of our champions and knowing that the new one would need to make a really big feat to cling the tittle.

  2. I prefer a KO tournament every 2 years with a generous amount of qualifiers in-between and many different tournaments around it. Blitz and Rapid WCh, opens, problem solving WCh, etc.
    Yes, this roles the dice, but who cares. Other sports are doing fine with having new world champions every year. A 12 months cycle is too short because the tournament takes such a long time, but 24 months should be okay.

  3. Match.
    Chess is more like box than tennis. If knockout system than there is no world champion and the best player should start from first round, not semi or quater final like karpov did when kasparov split from fide. Itd not fair that best rated player play fresh against players who fought hard to 1/16 or 1/8 finaleS. Its a mess. Let the best cqndidate play q match with world champion after conciderqbly time after cqndidate match so candidate can be fresh and well prepaired.

  4. KO system is like instant coffe or food from micro oven. For blitz or rapid its ok, but for classic chess not. Kalifman was a world champion in KO system. And Ponomarjov I think. Does people recognise them like world champions? Dont think so. I agree with gollum.

  5. It’s ridiculous to abolish the World Championship match, it’s as much a part of chess as the rules themselves. If we get rid of the match we’ll be introducing new pieces next. I think Carlsen is a great player but he’s dead wrong on this issue.

  6. The olden ways when there was time, money and resources available to the WCC was amazing. Candidates tournaments and several candidates matches is absolutely the best way to prove you are the best. Now there is less time and so on and people seems to want everything to go faster including matches with fewer games and games with less time etc…

    Knockouts are a little bit exciting but detrimental to (all) chess quality. But what if you had smaller opens to qualify to a big knockout-semifinal tournament where six players qualify from that to meet in a candidates final tournament where each player faces the others in at least two games each to crown one winner to take on the world champion. The world championship match should then be hopefully at least 18 games.

    Some time could pass in between all these events to allow for life, play in other tournaments and preparation, media build-up with a possibility for the general public to also get to know a few more great chess players!
    A one year cycle or two year cycle is possible I think. I also think that it should be in the contract of a world champion (and possibly the candidates) to be (an) active participant(s) in keeping chess popular with a tournament schedule of at least 4 tournaments a year with additional simuls and interviews set up by the governing body FIDE. This so that a world champion cannot just sit idly by, leaving the chess scene emptier and perhaps just waiting to cash in on another match after a year or…

  7. @MqG
    I agree. I’m really longing for the time when there were still zonal and interzonal tournaments, followed by candidate matches and a world championship match where the first reaching 6 wins is world champion. Like the heroic Karpov-Kasparov match where both players were close to exhaustion. But I guess it’s not interesting enough for sponsors and with the falling apart of the Soviet Union there is no more place for ‘state amateurs’ (except in China ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

  8. The ideal system is the one used in correspondence chess where anyone can qualify. In the old days some players, like Ulf Andersson, refused to take part because of the complications. The situation where Fischer continued to proclaim himself, as world champion, was ridiculous.

  9. I am nostalgic: Give me a long match for the championship! 24 games or more.

    Since that is not going to happen, I do not find it very appealing to have a long and complicated struggle to find the Challenger, only to have the match last a measly 12 games.

    I would like to see a system, where the World Champion actually plays many games and participates.

    So an open system of a number of tournaments, where the participants gets “points” for participating. Not the Elo rating, but more like a World Ranking like in tennis or other sports.

    When the time comes for the World Championship, have the top 8 or 16 (the more the merrier) play matches of 4 or 6 or 8 games (the more the merrier), where the top ranked player has draw odds.

    No more rapid playoffs or Armageddons.

  10. Iโ€™d say letโ€™s keep the match and cycle like they are now.
    At most a double round robin tournament including the current world champion, surely better than knockouts.

  11. It depends on the knockout system we’re talking about.

    If we are referring to the old candidate matches (lengthy match KOs ending with a very lengthy WC match) then yes.

    If we are referring to these fun, but frankly stupid, 128-player, 2-game matches being decided with blitz games, then my answer turns into a firm NO.

  12. Those candidate tournaments played as round robins where highlights in the history of chess.
    I prefer those over any candidate matches which are mostly decided in rapid or blitz.
    Only question for me is – should the champion take part, making it a world-championship-tournament, or should there be one final match? I’m not decided on that.

  13. I can understand the point behind Carlsen’s suggestion but I would prefer a more rigorous process so that the champion is seen as deserving by everybody.

    I suggest a modified swiss/Danish/McMohan system whereby the number of players are halved after every 3 rounds. if we start with 128 players the whole thing can be done and dusted in a month including rest days after every 3 rounds. players can be pre-seeded with points – like in the McMohan – and without any restrictions on meeting repeatedly – like in the Danish. This would combine the virtues of both Knock-out and matches but simultaneously circumventing problems of draws/tiebreakers/Armageddons etc

    another alternative is to have a super-league like the champions trophy in hockey (not more than 6 players) comprising the current World Champion, Knock-out-World-cup winner, highest ranked player, and other qualifiers from winners of grand-prix series/candidates tournaments. here also a reducing league will make it interesting

  14. I think many are trying to make a world championship system fair.

    I don’t really care about fair. I don’t have the slightest chance to be world champion, so my main concern is that the system should be interesting.

    The actual system is really interesting: a candidate tournament, which has the same interest as a world championship tournament (or almost the same interest), and afterwards a match for the world championship which if we don’t count Anand-Carlsen matches has a very long tradition of being nerve-racking.

    One thing that makes the whole affair interesting is that there are very few champions. As said earlier, I don’t think anybody considers Khalifman or Ponomariov true world champions. That was a mock for the system and time has proven those KO WC mean naught.

    The second best system would be a tournament for the world championship, but I dislike the fact that it is possible for two equally strong guys at the top to be winning it alternatively, so nobody would be able to remember when each one was world champion. The current system, where rarely an ex-champion gets back the throne is in my opinion better.

  15. One thing that’s different for chess than other sports that use a knockout format is the high rate of draws. Even in a mini-match of 4 or 6 games, an even score is a reasonably likely result, and the tiebreak systems of rapid or blitz are really not in the spirit of identifying a world champion of classical chess.

    Marees’s suggestion of the modified swiss (or similar) seems the best option to me, where roughly half the players are dropped each round. I’d ideally like to see each round have 2 or 4 games with the same opponent as well.

  16. I personally think FIDE has got it close to right. All they need is for the World Champion to be forced to participate in the World Cup in order not to forfeit his title. Carlsen could have just entered, rather than blog about it, so I think FIDE should step up and we would have four brilliant concepts: Grand Prix, where all candidates would have to participate in order to play the candidates. World Cup where all would have to play. Candidates, which has been brilliant and the match, which does not interests me less than the other, but gives great publicity.

  17. @Jacob, forcing world champion to play world cup is not right way. We already have an example of that practice. KO champions and kasparov short match. Let the candidates become candidates in cup system and best 10 players play candidate tournament. Chess world doesnt need another ultimatums for champions. In that ฤase, we coul “gain” two federations as Kasparov had pca. Or another Fisher case when champ will refuse to play.

  18. I think Carlsen’s idea is a bit strange and don’t like at all.
    For me the current one is fine, but I would add a candidate semi-final with matches, maybe adding 3 first candidates and also the world champion on it.

  19. @k.r.
    After what happened to Kasparov, I doubt anyone will be so stupid again. And as the rule is entirely fair, it only makes chess bigger. Also, it could attract more sponsorship to the World Cup.

    At the moment there is already a rule that states that you have to play either the Grand Prix or the World Cup to qualify for the Candidates by rating. I see no real World harm to include the World Champion in that.

  20. I think another interesting idea would to have a mandatory challenger for a WC match chosen by the candidates every 2 years but then also to allow other challengers at the champion’s discretion. So if, for example, Nakamura, could get a backer to create a big enough prize fund and Carlsen accepted then there could be another WC match in the middle of the cycle (Boxing does it like this). This might increase sponsorship and interest in the world championship.

    I doubt FIDE would allow it though, would lead to them having less of a grip on the title.

  21. Agree with k.r. The world champion is a hero, he must be respected. When he is not, that’s a problem for FIDE, not for him. The first WCC made their own rules about challengers, it was a problem (Alekhine,Lasker). It is fair to allow FIDE to impone the best challenger, the only obligation of the champion should be to risk his title every two years.

  22. @neiman
    The idea that a player is great than the game, leaves you with Bobby Fischer dying as World Champion and in a minority with rather World-distant people ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. I think it would be exciting if the World Champion was allowed to accept other challengers within the 2 years he has to wait to play the FIDE obligatory challenger, similar to how they do it in boxing. It would be great for the fans as we would get to see more matches and it allows the World Champion to make more money. It would also generate more media interest and we would get to see some matches that may be unlikely to happen under the current format. The World Champion would include a compulsory rematch into the contract in case they lost, and this would need to take place and finish “x” months before the World Champion match with the FIDE challenger took place.

  24. @James
    I do not consider this a good idea. I prefer to see the best players in the world championship, not those with the best sponsors. And please don’t consider rematches, we had enough of these in Botvinnik’s days, they proofed to be very unfair for Smyslov and Tal.

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