How do official world chess championships work?


Many people don’t understand how this works, and it is not a surprise, knowing that it is a bit too complicated. Maybe you heard here that Magnus Carlsen is the world chess champion, but you read that Maxime Vachier was the world champion.

The events held by FIDE are a bit complicated if you are not acquainted with the rules or how it works. In this post, we will explain how the world chess championships take place, and how the world champion is decided.

Information that can help you have a better track of the world chess championships when they come.

It’s important to know that there are 3 world champions in chess. Unlike other sports, chess has different modalities, meaning, and time controls. For the nature of chess, every time control is different and requires different preparation.

That is why world chess championships are divided into 3 different events, 3 different titles, and 3 different champions:

  • World chess championships (Standard)
  • World chess championships (Rapid)
  • World chess championships (Blitz)

All of them have different time controls, and we will now explain each of these events in detail.

World chess championships (Standard)

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The classic world chess championship has existed ever since 1886, and it is a curious story. This wasn’t always an official event, in 1886 FIDE didn’t exist, the event was organized by the best chess players in the world.

The best players would simply agree with themselves to make a tournament by themselves and decide on a champion. Being Wilhelm Steinitz the first world chess champion of the world in 1886.

It was in 1946 the ex-world chess champion Alexander Alekhine died surprisingly, and FIDE started to organize the event.

Nowadays, the world chess championships are celebrated every two years, and it’s preceded by the candidates’ tournament.

The first-year players play different tournaments hosted by FIDE, and they will review your progress. That way FIDE determines if you qualify to be invited to the candidates’ tournament.

The candidates’ tournament is an eliminatory event played by matches, and the winner will become the “challenger”.

The winner of the candidates’ tournament will have the opportunity to play the current world chess champion for the title. Whoever wins the tournament will be the new world champion, the match consists of 14 games.

The time control is 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, once passed the 40 moves, 60 minutes more for the other 20 moves, and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game. The current world rapid chess champion is GM Magnus Carlsen.

World chess championships (Rapid)

The world chess championships for the Rapid format are a little bit different, and it doesn’t take much time. This event is held every year, in a closed tournament which you get in by invitation.

Once again, FIDE will review your performance in other events, and you have to meet certain requirements. That way, you will have the opportunity to participate in different events or directly be invited to this tournament.

The time control is usually between 30 minutes and 10 minutes, normally it is 15 minutes. It is a tournament played by points and is divided into groups, that will classify the players on a leaderboard.

The best-classified players by points will go to the eliminatory phase, with quarterfinals, semifinals, and the final. The winner of the tournament here will be the new World Rapid Chess Champion.

It’s one of the strongest chess events in the world, and getting invited to it is very difficult. The current world rapid chess champion is grandmaster Nodirbek Abdusattorov.

World chess championships (Blitz)

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Now, different from the other tournaments, in the world blitz chess championships are quite a lot faster. The word “Blitz” means “Thunder” in German, which means this is fast as thunder.

The time controls are usually 3 minutes with a 2-second increment per move, normally players don’t have time to move the pieces correctly. Once again, this is a very old event, but recently it started to be more formal.

The world blitz chess championship is held once every year, and there is a tournament for women and men separately.

It is completely different from classical chess, the games here are a lot more aggressive, and tend to simply put pressure. Usually, the player who wins is the one that is more cold-blooded on the board.

The current world blitz chess champion is the French GM Maxime Vachier Lagrave.

What is the prize for winning the world chess championship?

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If you win the world chess championship the first you know is that you win a cash prize. But the prize is different depending on the title that you won, and they tend to change.

For example, in the world chess championships of 2021, the prize was 2 million euros, split up by the winner and challenger. 60% for the winner, and 40% for the loser of the match, still a decent amount of money.

But if we talk about the Rapid and Blitz championships, the first three places of the tournament win money. Like 60.000$ for the first prize, 50.000 for the second, and so on.

Not to mention that being the world chess champion allows you to play in pretty much any FIDE event.

The Professional Chess Association Championship

A final detail that can be confusing is the separation of the PCA (professional chess association and FIDE). Ex-world chess champion GM Garry Kasparov and GM Nigel Short left FIDE in 1993, stating that FIDE’s rules to held tournaments were unfair.

That’s why GM Kasparov founded the PCA and held a tournament claiming it to be the “real world chess championships”. That’s why you may have probably found that GM Ruslan Ponomariov was once the world chess champion.

It was, but was through the tournaments of the PCA, and not the official FIDE tournament. Finally, in 2006, PCA and FIDE reunified to put end to the conflict.

You may also like:

Discover How Magnus Carlsen Became the World Champion!

The Exciting Life Of Garry Kasparov

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