With an open qualification process that began in April, the FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship continues the final qualification phase as it plays down to the final six players who will qualify for the quarterfinals in early October.
The final two knockout qualifiers will be hosted on Chess.com this Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 31 and September 1, featuring some of the strongest players in the world, including two of the top ten players in the world in Leinier Dominguez-Perez and Wesley So who will headline their respective qualifying brackets as they hope to qualify for the next phase, the quarterfinals. You can watch coverage of the Knockout Qualifier at 8 a.m. Pacific on both Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 on Twitch.tv/chesscomevents and Chess.com/TV with commentary by GM Aman Hambleton and NM James Canty III.
The most recent Knockout Qualifier saw Peter Svidler advance after an eight-plus hour performance in a bracket which also featured Alexander Grischuk whom he defeated in the final to qualify for the quarterfinals. The qualifier was thrown into chaos by a few surprising upsets and near-upsets which nearly threw the bracket into flux. Although that bracket was one of the strongest of this stage, featuring four players over 2700 FIDE, this weekend's brackets are also primed to feature fireworks with Parham Maghsoodloo and blitz-and-bullet phenom Daniel Naroditsky among the participants in Saturday's and Sunday's brackets, respectively.
Also participating in Saturday's bracket is GM Frode Urkedal who won entry into the Knockout Qualifiers by winning the 2019 Nordic Championship in July. In that tournament, he bested 65 other participants, most of whom were Norwegian and along with his invite to the FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship, Urkedal also won entry into the 2019 World Cup where he will face some of the top players in the world. In short, Urkedal, who will be the lowest-rated 2-seed in the qualifiers by nearly 200 ELO, will hope to score a series of upsets. He may need to pull out the big guns early as he has a potential match with Naroditsky in the quarterfinals.
Sunday's bracket will feature the mercurial world junior champion Maghsoodloo, who is coming off an appearance in the Junior Speed Chess Championship where he was eliminated in the semifinals by Jeffery Xiong, who crashed out of an earlier Fischer Random bracket in the quarterfinal round. Maghsoodloo will be looking to right the ship after a string of lackluster over-the-board results which has seen his standard rating stagnate. The man whose Chess.com avatar reads "I need new haters, all of the old ones became my fans" will hope to harness his attitude to turn in a performance which bests So on Sunday.
The Fischer Random Chess Championship is recognized by FIDE, the international chess federation, and is hosted by Dund AS in partnership with Chess.com.
The championship seeks to crown the best Fischer Random (also known as Chess960) player in the world. All games will be played in the popular chess variant with shuffled starting positions, first promoted by the former world chess champion Bobby Fischer.
After hosting over 40 qualifiers that saw nearly 2,000 players participate, the Fischer Random action speeds up even more as the first knockout bracket begins, featuring two-game mini-matches of 15+2 time control with tiebreaks along the way to decide who moves on to the next round. Players were expected to play the entire bracket over the course of a grueling five-hour span, but because of the close matches that have played out in the first three qualifiers, a more accurate prediction is a nail-biting seven hours of play for these elite players.
Among the other well-known players in Saturday's bracket are French GM Marie Sebag, who played in this year's Women's Speed Chess Championship, as well as the Russian duo Grigoriy Oparin and Vladimir Fedoseev, the latter being a mainstay atop Chess.com's blitz leaderboard.
Sunday's bracket features a stellar lineup, including 2700+ grandmaster Evgeny Tomashevsky who holds the affectionate nickname "Professor" among his peers due to his studious nature. On the other side of Tomashevsky and Maghsoodloo's bracket, the ever-present Daniel Fridman will hope to bring some of his 2018 Olympiad gold medal-winning form to the Chess.com servers to shock So in a potential semifinal encounter. But first, he'll have to get through another of the Junior Speed Chess Championship participants, Peruvian GM Jose Martinez Alcantara.
So far, the following top Fischer Random grandmasters are confirmed to participate as invited players in the six knockout tournaments:
The following players have qualified for or been invited to the quarterfinals stage:
In addition to the notable grandmasters participating in the knockout qualifiers, four players have qualified all the way from the initial phase, the open qualifier. These four underdogs, including August 31 participant 14-year-old untitled Singaporean Ethan Poh, will look to keep their Cinderella stories alive as they now face the daunting task of taking on multiple grandmasters—some of whom are ranked in the top-50 players in the world.
Poh's first-round opponent for August 31, Dominguez-Perez recently accepted an invitation to play in the qualifiers as the top-10 FIDE Cuban-American looks to avoid an upset on his way to the quarterfinal berth. This weekend's qualifiers conclude the grueling qualification process which has seen participation from over 1500 players from around the world in a first-of-its-kind event.
You can watch all knockout tournament coverage live on Twitch.tv/chess with commentary from top grandmasters during each Knockout Qualifier.
The six survivors of the knockout brackets will join Nakamura and Caruana, who were seeded directly into the quarterfinals, already recognized as two of the strongest Fischer Random masters in the world.
For more in-depth information on the FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship, including all titled player qualifiers, visit the official Chess.com guide here.
Remember to watch all upcoming FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship coverage on Twitch.tv/Chesscomevents starting this Saturday, August 31, and continuing on Sunday.