206 players will compete in a revamped FIDE World Cup for a record prize fund of $ 1,890,000. The Women’s World Cup is also expanded to 103 players, with a 50% increase in the prize fund: from $450,000 to $676,000.
The FIDE World Cup is one of our flagship competitions, and in recent editions, it has clearly become one of the most followed events in the chess calendar. In view of this, the International Chess Federation has decided to expand it, increasing both the number of players and the prize fund. These significant improvements will affect both the World Cup and the Women’s World Cup, which will be organized in Russia in the second half of 2021.
To begin with, the number of players in the World Cup will increase from 128 to 206. The reigning World Champion, Women’s World Champion, and Junior World Champion are directly invited, as well as the four semi-finalists from the 2019 edition. They will be joined by 80 players qualified through Continental Championships, with every continent being guaranteed a minimum quota, and 100 players nominated by the top hundred federations by average rating. The exact list of countries/federations which will be entitled to nominate a player will be published within the next few days.
The field will be completed with the 12 highest-rated players who did not qualify by any of the previous criteria, as well as the highest-placed player of the ACP Tour 2021 as of June 2021.
With such varied paths to qualification, which also involve a much larger number of countries (minimum 100), the number of wild cards is sharply reduced: these direct invitations will be limited to 3 nominees by the FIDE President, and 2 by the local organizer.
To keep the length of the tournament within reasonable limits, 156 players will begin from Round 1, but the 50 top players will be seeded directly into Round 2. Besides, the length of the final is reduced from four games to just two.
As for the Women’s World Cup, the number of players is increased from 64 to 103, while the prize fund is raised from $450,000 in the previous edition, to $676,000 in 2021. The qualification paths for the event are very similar and as varied as the ones for the FIDE World Cup. 51 players will qualify from the Continental Championships, and 39 National Federations will also have the right to nominate a player, while the wild cards are reduced in this case to one nominee by the FIDE President, and one by the local organizer.
Apart from the substantial prizes, the FIDE Women’s World Cup will give three players the opportunity to qualify directly for the Women’s Candidates Tournament, to be held in the first half of 2022.
“It seems to us that this format, coupled with the previously announced FIDE Grand Swiss in which almost all 2650+ players (and 2400+ for women) will be able to participate, creates a nearly perfect balance”, explains Emil Sutovsky, FIDE’s Director-General and Chairman of the Global Strategy Commission, which is responsible for all the events that are part of the World Championship cycle.
The city of Sochi is the main candidate to host both World Cups, with the 10th of July as a tentative starting date, but this information is provisional and should be confirmed by the Chess Federation of Russia in the coming weeks. Sochi has already successfully hosted a very similar event, the 2015 Women’s World Championship which was played in a very similar format: a knockout with 64 players.