World Cup 2021 Qualifiers: FIDE Approves Hybrid Format
For the first time, online chess will be part of the world championship cycle. A new “hybrid” format, where chess players play online but in a public place under the supervision of an arbiter, will be allowed for qualification tournaments for the 2021 FIDE World Cup. According to FIDE, this measure is “inevitable and exceptional” due to the pandemic.
This year’s FIDE World Cup is scheduled to start July 10 in Sochi, Russia. The format has been revamped and increased: 206 players will compete in the open section and 103 in the women’s section.
To make sure participants can qualify in the upcoming months while the coronavirus pandemic is still underway, qualifier tournaments may be held online if specific criteria are met. Arbiters need to be present and cameras should be installed to prevent cheating.
No fewer than two arbiters, a local chief arbiter, and a local technical arbiter must be present. If more than 10 players are in the playing venue, then additional arbiters are required one extra arbiter for each increase of one to 10 players.
Cameras will be installed to give a panoramic view of the playing hall, and each player will be supervised by an individual camera as well. If the computers on which the games are played are not provided by the local organizer, a Zoom call with screen sharing is mandatory.
These qualifiers will have a standard (long) time control similar to the FIDE World Cup. The time control cannot be less than 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting from move one, or 120 minutes for the whole game with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting from move one.
The hybrid format was introduced in early January when the FIDE Council approved a new, special set of rules for online chess competitions (here in PDF). Those rules have been necessary after the enormous increase of events held online due to the pandemic.
The special rules mostly relate to playing online on one of the existing chess platforms. They should be seen as additional to the existing rules. Except for having a virtual chessboard instead of a physical one, the basic FIDE Laws of Chess are fully applied.
When online competitions are supervised, it’s usually from a distance, with an arbiter being able to see the players via a Zoom call. FIDE uses the term “hybrid” for events where all players are physically supervised by an arbiter as they play online. A few such events with players present in a public place like a club, federation headquarters, or hotel have already been organized.
The games played in hybrid events can be rated officially on equal terms with traditional games if the events are pre-registered by the federation that will be responsible for submitting the results and rating fees.
Whether norms can be achieved in hybrid events is not yet clear. In a statement posted on the FIDE website on January 21, 2021, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich noted that the FIDE Qualification Commission, the body responsible for rating and norm regulations, “is generally not against rating and giving titles based on hybrid competitions, but firmly believes that it requires both testing (which we intend to do) and a very cautious implementation.” For the World Cup qualifiers, norms won’t be possible.
European Chess Union
The European Chess Union was the first to announce their World Cup qualifier. A nine-round hybrid qualification tournament will be held May 22-30 from which 36 players will qualify. The event will have a 30,000-euro prize fund supported by the FIDE Continental Development Fund.
Originally, the qualifiers were supposed to come from the 2021 European Individual Championship to be held in Reykjavik, but this event has been postponed until August/September.