Chess is an unequivocally difficult game. If you have ever played a game of chess, you have probably achieved a position that has never been achieved, in any game ever. Pretty cool, right? Including illegal moves, it is estimated that there are 10¹¹¹ to 10¹²³ possible positions. Only considering legal moves, there are “only” 10⁴⁰ possible moves. In such a difficult game, true greatness that pushes the limits of the human mind can be and should be celebrated. The greatest players in chess are grandmasters, often abbreviated to GMs. According to the FIDE (Federation International des Echecs) database, there are only 1785 grandmasters in the world. In order to become a Grandmaster, one must achieve a FIDE rating of 2500 and achieve three norms. Below the title of Grandmaster are, in descending order, International Master (IM), Fide Master (FM), and Candidate Master (CM).
Like grandmasters, international masters also require norms (with less stringent requirements). FIDE also awards women’s titles to women. The women’s titles are exclusive to women, but both men and women can achieve the “open” titles (GM, IM, FM, CM). All FIDE titles are held for life, except in cases of cheating or obscenely poor sportsmanship. The only honor above grandmaster is World Champion, which is achieved by prevailing through the FIDE Candidates and winning the World Chess Championship. There are a few other titles besides the official FIDE titles mentioned here, notably National Master (NM), which is handed out by respective chess federations, such as the United States Chess Federation (USCF). The National Master title (USCF) requires a 2200 USCF rating. USCF and FIDE ratings are NOT the same thing, but they tend to correlate, i.e. a player with a high USCF rating will likely also have a high FIDE rating.
What is a chess game like?
A chess game is often divided into three major parts – the opening, the middlegame, and the endgame. The opening is the most “predictable” part of the game, as there are fundamentals that all players should follow: control the center, get your minor pieces off of the back rank, and castle. Notable openings for the white pieces include the Italian Game, the Queen’s Gambit, the English Opening, and the King’s Indian Attack. Defenses for the black pieces include the French Defense, the Caro-Kann defense, the King’s Indian defense, and the Modern Defense. When both players are “out of prep,” or have not studied moves to that point, the game transitions to the middlegame. The middlegame rewards calculation, visualization, and patience. In grandmaster games, the hard-fought middlegame often transitions to the endgame, where there are only one or two pieces, a king, and a few pawns. Since chess is such a long-standing game, positions with seven or less pieces on the board have been theoretically “solved” with a tablebase, which tells players which moves win, lose, or draw in a particular endgame. Chess games can end with checkmate, resignation, a draw by agreement, draw by stalemate, draw by threefold repetition, or losing on time (colloquially referred to as “flagging”). It is typical of chess players to shake hands both before and after a game.
How did they make the World Chess Championship?
The FIDE Candidates is an eight player double round-robin tournament which decides the challenger for the World Chess Championship. Each player plays every player with both the white and black pieces. The 2022 FIDE Candidates was a tournament for the ages. After the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic which took away the traditional 2021 World Chess Championship, the 2022 Candidates did not disappoint with controversy and entertainment. Before the tournament, Russian Grandmaster and 2021 Chess World Cup runner-up Sergei Karjakin was disqualified for public comments made on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. This disqualification close to the tournament allowed Ding Liren, the highest-rated player who had played 30 rated games in the last year, to qualify for the Candidates.
The Candidates tournament was largely overshadowed by former World Champion Magnus Carlsen’s indecisiveness to defend his World Champion status. The Candidates tournament came down to the wire, as grandmasters Ding Liren and Hikaru Nakamura played for the silver medal. Liren beat Nakamura, giving him second place, and a spot in the World Championship if Carlsen chose not to defend his title. About a month after the tournament ended, Carlsen announced that he would, in fact, not defend his title as World Champion, leaving Candidates winner Ian Nepomniachtchi and runner up Ding Liren to play for the title of World Champion.
The World Chess Championship
With Magnus Carlsen’s abdication of the World Champion title, Grandmasters Ian Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren are competing to become the 17th Classical World Champion. Liren is playing under the Chinese flag, while Nepomniachtchi is playing under the FIDE flag due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The tournament itself is taking place in Astana, Kazakhstan. The World Championship match consists of a best-of-14 game tournament where the first player to 7.5 points wins and is the World Champion.
The first 14 games start out with 2 hours for the first 40 moves, followed by 1 hour for the next 20 moves, and 15 more minutes for the remainder of the game. As with many other FIDE tournaments, a win is one point, a draw is half a point, and a loss is zero points. If the tournament is tied after 14 games, there will be a playoff of four 25 minute and 10 second increment games. If the tournament is still tied after 18 games, another two-game playoff will be played. If the two-game playoff ends in a tie, there will be another two game playoff. If that two-game playoff is tied, there will be one three minute sudden-death game, where the winner takes the title of World Champion.
The total prize fund for the tournament is 2,000,000 Euros. 60% of that 2 million would go to the World Champion if the tournament is decided within 14 games, and that amount would go down to 55% if the tournament is decided via tiebreaker. If you want to watch a World Championship game live, it will be streamed on chess.com.
How can I enjoy chess?
After reading this post, you probably want to play some chess. As I mentioned earlier, chess is a difficult game. This difficulty can be overcome, however, with enough practice and reps. There are three major websites that you can use to play more chess: chess.com, lichess.org, and chess24.com. These websites let you play games either anonymously or with an account for free, and help you to analyze your games and improve your chess. All three aforementioned sites have a built-in chess engine, Stockfish, which analyzes a position and tells you the best move to play in the position. Along with these sites which help you play chess, they have videos and articles which can help you polish your game. In late 2022 and early 2023, chess underwent a renaissance on the Internet, and there are more resources on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Discord, and the internet as a whole.
We here at the Rebel Federation used to have two chess-based groups, the now defunct <RF> Team Winchester and Rebels Arcade Ultimate, our arcade division. Team Winchester served as an interest-based team which centered around, you guessed it, chess. The team attempted to hold a tournament in mid-2020 but the team was sadly disbanded mid-tournament. Rebels Arcade Ultimate took up the chess mantle after its rebrand from Rebels Among Us, and even held a speed chess tournament in the main hub. I, alongside many others, hope that chess can make a revival in the Rebel Federation, and hope that it comes sooner rather than later.
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