FIDE Candidates and Women’s Candidates 2024: What To Expect



The opening ceremony for the 2024 FIDE Candidates Tournament and 2024 FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament take place today in Toronto, Canada. This marks the first time that the two Candidates tournaments are held concurrently, and promises plenty of exciting chess over the next three weeks.

Round one begins tomorrow, April 4, at 1:30 p.m. CDT. Subsequent rounds take place at the same time, with one round per day, except on the rest days of April 8, 12, 16, and 19. Note that no rest day takes place over a weekend, allowing fans the chance to catch a round outside of working hours.

Chess Life Online will feature in-depth reports from each round. A schedule of rounds and annotators is available here.


Meet the Candidates (Open)

In the Open, Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi will seek a third consecutive win trip to the world championship, after falling short in 2021 against GM Magnus Carlsen and just short again in 2023 against GM Ding Liren. But the two odds-on favorites, who happen to be the two highest-rated competitors, are the two Americans.

With both coming off of great years, GM Fabiano Caruana qualified based on his third-place finish in the 2023 FIDE World Cup, while GM Hikaru Nakamura qualified based on his second-place finish in the 2023 FIDE Grand Swiss. This is Caruana’s fifth consecutive Candidates tournament, having won once in 2018. This is Nakamura’s third trip to the Candidates, and second consecutive after falling just short of a second-place finish in 2022.


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Caruana capped off a strong 2023 with a victory in the Sinquefield Cup last winter (courtesy Lennart Ootes/SLCC)


The other front-runner is French GM Alireza Firouzja, a 20-year-old phenomenon who still holds the record for youngest player to achieve a FIDE classical rating over 2800. Firouzja indeed qualified via the ratings spot, but enters with a 2760 rating after a lackluster set of performances in 2023 before a flurry of late games to clinch the rating spot. He enters as the third highest-rated player, two points ahead of Nepomniachtchi (2758) but still 43 points behind Caruana (2803) and 29 points behind Nakamura (2789). This is also his second consecutive Candidates appearance.


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Nakamura after qualifying for the Candidates in the 2023 FIDE Grand Swiss (courtesy Anna Shtourman/FIDE)


Of the four remaining players in the Open, three hail from India, and all are participating in their first Candidates tournament. GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi, age 29, enters as the lowest-rated of the trio (2727), after winning the 2023 FIDE Grand Swiss ahead of Nakamura and Caruana. The youngest, GM Gukesh D (age 17, 2743), qualified via amassing the most points on the 2023 FIDE Circuit. Finally, GM Praggnanandhaa R (age 18, 2747) qualified after a strong second-place finish (behind Carlsen, ahead of Caruana) in the 2023 FIDE World Cup.


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Vidit (R) qualified for the Candidates by winning the 2023 FIDE Grand Swiss alongside his countrywoman, Vaishali Rameshbabu (more on her below) (courtesy Anna Shtourman/FIDE)


Finally, Azerbaijani GM Nijat Abasov enters as the “dark horse” of the event, as the only player outside the current top 100 world rankings. Rated 2632 (with a peak of 2679 and a top 60 world ranking as recently as last November), Abasov finished fourth in the World Cup after an impressive string of upsets. When Carlsen declined his qualifying spot from winning the World Cup, the rules stipulated that the fourth-place finisher in the World Cup would qualify instead.


Meet the Candidates (Women's)

In the Women’s tournament, six of the eight participants are currently ranked in the world top eight, with only top-rated GM Hou Yifan (inactive) and second-rated GM Ju Wenjun (reigning world champion) missing from the line-up. Of the participants, third-ranked GM Aleksandra Goryachkina (2553, Russia), is the highest rated.


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Goryachkina won her first FIDE Women's World Cup in 2023, and looks to follow it up with another Candidates victory (behind GM Ju Wenjun) and adds a World Cup title to her list of accolades (courtesy Stev Bonhage/FIDE)


Goryachkina qualified via her second-place finish in the 2022-23 FIDE Women’s Grand Prix series (but also won the 2023 FIDE Women’s World Cup), and she looks to repeat her 2019 Women’s Candidates victory to earn a rematch with Ju. She should be considered a favorite due to her rating, strong results at the World Cup, and successful history in this event, but the next group of three players are certainly right up there with her.


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The challenger Lei Tingjie after her 2022 Candidates victory (courtesy FIDE)


Fourth-ranked GM Lei Tingjie (2550, China) won the previous Women’s Candidates cycle of matches, losing in the last game of the 2023 Women’s World Championship to Ju. Fifth-ranked GM Humpy Koneru (2546, India) earned the ratings spot, as Tingjie qualified in virtue of winning the previous Candidates cycle. Sixth-ranked GM Kateryna Lagno (2542, Russia) qualified via her victory in the 2022-23 FIDE Women’s Grand Prix cycle. Lagno previously competed for the world championship in 2018, losing the knock-out finals to Ju.


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Anna Muzychuk (L)'s Women's World Cup Semi-Final against Salimova resulted in both players qualifying for the Candidates (courtesy Anna Shtourman/FIDE)


Next up is seventh-ranked GM Tan Zhongyi (2521, China), who qualified via her second-place finish in the 2023 FIDE Women’s Grand Swiss. Tan was a finalist in the previous Candidates cycle, losing to Lei in their head-to-head finals match. Eighth-ranked GM Anna Muzychuk (2520, Ukraine) qualified via her third-place finish in the 2023 FIDE Women’s World Cup. Like Abasov in the Open, she earned a spot in virtue of a higher-placing finisher not accepting their spot, although in this case it was because Goryachkina had already qualified for the Candidates.


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Salimova revealed she has been training with none other than Abasov (second from right). Both players earned unexpected Candidates slots from their strong World Cup performances. (courtesy Maria Emelianova/


The only two players outside of the world top ten, then, are Indian GM-Elect Vaishali Rameshbabu* (2475, world number 15) and Bulgarian IM Nurgyul Salimova (2432, world number 36). Vaishali earned her spot with a number of sharp wins resulting in a first-place finish in the 2023 FIDE Women’s Grand Swiss, and Salimova earned hers via a second-place finish in the 2023 FIDE Women’s World Cup after a string of upsets. At ages 22 and 20, respectively, both have seen substantial improvements in their games (and ratings) over the past year, and neither should be counted out.

*Vaishali is registered with FIDE as Vaishali Rameshbabu, while her brother*, Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu, is registered as Praggnanandhaa R. We will follow these conventions when referring to the two players.

**Yes, there is a brother-sister duo competing in Toronto!


Format and Formalities

The time control is slightly different for the two tournaments, with each time control corresponding to the time control used in the corresponding world championship event. In the Open, the players will have 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, with a 30-minute bonus on move 41 and a 30-second increment only beginning on move 41. In the Women’s, the players will have 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, with a 30-minute bonus on move 41 but a 30-second increment beginning on move one.

Both tournaments follow a Double Round Robin format, with all pairings determined in advance. Players representing the same federation are slated to play each other in the first rounds of each half of the tournament.

The prize fund for the Open is double that of the Women’s. For the Open: 48,000 euros for first, 36,000 for second, and 24,000 for third. For the Women’s: 24,000 euros for first, 18,000 for second and 12,000 for third. Interestingly, rather than promise pre-determined prize amounts for all finishers, the remaining prizes are awarded based on score, with 3,500 euros awarded for each half-point scored for players in the Open and 1,750 for players in the Women’s. These “score prizes” are awarded for all eight players in each event.

If two players tie for first, second, or third, the prizes are divided equally and not based on tiebreaks. For instance, if two players tie for second place, they split the second- and third-place prizes equally. If there is a tie for first place, then in addition to splitting the prizes equally, a tiebreak match will be played to determine who earns the right to challenge the current world champion. Full regulations are available for the Open here and the Women’s here.


Quick Links

Official Website (Schedule | Pairings | Crosstables)

Follow Chess Life Online for daily recaps and annotations from top American players 

Follow the games live on (Open | Women's) and (Open | Women's)

Follow on social media with the tag #FIDECandidates 

Stream Today in Chess, courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, with commentary from GM Yasser Seirawan, GM Evegeny Miroshnichenko, and IM Nazi Paikidze. This broadcast will focus on the games of the two American players. (YouTube | Twitch)