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The global qualification process to decide eight candidates to challenge for Magnus Carlsen’s world crown faces controversy following last weekend’s Grand Prix final in Jerusalem, won by Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi.

He now joins his compatriot Alexander Grischuk, China’s Ding Liren and Wang Hao, Azerbaijan’s Teimour Radjabov, Anish Giri of the Netherlands and Carlsen’s 2018 US challenger Fabiano Caruana who will fight out the candidates at Ekaterinburg in March.

The problem is Kirill Alekseenko. The little-known 22-year-old ranks only No 37 in the world, but qualifies as a wild card thanks to finishing as the highest eligible player at Isle of Man, behind Wang Hao.

Andrey Filatov, Russia’s chess federation president, announced some time ago that the wild card will be a Russian. That gives the eighth candidate’s place to Alekseenko, whose overall form is far below the other seven, and excludes France’s Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, a wild card qualifier by three different routes.

The controversy would deepen in March if Alekseenko’s results in Ekaterinburg proved decisive in the race to become Carlsen’s challenger.

An obvious and simple solution is a final eliminating match between Alekseenko and Vachier-Lagrave. Whether that happens or is even considered may become a political decision.


From a game in Serbia, 2019. White, to play, is two pawns down. Can you find a move to turn the tables?

Click here for solution

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