Tickets for the Candidates Tournament flew. FIDE didn't even have time to promote them. Every five seconds one was sold and in 80 minutes they had all disappeared. The price was tempting, less than 15 euros, with the addition that children under 15 did not pay. On the other hand, they were very few in an Autonomous Community with 56 clubs and 1,817 federated chess players, in addition to all the non-registered fans. Only 90 people will be able to enter the Palacio de Santoña each day from Friday. Luckily, the tournament is broadcast over the internet, totally free. However, the International Chess Federation (FIDE) assumes that the venue has outgrown them and has prepared some interesting alternative.
"We are aware that a large number of fans have not been able to fulfill their illusion of visiting the tournament," they say from FIDE. For this reason, an agreement has been reached with the ARGO Club (Rational Association of Gastronomy and Leisure), which "is going to set up an entire floor so that fans can meet there to follow the broadcast, socialize and play games."
The Palacio de Santoña, acknowledges the Federation, was an emergency solution to host the most important competition of the year. The venue is beautiful, but it has its shortcomings. «We were dragging the uncertainty due to the pandemic and the tournament was not confirmed until the end of December. It was not easy to find a place available for three weeks and with so much space». The ARGO club is located at number 7 in Plaza Santa Ana, just 70 meters away and in the same block as the room where the 8 classified grandmasters will play.
It is not a bad alternative, given that FIDE and Chess.com, the sponsoring company and one of the main portals from which the tournament can be followed, will collaborate to bring to the club grandmasters, commentators, 'streamers' and «other enigmatic guests » to liven up the games. Even after each day is over, it will be possible to play quick games and participate in chess trivia and other activities. This B ticket to the Candidates, which will be sold from the tournament website, will cost 10 euros.
In room A, on the other hand, the conditions are not much better for the public, located in a room close to the chess players, but not in the same room. The spectators will see the games through screens, with the comments of experts in the art of the board and the incentive of being able to attend the 'post-mortem' explanations of the masters involved. Chess fans have another luck: from a simple mobile you can follow the action in detail. Chess can be a very participatory and enriching spectacle, but to feel the full experience and the closeness of the playing field, silent but charged with electricity, something more is needed.
The presentation of the tournament, whose opening ceremony will take place this Thursday, was somewhat lackluster, on the other hand, only one participant, Fabiano Caruana, attended. The American (formerly Italian) is the closest thing we have to a local player, since he has spent long periods in Spain and his parents have a house in Majadahonda. He was talkative and answered all the questions that were put to him, but the chess world still misses players getting more involved in promotional events.
Dana Reizniece-Ozola, managing director of FIDE and tournament director, justified the absence of the other magnificent seven, although she did not hide that some change would be good: «To get more media attention it is very important that the superstars go beyond the limits of pure chess. It is understandable (they were missing) because chess is a mental sport, which requires a lot of concentration. Mental strength makes the difference, but I hope that over time we will be able to convince the best players to get more involved in these activities. The audience will be bigger. "The short answer is that we didn't want to bother players too much," she added.
Not only the chess players were missing. Neither did the Councilor for Sports of the Madrid City Council, Sofia Miranda, nor the president of the Spanish Federation (FEDA), Javier Ochoa, initially announced, attend the presentation. On behalf of the Community, at least the Deputy Minister of Sports, Alberto Tomé González, attended. Perhaps the occasion deserved a few words from the mayor or the president of Madrid.
Eight of the best grandmasters in the world participate in the Candidates Tournament, who will share a purse of half a million euros. Only the winner matters, who will earn the right to challenge the world champion, Magnus Carlsen. Participating in Madrid are Ian Nepomniachtchi, Teimour Radjabov, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Alireza Firouzja, Hikaru Nakamura, Richard Rapport and Ding Liren, in addition to the aforementioned Fabiano Caruana.
On the other hand, among the parallel activities, the holding of two major open tournaments in Madrid, organized by the Spanish and Madrid chess federations, with the collaboration of the Madrid City Council, stands out.
The first will take place on June 25, in La Nave de Terneras of the Casa del Reloj Cultural Center (Paseo Chopera, 10). It will have between 9 and 11 rounds, depending on the number of registered players, and lightning games will be played, lasting 3 minutes plus a two-second increment, between 8:00 p.m. and midnight. The prize pool is 5,500 euros.
The second will be held a day later, on June 26, divided into five groups: sub 8, sub 10, sub 12, sub 14 and sub 16. It will be a seven-round Swiss, with games of 8 minutes plus 3 seconds of increase per play. It will take place on the Paseo del Prado, between Calle de Prim and Plaza de Cibeles.