USCF MAY HAVE ZONAL OPTIONS
According to Willy Icklicki, Chairman of the World Championship Cycle Committee, USCF may have the option of continuing the current practice of using the US Championship as a qualifying event toward the FIDE world championship. Don Schultz had expressed fears (ChessNews.org, 1/27) that this procedure would end, and USCF would be presented with the problem of the cost of sending its top players to a Continental Qualifier instead.
According to Icklicki, USCF may have the choice of qualifying from the US Championship directly into the World Championship with five qualifiers, or qualifying through a Continental Championship which will have 19 qualifiers. In either case, the qualifiers would enter a 128-player knockout world title event.
If USCF chooses to go the Continental Championship route, this would pit US players against those from all other nations in North and South America. This would have the drawback of expense, especially if the location was distant, but there might be a countering advantage, that more than five US qualifiers could easily result.
At a time when USCF faces financial problems, it might, given the option, choose the safe route of retaining the US Championship as the qualifier, rather than paying to send a large number of Americans to a country like Argentina or Brazil in pursuit of additional qualifying slots.
On the current FIDE "top 100" list, four of the players (Seirawan, Gulko, Shabalov, Kaidanov) are from the USA, while only one (Milos of Brazil) is from another country in the Americas. And the US has many more players very close in strength to its top four. We don't know how many US entrants in the Continental Championship would be allowed, or whether there would be any limit on how many could qualify from one country, but it does seem quite possible that with enough entrants, the US could capture a majority of those 19 qualifying spots- a great opportunity for our players, but a major expense for USCF, especially since each qualifier will probably mean additional expense for the federation.