28 December 2011

Let's Hear It for C19

A month or two ago, after I added cycle numbers to the labels for this blog, I noticed that I had nothing for C19: 2000-01 (*). That's the cycle where Anand won his first World Championship by beating Shirov in the final at Tehran. The first six rounds were played at New Delhi in his native country.

The full record of Anand's victory is on my page 2000 FIDE Knockout Matches, and I have links to contemporary accounts from Hindu.com on another page, Reports from The Hindu. Although the domain for those reports changed between 2000 and 2011, it is remarkable that the originals are still available on the web. The following table shows that the year 2000 is the earliest where we have such reports.

2000:   679 results
2001: 1010
2002: 1300
2003: 1950
2004: 4400
2005: 3600 (San Luis, won by Topalov)
2006: 2830
2007: 5690 (Mexico City, won by Anand)
2008: 5740 (vs. Kramnik)
2009: 6020
2010: 5680 (vs. Topalov)
2011: 2050

(Source: About 40,200 results : site:hindu.com chess anand.)

I can't explain the big drop in 2011, but the numbers still work out to more than 5.6 reports per day. Is there any other country with so much interest in its top chess player?

(*) Re the 'C19: 2000-01' terminology, there is no good reason why it shouldn't be labeled 'C19: 2000'. Most of the zonals took place in 2000, and the last round of the final match was played before the end of that year. The zonals for the next cycle, C20: 2001-02, were played in 2001, and the first six rounds of the next FIDE knockout championship were played near the end of that year. The final, where Ponomariov beat Ivanchuk, was played in 2002.

21 December 2011

New Zonal Clippings for C23, C24, and C25

Getting back to Missing Zonal Clippings, I added TWIC clippings to the three most recent cycles, C23: 2006-2007, C24: 2008-2009, and C25: 2010-2011. Although I didn't make any changes to the index page World Chess Championship Zonals, I did add a few new links to Zonals : Links (and Other References).

14 December 2011

2011 FIDE Executive Board : Whither the World Championship?

FIDE Congresses are important annual events in the evolution of the World Championship, and the most recent was no exception. I've already reported on the meeting in 82nd FIDE Congress, so now I'll turn my attention to the Executive Board Minutes and Annexes, just as I did for the 2009 FIDE Executive Board and the 2010 FIDE General Assembly.

FIDE Congress, Krakow, Poland
Executive Board
20-21 October 2011

The minutes always kick off with the 'Report of the President'. After mentioning the most recent events in the Women's World Championship, FIDE President Ilyumzhinov turned to the unrestricted version.

In Kazan, on a very high organizational level the Candidates' matches have been organized. Together with the 1st President of Tatarstan, Mr. Mintimer Shaimiev, we participated in the opening and closing ceremonies. I would like to congratulate GM Boris Gelfand from Israel on his brilliant victory.

As you know that we had a tender for the venue for the World Championship match, which will take place next year. There have been two bids, from India and Russia. The Russian bid won, because of two advantage, because it is a neutral venue and the Russian Federation offered practically half a million USD more for the prize fund which means a bigger financial support for FIDE (20% is a sizeable number). I would like to thank the leadership of Tatarstan, and its President M. Shaimiev has been appointed as my Senior Adviser and he helps me a lot in the matters.

The World Cup took place this year in the new building of a Chess Academy. Now Nalchik is hosting another stage of [the Women's] Grand Prix, and the tournaments were organized in Shenzhen and Rostov. All is OK with Women's Grand Prix. But soon we will announce also men's series, after finalizing it. We found sponsors in New York, London, Cheliabinsk, Mashhad and we are looking for the last organizers.

After a short discussion of two lawsuits that have cost FIDE heavily, Ilyumzhinov turned to the 'Modernisation Commission'.

It goes without saying that we should stick to our traditions in the classical World Championship title cycle, traditions going back to 1886. But, at the same time, I cannot help noting that to date the old format is not TV attractive and is not either attractive for general public. [...]

It seems logical to introduce additional World Championships in rapid and blitz chess, with a further determination of absolute champion. Since 1st January 2012 there will be rapid and blitz official rating lists, we are also negotiating with possible sponsors of Grand Prix where top players will be participating.

FIDE will be facing a task of creating a clear and structurised qualification system for these new World Championships with eventual giving up any privileges to World Champions and rating favourites. In order to bring wider groups of middle echelon players, the main principle of new system should be the following motto –- Everyone can win.

During the rest of the meeting, other brief mentions of the World Championship were:

  • registration of the trademark 'FIDE World Chess Championship' with the World Intellectual Property Organization; and
  • contract for the 2013 World Cup, Tromso, Norway, to be signed at the 2012 Istanbul Congress.

A potential glitch with next year's title match...

World Championship match 2012 Anand - Gelfand, we have not signed the contract, the contract was sent to RCF [Russian Chess Federation] and the problem is with the Russians, they were silent for two months. There is a meeting on the 26 November, in Moscow, with the players and RCF. The Federation should sign the contract and they were supposed to send the money. We should press them. Kirsan will help as well. We hope the preparation will be OK. RCF said they received the money.

...was resolved satisfactorily on the date indicated: Contract on the World Chess Championship Match 2012. I've mentioned in the past that FIDE is surprisingly open about contractual difficulties. Here are a few more examples.

Women's World Championship 2012, Khanty-Mansiysk. Mr. Balgabaev has discussed the details of the contract, they are supposed to give the dates.

Women's Grand Prix: Mr. Makropoulos said there was a problem in Rostov with the finances, as no prize fund was received and so FIDE paid the prizes. • Mr. Borg said we are chasing the organiser, because the timing was short, the money was paid to the players, and they are not complaining. We are chasing the government of Rostov. If they do not send us money, we will go for a legal action. • For the cycle, we had an excellent event in Shenzhen and Nalchik, everything was paid in advance. The others are Jermuk, Kazan and Istanbul. All contracts were signed, the money should be sent.

Mr. Makropoulos said that we should avoid such situations when money is not sent. • Mr. Borg said the organisers should be chased by the FIDE office provided there is a contract. It applies to all FIDE events. • Mr. Makropoulos said that Grand Prix is a special event.

Mr Yazici said in the first cycle we made a mistake, and I hope we do not make it for the 2nd time. Closing will be in Istanbul and all organisers of the previous legs should be invited and receive some plaques and the winner of the Grand Prix should also be invited in advance.

On top of other subjects that I've written about in the past deserving a revisit -- CACDEC, the CNC Project, and the Ethics Commission (*) -- two new topics are worth special treatment. The first I've already mentioned in the context of Ilyumzhinov's report: two lawsuits stemming from last year's presidential election. There was a long discussion of the subject during the financial report. The second is a report by the 'Chess in Schools' commission.

In both the lawsuits and the chess-in-schools project, FIDE is butting heads with former World Champion Kasparov, a tenacious opponent. It sometimes seems that nothing in chess is ever accomplished without political bickering.

(*) March 2009: Chess in Africa - What Is CACDEC?, October 2011: No Nose for FIDE News, and May 2010: FIDE Ethics

07 December 2011

First Women's Title Match in 12 Years

After taking care of the 19th World Computer Championship, I added the final results for the 2011 Hou Yifan - Koneru Title Match to my history of the World Chess Championship for Women. I also added the event to the Index of Women Players. This is the first time a classical style match decided the women's title since the 1999 Xie Jun - Galliamova Title Match, an event that was beset by organizational difficulties.

30 November 2011

19th World Computer Championship

Today, just like a few months ago in Ladies First, I had the choice between two recent world championship events : a computer championship and a Women's championship. This time I let the women wait and added the 19th WCCC - 2011 Tilburg to my page on the World Championship : Computer Chess. The official site at Grappa.univ-lille3.fr (Groupe de Recherche en Apprentissage Automatique at Université Lille 3) hadn't been updated yet, so I relied on the DGT site (DigitalGameTechnology.com) at World Championship Computer Chess 2011 for the PGN game scores and crosstable. Thanks to DGT for the timely information.

Last year I declined (or perhaps neglected) to include the 18th World Computer Chess Championship (Software), which was held for the first time. What's the difference between the two events?

The World Computer Chess Championship (WCCC) for the Shannon Trophy will be contested by teams who have no restriction placed on them as to their choice of hardware.

The World Chess Software Championship (WCSC) tournament will be held at the same location, after the WCCC. This will be a uniform platform event using computers loaned by the host organisation. In each game played in this tournament the two computers will be, so far as is possible, identical with respect to their hardware capabilities: number of cores, processor speed, memory size.

This year's WCCC was the first since The Rybka Affair hit top-level computer chess like a sledge hammer. Was the shunning of Rybka a wise move or a witch hunt? The debate continues on forums wherever computer chess is dicussed; see, for example, World Computer Chess Championship (2011) on Chessgames.com.

23 November 2011

Missing Zonal Clippings

After adding the clippings for the current cycle -- see Zonals for the Current Cycle (C25) and TWIC Clippings for the Current Cycle (C25) -- to my pages on the zonals, the next step is to identify which events have no clipping. For each cycle, the table on the left shows how many events have no related clippings.

It should be relatively easy to find crosstables for many of the events in recent cycles. The high number of missing clippings for C18 & C19 is most likely due to events listed on my index page, World Chess Championship Zonals, as zonals, when in fact they aren't. I'll work through the table as time permits.

16 November 2011

Kramnik on Kramnik

In the first decade of the new millenium, three world class chess players -- Kasparov, Kramnik, and Anand -- in that order, ruled the roost. Kasparov was the dominant split-title World Champion going into the decade, Kramnik was his hand-picked heir apparent, and Anand flew FIDE's flag at the beginning of the decade gaining the unified title near the end.

Over the past few months, we've been treated to a steady stream of Kramnik interviews, most of them posted on the relatively new site Whychess.org. In No Nose for Navigation on my main blog, I criticized the site for technical reasons, but there's no question that content is its strong point.

After the 2011 Candidates Event, we listened to the top players sound off in Interviews Past and Present, where Kramnik was eliminated in the semifinal round. A little later he won the annual Dortmund tournament, and has been holding forth ever since. Here he talks mainly about Dortmund and a little about Kazan (links to Whychess.org unless otherwise noted).

He was less successful in the Russian Championship Superfinal, finishing in a tie for 3rd-5th.

Then, in the longest interview I can remember him giving, he touched on many subjects, including three important title matches: 2000 vs. Kasparov, 2006 vs. Topalov (unification), and 2008 vs. Anand. His comments on the Topalov match brought responses from both Azmaiparashvili and Makropoulos, central figures in FIDE's bungled handling of the cheating accusations.

Later he had much more to say on the 2000 Kasparov match.

He then won the Univé tournament in Hoogeveen, and came back to the subject of the current World Championship cycle.

That's a good show for a man who has often been indifferent in his attitude toward the chess public. It's clear from the comments to many of those intervews that he remains enormously popular with chess fans.

09 November 2011

ICCF World Championships (2011 Status)

Once again, here's my annual look at what's happening at the top of correspondence chess. The current status is shown in the following table, which is based on last year's post, ICCF World Championships (2010 Status) As before, the asterisk ('*') means the winner is known and the PGN game scores are available.

20 * (PGN?) 2004-11 Lehikoinen, Pertti (FIN)
21 * 2005-08 Oosterom, Joop J. van (NED)
22 * 2007-10 Dronov, Aleksandr (RUS)
23   2007- Started 2007-12-31
24   2009- Started 2009-06-10
25   2009- Started 2009-12-10
26   2010- Started 2010-06-10
27   2011- Started 2011-06-10

What's changed? The 20th championship has finished (see 20th World Champion on ICCF.com for an announcement) and the 27th has started. That makes three crosstables to be added to my page World Chess Championship : Correspondence Chess. In other news, the ICCF forum closed near the end of last year -- Forum, 'As decided at the 2010 ICCF Congress the ICCF Forums are now closed' -- but lives on at Archive.org : iccf.com/forum/*.

02 November 2011

More Feedback on Zonals

Returning to A Feedback Loop for Zonals, ebutaljib responded with a number of additional points which I've added to the appropriate zonal clippings (all marked '[Ref. BI220357]').

In Svidler, Grischuk and Ivanchuk qualified for... what exactly? [Chessvibes.com], where he copied my post on FIDE's Got a Secret, ebutaljib stirred the pot some more and revealed that FIDE had indeed changed its mind on the format of next year's Candidates event (see also RIP Candidates Matches? on Whychess.org). It appears from the comments on Chessvibes that the events behind the unification process in 2002-2006 have faded into the haze of history. Is there a good summary somewhere on the Web?

26 October 2011

2011-2012 Women's Grand Prix, Nalchik

I added the Nalchik event to my page on the 2011-2012 FIDE Women's Grand Prix. After Rostov in August, and Shenzhen in September, this was the third Women's Grand Prix tournament in as many months. The last three events are scheduled for Kazan, Russia, in May 2012; Jermuk, Armenia, in June; and Istanbul, Turkey, in November.

The Nalchik event was marked by the runaway win of Zhao Xue (+9-1=1) and the collapse of former Women's World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk, who finished last (+3-7=1), only a half-point ahead of her last place finish in the Rostov Grand Prix event. What went wrong for the self-styled Chess Queen™? Her blog makes no excuses -- Congratulations to Zhao Xue for winning the third Women's Chess Grand Prix in Nalchik -- and features an interview with the winner.

19 October 2011

Of Names and Pirates

A comment to my recent post, 2011 World Cup Players, alerted me to a couple of errors on my Index of players for all World Championship events (after the zonal stage). One error I already knew about (the dates are the years of a WCC event),
Alexander Nenashev (1997) and Alexander Graf (2001, 2004) are the same person.

but hadn't yet made the correction. The info is confirmed on Wikipedia, Alexander Graf:-

born Alexander Nenashev, 25 August 1962 in Tashkent, Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, USSR, is an Uzbekistani-German chess grandmaster. In 2000 he moved to Germany and took his father's name.

The other error was new to me.

Mohamed Esam Ahmed Nagib (FIDE WCh 1999) and Essam El Gindy (2004, 2007, 2009) are the same person.

This was confirmed on a page from the Polish version of Wikipedia, Essam El Gindy, translated by Google:

Essam El Gindy (born 14 July 1966 in Cairo) - Egyptian chess player, grandmaster since 2008, the end of 2000 known as Esam Mohamed Ahmed Nagib.

In both cases, it would be interesting to confirm that the FIDE ID handled the change correctly (see Structure of the FIDE ID for background). While I was working on these changes I was reminded that another sharp-eyed visitor had spotted an error on my index of World Chess Championship : Zonals page. For cycle 16, zone 4.2, I had noted that I was missing info on how the player Adly of Egypt had qualified for the next step in the cycle, the 1993 Biel Interzonal Tournament. This did not jive with Glenn Giffen's page, Zonals in the Americas and Africa, which listed Esam Aly Ahmed of Egypt as one of the qualifiers from Africa.

My first problem was that the 1993 Biel page had no mention of Adly, Esam Aly Ahmed, or any other player from Egypt. I located a printed crosstable from 1993 and discovered that Essam Ali A. of Egypt was qualified to participate, but forfeited the first round and was dropped from the tournament. My corresponding PGN file for 1993 Biel (last touched in August 1997, the month before I first released the WCC site!) confirmed this. I corrected both the 1993 Biel page and the index of zonals.

That first problem alerted me to a second problem, where the Arabic name had four valid transliterations -- Esam/Essam Aly/Ali -- all found using Google, although 'Esam Aly' is by far the most common variant. A browse through the various pages did not resolve the original question, how he qualified into the 1993 Interzonal. I did, however, discover that he was no longer with us. From The Sunday chess column (telegraph.co.uk) for 16 November 2003 by Nigel Short:-

After returning home to Egypt from last month’s African Games in Abuja, Nigeria, Esam Aly Ahmed, a 38-year-old International Master ranked sixth in his country, dropped dead from cerebral malaria. The 60-year-old head of delegation did likewise the following day. The disease, which requires urgent treatment, had not been detected in time.

These various researches left me little time to tackle any other item on my long TODO list, so I spent the available time delving further into the Complete History of the World Championship. An unfortunate side effect of these researches is to unearth elsewhere on the web many unattributed copies of the original material.

For example, a search on "there have been many matches between the leading players" returns not only the original page History of World Championship matches (forums.ubi.com, 11 July 2008), but also a bootlegged page World Chess Championship 1886 Pre-Fide (pakchess.org, 4 September 2009). I'm sure the forums.ubi.com page is the original, because I've also been copied by the pakchess.org site. For example, the page The History of Chess | PAKCHESS has links to copies of many articles from my own page on Chess History. Authorized? Of course not. Attributed? You must be kidding!

12 October 2011

Complete History of the World Championship

Help! I'm being bombarded with fantastic information about the World Championship and I don't know how to assimilate all of it. In addition to clarifications on the zonals from the ubiquitous ebutaljib, last mentioned in A Feedback Loop for Zonals, I've been getting frequent messages from German correspondent H-W.Ohl, whose work I introduced in Qualifiers and More Qualifiers.

Herr Ohl sent me a 527 page PDF reference document that chronicles the history of the World Championship from the early 19th century to the present (2011 World Cup). The document was compiled using copy & paste -- the word 'scrapbook' describes it best -- from knowledgeable sources that cover all aspects of the World Championship. For example, here are web sources I identified from the first 25% of the document, listed with the PDF page where the source is quoted.

I even spotted a few pages copied from (gasp!) me, including that rare show of thanks : attribution. Filling up the other pages are crosstables and scanned clippings from offline resources that enhance the referenced material. For reasons of copyright, the Ohl document can't be distributed publicly, but it makes a good personal reference and I am lucky to have received a copy.

Making the document even more valuable is a second, three page PDF cross-referencing Ohl's list in my 'More Qualifiers' post with the longer document. For example, the blog post item '1907: Ostende Tournament (World Tournament Championship & Qualifier)' is supported by the Wikipedia page on the Ostend 1907 chess tournament, along with a German language clipping from an unidentified (probably contemporary) source.

I have several books covering different aspects of the history of the World Championship, but I don't have any single reference that is so comprehensive. It is truly a unique document. Thank you, Herr Ohl!

***

Later: More of the same investigation.

05 October 2011

2011 World Cup Players

Continuing with my previous post on 2011 World Cup Results, I added the missing explanatory material to my page on the 2011 World Cup. I also added the names of all 128 players, including the two no-shows, to my Index of Players: A-G, H-M, N-S, & T-Z. According to my calculations, there were 41 players who had never played in a World Cup before.

28 September 2011

2011 World Cup Results

After updating the latest event in the FIDE Women's Grand Prix (see Ladies First), I added the results and PGN to my page on the 2011 World Cup, Khanty-Mansiysk. A comparison with my page on the 2009 World Cup revealed that I'm missing a few notes on the 2011 event : (1) which rd.1 matches were decided by forfeit, and (2) the rules of the competition explaining the time controls, etc. I also noticed that I had no links to FIDE news leading up to the 2011 event. I'll check those points at the same time I update my Index of Players to add the participants in the latest World Cup.

Winner Svidler's previous best result in a FIDE knockout competition was a loss to Ponomariov in the semifinal round (rd.6) of the 2001-02 FIDE Knockout Matches. I imagine his win over Ponomariov in the semifinal round of the 2011 version was doubly satisfying.

21 September 2011

Ladies First

This week I had the choice between updating my page on the 2011-2012 FIDE Women's Grand Prix, where the Shenzhen event finished two days ago, and the 2011 World Cup, which finished on the same day. I chose to do the Grand Prix, won by Hou Yifan, who also won the first event in Rostov last month. The third event is scheduled for Nalchik in October, then we have the last three events spaced more evenly in 2012.

The official site for the latest Grand Prix event, shenzhen2011.fide.com, calls it the 'Snow Beer Cup - SZSZD FIDE Women Grand Prix Shenzhen 2011' on info pages like the 'Pairings & Results'. I've never had Snow Beer before. I wonder if I'm missing much.

I'll tackle the 2011 World Cup next time I do an update. Won by Peter Svidler, it was a very entertaining event to watch.

14 September 2011

A Feedback Loop for Zonals

The mysterious ebutaljib, last seen on this blog in my post on 'Chess Results' by Gino Di Felice, has been busy working on World Championship qualification paths, tracking players as they move through a championship cycle from zonals to interzonals and (for a lucky few) beyond. This exercise, which I last addressed in a post titled Qualification Paths, is an invaluable exercise -- a feedback loop -- for checking that the list of zonals for a particular cycle is complete and correct.

He flagged a number of errors and omissions to me, which I incorporated into my page on World Championship Zonals. Once again, thanks, ebutaljib! You can find examples of his own outstanding work starting at 00001 - 1886 - Windows Live, where he has documented the history of the World Championship in picture format.

***

Later: Along with corrections to the index of zonals, ebutaljib queried a number of clippings. I've documented his queries on the corresponding pages, all marked 'EK: ... [Ref. BI072028]' with a link back to this blog post.

In the pre-Internet days, the accurate transmission of tournament info was relatively error prone.

07 September 2011

TWIC Clippings for the Current Cycle (C25)

Continuing the project I started with Zonals for the Current Cycle (C25) and Clippings for C19, C20, & C25, I added TWIC clippings to Zonals 2010-2011 (C25). While working on this, I noticed that starting with Cycle 1998-1999 (C18), I was missing all TWIC clippings for zone 2.1 (USA), plus some TWIC clippings for the continental championships (1.0 Europe, 2.0 The Americas, 3.0 Asia, & 4.0 Africa). My next task for the zonals will be to fill this gap.

31 August 2011

Clippings for C19, C20, & C25

As mentioned in Zonals for the Current Cycle (C25), I located the TWIC clippings for C25, but didn't have time to add them to the clippings page for that cycle. Instead of that, I made some small, general corrections to the index of all World Chess Championship Zonals, and to the related pages for the individual cycles. Then I added a few odds and ends to the pages for Zonals 2000-2001 (C19) and Zonals 2001-2002 (C20).

24 August 2011

Zonals for the Current Cycle (C25)

The 2011 World Cup starts in a few days, meaning that the qualifying zonals for the current cycle (C25; the 25th since FIDE took control of the World Championship in 1946) are now history. I updated my page on Zonals : Links (and Other References) to point to relevant rating reports on FIDE's ratings.fide.com subdomain. Then I added the 19 events for the current cycle to my index of World Championship Zonals and created a new page, Zonals 2010-11, to keep clippings related to the cycle. That last page is little more than a stub, but I'll add to it as I find the time.

17 August 2011

2011-2012 Women's Grand Prix, Rostov

I added the crosstable for the just-finished Rostov event to my page on the 2011-2012 FIDE Women's Grand Prix. The next two events are scheduled for September and October.

***

Later: In other news unrelated to women's events, the 2011 World Cup starts next week. I haven't updated the page since creating it, so I added the official site chess.ugrasport.com and the official logo.

10 August 2011

Two Upcoming Title Matches

Which is worse - no press release or a bungled press release? We saw the first scenario, regarding the 2012 Candidates Event (or will it be in 2013?), in FIDE's Got a Secret, and the second scenario, regarding two upcoming title matches, in the recent announcement World Championships Matches - Press Release [Fide.com]. According to TWIC, in Moscow's winning World Championship bid,
A premature FIDE press release that appeared on Monday was not signed by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and there are claims that the final decision wasn't made until Tuesday. It does seem that the final specific venue is a source of dispute. Ilyumzhinov insists upon Skolkovo a small Moscow Science Park whilst the major sponsor Andrey Filatov and the Russian Chess Federation say that it should be the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.

I updated my page, 2012 Anand - Gelfand Title Match, to document the new information on that match, and added a new page for the 2011 Hou Yifan - Koneru Title Match. FIDE's ongoing incompetence in its relations with the press reminds me of those old slapstick movies where one of the characters gets his foot stuck in a bucket and then stumbles around trying to get it off. The difference with FIDE is that it happens again and again and again.

03 August 2011

2011-2012 Women's Grand Prix

I added a new page for the 2011-2012 FIDE Women's Grand Prix to my index on the World Chess Championship for Women. The first of the six events started this week; for more information, see the official site rostov2011.fide.com.

In contrast to the unrestricted championship, discussed in my previous post FIDE's Got a Secret, FIDE has found a stable, workable format for the women's cycle. From the Regulations for the 2011-2012 Women's FIDE Grand Prix:-

The winner of the Grand Prix series at the end of 2012 will play the Women World Champion in the third quarter of 2013 in a ten game match for the Women’s World Championship title. Should the overall winner of the Grand Prix also be the World Champion at the end of the Grand Prix series in 2012, then the Challenger rights will go to the second placed overall in the Grand Prix.

As I understand it, the reigning Women's World Champion 'in the third quarter of 2013', will be the winner of a knockout event to be held in 2012. This event is currently listed on the FIDE calendar as 'Women's World Championship 2012, Khanty Mansiysk, Russia' without any dates.

27 July 2011

FIDE's Got a Secret

Q: How do you pack a four stage qualifying cycle into three years? • A: You hold one stage per year and let the first stage of a new cycle overlap the last stage of the previous cycle. This is how the World Championship was organized from 1950 until 1990, when the title match for cycle X was held in the same year as the zonals for cycle X+1. This worked for 14 cycles.

Q: How do you pack a four stage qualifying cycle into two years? • A: No one seems to know. • FIDE's solution: You schedule the second stage of the cycle, aka the 'World Cup', every two years, preferably at Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. This fixes the schedule for the first stage -- the zonals and continental championships -- during the months before the World Cup. As for the third and fourth stages, you issue regulations and bidding procedures whenever you think the time is right and hope that someone is paying attention (or maybe you hope that no one is paying attention, thereby sparing you any criticism).

According to Google, the Rules & Regulations for the Candidates Matches of the FIDE World Championship cycle 2011-2013 were published on 16 May 2011. They were unaccompanied by any of the usual marketing nonsense like a press release or a news item on Fide.com. Why let your light shine when you can hide it under a bushel basket?

Why all the hush-hush? One reason might be that we are once again faced with that situation peculiar to today's FIDE that I call Two Overlapping World Championship Cycles. This guarantees that no one can follow the events except FIDE insiders, of whom there are few; it helps them feel important. Another reason might be that we are faced with the exact same format that bored everyone and was roundly criticized in the recent 2011 Candidates Event at Kazan, Russia. Yet another reason might be that FIDE can make changes to the 'Rules & Regulations' whenever they fancy, then claim, 'But it wasn't official!' Still another reason might be the chronic incompetence that plagues FIDE leadership.

I suspect it's all of the above and then some. Come on, FIDE, you've had six years since Kasparov handed you exclusive ownership of the World Championship. It's time you start acting like professionals. Do you really want to be the world's largest *amateur* sports organization?

20 July 2011

Qualifiers and More Qualifiers

Every once in a while I receive an email that reminds me how little I really know about the World Chess Championship. No, it's not the sort of email that points to an error on one of my pages. From time to time I do get these, but they are just as likely to be an error by my correspondent as an error by me. They are instead the sort of email that dumps a ton of information on me and leaves me wondering what to do next.

Lately I've been getting messages from Heinz-Willi Ohl of Germany, a chess history aficionado with a special interest in the World Championship. The messages have been mainly about the zonals and I hope to incorporate them into my pages during the next few months, but the latest message from Herr Ohl was about the post Getting Serious About Qualifiers; (translating from the German:) 'In my opinion you should add to the WCC Index (World Chess Championship etc.) accordingly.'

'Suggestions:
1887: Steinitz - Paulsen (unplayed match)
1887: Steinitz - Mackenzie (unplayed match) incl. Frankfurt Tournament
1889: New York Tournament
1890: Chigorin - Gunsberg und 1893 Chigorin - Tarrasch s. a. [A]
1899: Lasker - Janowsky (unplayed match)
1900: Gründung Internationale Schachmeistervereinigung incl. Munich Tournament ['foundation of international chessmaster federation']
1903: Lasker - Marshall (unplayed match)
1903: Lasker - Tarrasch (unplayed match)
1905: Marshall - Janowsky (challenger confirmation)
1905: Tarrasch - Marshall (challenger confirmation)
1906: International Chess Federation (Gründungsversuch [B]) incl. Ostende Tournament
1906: Lasker - Maroczy (unplayed match)
1907: Ostende Tournament (World Tournament Championship & Qualifier)
1908: Janowsky - Marshall (challenger confirmation)
1909: Capablanca - Marshall (challenger confirmation)
1911: Lasker - Capablanca (unplayed match)
1912: Lasker - Rubinstein (unplayed match)
1914: International Chess Federation (Gründungsversuch [B]) incl. St. Petersburg Tournament, St. Petersburg rules & Mannheim Tournament
1919: Capablanca - Kostic (challenger confirmation)
1920: Rubinstein - Bogoljubow (challenger confirmation)
1920/21: International Chess Federation (Gründungsversuch) incl. Göteburg Tournament
1921: Capablanca - Rubinstein (unplayed match)
1921: Capablanca - Alekhine (unplayed match)
1922: London Rules incl. London Tournament
1922: Alekhine - Rubinstein (unplayed candidates match)
1924: FIDE-Gründung incl. Paris Tournament
1926: FIDE Masters Budapest
1927: New York Tournament
1928/29: Bogoljubow - Euwe Matches (FIDE-Championship & Candidates)
1928: Amateur World Championship Den Haag
1931: Alekhine - Capablanca (unplayed match)
1931: Capablanca - Euwe (challenger confirmation)
1932: Euwe - Flohr (challenger confirmation)
1936/37: World Championship Disorder (lt. Edward Winter [C])
1938: Alekhine - Flohr (unplayed match)
1938: AVRO Tournament
1939/40: Keres - Euwe (challenger confirmation)
1941: URS Absolute Ch (challenger confirmation)
1945: Pan American Ch & Radio match USR-USA
1946: Alekhine - Botvinnik (unplayed match)
1946/47: Interregnum
1946: Groningen & Prag Tournaments (Qualifier)
1946: USR-USA Match & USA Ch
1976: Karpov - Fischer (unplayed unofficial match)
1995/96: FIDE-PCA WCC Reunification
1998: Linares (WCC Qualifier)
2006: Topalov - Radjabov (unplayed FIDE match)

'Additionally you can add tournaments with the status of a challenger confirmation, for example Monte Carlo in 1904, Ostend 1905 (Maroczy), Cambridge Springs 1904 (Marshall), Ostende 1906 (Schlechter), etc.'

Notes:
[A] Most Dominant Player to not be World Champion
[B] Google: 'establishment attempt'; i.e. to create a formal organization governing, among other matters, the World Championship
[C] World Championship Disorder by Edward Winter

That's a lot of new material. Where to start? By posting it here and hopefully interesting other amateur chess historians who would like to research these topics.

***

Chessbase.com recently posted an article relevant to note [B]: Chess Explorations (66) by Edward Winter; 'chronological overview of various pre-FIDE attempts to create an international governing body for chess'.

13 July 2011

Interviews Past and Present

The completion of a major milestone in a World Championship cycle always brings a spate of interviews with the players involved and the recent Kazan Candidate matches continued the tradition. Chessbase.com ran a three part interview by Shay Bushinsky (developer of a former World Computer Champion) with GM Gelfand, Anand's future challenger.

Here are some excerpts.

Q: You are in the cycle for a long time now. Did you actually believe you would reach this stage challenging the World Champion? • A: Yes, and I reached it! I had chances in the early nineties, when Kasparov thought that I was the favourite. But I didn’t succeed then. [Gelfand lost to Short in the quarter finals of 1993, and to Karpov in the semi-finals of 1996]. Then, for ten years, there was no proper cycle. When it reappeared I had two excellent results: I qualified for the World Championship in Mexico, and there I tied for second place. And now I reached the final. So I think I showed that in this system very few people can compete with these results. I must emphasize that unfortunately a lot of excellent players never reached this stage. Players like Keres, Geller, Polugaevsky and Larsen never made it. So I consider myself really fortunate to have managed to get this far. I see it as a privilege and I will do my best to seize the opportunity.

Q: How do you explain your recent success, especially at these elite knockout tournaments? • A: Throughout my career I was in all possible situations – must win with black, must draw with black etc. You know that I’m pretty experienced, having participated in previous candidate cycles. It was probably in the early nineties when I managed somehow to store somewhere all these experiences, and apparently I can retrieve them now, when similar moments occur. It is all unconsciously stored in my brain.

Q: Let’s talk about your age – do you feel its effect on your game? • A: No. The only thing I feel is that it takes me a little longer to recuperate between games, and perhaps it is a bit more difficult for me to achieve consistency, compared to past years. However, by no means do I feel any decline in my tactical ability. When I play I am in full concentration, a condition I attribute to the healthy life style I lead.

Q: How do you assess your chances against Anand? • A: Vishy and I played a lot in the 90’s. I must say that in the first half I had a big advantage, while in the second half he prevailed. If my memory doesn’t fail me it is +1 for him out of the 34 classical games we played, which is by no means a big advantage. During the last decade we played no more than six or seven games, so to be able to play twelve games in one month against such a player will be very interesting… I think that my chances are decent. This opponent is of course extraordinarily strong, but I showed that I can play matches well against the strongest opponents.

Plus much more. An interview with GM Ponomariov, FIDE World Champion in the time period 2002-2004, was posted a few months ago on ChessInTranslation.com and crossposted on Chessvibes.com. I give links to both because Chessvibes generally receives more comments from chess fans.

  • GM Ruslan Ponomariov answers your questions: Part I • ChessInTranslation.com: Part 1, Part 2 • Chessvibes.com: Part 1, Part 2

The interview is excerpts from more extensive material at Crestbook.com, KC-Conference with Ruslan Ponomariov: Part 1. On this last link, the most interesting section to me was '5. The Kasparov Match', with details on the aborted 2003 pre-unification match.

Q: Why didn’t the match come off? • A: I’m not entirely clear myself what the real reasons were for Ilyumzhinov suddenly announcing the cancellation of the match in Yalta. Did he consult Kasparov and the match organisers before taking that decision, or didn’t he? I don’t know.

Plus much, much more.

06 July 2011

The Rybka Affair

Extraordinary events require extraordinary actions. While I normally wouldn't comment on the story reported by TWIC as Rybka banned by International Games Federation, the ICGA action impacts a page I maintain on the World Chess Championship : Computer Chess. The least I could do was to add the statement by ICGA President David Levy to that page, announcing that 'Vasik Rajlich is hereby disqualified from the World Computer Chess Championships (WCCC) of 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010'. Rajlich is the developer of Rybka, the winner of the championships from 2007 through 2010.

Rajlich's first sin was to ignore the ICGA rule that

Each program must be the original work of the entering developers. Programming teams whose code is derived from or including game-playing code written by others must name all other authors, or the source of such code, in their submission details. Programs which are discovered to be close derivatives of others (e.g., by playing nearly all moves the same), may be declared invalid by the Tournament Director after seeking expert advice.
The phrase 'close derivative' requires a subjective evaluation. The most blatant violation of the rule would be to take an existing engine, do nothing more than change its name, and enter it in competition. It's common sense that Rybka wouldn't have won four consecutive world titles 'by playing nearly all moves the same' as its competitors.

Rajlich's second sin was to ignore the ICGA investigation.

The ICGA regards Vasik Rajlich’s violation of the abovementioned rule as the most serious offence that a chess programmer and ICGA member can commit with respect to his peers and to the ICGA. During the course of the investigation and upon presentation of the Secretariat’s report Vasik Rajlich did not offer, despite repeated invitations from the ICGA to do so, any kind of defence to the allegations, or to the evidence, or to the Secretariat’s report [...]

For these two sins, the ICGA punished Rajlich in every way available to it -- stripped of his titles, 'banned for life from competing in the World Computer Chess Championship or any other event organized by or sanctioned by the ICGA', and asked to return all trophies and prize money -- punishments which, in my opinion, far exceed the gravity of the offense. Add to this the damage to Rajlich's reputation and commercial activities, and it is conceivable that the affair will evolve into a civil lawsuit.

I wonder if Levy and the ICGA realize how much their action has diminished the value and reputation of their WCCC. Knowing that the results can be changed at any time in the future, who can take these events seriously? It is entirely possible that one of the newly promoted winners in the years 2007-2010 will one day be judged to have committed the same offense as Rajlich; then the former no.3 placeholder in the tournament will become the 'winner'. I can even imagine that all participants in an event will eventually be disqualified, as though the event had never taken place. As things were, WCCC events got little attention from the chess world. Now they will get even less. Well done, ICGA, (not).

29 June 2011

'Prevented from Taking Part for Political Reasons'

I started to tackle the new material mentioned in Qualification Paths, and quickly ran into a frequent problem that occurs with data maintenance: The more old material you have, the more work it takes to incorporate new material. The reason is that everything has to be cross checked for consistency. The only thing I was able to finish in the time available was to add new clippings to two zonal pages -- C02 (1951-54) and C05 (1960-63). One clipping on the 1961 Marianske Lazne event mentioned,
The [FIDE] Congress unanimously decided to state as a general principle that a tournament in which one or more players for political reasons are prevented from taking part cannot be recognized as a FIDE tournament. Prior to the Berg en Dal tournament such an event had never occurred in the history of FIDE. (FIDE Review 1961)

The Berg en Dal tournament was played in the fifth FIDE World Championship cycle (C05). To put this in perspective, the current cycle, culminating next year in the Anand - Gelfand title match, is C24, and the next World Cup, 2011 Khanty-Mansiysk, is C25. The situation where 'one or more players for political reasons are prevented from taking part' has been a recurring problem in recent years, where the 2004 FIDE Knockout Matches in Tripoli, Libya, provided numerous examples. I recently wrote about this in The Worst World Championship Ever. Maybe it's due to the passage of time, but the early FIDE officers seem to have been wiser than the bumbling bozos currently in charge.

Incidentally, the 'Berg en Dal tournament' would be better called the 'Ubbergen tournament'. As mentioned in another clipping, Berg en Dal was a hotel in the town of Ubbergen, Netherlands.

08 June 2011

Insiders' Guide to the 2011 FIDE Candidate Matches

Pre-match

R1 G1, 5 May 2011

R1 G2, 6 May

R1 G3, 7 May

R1 G4, 8 May

R1 TB, 9 May

Intermission

R2 G1, 12 May

R2 G2, 13 May

R2 G3, 14 May

R2 G4, 15 May

R2 TB, 16 May

Intermission

R3 G1, 19 May

R3 G2, 20 May

R3 G3, 21 May

R3 G4, 23 May

R3 G5, 24 May

R3 G6, 25 May

Post-match

01 June 2011

2011 Kazan Candidate Matches

I updated my page on the 2011 Candidates Event to include the results and the PGN game scores. I also added links for the eight competitors to my Index of Players. It's a great result for GM Gelfand, who earned a shot at World Champion Anand in 2012. According to Chessgames.com's Overall Record, the two players first met in 1989 and since then 'Viswanathan Anand beat Boris Gelfand 16 to 6, with 43 draws'. It promises to be a great match.

25 May 2011

News from the Catwalk

While most of the other top GMs have been slugging it out (so to speak) at the Shazam Candidates, vying for a crack at World Champion Anand, what has Anand's heir apparent, Magnus 'Catwalk' Carlsen, been up to?


Photographs by Anton Corbijn

He's been plastered all over London!

Movie making may have filled Corbijn with a renewed sense of adventure, but photography remains his primary medium. His portraits of actress Gemma Arterton and chess champion Magnus Carlsen are plastered across the London underground in a new advertising campaign for fashion brand G-Star RAW and his latest musical collaboration is with Canadian band Arcade Fire, who he shot for a sixth time last November.

From Shadowplay: An interview with Anton Corbijn.

18 May 2011

Qualification Paths

My request for further info in Zonal '?'s brought a number of helpful responses, some of them very detailed, which I'll tackle in a future post. One of the common threads across the responses was a summary of the qualification paths by players who qualified into the next stage, i.e. who qualified by what event into the interzonal (or knockout tournament). The best known overview of qualification paths is found on Glenn Giffen's zonal pages:-

I've collected a number of references related to this topic and will add them as I can. I started with the following cycles -- C01 (1946-51), C03 (1954-57), C04 (1957-60), C06 (1963-66), and C08 (1969-72). More to come...

11 May 2011

Meet Cathy Forbes

I picked up a used copy of 'Meet the Masters' by Cathy Forbes (Tournament Chess, 1994) and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was largely about the World Championship in the early 1990s. Mixed in with other luminaries, it has interviews with Keene, Fischer, Kasparov, Short, and Timman, plus Xie Jun; only Karpov is missing. I had already read Forbes' works on the Polgar sisters (Batsford, 1992) and Nigel Short (Cadogan, 1993), and knew that she was a keen observer of top level chess. For more about the author, see Cathy Warwick (née Forbes; Wikipedia); for a sample of her work, see Bobby Fischer, the Holy Grail - A Balkan Odyssey.

04 May 2011

Zonals, Current Cycles, and GM Kamsky

A few weeks ago I linked my index of World Championship Zonals to my pages on the various interzonals (see 'Chess Results' by Gino Di Felice), so it seemed appropriate to make the round trip. I linked the main index page for the World Chess Championship, plus the page on FIDE Events 1948-1990, to the clipping pages for the various zonal cycles.

While I was at it, I added a few doodads to my page on the 2011 Candidates Event, which gets underway this week. I also added a new page for the forthcoming 2011 World Cup. FIDE has said so little about this event that I suppose they are still hammering out the details of the new cycle.

***

The May 2011 Chess Life (CL), has an interview titled 'Kamsky on the Record' (p.30), where the USA's second ranked GM mentioned something that didn't seem right to me. Here is an excerpt of the passage, with my apologies for treating it like an image. The editor of CL recently eliminated the HTML version of the magazine and I haven't figured out how to do a text copy/paste.


The sentence that caught my attention was Kamsky saying, 'I was supposed to play the World Champion for the title', where he was talking about his December victory in the 2007 World Cup. According to my page on the 2008-09 Matches, FIDE had already announced in July 2007 that the winner of the World Cup would only get a World Championship match if Kramnik won the double round robin title event at 2007 Mexico City. Anand won that event in October 2007, well before Kamsky won the World Cup. There was never any question of Kamsky playing a title match without first winning an intermediate match.

27 April 2011

Zonal '?'s

I spent some time going through my page on the World Chess Championship Zonals, looking for events marked with a '?', and trying to resolve the uncertainty. By doing this, I was able to eliminate about half of the '?'s on the page. The remaining question marks are genuine mysteries where I'm missing a piece of critical info. For example, in the second cycle (1951-54), I don't know how R.Wade qualified for the 1952 Saltsjobaden (Stockholm) Interzonal. If you have information on any of the events marked '?', please send me an email using the 'Contact' address behind my profile.

20 April 2011

'Chess Results' by Gino Di Felice

The same ebutaljib who helped sort out the qualifying events for Zonal Cycle 2008-2009 informed me about two books with crosstables for the early zonals: 'Chess Results' by Gino Di Felice, 1951-1955 and 1956-1960. I added these to the Clippings pages for cycles two (1951-54) through five (1960-63) linked at the end of my index page on World Championship Zonals.

While I was making the update, I added links from that index page to my individual pages on the Interzonals and to other events that depended on the results of the zonals. Thanks again, ebutaljib!

***

Later: In the same correspondence, ebutaljib commented on clippings for cycle five, Zonals 1960-63. I added the comments to relevant portions of that page: [Ref. BD191630].

06 April 2011

Forthcoming Zonals++ in 2011

In London, Siberia, Turkey, Siberia I noted a spate of upcoming continental championships and zonals, events qualifying players into the next World Cup, which is scheduled for August in Khanty-Mansiysk. To keep track of progress on these, I added a new column, KO Khanty-Mansiysk (Cycle 25), to my page on Zonals : Links (and Other References). It's worth noting that, in addition to the African Championships in June, there are zonals foreseen for all three African zones.

30 March 2011

Zonals & Bad Championships

Using two recent summaries as a guide -- The U.S. Championship as FIDE Qualifier and Zonals : Links (and Other References) -- I updated my index of World Chess Championship Zonals. The last five cycles are now more accurate than they are misleading, largely due to the Zonals : Links records taken from ratings.fide.com, a wonderful resource for chess history that I only discovered while working on the zonals project. If you've never used it before, try entering a name, e.g. Seattle, in the box titled 'Archive Tournaments Database'.

***

Working on cycle 21 -- that's the one that culminated in the 2004 Tripoli KO -- prompted me to write The Worst World Championship Ever on my main blog. After I posted it, I started thinking that maybe it wasn't really the 'Worst World Championship Ever'. The aborted 1975 Fischer - Karpov match and the terminated 1984 Karpov - Kasparov match are two other strong choices, not to mention the nearly-abandoned 1993 Karpov - Timman match. I just realized that all three of those matches featured the same player. Now that's a coincidence!

23 March 2011

The U.S. Championship as FIDE Qualifier

I took another stab at FIDE Rating Reports for Zone 2.x, concentrating on how USA players qualified into the various FIDE events. My goal was to determine which of the U.S. Championships doubled as zonal qualifiers.

The following list shows info on the U.S. Championship from Wikipedia. I've added venue and, where the event was a zonal, the subsequent FIDE event. The number in the first column is the series number of the U.S. Championship.

  • 38 • 1992 Durango • Wolff, Patrick -> 1993 Biel IZ
  • 39 • 1993 Long Beach • Shabalov, Alexander; Yermolinsky, Alex
  • 40 • 1994 Key West • Gulko, Boris -> 1997 Groningen KO
  • 41 • 1995 Modesto • de Firmian, Nick; Wolff, Patrick; Ivanov, Alexander
  • 42 • 1996 Parsippany • Yermolinsky, Alex
  • 43 • 1997 Chandler • Benjamin, Joel
  • 44 • 1998 Denver • de Firmian, Nick -> 1999 Las Vegas KO
  • 45 • 1999 Salt Lake • Gulko, Boris -> 2000 New Delhi KO
  • 46 • 2000 Seattle • Benjamin, Joel; Shabalov, Alexander; Seirawan, Yasser -> 2001 Moscow KO
  • 47 • 2002 Seattle • Christiansen, Larry
  • 48 • 2003 Seattle • Shabalov, Alexander -> 2004 Tripoli KO

For the 2004 Tripoli KO, all USA players qualified from the 2003 Continental Championship, Buenos Aires. All of the preceding KOs were World Championship events, although 1997 Groningen gets an asterisk ('*'), since reigning FIDE champion Karpov was seeded directly into the final round which was played after a short delay at another venue.

I didn't have time to double check the following, but I believe the U.S. Championship in odd years qualified to the corresponding Khanty-Mansiysk KO of that year, which were World Cup qualifiers to a subsequent event.

  • 49 • 2005 La Jolla • Nakamura, Hikaru; Tournament ('was played in 2004, but called the 2005 Championship, for legal reasons')
  • 50 • 2006 San Diego • Onischuk, Alexander
  • 51 • 2007 Stillwater • Shabalov, Alexander
  • 52 • 2008 Tulsa • Shulman, Yury
  • 53 • 2009 St. Louis • Nakamura, Hikaru
  • 54 • 2010 St. Louis • Kamsky, Gata
  • 55 • 2011 St. Louis • ?

I'll update my page on the World Chess Championship Zonals as soon as I can.

***

Later: After GM Shabalov, the 2003 U.S. Champion, informed me that the 2003 event was indeed a zonal, I reviewed my work and corrected my records. Apologies for the error.

16 March 2011

Names: Certainty and Uncertainty

Now that the results are in for the 2009-2010 Women's Grand Prix, Doha, the final event in the 2009-2010 FIDE Women's Grand Prix, I added the players to the Index of Women Players for all women's events.

Although no format has yet been announced for the next cycle (2011-?) of the unrestricted World Championship, it appears from my recent post 2010 FIDE General Assembly : Whither the World Championship?, that it will follow the same World Cup -> Candidates -> Title Match format being used for the current cycle (2008-12?). This means that the unrestricted World Championship and the Women's World Championship will be using different formats: a three year cycle (my best guess) and a two year cycle (according to FIDE's announced plans). Let's see which format succeeds better.

***

By coincidence, I recently received a couple of emails related to Korchnoi's matches from the 1970s. The first asked for clarification on where the 1974 Korchnoi - Mecking quarterfinal candidates match had been held, so I added a detail to my page on the 1973-75 Candidates Matches. This reminded me that I still have a number of historical matches which lack the month when the match was played. The second email was about a paragraph in my page on the 1978 Karpov - Korchnoi Title Match, titled Yogurt, Parapsychology, Ananda Marga, ... Where I had written,

When play resumed for game 18, Rita Mataragnon, who worked for [a professor in the Department of Psychology at Manila University, Dr. Jaime] Bulatao, was present in Baguio, seated in the fifth row. Luc Claes, another associate of Bulatao, was present for game 19, along with groups of young psychology students. Karpov sent a letter to Schmid after game 20 complaining about the students.

I learned that the real identity of the person named Luc Claes is not at all certain. I rewrote the paragraph to reflect the uncertainty.

09 March 2011

2009-2010 Women's Grand Prix, Doha

I added the sixth and last Grand Prix event of the current cycle, held in Doha, Qatar, to my page on the 2009-2010 FIDE Women's Grand Prix. The next event on the women's circuit will be the 2011 Women's World Championship Match, currently listed on the FIDE Calendar without details. With Hou Yifan (China) having qualified via the 2010 FIDE Knockout Matches and Humpy Koneru (India) via the Grand Prix, I hope we see bids for the match from both nations. They are not only the two most populous countries in the world, they also represent two of the fastest growing economies.

02 March 2011

The Ballad of London 2012

The recent collapse of negotations between FIDE and the London organizers on holding the next World Championship match just before the 2012 Olympics marked the second time that FIDE has failed to agree on terms for the match. The first failure occurred almost two years ago. The bid came from the same German group (UEP) that had organized the 2008 Anand - Kramnik title match at Bonn, Germany.
Today FIDE has finalised the bid procedure for the Candidates 2010 and World Championship Match 2011 and is pleased to announce that it has received an offer from Universal Event Promotion GmbH to organise the Candidates. (UEP make bid for Candidates 2010 and World Championship 2011; Fide.com; 6 February 2009)

The discussions lasted three months. (The slip from 'World Championship 2011' to 'World Championship 2012' occurs later in the story.)

Due to different agendas relating to organisational sovereignty and commercial rights, the parties failed to reach an agreement. Aggravating circumstances included FIDE's financial expectations beyond the original tender details. (World Championship cycle: FIDE-UEP negotiations fail; Chessbase.com; 13 May 2009)

The mention of 'different agendas' was explained in a followup article, Ilyumzhinov: 'It is not the size of the logo, it’s the principle', (Chessbase.com; 19 May 2009), and achieved credibility in certain influential circles, e.g. Logos and cigarettes, (Chessvibes.com; 21 May 2009). A few months later the London organizers popped into the picture.

The [FIDE] Executive Board in Halkidiki, Greece gave an option to London to organise the World Chess Championship in 2012. The Organizing Committee requested the option for Olympic Games year in London and they have until February 15th 2010 to exercise the option which must include the offer of a prize fund similar to that for the match between champion GM V. Anand and GM V. Topalov next April. If the option is not exercised then FIDE will open the bidding procedure. (London given option for World Championship 2012; Fide.com; 2009-10-20)

Although nothing was heard publicly of the resulting discussions, there were tensions between the negotiating parties. I reported on these in my most recent post, with an extract from FIDE's official minutes.

World Championship Match 2012. London has an option. We are facing a serious problem regarding a tax issue. Mr. Makropoulos asked approval for the Presidential Board to authorise the finalising of the details. He said that if we are not able to finalise in the next two weeks, maybe we will have to open a bidding procedure. The players who play in the candidates’ matches want to know first who will organise the final match, before they sign the contract for the candidates match. They want to know the organisers and the conditions. (2010 FIDE General Assembly : Whither the World Championship?, on events which took place from 29 September to 2 October 2010)

The 'two weeks' became two months, then stretched to four months, before the chess world learned that negotiations had failed.

Chess Promotions Ltd has been in discussions with FIDE since February 2010 regarding the staging of the WCC in London. A € 50,000 deposit was paid to FIDE to secure an option on the WCC 2012 match as negotiations commenced and finance was sought. Having secured the necessary funds, on July 21st 2010, CPL sent FIDE a formal offer and a detailed commercial contract to stage the next WCC match in London with financial terms similar to the 2010 WCC match at Sofia.

Unfortunately agreement could not be reached in the autumn. Following more discussions in London in January, CPL asked FIDE to accept the offer by Saturday 29th January 2011. No such acceptance was forthcoming. Therefore, with regret, CPL has withdrawn its offer in time for the next Executive Board meeting which starts today in Turkey in order to give the EB clarity and the opportunity to consider alternatives. The timeline to stage a WCC match before the Olympic Games in May 2012 is now too short.

Signed Malcolm Pein, CEO Chess Promotions Ltd. (London withdraws 2012 World Chess Championship Bid; Chess.co.uk/twic; 3 February 2011)

The chess world loves a good knock-down-drag-out fight, especially between FIDE and a group of influential organizers, and the main chess discussion groups weighed in quickly with blame assessment, much of it centering on the November 2010 withdrawal of GM Magnus Carlsen from the current World Championship cycle, a subject I covered at the time in Carlsen Quits (Again). Here are some representative comments, including an alternative conspiracy theory.

From London No Longer Calling; Chessninja.com; 3 February 2011; comment by rdh: The London sponsors have been very keen to cover their tracks if the Carlsen withdrawal was really important to them. In December I attended a dinner at which they spoke eloquently about their hopes to bring the WC match to London, and that was long after Carlsen had withdrawn. You can say they were just covering themselves if you like, but I'm not sure what you think they needed to cover themselves for. Given that they prefer to remain individually anonymous, it's not really clear what nefarious scheme one might suspect them of, and having seen them talk to Anand, Kramnik, etc (also present at this dinner, as was Carlsen) they don't strike me as Carlsen fanbois [fanboys] particularly. Moreover, I've known Malcolm (or "Pein", if you prefer) for 35 years and he's a straight guy [...]

London withdraws bid to organize 2012 World Championship; Chessvibes.com; 3 February 2011 • KPF: Around the time of the last FIDE elections last year parallel to the Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk, Malcolm Pein was cited on TWIC for some harsh, personal comments on Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. I don’t remember the exact wording, but besides saying that he found Kirsan utterly unfit as president of FIDE on the background of his track record , he indirectly accused him of being responsible for politically motivated murders in his home country. He would never even contemplate to shake hands with such a man. It is clear then that now it’s simply payback time. • Malcolm Pein: [KPF's] remarks about the reasons we didn’t reach agreement with FIDE are based on reasonable assumptions and some hard facts, I have certainly said some harsh things about [Ilyumzhinov] but [KPF's] conclusion is wrong. I had a note from the man himself just before the deadline but it wasn’t his signature on the contract, so that was it, offer expired. They were still keen to do the match in London but the time for talking and negotiating was over. Whatever they think about I have written, the chunky sanctioning fee and the opportunity to be running this event in the shadow of the Olympics whose recognition they desperately crave, was more than enough incentive for them. Judging from the horrified reaction, they were not expecting a withdrawal but some people mean what they say. I gave them a deadline and they didn’t meet it.

FIDE's initial reaction was guarded,

New composition of the Presidential Board discussed the enormous agenda consisting of 60 items. The most important among them is the question of holding the World Chess Championship 2012. It was decided that a separate press-release on this item will be spread the soonest. (1st Quarter FIDE Presidential Board; Fide.com; 7 February 2011)

and on the same day that Malcolm Pein issued a further statement,

London's bid for the FIDE World Championship match in 2012 has been withdrawn. Following over a year of talks and six months of negotiations, I wrote to FIDE in time for the Executive Board meeting in Turkey that concluded on Sunday to advise them that I felt fifteen months was insufficient time to organise the event properly.

The plan was to stage the match, between Vishy Anand and one of the eight Candidates, in May, just before the Olympic Games. The London bid was substantial and given the costs of staging a tournament in London compared with Sofia, the total outlay would have exceeded that of the 2010 match between Vishy Anand and Veselin Topalov which boasted a substantial prize fund. (London withdraws World Chess Championship Bid; Chess.co.uk/twic/malcolmpein; 9 February 2011)

FIDE responded to Pein (Open letter of Mr. Israel Gelfer concerning the FWCM 2012; Fide.com; 9 February 2011:)

On February 2010 FIDE granted you the option to organize the FWCM "under the same conditions like the Sofia match between Anand and Topalov". On 15 February you signed a memorandum accepting the conditions and regulations of the match and two days later paid a deposit of 50,000 Euro for such option.

After that, for a long period, you have been proposing several changes from the Sofia contract. In July 2010 (after the original deadline was extended by FIDE) you sent to FIDE a different version of the contract with different conditions. For most among this were important financial conditions which had to be clarified first. In a constructive manner FIDE, wishing to hold the match in London, accepted several conditions interalia reducing the prize fund by 20% due to UK taxes not covered by the organisers, reduction of the contribution to FIDE, reduction of the number of principals. In January we met in London when I proposed to discuss the agreement based on the Sofia contract as amended above.

In our meeting both you and Mr. Andrew Finan replied that you only consider the version dictated by you, claiming that they are no substantial differences between the two contracts. You made it very clear, as you recall, that the sponsor of the match "lost interest" in it after the withdrawal of GM Magnus Carlsen and consequently instructed you "not to negotiate at all about anything" i.e. "take it or leave it".

Even after the meeting in London I was trying to solve the problems and I informed FIDE about the situation. The FIDE Secretariat then gave me a list of 36 differences between our version and your proposed contract and 16 changes from your original July draft. Many of which were completely unacceptable to FIDE, interalia FIDE being responsible of player’s taxes in their respective jurisdictions, no liability for any cancellation for any reason and putting FIDE as responsible for several obligations which were and are not in FIDE`s hands.

Moreover, in your contract you change the regulations of the match. Furthermore you have informed us only on 27 January that the players may be liable up to 50% tax. This means that the net prize fund could be as little as near 1.2 million EUR after tax where as our agreement was that you will provide, as in Sofia, a prize fund of 2.0 million EUR after tax. Therefore your statement that the conditions were equal to Sofia was incorrect.

In order to try and solve the problems I asked for an extension of the signing date until the Presidential Bord meeting in early February. You were also invited by the FIDE President to come to Antalya so that we could try to reach an agreement. Unfortunately this proposal was rejected and you announced the withdrawal of your offer.

It is clear, and was obvious to me and expressed specifically by you, that the withdrawal of GM Carlsen from the WC cycle meant that the sponsor was no longer interested in sponsoring the match.

There is certainly much in the FIDE response that can be scrutinized -- the wisdom of accepting bids before the players have been identified, the equivalance of Sofia and London, the total cost of a match vs. its value to sponsors, the financial expectations of the players, the responsibility for taxes or tax-related advice, and the time lapses between discussions -- but Mark Crowther of TWIC (a service funded by Malcolm Pein) squashed the speculation on Carlsen along with a rap on the knuckles for having revealed details about the negotiations.

The statement itself reveals details (unverified) of the negotiations that one would expect both parties to keep confidential. Pein's press release scrupulously avoided this and was diplomatic in tone. Malcolm Pein made it clear in talking to me that if London were not interested in hosting the championships any more after the withdrawal of Carlsen from the cycle, they would not have left the offer on the table (a six figure sum) [English pounds?] for more than two months after he declared he was out. (FIDE respond to London withdrawing World Chess Championship Bid; Chess.co.uk/twic; 9 February 2011)

Another insider, FIDE Vice President Ilya Levitov, a newly appointed member of the Presidential Board and a rising star in international chess politics, offered further insight into the difficulties.

Q: On the eve of the FIDE Presidential Board meeting the organising committee of the World Championship match, which was planned for spring 2012 in London, announced that the English wouldn’t be running the match. They explained their decision was based on FIDE’s unwillingness to negotiate with them. They say that the FIDE functionaries didn’t respond to them even after they received financial guarantees in the form of a 50,000 dollar deposit. So what happened? • A: I think London’s refusal was directly linked to Magnus Carlsen refusing to take part in the World Championship cycle. The sponsor of the London match, a big chess fan and a wealthy man, expressed a great desire to hold the World Championship match. But after Carlsen dropped out my deep conviction, also based on the information available to me, is that the London organisers ceased to want to run such a match. It seems they considered a direct refusal to be undignified, and therefore they decided to put forward completely unrealistic conditions.

Q: For example? • A: There were more than 35 conditions. At first they promised a prize fund of 2 million euros, and then 1.6 million euros. They wanted to burden FIDE with the cost of the players’ taxes and they didn’t want to put money towards the World Championship Development Commission. In case of one of the players refusing to play they wanted themselves, and not FIDE, to take the decision about the replacement. But there are points in the regulations which FIDE can’t simply bypass. Of course, I’m not saying that FIDE’s management is ideal. I wasn’t present at the negotiations... (Levitov on the collapse of the London match Chessintranslation.com; 10 February 2011)

As for me, I don't understand why FIDE would want to justify this latest failure by another recent failure where they played a significant role: the withdrawal of Carlsen from the qualifying cycle. What I do understand is that world class chess has lost a golden opportunity for international media attention. The botched saga might not have been as dramatic as the breakdown of the 1975 Fischer - Karpov negotiations, but it has many earmarks and symptoms of the same sort of bureaucratic failure.