26 April 2017

An Organization of Amateurs

Flipping through old chess magazines I often see reports on World Championship events of yesteryear, but rarely are there comments on their organization. The following remarks were about the 1967-69 Candidates Matches, specifically the Spassky - Larsen semifinal match, Malmo, July 1968. Spassky beat Larsen 5.5-2.5 (+4-1=3). The report is from Chess Life, December 1968 (p.435), 'The Larsen Opinion : An Interview with Bent Larsen' by Ben Crane of Ann Arbor, Michigan, during Larsen's exhibition tour of the U.S.
Crane: To what do you attribute your loss to Spassky?

Larsen: The main reason would be the way FIDE President Rogard organized this match. He did this in a way which I can only describe as scandalous. Both players and the organizations were very dissatisfied. He did not even do it through the Swedish Chess Federation or the local chess club -- it was just a private arrangement. I don't understand why he wanted to organize the match under these very bad economic conditions, with very bad organizers, when he could have had the match in another country under very good economic conditions for the players and their federations. The federations had to pay travel expenses and everything.

The first prize in this match was 1000 Swiss francs, or a little more than 200 dollars. Both Spassky and I were very depressed by this. We had a meeting with Rogard the evening before the match started and he made it very clear that he thought the players should not make any money on these FIDE tournaments.

If that is the way he wants it, I think he'll very soon see that the FIDE's championship is considered a kind of amateur world championship, and then other sponsors might very well get the idea to arrange a professional world championship. As I see it, when there is something like a match between Spassky and me, when Rogard has, so to speak, something to sell, he should not sell it as cheaply as possible.

If you consider the fact that the players probably used several months in preparation for the Candidates' tournament (the matches themselves began in April and the last one ended about the end of September), then it looks a little strange that we should have the smallest prizes possible. During that time it may be difficult for the players to make money any other way. Yugoslavia, for instance, was ready to organize the match with prizes that were much better, with all expenses paid for two persons from each side.

Wikipedia's page, Folke Rogard (1899–1973), informs,

Rogard was vice-president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), from 1947 to 1949, then succeeded Alexander Rueb as president, a post he held until succeeded by Max Euwe in 1970. He was also chairman of the Swedish Chess Federation from 1947 to 1964

Nearly 50 years after the match was played, FIDE's cavalier treatment of top chess players hasn't changed much.

19 April 2017

He Didn't Resign

After a two week break, let's look again at Chess in the 21st Century, where I noted FIDE's recent organizational problems, especially in World Championship events. The tensions within FIDE became visible to outsiders in a story I covered on my main blog: Did He Resign? It quoted a Reuters report that started,
The Russian head of world chess's governing body FIDE said on Monday he was the victim of a plot to oust him but denied a report by his own organization that he had resigned.

Over the following weeks FIDE insiders jockeyed for position before a special PB meeting called for 10 April:-

1. Legality of meeting
2. Powers delegated to the FIDE Deputy President by the FIDE Presidential Board
3. Statement of Mr Kirsan Ilyumzhinov regarding revocation of his powers
4. Resignation of Mr Kirsan Ilyumzhinov ('nobody [...] had asked for his resignation')
5. Misleading Statements to the media by Mr Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

Peter Doggers of Chess.com covered the evolving story in a series of informative news items:-

Ilyumzhinov: "Today I was analyzing everything that has happened, and I have decided to run for another term as FIDE president. I want to continue uniting the chess world. I will be working towards my goal to have one billion people playing chess." Continue uniting the chess world? The man is clearly delusional.

29 March 2017

Chess in the 21st Century

Finishing the actions on the 2016-17 Women's World Championship, I added the names of the 64 players from the 2017 FIDE Knockout Matches to the Index of Women Players. Of these players, 17 were competing in a Women's World Championship event for the first time.

The event was troubled from start to finish. Last October, we had the controversy that I documented in two posts: Hijab Hubbub and Hijab Hubris. The final word was announced shortly afterwards in Visit of FIDE President to Tehran, Iran (fide.com; November 2016).

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov arrived in Tehran on October 24. The next day, he spoke live on Central Television in Iran, after which he held talks with the President of the Iran Chess Federation, Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh. [...] The FIDE president spoke with reporters of Tasnim News Agency. In replying to the question of how he relates to the need to wear hijabs by women chess players, Ilyumzhinov said: "There are 188 members in FIDE, each of them has the right to hold chess competitions. All these countries have their own laws and customs, under which the tournaments are held. FIDE adheres to the belief that these laws should be respected."

Of course, all countries have the right to hold chess competitions. That doesn't mean that FIDE is required to hold prestigious, high visibility events in those same countries. By Ilyumzhinov's logic, even the most repressive countries in the world have 'the right to hold [FIDE] chess competitions'. This might fit Ilyumzhinov's personal interest, but it's clearly not in the best interest of chess.

A few weeks ago, rumors started to swirl that the players had not received their prize money. This was confirmed in List of Decisions of the 2017 1st quarter FIDE PB (fide.com; March 2017), where 'PB' means Presidential Board:-

  • 1PB-2017/3. To pay the prize money for the Tehran WWCC from FIDE money.
  • 1PB-2017/4. To give a two-week deadline for the Iranian Chess Federation to send the money they owe to FIDE failing which the services for them will be frozen.

'WWCC' means Women's World Chess Championship. Not only were the players expected to play under a restrictive dress code, they did so for free. At least one of them got to be called Women's World Champion; they others got zilch.

FIDE's current problems aren't exclusive to women's events. At the beginning of the month, when I reported on the 2017 Grand Prix, Sharjah, I ignored controversies surrounding that event. See, for example, Leonard Barden's FIDE Grand Prix struggling in Sharjah as big names stay away (theguardian.com; February 2017), or Colin McGourty's What went wrong in Sharjah? (chess24.com; ditto). 'What went wrong?' started with...

  • Too many short draws
  • The Swiss system with only 18 players
  • Top players missing
  • The prize fund
  • etc. etc.

...and ended with no.11...

  • A dysfunctional website ('failed to meet the most basic of standards')

And I thought I was alone in detesting the Worldchess.com site. Add to all of this another flap emanating from the 1st quarter FIDE PB, Did He Resign?, and it's again clear that FIDE has gone badly astray. In the 'Resign?' post, I asked,

When was the last time a chess story grabbed so many mainstream press headlines without once mentioning the name Magnus Carlsen?

Now I remember. It was the hijab kerfuffle.

22 March 2017

PGN for Recent Events

Continuing with the two most recent posts...

...for which I had created the corresponding page on my WCC site and added crosstables documenting the events, this left both pages in an unfinished state. For this current post, I added PGN files to both pages along with relevant notes.

For the first time in a long while, I discovered an incorrect result recorded against one of the games. The initial error was made on the official site for the women's championship and was then propagated elsewhere. Of the sites I looked at, only Chessgames.com had already corrected the result.

15 March 2017

2016-17 Women's World Championship

For my previous post, 2017 Grand Prix, Sharjah, I created a stub page for the World Championship (Women) : 2017 FIDE Knockout Matches. For this post, I added crosstables for the matches played in all six rounds. For the record, the previous report on a related subject was 2014-15 Women's World Championship (April 2015).

Still to do: (1) Add the players' names to the Index of Women Players; (2) Add PGN files to both the 2017 Women's Knockout and the Sharjah Grand Prix; and (3) Add various explanations like FIDE.com links.

08 March 2017

2017 Grand Prix, Sharjah

In my previous post, Missing Months, I mentioned,
I'm in a holding pattern this week, waiting for a couple of events to finish : (1) the first of the 2017 Grand Prix tournaments, and (2) the 2017 Women's World Championship. Both should finish some time next week, which will keep my Wednesdays busy for a month or so.

Both events have since finished and today being International Women's Day (wikipedia.org), I should have addressed the Women's World Championship first. Unfortunately, there is so much work there that I settled for creating a stub page, 2017 FIDE Knockout Matches (Women), and adding it to the index page World Chess Championship for Women.

As for the Sharjah Grand Prix tournament, I added the crosstable to my page on the 2017 Grand Prix. There is also more to be done there, including the PGN file, but that will have to wait for the next time.

22 February 2017

Missing Months

I'm in a holding pattern this week, waiting for a couple of events to finish : (1) the first of the 2017 Grand Prix tournaments, and (2) the 2017 Women's World Championship. Both should finish some time next week, which will keep my Wednesdays busy for a month or so. In the meantime, what to do?

A couple of weeks ago, while working on a post about the 1995-1999 Women's Cycle, I noted,

As long as I'm filling gaps, I should also complete the missing months ('--') in pages like the 1999 Xie Jun - Galliamova match.

Knowing when an event was played is useful to locate tournament reports in chess magazines. A quick search located about 50 events missing months. How long would it take to research those? Maybe an hour or so? Ha!

Tackling the events in chronological order, the first batch was easy enough. Just as in 1927-39 Women's Title Tournaments (September 2009), I used Kazic's 'International Championship Chess' (Batsford 1974), to fill in months for eight women's title matches from 1953 to 1972. Then the exercise became trickier.

The next two events were both from the 1961-63 cycle: the 1962 Stockholm Interzonal and the 1962 Curacao Candidates Tournament. In both cases, the event missing a month was a playoff match. As I started looking into the two matches, I realized that there was more than a missing month to document -- I was lacking basic information on how the playoffs fit into and affected the rest of the cycle. As I looked deeper, I realized that the little project might be spinning out of control. I know from past experience that once I get sidetracked, I risk losing sight of the original goal, so I stopped and simply documented the months the playoffs took place. That will do for now.

I'll come back to the remaining 40 pages missing months some other time. Ditto for the 1961-63 cycle.

15 February 2017

The Last Standard Women's Cycle

In my previous post, I collected reports from Wikipedia on the unusual events that occurred during the 1995-1999 Women's Cycle Now let's hear from Mark Crowther's The Week in Chess (TWIC).

1997-12-29 TWIC 164:-

FIDE Women's Candidates • Alongside the FIDE Championships in Groningen was the women's Candidates tournament. The ten player double round robin,was won by Alisa Galliamova of Russia who dominated the event. The battle for second place was between Chiburdanidze, Xie Jun and Ioseliani all of who could have qualified for the important second place which entitles them to play Galliamova in a match for the right to meet Zsuzsa [Susan] Polgar.

1998-08-17 TWIC 197:-

Introduction • The oddest story of the week is one which I'm trying to confirm the details. Galliamova was due to play a ten game match against Xie Jun in China starting on August 15th. She did not show according to Chinese sources and is reported to have defaulted the match allowing Xie Jun to challenge Polgar for the World title. There is surely more to this than meets the eye.

1998-08-24 TWIC 198:-

Galliamova defaults against Xie Jun • The Women's World Chess Championships have been thrown into chaos by the no-show of Alisa Galliamova of Russia for her match with ex-champion Xie Jun of China in Shenyang last weekend for the Candidates final match. The match went ahead with press and TV there although it was known to FIDE that Galliamova would not turn up. She is reported to be both in dispute with her own Federation and unhappy that the match was not split between her home town of Kazan and China. Kazan could not raise the required funds for the match. Quite what the sponsors of the $US 120,000 match think is not known but the Chinese Chess Federation are already asking for compensation from FIDE. It is also clear that this makes it much harder to find a sponsor for the final match between Zsuzsa Polgar and Xie Jun. It will be interesting to hear in more detail why Galliamova decided to default, especially as even under the circumstances she would have been favourite for the match.

1998-09-28 TWIC 203:-

'Xie - Galliamova : From Beginning to the End' by Sun Lianzhi (The original text was published in a Chinese newspaper). • Ignatius Leong sends a story about the events leading up to Galliamova defaulting against Xie Jun. Of course it is merely one take on the affair although much of the detail is persuasive. [...]

1998-10-16 TWIC 205:-

33rd Chess Olympiad [...] FIDE Congress • [...] The defaulting of Alisa Galliamova for her non-appearance at her match against Xie Jun was confirmed. There are stories from the States that Zsuzsa Polgar does not plan to defend her title. An application was made to have Galliamova as her replacement was in the event of a no show was made by Russia. This will be the last traditional match for the title as next championships will be a knock-out event, possibly to be held in Moldova in Sept 1999, with 60 players and $500,000 prize fund.

1999-03-29 TWIC 229:-

FIDE Press Release • Regarding the Women's World Championship final match between Zsuzsa Polgar of Hungary and Xie Jun of China, the Board decided that FIDE shall organise the match in line with the resolution of the General Assembly in Elista between the last week of May up to 20 July 1999. After noting that no offer had been received to meet the minimum prize fund, it called for the best offer possible to be submitted to the FIDE Secretariat not later than 15 April 1999.

1999-06-21 TWIC 241:-

Introduction • Off the board the reports (that appeared firstly on Club Kasparov) that the Women's World Champion Zsuzsa Polgar has been defaulted and that FIDE have arranged a match between Xie Jun and Galliamova for the title in China makes the news. Whilst is it clear why FIDE have done this, they have their next Championships with a sponsor in September. Zsuzsa Polgar makes an extremely forceful case that this crisis was of FIDE's making and that the default is entirely against their own rules. [...]

Letter from Zsuzsa Polgar • Zsuzsa Polgar has reacted to reports that FIDE have decided to hold a match in Shenyang, China from 3 July to 27 July 1999, between Xie June and Alisa Galiamova for the Women's World Championships, claiming that Polgar has "effectively declined to defend her title". • Zsuzsa Polgar replies: [...]

1999-06-29 TWIC 242:-

Willy Iclicki replies to Zsuzsa Polgar • FIDE have decided to hold a match in Shenyang, China from 3 July to 27 July 1999, between Xie June and Alisa Galiamova for the Women's World Championships. Women's World Champion Zsuzsa Polgar has been defaulted and been replaced by Galiamova. Last week in a letter from Zsuzsa Polgar she outlined her position. This week Willy Iclicki [Chairman of the World Championships Cycle Committee] speaking to me from Belgium on Saturday, has reacted to Zsuzsa Polgar's letter of last week. He makes several points: [...]

1999-07-05 TWIC 243:-

Introduction • [...] More Women's World Championship news. According to one source the Xie Jun - Galliamova match has been delayed at least until July 27 and Galliamova is looking for a Russian host for the first half of the match (deja vu) and if she fails the whole match will begin in China in early August.

1999-08-02 TWIC 247:-

Women's World Chess Championships • The Women's World Championship Final Match between Xie Jun and Alisa Galliamova is taking place from July 30th to August 23rd. For The first half of the match takes place in Kazan, Tartarstan the latter half in Shenyang, China. [...] The Women's World Championships were to have had a knockout championships to start in September almost directly after the finish of the Xie Jun - Galliamova match. This has now been cancelled.

1999-08-23 TWIC 250:-

Women's World Chess Championships • Xie Jun regained her FIDE World Championship title by defeating Alisa Galliamova in a match July 30th to August 23rd. The first half of the match took place in Kazan, Tartarstan and finished in a 4-4 tie. The second half in Shenyang, China started on August 15th with a win for Xie Jun with black in game 9, game 10 was drawn. Xie Jun seemed to be almost home after winning game 11 but Galliamova struck back in game 12. Game 13 was drawn before a wild game saw Galliamova go two down with two to play. A final draw saw Xie Jun home. Galliamova was ELO favourite in this match but the scrappy play suited Xie Jun.

This match was originally meant to be the Candidates final but when Galliamova was unhappy with the match only been in China Xie Jun won by default. A similar situation applied to the championship match against Zsuzsa Polgar where long negotiation and a supposed September date for the FIDE knockout championships where the title was up for grabs (along with Polgar's pregnancy) led to FIDE defaulting the World Champion. Xie Jun then had to play the highest placed player in the cycle which was Galliamova. This time sponsorship for a two part championships was found and the match went ahead. Xie Jun is FIDE's recognised champion, whether FIDE might feel that a match with Polgar, if finance is available and now that time is available, would be fair is open to question. It has certainly been extremely unsatisfactory.'

1999-08-30 TWIC 251:-

Introduction • [...] In the letters section Xie Jun (in response to statements on Polgar's own website) says she is ready and willing to play Zsuzsa Polgar in a match if she can raise the finance.

Letters from GMs • [...] Xie Jun Women's World Chess Champion • Beijing, 30th August 1999 • Dear Zsuzsa Polgar, Having finished my match against Alisa Galliamova, I finally have the time and energy to reply to the open letters and comments you published on your web site, some of which I felt were directed to me personally. [...]

This was the last cycle in a Women's World Championship featuring an Interzonal, a Candidates tournament, and a title match. The next World Championship would be the 2000 FIDE Knockout Matches at New Delhi.

08 February 2017

1995-1999 Women's Cycle

The top part of my page on the Women's World Championship provides a bird's eye view of the last 30 years.

World Chess Championship for Women

Despite its apparent completeness, one important piece is missing: details about the two forfeits in the 1995-1999 cycle. These occurred between two major event:-

Why aren't the forfeits explained in more detail? I started that page in 1999, while the cycle was ongoing. The first version was released in September 1999, and I had so many events to document that I never went back to the 1995-1999 cycle. It's high time I corrected that oversight. [NB: As long as I'm filling gaps, I should also complete the missing months ('--') in pages like the Xie Jun - Galliamova match.]

What does Wikipedia say? Three pages are particularly relevant.

Women's World Chess Championship 1999

1997 Candidates Tournament • The seven qualifiers from the Interzonal Tournament were joined by the loser of the last championship match, Xie Jun, as well as the two runners-up from the previous tournament, Chiburdanidze and Cramling. These ten players contested a double round-robin tournament in Groningen in December 1997, from which the top two would advance to the final to determine the challenger. Galliamova and Xie Jun finished first and second. FIDE decided that the whole final match should be played in Shenyang, China, after Chinese sponsors made the best offer for the prize fund. However, Galliamova refused to play entirely on her opponent's home turf, so Xie Jun was declared the winner by default and given the right to challenge champion Polgar.

1999 Championship Match • The championship match was at first scheduled to take place in November 1998, but champion Susan Polgar requested a postponement because she was pregnant. FIDE had been unable to find a satisfactory sponsor, so the request was granted. By the time FIDE announced the new date and venue for the title match to be played China in 1999, Polgar had given birth to her son Tom - however, she still considered that the time to recover from childbirth and prepare for the new match was insufficient. In addition, like Galliamova, she didn't want to play entirely in the opponent's home country. She also wanted a significantly larger prize fund, so she requested that the match be postponed again. This time FIDE refused and negotiations broke down. Instead FIDE ruled that Polgar had forfeited the title and arranged a new title match between the two Candidates finalists, Xie Jun and Galliamova.

Xie Jun

At the age of 20 Xie won the right to challenge for the women's world title, and in 1991 she defeated Maya Chiburdanidze of Georgia, who had held the title since 1978, by a score of 8.5 - 6.5. In 1993 she successfully defended her title against Nana Ioseliani (winning the match 8.5 - 2.5). In the summer of 1994 she was awarded the full Grandmaster title. She lost the 1996 Women's World Chess Championship to Susan Polgar of Hungary (8.5 - 4.5) but regained the title in 1999 by defeating another championship finalist, Alisa Galliamova (8.5 - 6.5), after Polgar refused to accept match conditions and forfeited her title.

Alisa Galliamova

In December 1997, she won the Candidates Tournament for the Women's World Chess Championship held in Groningen, Netherlands. She was scheduled to play a match with Xie Jun, who finished second, in August, 1998 and the winner of that match was supposed to play a match in November 1998 with Zsuzsa Polgar for the Women's World Chess Championship.

However, after the match with Xie Jun had already been scheduled, Galliamova objected because the entire match was scheduled to be played in China, the home of her rival. The reason for this was because only China had bid for the match. Galliamova wanted half of the match to be played in Kazan, Russia. However, the Russians did not have the money required. Finally, when Galliamova failed to show up to play the match, the match was declared forfeited to Xie Jun.

FIDE then scheduled a match between Xie Jun and Zsuzsa Polgar for November 1998. However, Polgar said that she could not play at that time because she was pregnant. After Polgar had given birth to her son, Tom, in March, 1999, FIDE again tried to schedule a match. This time Polgar said that she could not play the match because she was nursing.

Finally, after repeated efforts to organize a match which was supposed to have taken place in 1998, FIDE declared that Polgar had forfeited her title and that the title was vacant. FIDE decided to let Galliamova back into the cycle and held a match between Xie Jun and Galliamova for the Women's World Chess Championship 1999. This time, Galliamova was willing to play because her original demand had been met in that Russia had come up with the money to sponsor half of the match. The match was held in Kazan, Russia and Shenyang, China in August, 1999 and Xie Jun won by 8.5 - 6.5.

While that is certainly 1000% better than what I have, there is even more to the story. I'll come back to it in my next post.

01 February 2017

FIDE's Finances

From Jorge Vega, FIDE Continental President, the Americas, President Report, Barbados (fideamerica.com; 26 December 2016):-
Politics: Actually we do not see an active opposition to our management. Those who in the past criticized due to destructive personal power ambitions have virtually disappeared, perhaps beaten by internal setbacks, freeing everyone from the waste of time that was fighting lies and rumours. I can feel proud of the unity shown by our members who have made America the strongest political bloc that exists in FIDE.

In the FIDE context, the situation is more complicated because the President, Mr. [Kirsan Ilyumzhinov], continues to be sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department, a sanction that has been in force for more than a year and is not seen to be over in the short term. In order to avoid FIDE being blocked by the Treasury Department, the President passed all the executive powers that the investiture of the position means to the Deputy President, Mr. Geogios Makropoulos, in November 2015, being in practice like President with license. Although Mr Iljumzjinov has reiterated on several occasions that he will run to re-election in 2018, it is not clear how he will be able to do so if the sanction persists without putting FIDE in serious financial danger.

For the aforementioned, it is not surprising that in a relatively short period of time, candidates for the FIDE Presidency will emerge.

In the first paragraph, is he referring to GM Kasparov? Later in the same statement:-

Financial: The situation is complicated, as predicted in previous meetings. The fall in oil prices and the strength of the dollar hit our economies resulting in a reduction in participation in official events that consequently reduces CCA's revenues. [...]

Referring to FIDE we find that its financial situation is worrying, the factor that aggravates this is due to the repeated failures of AGON, the company to which FIDE has awarded the organization of the events belonging to the cycle of the World Championship, which does not comply with its payments to FIDE for this concession or does only partially, seriously affecting the stability of the FIDE budget.

This affects us directly as FIDE has consequently modified the development allocations to DEV/CCA and/or delayed transfer dates. In view of this situation, I have written to the Deputy President Mr. Makropoulos requesting, in strong terms, to cancel the contract with the company AGON given the inability of the same to fulfill its obligations within the stipulated time. I hope that the next meeting of the Presidential Board will address this issue.

Although our Treasurer will make a more detailed explanation, 1 can report that CCA operates in black numbers, which should not be a reason for not worrying but always keeping us alert to avoid any unforeseen situations.

The summary was made for the CCA Board Meeting, 9 January 2017, where we find similar statements:-

Minutes CCA Board Meeting, Barbados 2017; [...; Allan Herbert, Treasurer] noted the current situation of U.S. sanction with the FIDE President have us very worried for the future. We have supported the president in all FIDE campaigns. America has always been viewed as the bed rock of the FIDE president's campaign. The longer this problem prevail, the more difficult to project the future. [...] The situation in FIDE is very serious; the U.S. Treasury might block our accounts after the elections if FIDE President remains under sanctions. The new U.S. government can be very unpredictable.

On my main blog, I've used previous statements by Jorge Vega to understand politics within FIDE. For example:-

FIDE Election: Four More Years (August 2014) • 'Let's go back to November 2013 and re-read an interview posted by Chessdom.com: Jorge Vega, Continental President for Americas, about upcoming elections.'

Spectating the 86th FIDE Congress (September 2015) • 'Jorge Vega, the president of FIDE America, played a key role in last year's election between Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Garry Kasparov. His thoughts on that election are an important part of the historical record.'

The statements about Agon remind of a Peter Doggers report from last summer, Is FIDE Going Bankrupt? (chess.com; August 2016):-

The financial accounts for 2015 show an alarming decrease of the World Chess Federation's assets. An extensive reform of FIDE's internal structure seems inevitable to guarantee a healthy continuity.

This information is a supplement to my post on 2016 FIDE Congress : Whither the World Championship, earlier this month.

25 January 2017

ACP WCC Survey 2017

Last year on my main blog I posted about the ACP Survey 2016 (February 2016; ACP: 'the most detailed opinion poll related to the professional chess ever released') and the Survey 2016 - Results (April 2016). The ACP is the Association of Chess Professionals (chessprofessionals.org), and for the start of this year the group produced a World Championship Format Poll and a Summary of the General Assembly of the ACP and Polls.

The poll ties in nicely with last week's WCC post, How to Break a Match Tie? Here is a summary of the results. The last column shows the number of responses received by the ACP.


Q6: Which format do you prefer determining the World Champion?
Match 92% 421
Tournament 8% 35
Q7: If you prefer to have a tournament, what would be the best format?
8 players double round robin 58% 76
KO Format 21% 28
Other (please specify) 21% 27
Q8: If you prefer matches, please answer the following questions: How many games do you think is optimal to award the WCh title in a match?
12 11% 47
16 53% 236
20 20% 89
Other (please specify) 16% 72
Q9: Which time control do you think is best for a WCh match?
100’x40 moves + 50’ x 20 moves + 15’ with 30” increment from move 1 37% 168
90’x40 moves + 30’ with 30” increment from move 1 20% 89
120’x40 moves + 60’x20 moves + 15’ with 30” increment from move 61 34% 155
Other (please specify) 9% 39
Q10: In case of a tie at the end of the match, you would prefer?
The title stays with the Champion. 34% 153
The title is awarded based on rapid/blitz playoffs 48% 218
Other (please specify) 18% 79
Q11: In case you think rapid/blitz playoffs should be used in the WCh title match - what would your preference be?
Tie breaks should be played after the regular games. 38% 119
Tie breaks should be played before the regular games. 62% 194
Q12: In case you think rapid/blitz playoffs should determine the WCh title, what would your preference be?
All tie break games should be played in one day 36% 113
Tie break games should be played in 2 days. 64% 199


Except for Q9 (time control), where I have no preference, and Q12 (days to play rapid/blitz playoffs), which I've never thought about, my responses would be the same. I especially like the idea behind Q11 (playoffs after/before the regular games) of playing tiebreak before the match starts. This would give one of the players an advantage in case of a tied match, which would force the other player to win at least one game.

18 January 2017

How to Break a Match Tie?

On my main blog I wrote a couple of posts about the last two playing days of the recent 2016 Carlsen - Karjakin title match:-

I wasn't surprised to find that my 'fizzle' opinion was shared many informed observers of the chess world. GM Yasser Seirawan -- who competed in five Interzonals, two Candidate events, and the first of the FIDE Knockout championships -- wrote a three part series on Chessbase.com that received dozens of comments:-

A Radical Solution • 'Still reeling from the 35-minute punch of Game 12 of the "Classical" World Chess Championship match [...] Let the players have a 13-game match. The player with the extra game with the Black pieces has "draw-odds" in the match.'

A Radical Solution - Redux • 'I'd consider it a massive improvement if the next World Championship Match were a 15-game contest with the player who is given the extra game with the Black pieces at the drawing of lots ceremony having draw-odds.'

A Radical Solution - Final Thoughts • 'So where do I stand on all of this?
A. The [World Championship match] is too short.
B. The World Championship title is losing prestige.
C. These developments are not coincidental or inevitable.
D. My proposal:
   a. Play a 17-game match.
   b. The Challenger gets the extra White.
   c. The Champion retains the title in the event of a tie.
   d. The Challenger chooses when to play the extra White game.'

Despite the mission creep across the articles (13 games to 15 to 17) and some refinements, the basic idea is to play a match with an odd number of games. In his last article, GM Seirawan included a shoutout to two other prominent GMs, 'Big thank you to both GM Emil Sutovsky and GM Maurice Ashley for contributing with their articles about the format' (also on Chessbase.com):-

While this discussion was going on, the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP) conducted a poll to determine the thoughts of its members. I'll discuss that in my next post.

11 January 2017

2017 Grand Prix

I added a new cycle (C28 using my name and numbering conventions) to my index page on the World Chess Championship. The first event in the new cycle will be the 2017 Grand Prix, for which I created a new page.

Two small evolutions are worth noting. Excluding the zonal stage, C28 will be the first cycle in 12 years that doesn't overlap the previous cycle. The cycle's Grand Prix will be the first to fall within a single calendar year.

04 January 2017

2016 FIDE Congress : Whither the World Championship?

A year and a month after 2015 FIDE Congress : Whither the World Championship? (December 2015), what can we learn from Spectating the 87th FIDE Congress (December 2016)? In that '2015 Whither?' post, as well as previous yearly 'Whither?' posts, much of the news came from the annual report delivered by FIDE President Ilyumzhinov. In 2016, the focus shifted to Agon. The first point from the 87th FIDE Congress; Baku, Azerbaijan; General Assembly; 11-13 September 2016; MINUTES, was about Agon's transparency:-
4.2. Agon Limited

Mr. Makropoulos [FIDE Deputy President] informed the General Assembly that as appeared in the EB minutes, he has sent a letter where he was asking Agon to establish a corporate structure in one of the following jurisdictions: European Union, United Kingdom, United States or Canada. Because of issues of transparency FIDE would have preferred if they have established this corporate structure in one of these areas. His letter has been approved.

Mr. Merenzon [Agon CEO] said in the next few months they will register Agon in United Kingdom and all financial and ownership details about the company will be public. The General Assembly ratified the recommendation of the Executive Board for FIDE to send a letter to Agon regarding jurisdiction of the company and sign the same agreement with the new entity.

The General Assembly ratified the recommendation of the Executive Board for FIDE to send a letter to Agon regarding jurisdiction of the company and sign the same agreement with the new entity.

Annex 94 is a presentation from Agon.

All annexes can be found by following the links in my 'Spectating' post. I captured part of the presentation in a post on my main blog Agon Presentation (September 2016). One slide I hadn't seen before is shown below.

Official National Sponsor Package
Sponsorship of the National Player

The next paragraph explains further.

Mr. Merenzon presented his report. He started with the changes in the Grand Prix format. From now 24 players can take part in the Grand Prix Series instead of 12 and it will last 11 days instead of 16. He said they are setting up a sponsorship model where FIDE and local federations have sponsors. They are also paying for the prize fund so it will be much cheaper to organize an event. At the same time they have the idea to sell sponsorships not only for the events but for the players. The cycle is planned to be exactly 2 years which makes things easier for the sponsors.

Regarding the upcoming World Championship match in New York, he presented the venue. He also said that VIP area will become a main revenue stream as they will sell access to it. The area will have good catering, special guests like celebrities and commentators which will make it a great experience. They are partners with an agency which is called CAA (Creative Artists Agency). It is the most famous sports agency in the world selling hospitality packages for Formula 1, top football clubs etc and now they will offer hospitality packages for chess and they will test it as a revenue opportunity. They are also changing the spectators' area. The players will be playing in a sound proof glass box so the experience of enjoying chess as a spectator will be completely different, spectators will be free to use their phones, talk and discuss the moves. They tried this in Moscow during the Candidates Tournaments, it worked fine and they are now improving on this method.

They are working with FIDE to make sure that anti-cheating rules are followed and at the same time the visitors are being taken care of. Another thing they are doing is that every day there is going to be first move ceremony in the Match, they are bringing celebrities, members of charities and other important people, so they are making it a media event in every first move. He also introduced new technology decisions for the match. They have developed a new broadcasting system and they are also working for protecting the moves legally. In Moscow they banned all other sites from broadcasting moves.

Their point was that according to laws which apply in Russia, USA and other countries, if it costs money to produce an event those who spend the money [own] the live broadcast. They worked with a top US law firm to produce a legal opinion on this and also spoke to US Southern Court which confirmed that they are right. What they will be doing now is something different, there is currently a new reality in chess, the game has over 1 billion downloads, chess is in almost all smartphones and the number of people playing chess has increased dramatically.

For the first time in any sports the World Championship is going to be broadcasted in 360 degrees virtual reality. That means that everyone around the world can download the application and be in the room with the players. They can be closer to the action than ever before. The cameras will be placed between the players so the match could be seen through the player's eyes. They can also wear 3D glasses. The cardboard with the glasses will just cost a dollar. They are producing a lot of them to give them to schools and also inside the venue. They will also have multiple cameras inside the playing room to choose from.

Regarding the dashboard, he said that they have been criticized for not offering the best online viewers experience so they worked with FIDE and other chess organizers and he believes they developed the best possible dashboard for chess, there is analytics, chats, multifunctional boards and other great features. They are also introducing [pay per] view like many other sports have done. There will still be free version as well, anyone can go into the official website and follow the moves but if somebody would like to get premium features like the 360 degrees video, they are charging for it. The model is call freemium. For him this is the best approach to make chess sustainable in the 21st century.

They are building a studio and it is going to be fun to watch chess which means it will not be targeted only to chess players. It is also the first World Chess Championship for the iPhone generation. In general the price for the premium features (right to ask online questions during press conferences, analytics, 360 degrees video etc) will be 15 dollars for the whole tournament, for 45 dollars they are selling subscription to the next cycle which includes the next Championship Match, all the Grand Prix and the Candidates Matches, for 99 dollars they will sell all of that plus premium gifts like signed posters, pins and other souvenirs.

He said that Mr. Carlsen is a huge supporter of this concept. He thinks chess will never go back to free and that this approach creates good reasons for the federations to develop their membership. So building communities and offering to their members subscriptions for events will be a way to bring revenue to the federations and further to the whole sport.

He explained that generally chess has a huge potential and the market size is very big, there are 300.000 paying subscribers in top 5 chess sites, 4.4 million who follow chess events and the overall market is even bigger, 35 million who regularly play chess online on top 5 sites. According to US studies, more people play chess than tennis and golf combined so the marketing opportunity is amazing. They would like to get partnerships with federations so they will send them an email with the option of signing up. They will offer affiliate programs. They will use selected partners: federations, major medias and chess websites so they will be able to follow the games on their media if they want to but if they prefer premium subscription the federation or the chess site will get commission.

This was followed by a Q&A where the 'protection of live transmission rights' was the main topic. Two months after the Congress, Agon's position was struck down by the courts; see my post World Championship Bullying (November 2016), for more on this.

The Grand Prix changes mentioned in the first paragraph above are also significant. Let's skip ahead in the minutes to the discussion of the group sometimes called the WCOC.

5.20. Commission on World Championship and Olympiads

5.20.1. FIDE World Cup 2017. • The event shall be held in Tbilisi, Georgia, 1-25 September 2017. Mr. Azmaiparashvili asked for permission to move the event to Batumi and to start on 15th September in case it is not clashing with other events. He said the hotel prices will be cheaper. He said only the final match will be held in Tbilisi and the organisers will cover the expenses for that extra day.

5.20.2. FIDE World Cup 2019. • The event shall be held in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, dates to be provided.

5.20.3. FIDE World Championship Match 2016. • The event shall be held in New York, USA, 11-30 November 2016.

5.20.4. FIDE Candidates’ Tournament 2016. • Annex 40 is Chief Arbiter’s report.

5.20.5. FIDE Grand-Prix series 2016-2017. • [...] Annex 41 is Regulations for the 2016-2017 FIDE World Chess Grand-Prix series. Mr. Merenzon informed about the Grand Prix Series in his presentation.

5.20.6. FIDE Women’s Grand-Prix series 2015-2016. • [...]

5.20.7. FIDE Women’s World Championship 2016. • Mr. Makropoulos advised that Tehran was interested in bidding and recommended that it be awarded to Tehran should the offer be acceptable. The General Assembly awarded the organization of the Women’s World Championship to Tehran, Iran, February 2017, provided the terms of the offer are acceptable.

5.20.8. FIDE Women’s World Championship Match 2017. • The event will be moved to the beginning of 2018. Bidding procedure will begin once the winner of the previous Championship is known.

5.20.9. FIDE Women’s World Championship 2018. • The event has been awarded to Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.

From Annex 41, 'Regulations for the 2016-2017 FIDE World Chess Grand-Prix Series':-

1. Introduction

1.1. Following the approval of the FIDE Presidential Board, the World Championship and Olympiad Commission of FIDE (WCOC) has agreed on these Regulations which will apply to the Grand Prix Series which forms part of the World Championship Cycle for 2016-2018. [...]

2. Format of the Grand Prix 2016-2017

The Grand Prix Series will consist of four tournaments to be held over two years (2016-2017). 24 top players will be selected in accordance with Section 3 below to compete in these tournaments. Each player agrees and will contract to participate in exactly 3 of these 4 tournaments. [...] Each tournament will have 18 players with a schedule of a nine (9) round swiss system. The dates scheduled for the Grand Prix tournaments are listed on the FIDE website and may be subject to change. The winner and second placed player overall of the Grand Prix Series will qualify for the Candidates Tournament to be held in the first half of 2018. [...]

3. Qualifiers for the Grand Prix 2016-2017

The players who qualify for selection to play in the Grand Prix Series will be chosen on the following prioritised basis until 24 players have accepted:

3.1 World Championship Match: The current World Champion and his opponent in the most recent World Championship Match (2 players).

3.2 World Cup: The players who have qualified to the semi-final stage of the FIDE World Cup 2015 (4 players).

3.3 FIDE Rating: Based on an average calculation [...] (8 players).

3.4 ACP Tour: The one (1) highest-placed participant of the most recently completed ACP Tour, who has not qualified with the previous criteria (1 player).

3.5 Organiser Nominees: Nine (9) players nominated by AGON with a published rating in classical (standard) chess of at least 2700, in at least one FIDE rating list of 2016 (9 players).

3.6 Replacements. [...]

Not to be forgotten in all of this are the ongoing U.S. Treasury sanctions against FIDE President Ilyumzhinov. I covered this in my previous 'Spectating' post and have nothing more to add here.