15 March 2023

Chess Heaven in Lausanne

My main blog is often the inspiration for posts on this World Chess Championship blog. Consider the following two 'On the Cover' posts, where the quotes are from the introduction to the respective issues of the 1998 Chess Life (CL):-
  • 2023-02-02: February 1973 & 1998 'On the Cover' • '[Cover] photo by Elizabeth Karnazes. And she will be providing next month's cover, as well as a photographic essay of the final match, to accompany a report by Larry Christiansen.'
  • 2023-03-09: March 1973 & 1998 'On the Cover' • 'Elizabeth Karnazes shot the cover photo of Anatoly Karpov just after he successfully defended his FIDE World Championship title in Lausanne, Switzerland.'

The common element is the cover photo by Elizabeth Karnazes. The February 1998 issue of CL promised a pair of articles on the 1998 Karpov - Anand FIDE Title Match, and the March 1998 issue delivered, more or less.

GM Christiansen's one page report was really about the 1997 FIDE Knockout Matches, held in December at Groningen, where he played. Photographer Karnazes two page report was about the final match held in January at Lausanne, which she spectated. The report started with a half page of photos. Two of them are reproduced below along with their original captions.

Left: 'A little slice of chess heaven.' (taken from the photographer's Lausanne hotel?) • Right: 'Anatoly Karpov and his wife, Natalie Karpova, as they emerge from the Olympic Museum, just after Karpov defeated Anand.'

The report carried the same title as the photo on the left, 'A Little Slice of Chess Heaven' by Elizabeth Karnazes. It started,

Nestled on the shores of Lake Geneva high in the Swiss Alps lies the charming town of Lausanne, Switzerland. Lausanne is the Olympic Capital, headquarters of the International Olympic Committee and the Federation Internationale des Echecs [FIDE]. It is the site of the Olympic Museum, which hosted the FIDE World Chess Championship Finals under the auspices of the IOC from January 1-9, 1998. Lausanne is also the home of the Beau-Rivage Palace, arguably one of the top ten hotels in the world. Most importantly, Lausanne is where I first experienced a little slice of chess heaven.

The next paragraph set the tone of the entire piece, which was more about the ambience surrounding the event. Asking for directions to Lausanne while in a Parisian McDonald's is roughly equivalent to asking for directions to Lake Champlain while in a New York City McDonald's.

After a grueling ten hour drive over the top of the Swiss Alps from Paris with my usual caravan of luggage and two young sons in tow, I saw a glittering array of lights leading me to my destination. As it turned out, there was a shorter route via a major highway, which would have placed us in Lausanne five hours earlier. Surely the charming employees of McDonald's Paris, who provided me with directions for the journey, were having a great laugh at the silly American woman in the Volkswagen. No matter, the view was spectacular and we were on our way to witness two of the world's greatest chessplayers, Anatoly Karpov and Viswanathan Anand, vie for close to two million dollars in prize money and the right to be called World Champion. (Deeper Blue and Garry Kasparov notwithstanding.)

The 'two young sons' (ten-year-old twins) were also chess players and participated in a junior event held during the match. Their Mom played in a different event for journalists without chess titles. As good a story as it was, I'll try to add a post that focuses more on the chess played in the match.

08 March 2023

Sanghi Nagar: The Kamskys vs. the World

A couple of weeks ago I posted How to Lose a Sponsor in Ten Days (February 2023). It ended with a question:-
What happened between 'Chess deserves to be promoted' and 'I will never organize an event in which Gata Kamsky participates'? It will take another post to explain.

Remember that the post was part of a series about the 1994-96 FIDE Candidates Matches (m-w.com), specifically the 'Final matches', Sanghi Nagar, February 1995: Karpov - Gelfand and Kamsky - Salov. The 'Lose a Sponsor' post quoted from Leontxo Garcia's report in Europe Echecs, April 1995, translated from the French language. Garcia described an incident that defined the matches in the public's memory:-

Karpov has taken a number of precautions: his team is made up of [...] The Kamskys had strengthened their team with Alexander Shabalov, but he has just left after a quarrel with Rustam. According to several witnesses, [Gata] Kamsky's father had hit the second. Which Rustam denies by declaring: "It was a discussion between men" and by specifying that Shabalov was incapable of working more than two or three hours a day, against the thirteen or fourteen that he asked of him. Shabalov, who had a lip injury, explained the situation before returning to New York:

"It is very difficult to work with Rustam. Financially, he always keeps his word but he wants to make all the decisions, including on the purely technical level, despite his poor knowledge of chess. I'm sorry for Gata. But whether he loses or wins, it will not be because of my departure."

Rustam Kamsky was just getting warmed up. Later he took on the match organizer and sponsor:-

As match interest begins to dwindle faster than expected [NB: because the winners were clear], Rustam escalates the tension with a stormy statement. After Gata and Salov's relatively peaceful press conference, Rustam, still nervous despite the victory, goes to Ravi Sanghi's office to demand Gata's "money". According to Ravi, travel costs and the prize itself, according to Rustam, only plane tickets. Rustam complains that he is tired of always being told "tomorrow" when he comes to ask for his team's $7,000 for tickets. Sanghi explains to Rustam that it is very difficult to obtain foreign currency in India and reminds him that he has offered to pay him several times in rupees or traveller's checks, instead of cash. Kamsky's father becomes even more agitated and returns to the press center to launch an attack on Sanghi, accusing him of not providing him with proper food, of conspiring with Kasparov and Campomanes, of deliberately making life difficult for Gata in these semi-finals as in the previous quarter-finals, etc.

Sanghi then gets very angry and prepares to "take very severe measures". Dzindzi [GM Dzindzihashvili; see below], who has also been made aware of Rustam's outburst, then calls Sanghi to restore the situation. He demands a written apology from Rustam "before 8:30 p.m.", the time at which most Indian journalists must return to Hyderabad. In return, Dzindzi asks for a written guarantee that the amount due will be paid in full.

Rustam [Kamsky] then signs a document in which he retracts his attacks against Sanghi and the organizers. But Sanghi does not calm down and declares to the Indian press that he "will never organize an event in which Gata Kamsky participates". And Sanghi insists that Rustam can no longer give interviews without his formal permission.

The next day, Campomanes sends a fax to Rustam, announcing that his apologies "attenuate but do not absolve this misconduct... And [he] imposes a symbolic fine of 150 Swiss francs. Any recidivism or any similar attitude in the future will be severely punished". Rustam reacts very badly to the answers of Sanghi and Campomanes, and declares: "I am afraid for the life of my son".

Given that every controversy has at least two sides, the other side of the story was described in Kamsky's House Arrest (rec.games.chess; March 1995; 'Copyright by Chesstours'): 'Interview with GM Roman Dzindzihashvili (Gata Kamsky's second) by GM Larry Evans'.

01 March 2023

Zone 1.6 (Russia) Becomes Zone 3.8

Here's continuing a story from my main blog that was mentioned in First Yahoos of 2023 (January 2023):-
2023-01-30: Russian Chess Federation moves to Asia (chessbase.com) • 'The Russian Chess Federation has advised the European Chess Union that they have applied for membership of the Asian Chess Federation, and that they intend to withdraw from the ECU as soon as they have been admitted.'

The Europeans reacted immediately:-

  • 2023-01-30: Statement of the European Chess Union (europechess.org) • 'The European Chess Union (ECU) hereby expresses its position on the possible transfer of the Russian Chess Federation (RCF) to the Asian Chess Federation (ACF). '

FIDE took a few weeks to respond formally:-

  • 2023-02-22: FIDE resolution on the Russian Federation joining the ACF (fide.com) • 'The FIDE Council reviewed yesterday, February 21, the report prepared by the Constitutional Commission on the request made by the Chess Federation of Russia (CFR) to join the Asian Chess Federation (ACF).'

The ECU reaction was again immediate:-

  • 2023-02-22: Statement of the European Chess Union – 22.02.2023 (europechess.org) • 'Following the FIDE Council’s decision concerning the proposed transfer of the Russian Chess Federation (RCF) to the Asian Chess Federation (ACF), the European Chess Union (ECU) hereby declares [...]'

The vote of the Asian Federation was overwhelmingly in favor of the transfer, with six abstentions:-

The Chess24 report discussed the qualification for places in a forthcoming stage of the World Championship.

It’s already been confirmed by the European Chess Union that players who were already enrolled in the European Championship that starts in Vrnjacka Banja, Serbia in three days’ time will still be able to play -- and potentially take one of the 23 spots available in the upcoming World Cup. [...]

It appears there’s nothing to stop players competing in Serbia and then, later in the year, competing in the Asian Continental Championships in Kazakhstan, for which no dates have yet been set, according to FIDE’s calendar. The question of World Cup places is an interesting one, with the regulations of the 2023 World Cup, to be held in August in Baku, Azerbaijan, allocating spaces based on the number of players in the World Top 60 in January 2022.

Counting individual players, the Russian federation is FIDE's largest; see FIDE Rating List - January 2023 (January 2023), also on my main blog, for some numbers. The full impact of the transfer remains to be seen.

22 February 2023

How to Lose a Sponsor in Ten Days

A few weeks ago, in Hooked on 1994-95 Sanghi Nagar (February 2023), I discussed Bill Hook's report on the 1994-95 FIDE Candidates Matches. I also mentioned,
Another source is a three page report in Europe Echecs, April 1995 p.8, signed 'Leontxo Garcia (WCS)'.

With the help of Google Translate, I translated Leontxo Garcia's report from the French language. He covered three topics -- the matches as a high-level chess competition, friction between FIDE & the PCA, and the behavior of the Kamskys. The report started,

February 5, 8 pm: I am still on the dangerous road which leads from Hyderabad, the capital of the state of Andhra Pradesh, to the small village of Sanghi Nagar, in the south-east of India. In the middle of August, when I had made the trip in the opposite direction at 4:30 am after the closing ceremony of the FIDE quarter-finals, I doubted that I would ever return to these exotic places. Like my colleagues, I thought it would be surprising that once Anand was eliminated, the Sanghi Industries firm continued to invest money, effort and illusions in chess.

But Ravi Sanghi, the president of the company, kept his word: "Chess deserves to be promoted, particularly in India, because it is very useful educationally, it is inexpensive and you can play without discrimination of age, sex, caste, culture, religion or social class”. This fine declaration led to a tangible result in the very great improvements made to the infrastructures and, in particular, to one of the best press centers (approximately 300 square meters) that I have seen in twelve years in the business.

Some time later, Garcia's narrative changed dramatically:-

Rustam [Kamsky] then signed a document in which he retracted his attacks against Sanghi and the organizers. But Sanghi did not calm down and declared to the Indian press that he "will never organize an event in which Gata Kamsky participates".

What happened between 'Chess deserves to be promoted' and 'I will never organize an event in which Gata Kamsky participates'? It will take another post to explain.

15 February 2023

2022-23 WGP, Munich

The second of four legs for the 2022-23 Women's Grand Prix [WGP] finished this week. The FIDE report, Alexandra Kosteniuk wins Women's Grand Prix Munich (fide.com), started,

Despite losing to Chinese phenomenon Zhu Jiner [in the final round], former Women's World Champion and winner of the 2021 World Cup Alexandra Kosteniuk added another tournament victory to her list of achievements by winning the Munich International Tournament this afternoon, the second event of the 2022-2023 FIDE Women's Grand Prix.

For this blog's post on the first leg, see 2022-23 WGP, Astana (October 2022). An earlier post, Women's Events 2022-23 (September 2022), listed four legs for the WGP:-

1st leg; Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan; 17 Sep 2022; 30 Sep 2022
2nd leg; Munich, Germany; 01 Feb 2023; 14 Feb 2023
3rd leg; India; 2023; 2023
4th leg; Bydgoscz, Poland; 2023; 2023

The FIDE Calendar (fide.com), now adds,

3rd leg; Remarks: second half of March 2023 in India (place and exact dates TBD)
4th leg; Remarks: May-June 2023 (exact dates TBD)

Note that the WGP is a qualification event for the next cycle. I reported on the current cycle in 2022-23 Women's Candidates, Pool B (December 2022), where I wrote,

The FIDE Calendar doesn't yet list the Candidates final match between GM Lei Tingjie and GM Tan Zhongyi, both from China. The winner will play the current Women’s World Champion, GM Ju Wenjun, also from China. That title match is also not listed.

Those events are now listed as:-

Women's Candidates Tournament Final; Chongqing, China; 27 Mar 2023; 06 Apr 2023
Women's World Championship Match; 2023; 2023

Getting back to the 2022-23 WGP, winner Kosteniuk recently made the news with 'Alexandra Kosteniuk To Play For Switzerland' (chess.com; Peter Doggers). On the event's official site, FIDE Grand prix 2022 (womengrandprix.fide.com), she was listed on the crosstable with the FIDE flag.

08 February 2023

Chess in the 70s and 80s

That's 1870s and 1880s. Last year on my main blog, I posted The No.2 Yahoo (May 2022; 'Yahoos are mainstream news stories about chess'). That footnote quoted between the parentheses is not completely accurate. Yahoos also include mainstream chess news sources. The Big Kahuna is Chess.com, but other sources also vie for the spotlight. The post explained,
For the first time that I can remember, a news source other than Chess.com tallied at least ten stories, with ChessBase accounting for exactly ten. At the beginning of the year, I calculated that ChessBase was the no.2 news source for the year 2021, so their visibility in May was not an accident.

During the last few years, ChessBase.com has run a number of feature articles on the two main rivals for the first World Chess Championship. I have some familiarity with the subject, thanks to a number of pages that I created in days of yore:-

The first wave of articles from Chessbase.com were penned by Stephan Oliver Platz:-

  • 2018-01-31: The final years of Zukertort (chessbase.com; ditto for this list and the following lists) • 'In 1886 Johann Hermann Zukertort played the first official match for the World Championship and lost to Steinitz. But at that time Zukertort already suffered from severe health issues which two years later led to his early death. Stephan-Oliver Platz takes a look at the health of Zukertort in the final years of the chess legend.'
  • 2019-05-26: Romantic Steinitz • 'As is well known, Wilhelm Steinitz justified positional chess theory and thus ended the Romantic era. It is less well-known that Steinitz himself was previously a great chess romantic.'
  • 2020-04-07: An "interview" with Wilhelm Steinitz • 'The first official World Chess Champion William Steinitz (1836-1900) is regarded as a pioneer of modern chess strategy. His theories pushed back the gambit style that had prevailed until then and led to a much more cautious approach. How did Steinitz get his insights and what principles did he teach? Read an imagined interview with the legendary chess thinker, drawn from his own writings. [...] William Steinitz's answers are excerpts from his book "The Modern Chess Instructor", New York and London 1889.'

Last year Eugene Manlapao returned with an article on the same period:-

  • 2022-04-27; London 1883: Prelude to the First World Championship Match (26 April - 23 June) • 'London, with its rich chess tradition, has been the scene of many great tournaments. One of these, the London International Tournament of 1883, happened at an important point in history. It is remembered mainly as the event that led to the first World Chess Championship, which, in turn, formalized the title of World Champion. Johannes Zukertort won the tournament ahead of Wilhelm Steinitz, and in 1886, three years after London, they played the first official World Championship match against each other.'

During the past two months, the period resurfaced in a pair of articles based on a new book from Willy Hendriks:-

  • 2022-12-13: Willy Hendriks' "The Ink War" - The Mystery of Zukertort's Breakdown • '"The Ink War: Romanticism versus Modernity in Chess", the new book by Dutch author Willy Hendriks, is definitely one of the most exciting and interesting chess books of 2022. Hendriks first of all looks at the bitter rivalry between William Steinitz and Johannes Zukertort, who in 1886 played the first official World Championship match. But Hendriks also analyses how chess understanding developed and takes a critical look at chess history and the way chess history is written. Thoroughly researched, well-written, entertaining, witty, and thought-provoking. [...] This article is an adaptation of a chapter of Willy Hendriks’s book "The Ink War, Romanticism versus Modernity in Chess" (New In Chess 2022).'
  • 2023-01-24: "Does chess history have to be rewritten?" - An interview with Willy Hendriks (by Johannes Fischer) • 'Dutch author and International Master Willy Hendriks just published "The Ink War: Romanticism vs Modernity in chess". The book analyses the rivalry between Wilhelm Steinitz and Johannes Zukertort, who in 1886 played the first official World Championship match. But Hendriks also looks at chess history and challenges a number of accepted views about chess improvement and the development of chess knowledge. In an interview with Johannes Fischer, Hendriks talks about Steinitz, Zukertort, chess history, the pleasures of studying the classics, and why studying the openings helps you to improve in chess.'

For more about the book from its publisher, see The Ink War (newinchess.com; sample pages). There is some overlap and some contradiction across the six articles linked above, but I've run out of time for this post. Mayber later...

01 February 2023

Hooked on 1994-95 Sanghi Nagar

A couple of weeks ago, in the post Karpov on 1994-95 Sanghi Nagar (January 2023), I wrote,
The Bill Hook report was the only CL [Chess Life] report on that stage of the FIDE Candidates Matches, where an American qualified into a World Championship title match. Karpov's column for the following month discussed his match with Gelfand, who was eliminated for the title match. [...] Where can we find more detail about the two Sanghi Nagar events?

A clue to one source is given in that paragraph: Bill Hook's Hooked On Chess (newinchess.com). Starting on p.159 he explained how he got the photographer's job for the matches and then provided some background:-

Sanghi Nagar is a self-contained industrial complex, isolated in a dry hilly landscape, and run by wealthy Sri Ravi Sanghi, who was sponsoring the chess matches. Mr. Sanghi was convinced that India was destined to be a power in international chess, and was doing what he could to further that aim. He had constructed a special air-conditioned theatre for the matches with the players on stage behind a soundproof glass wall. There were small housing units for the players and analysts as well as some members of the press. Additionally, he was responsible for the creation of an attractive Hindu temple perched dramatically on a nearby hill, and his impressive home could be seen on another distant hill. Mimi [Bill Hook's wife] later interviewed Mr. Sanghi, and her article subsequently appeared in Inside Chess.

The contending players in the two qualifying matches were Anatoly Karpov, paired against Boris Gelfand, and Valery Salov vs. Gata Kamsky. Young Kamsky, a Russian defector, was representing the USA, and was accompanied by GM analysts Alex Shabalov, Roman Dzindzichashvili and, most notably, Gata's father, Rustam. Rustam and his son had been granted political asylum some years back after the highly talented Gata, then 13 , had played in a strong New York Open tournament. Since then Rustam, a burly man in his forties, had gotten a reputation for aggressively protecting the rights of his son.

Another source is a three page report in Europe Echecs, April 1995 p.8, signed 'Leontxo Garcia (WCS)'. Just like our previous sources, the article was illustrated with photos by Bill Hook. This photo shows the playing hall.

I'll come back to both the book and the French language magazine in another post.