30 December 2009

2009 FIDE Executive Board : Whither the World Championship?

In mid-December, FIDE published the 80th FIDE Congress Executive Board Minutes and Annexes on Fide.com. In recent years, FIDE only issued these documents three or four months after the Executive Board (EB) met. This year they appeared two months after the meeting. The documents cover all aspects of FIDE's operations and are therefore key to understanding the world federation's priorities and directions. What do they say about the World Championship? I have two interests in particular:

Here are extracts from relevant portions of the EB's minutes. I include the section on SportAccord, because I wasn't familiar with the subject. Maybe it's relevant, maybe it isn't.

  • 1. Report of the President.
  • [...]
  • 3.8. Directors' Reports.
  • 3.8.1. Global Chess.
  • 3.8.2. Development Department.
  • 3.8.3. PR and Marketing Director.
  • [...]
  • 5.10. World Cup 2009.
  • 5.11. World Cup 2011.
  • 5.12. World Chess Championship Cycle 2009-2011.
  • 5.13. FIDE World Challengers' Match V. Topalov vs G. Kamsky.
  • 5.14. Match V. Anand vs V. Topalov, 2010.
  • 5.15. Grand Prix 2008-2009.
  • 5.16. Women's World Chess Championship 2010.
  • 5.17. Women's Grand Prix.
  • [...]
  • 8.3. SportAccord report.
  • [...]

Ilyumzhinov's report is usually the single most important document coming from the EB.

1. Report of the President.

President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov presented his annual report. [...]

Recently, the FIDE Secretariat has received a contract on the organization of the Candidates Matches in Azerbaijan. Mr. Makropoulos shall inform you in detail about this as he, together with Mr. Balgabaev, visited Baku where they held successful negotiations. These were not so simple, considering that GM L. Aronian's reservations about playing in Azerbaijan, being an Armenian, and considering relations of Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, a compromise was reached. [...]

In the first half of the year he had held a number of meetings with the leadership of Bulgaria: first meeting was held in February during the Topalov-Kamsky match, then in April in Moscow with the Bulgarian Prime-Minister Sergey Stanishev, followed by a meeting with President Pyrvanov during the M-Tel super tournament in May. The Bulgarian side is ready to participate in the bidding process announced by FIDE for the World Championship match Anand-Topalov. The chess federation of Bulgaria is very active not only in the organization of chess events, but in popularization of chess in their country. And each chess event gets the widest coverage of mass media. In the match in February he had counted 15 TV-cameras. [...]

During this period the Grand Prix stages for Women's tournament were organized in Istanbul and Nanjing. The remaining 4 stages shall be organized in 2010 in Russia, Armenia, Mongolia and Chile. The initiative after the last Congress was very good and all is going smoothly. So we will satisify the wish of our leading women players.

Immediately, after the Dresden Olympiad and Congress [November 2008], we managed to prepare and organize the Men's stage in Elista instead of Doha. In 2009 the tournaments were held in Nalchik (Russia) and Jermuk (Armenia). There have been some uncertainties with the last and final stage, but today he would like to announce that the last stage of the FIDE Grand Prix shall be organized in the city of Astrakhan in Russia. Mr. Geoffrey Borg shall report on this later on. The governor, Mr Zhilkin, told him about this on the phone and he confirmed this to Mr. Borg. He had appointed arbiters to this tournament and the contract shall be signed shortly. Then we will start a new cycle of Grand Prix tournaments. [...]

In March the FIDE delegation participated in the SportAccord meeting in Denver, where we have met again with the IOC representatives. Mr. Makropoulos will brief you in detail about SportAccord. After Denver he was contacted by the SportAccord President (SportAccord is the new name for GAISF [General Association of International Sports Federations]), Mr. Hein Verbruggen. He asked us for a sub-lease of our premises in Lausanne. We agreed to this request. As a result we reduced our expenses on this office, and have left only a postal address in Lausanne. [...]

The FIDE delegation led by Mr. Makropoulos has visited Khanty-Mansiysk in May and September where they checked the preparation for the World Cup and the 39th Chess Olympiad. The contract for the World Cup 2009 was signed for the period 20 November – 14 December 2009. We have touched upon this subject, but today he wanted to announce that the balance of 1,261,000 USD was transferred to FIDE this week. Now we shall concentrate on the proper preparation of the next Olympiad and Congress.

As it is known to the members of the Executive Board, we did not succeed in signing a contract for the 2010 Candidates Matches and the 2011 World Championship match with the German company UEP. Mr. Makropoulos will inform you of the situation.

He informed the Executive Board members that during his visit to Baku he had a meeting with the Azerbaijan Minister of Sports and President of their Chess Federation, who had expressed a firm interest in the organization of the Candidates Matches in their country. As he had already said, they have sent a contract already. In case their representative performs well, they are ready to organize the World Championship match, despite any financial conditions.

World Champion Viswanathan Anand has requested to postpone the World Championship match to the spring of next year. We have announced a bidding procedure which was completed on 30th September. We are in receipt of three bids – Turkey, Singapore and Bulgaria. The Bulgarian delegation is here and he was sure they would speak on the point. Bulgaria's was the only bid with financial guarantees. The challengers' match for this final event, between Topalov and Kamsky took place in February in the capital of Bulgaria. [...]

Members of the Executive Board had been presented with a draft contract between FIDE and Chess Lane which has been on our agenda for the last six months. He had received a lot of feedback from the Presidential Board members and he was thankful for members' active attitude and remarks. He praised the active involvement of the FIDE delegation – Messrs. Freeman, Makropoulos, Gelfer, Kelleher and Mazouz. Many important points are covered in this document and more will be heard about this later. [...]

Section '3.8. Directors' Reports' might best be subtitled 'The Demise of Global Chess'. I'll leave that discussion for another time.

Section '5. Presidential Board' has many subsections, but the discussions are generally brief. Subsections 5.1 through 5.9 (future Presidential Board meetings and FIDE Congresses; 5.8 is missing) contain information about future top-level FIDE meetings. [NB: There are potential problems with Chess Olympiad 2010.]

5.11. World Cup 2011.

Annex 26 is letter from the Estonian Chess Federation . Mr.B. Balgabaev visited Tallinn. He said that two days ago he spoke with Mr. Olde who told him that at the beginning of November there will be elections in the city of Tallinn and then they are ready to sign the contract with FIDE.

Annex 26 (undated): 'In 2007, the FIDE Presidential Board gave us the right to organize the 2011 World Cup Tournament in Tallinn. [...] We sincerely hope that we can sign the contract already in the beginning of July 2009. Looking forward to hearing from you, Carmen Kass, President of the Estonian Chess Federation'

World Cup 2011 would be the first event in a new World Championship cycle, the format of which has not been determined. It would be the fourth World Cup in the series and the first not held in Khanty-Mansiysk.

As for the current cycles, the following is somewhat confusing. The title World Championship Cycle 2009-2011 means the cycle that commenced with the Grand Prix 2008-2009 and which includes World Cup 2009, Candidates' Matches 2010, and World Championship 2011.

The Anand - Topalov match mentioned in the second paragraph will be the last event in the previous cycle that started with World Cup 2007. The Grand Prix mentioned in the same paragraph ('We are not intending to have Grand Prix') would be for the cycle starting World Cup 2011.

5.12. World Chess Championship Cycle 2009-2011.

Annex 27 is Regulations for Candidates' Matches 2010.

Mr. Makropoulos said that the match Anand-Topalov is postponed from September 2009 due to the request of GM V Anand. There is a new cycle with a match which should be organised in September 2011. We are not intending to have Grand Prix, unless we have signed contracts by the end of this year following previous decisions of the General Assemblies and Presidential Boards.

Concerning the final match of the next cycle, we have received an interest from Mr. Malcolm Pein from England. They organise London tournament at the end of 2009 with the support of the London Mayor. In 2012 they will host Olympic Games, and they are ready to try to organise the match in London at the beginning of 2012 with the support of the municipality of London. Mr. Makropoulos proposed, after a discussion with the FIDE President, that the Organisers can have the option with the prize fund of not less than 2 mln euros. For FIDE it would be important to have the match in the city of the Olympic Games under the same authorities and sponsorship. The FIDE President had agreed. Mr. Pein had to reply by 15th February 2010. If the option is not exercised, then the bidding procedure shall be opened immediately. Mr. Makropoulos said it would be very important if they could organise the match in a Western European country with such a high prize fund. All other regulations will be based on previous decisions of the General Assembly. The Presidential Board can decide on any changes, or the President, if there is something extraordinary to be changed.

Executive Board approved, including the proposal of Mr Makropoulos regarding the possibility to amend the pairings if necessary and that at least one player from Azerbaijan should be in the matches played in Baku.

Mr. Makropoulos said we did not sign the contract with UEP as their way of approaching our needs for promotion of FIDE is different from our understanding. We are trying to organise the match in a different place. We succeeded to have a contract with Azerbaijan only for half of the Candidates Matches, because GM L Aronian cannot play there. We agreed that they will organise 2 out of 4 matches and the final match, if GM Aronian is not in the final match. We have already had discussions with two different organisers, for the other half of the Candidates matches. Azerbaijan will pay 300,000 euros out of the 500,000 euro including the FIDE share, and the other organiser will pay 200,000 euros. Azerbaijan will have the nominee according to the regulations. We need to make sure that one Azeri player will play in Baku. Then we may have to amend pairings and to make a respective decision here.

Executive Board approved.

While I sincerely hope that the title match -- between the winner of Anand - Topalov 2010 and the winner of the Candidates' Matches 2010 -- does take place in London, it represents a slip of more than a year from the schedule announced in 2007 (see my recent post on The New/Old World Championship Cycle).

5.13. FIDE World Challengers' Match V. Topalov vs G. Kamsky.

Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos informed the Board. Annex 28 is report of the Chief Arbiter I. Leong. Mr.Makropoulos said that in Dresden we managed to reach an agreement. We managed to have the match without any problems with the players. We did not have any complaints from the players. He said we can guarantee right conditions for both players, even if the match is organised in the country of one of the players. GM Anand was satisfied in Bonn, GM Kamsky was satisfied with the conditions in Sofia, even though he lost the match. GM Anand should play in Sofia and FIDE should guarantee right conditions in Sofia. We will start discussions with both sides to finalise the contract. Our people should be flexible and understand that FIDE will do its best.

FIDE often takes a negative, defensive posture ('We managed to have the match without any problems with the players. We did not have any complaints from the players.'), when a positive, congratulatory comment would be entirely appropriate. I'm baffled by the statement that 'Our people should be flexible and understand that FIDE will do its best.' Who are 'our people' if not FIDE?

5.14. Match V. Anand vs V. Topalov, 2010.

Deputy President G. Makropoulos said the match will take place in April 2010 following the request of World Champion V. Anand, who was playing every year either a match or a tournament for the title. We accepted his request. Three bids were received; one from Turkey, for a prize fund of 1 mln euros, another from Singapore for 1.288 million euros, and the other one is from Bulgaria for 2 mln euros. No financial guarantees were received by the 30th September, so we extended this by 2 weeks.

Mr. Yazici said organisers are humans and due to his adrenalin he thought it would be fantastic to organise the match in Turkey. He had tried to organise Kasparov- Kasimdzhanov match also. He did not do his homework but was upset that his bid is not enough, but glad that there is such a good bid from Bulgaria. He withdrew the Turkish bid. He congratulated Silvio Danailov and his team but said Turkey will organise one day such a match and hope a Turkish player will be on one side of the board.

Mr. Leong said Singapore also withdraws and congratulated the Bulgarian Chess Federation for a very good bid.

Mr. Danailov, Vice President of the Bulgarian Chess Federation, took the floor and said that his country during the last 5-6 years organised 5 super tournament MTel masters and recently this year the candidate match Topalov-Kamsky in Sofia. We have a lot of experience of organising big events and we have bid for the upcoming World Championship match Topalov-Anand. Recently there is a new Government in Bulgaria and we are proud that the Prime Minister, Mr. Borisov, shall be chairman of the Organising Committee. The prize fund is 2mln euro plus 20% to FIDE plus the organising costs for the event. The letter from Mr Borisov is dated 12th October 2009 and is an official guarantee and personal guarantee. They will be ready to transfer the money, not later than 10th December 2009, with 3 mln euros budget.

Annex 66 is letter from the Prime Minister addressed to the FIDE President and the delegates. Mr. Freeman read the letter to the delegates.

Mr. Makropoulos thanked Silvio Danailov and Mr. Sergiev for their efforts. Strictly speaking we should have a bank guarantee, but he thought the letter from the Prime Minister should be accepted and the discussions for the organisation contract should start here. He proposed to award the event to Bulgaria.

Executive Board approved the award of the World Championship match V. Anand vs. V. Topalov to Bulgaria.

Mr. Makropoulos said that the offer is excellent. He said that the dates are not exact yet, we would like to start it on 5th April 2010. Negotiations shall be started.

Anand - Topalov 2010 was subsequently announced to start a few weeks later in April 2010.

5.15. Grand Prix 2008-2009.

We have the tournament in Astrakhan, end of April 2010. There are discussions regarding the dates so as not to clash with any other tournaments.

The last of the Grand Prix 2008-2009 tournaments has still not been announced.

5.16. Women's World Chess Championship 2010.

The event shall take place in Turkey, 2-25 December 2010. Mr. Yazici said Antakia is a very interesting place with fantastic food. He said the players will like this city, it is the crossroads of various religions. The Mayor of the city will guarantee 300,000 euros, and the Turkish Chess Federation has found other sponsors. We are ready to start.'

Women's events often seem to be easier to organize than unrestricted (i.e. men's) events. Is this because the prize funds are lower? Or because the women are less demanding? Or because women's events are seen as a novelty? Or some other reason?

5.17. Women's Grand Prix.

Mr. Borg said the Istanbul event in March was very well organised. Then in Nanjing there also had been excellent organisation with a tremendous effort by the organisers. We had some work to make sure that we finalise the whole cycle. He thanked Mr. Makropoulos and Mr. Vega for assisting with Chile to finalise the contract. We will complete the whole cycle. The players know their schedules. Everything is fine and under way.

Mr. Makropoulos said to make sure that all Organisers deposit money.

Mr. Yazici asked whether we are going to start a new Women's Grand Prix cycle.

Mr. Makropoulos said yes, we will concentrate on the women's Grand Prix.

Mrs. Kosteniuk thanked FIDE for the women's Grand Prix, it is a tremendous job, because from February until now it is clear that there is a cycle with dates and venues, which is very important for women players. She hoped that it will be continued. It will turn into one of the strongest chess events.

Mr. Yazici said their sponsor Bank is not happy that FIDE is changing the cycle for women. So they want to know in advance the whole cycle.

Mr. Borg said that Is Bankasi was caught in the position when we were pressing many countries, to finalise the venues. We concluded 7 cities in a period of 5 months. It is not easy, in respect of the prize money - there is a big problem of credibility, we have to win the credibility. We should maintain the product. He said that we now have a stable cycle for the women. We have to come down on prize expectations. We have to thank the President for his intervention and providing new venues.

The FIDE President said that for the Grand Prix series, both men and women Grand Prix for 2010-2012, they shall be taking place according to schedule. The venues shall be announced one year or six months at least in advance. Grand Prix is his baby as is the knockout World Championship, which despite all criticisms since 1995, everyone plays in it with great success and it is one of our flagship events. He said we will announce World Cup venues for 2011, 2013 and even 2015. As for the Grand Prix, the first cycle is ok, and the baby is healthy, and we will announce all the venues for the next cycle one year in advance. We discussed it with Mr. Borg. There will be some slight technical changes, first in respect of the prize fund and the second in respect of the number of the participants. We shall discuss this with the FIDE respective Commissions, ACP and professional chess players. He had in his hands the proposals from four venues for men's and women's Grand Prix. He wanted the Executive Board members and chess players to look to the future with assurance. Our calendar is guaranteed for the next seven years in respect of the World Championship and Grand Prix cycle. He was sure we will agree with the London Organisers. He agreed with his colleagues and chess players that the contracts for the organisation of the Grand Prix should be in place in advance and should be signed in advance.

Mr. Rajscanyi said in Budapest there will be a new Mayor so we can think of this possibility. He agreed with the President about the number of the participants in the Women's Grand Prix.

Mr. Makropoulos said we have women's Grand Prix for 2010 firm. New cycle is for 2011 so we have time to announce in 2010 all the tournaments for 2011. For men we have just closed the last city. The situation with the women is much better.

Mr. Yazici proposed that at the end of 2010 at the Women's World Championship December 2010, in Turkey, we can gather all the Grand Prix organisers for women, so they could sign contracts for the next cycle.

Note the long paragraph that starts 'The FIDE President said that for the Grand Prix series, both men and women Grand Prix for 2010-2012, they shall be taking place according to schedule.' This is more positive than section 5.12, where Makropoulos is minuted to have said, 'We are not intending to have Grand Prix, unless we have signed contracts by the end of this year [2009?] following previous decisions of the General Assemblies and Presidential Boards.'

8.3. SportAccord report.

Annex 41. Mr. Makropoulos said that we did very good work with the help of all FIDE people. He said that following the discussion with the IOC leadership we should concentrate on the youth Olympics. Its main principle fits with chess but the first games will include same sports as in Olympic Games. We should be determined on this event. We have good chances and we should really have a strategy to convince the IOC that they should include chess.

Annex 41 (undated): 'This year's SportAccord was held in Denver, USA. The FIDE delegation was led by the Deputy President, Georgios Makropoulos, and included the President's Assistant, Berik Balgabaev, Commercial Director, Geoffrey Borg, and the Executive Director, David Jarrett. [...] The International Mind Sports Association elected Jose Damiani (Bridge) as President, Georgios Makropoulos (Chess) as Deputy President, Thomas Hsiang (Go) as Secretary General and David Jarrett (Chess) as Treasurer. There was a review of the 2008 event and it was decided to hold a second edition of the World Mind Sports Games in either 2011 or 2013, to avoid clashes with the Chess Olympiad. [...] FIDE, led by the Deputy President, had a constructive meeting with representatives of the IOC. There was a review of matters since the previous meeting in Athens and new topics included a discussion of the relevance of chess as a discipline in the Youth Olympics. The Presidential Board in Krakow appointed Vice President Khalifa Al-Hitmi to take this project forward.'

NB: International Mind Sports Association, World Mind Sports Games 2008 (held in China), and Youth Olympics. Are the years of drug testing and other IOC oriented policies going to pay off? If so, it would open a major source of funding for chess.

23 December 2009

2009 World Cup Players

Finishing up with 2009 World Cup Results, I added the 127 participants (there was one no-show) to my 'Index of Players': A-G, H-M, N-S, & T-Z. Of the 127 players, 35 were playing in a FIDE World Championship event for the first time.

16 December 2009

2009 World Cup Results

I added the results and PGN to my page on the 2009 World Cup, Khanty-Mansiysk. I didn't have time to add the players to my pages that cross reference them to events and will do the update as soon as I can. Winner Gelfand's previous best result in a knockout was at Groningen 1997, where he lost in the semifinal round to Anand (round 6). In the four other knockout events where he played, he always managed to reach at least round 4.

09 December 2009

Knockout Finalists

It's time to eat crow. In a comment to Asleep at the Wheel, Klaus Johnson informed that at the end of 2008 FIDE had indeed announced that two players from the 2009 World Cup would qualify into the next candidates event.
  • The 79th FIDE Congress completed its session in Dresden • 'It approved a Candidates tournament in which two players are from the ongoing Grand Prix series, two players as finalists of World Cup 2009, the defeated player from the World Championship match 2009, the defeated player from the Challenge Match 2009, the highest rated player provided that he is one of the top six players based on the rating list, and the player nominated by the organizer with a rating above 2700)' [November 2008]

  • Bidding Procedure for the World Championship Cycle 2009-2011 • 'Players will qualify for the Candidates stage according to the following order of priority: [same as above with a few clarifications; December 2008]

This was changed a few months later by the FIDE Presidential Board (PB).

  • Presidential Board meeting 1st quarter 2009 • 'In 2011, there will be a Candidate Matches/Tournament consisting of GM Kamsky, the loser of the Anand-Topalov match, two players from the Grand Prix series and one player from the World Cup, two highest rated players not already qualified and a player nominated by the organizer. The winner will play the World Champion in 2011.' [March 2009]

The regulations were drafted, approved at the next FIDE PB meeting, and published in June.

I could quibble that the 'rules' weren't formally announced until June 2009, and thus have never been changed, but this would serve no useful purpose other than to show that I can be irrationally stubborn. When FIDE announced the Bidding Procedure in December 2008, potential organizers should have known what they were bidding on, even if the change from

  • two World Cup finalists and one seed based on rating to
  • one World Cup finalist and two seeds on rating

would have no impact on the bid. Did the PB introduce the change in March after considering the finalists of past knockout events (winner listed first)?

  • 1997 Groningen • Anand - Adams
  • 1999 Las Vegas • Khalifman - Akopian
  • 2000 New Delhi/Tehran • Anand - Shirov
  • 2001-02 Moscow • Ponomariov - Ivanchuk
  • 2004 Tripoli • Kasimdzhanov - Adams
  • 2005 Khanty-Mansiysk • Aronian - Ponomariov
  • 2007 Khanty-Mansiysk • Kamsky - Shirov

Both finalists in the 2009 knockout -- Gelfand and Ponomariov (a finalist for the third time) -- are worthy of competing in the candidates event.

02 December 2009

Getting Serious About Qualifiers

On several occasions I've mentioned the idea of adding qualifying events to my page on the World Chess Championship : Pre-FIDE Events. Posts where the idea came up are:

Other topics worth noting against 'Pre-FIDE Events' are:

  • 1905+: Challenges to Lasker
  • 1922: London rules
  • 1927+: The Alekhine - Capablance return match, other challenges to Alekhine
  • 1937: Euwe's attempt to transfer responsibility for the title to FIDE

Related topics already covered by other blog posts are:

Since it's not completely clear whether a particular event should be considered a qualifier, some criteria are necessary. One would be that the participants played with the expectation that success would bring an opportunity to compete in a match for the World Championship.