21 July 2010

FIDE Presidential Candidates and the World Championship

With the successful completion of the 2010 Anand - Topalov World Championship match, the confusing situation that I documented in Two Overlapping World Championship Cycles has finally been resolved. Where does the World Championship go from here?

Although it's too early to expect details about the 2010 Candidates Event, its qualifying event 2008-2009 Grand Prix just having finished in May this year, I had expected to have some information by now about the shape of subsequent World Championship cycles. The FIDE Calendar for the year 2011 lists 'Candidates Matches 2011; Baku, Azerbaijan /; 1-Mar-2011; 31-May-2011' (is something missing after the slash '/', like a second venue?), but there is no entry for a World Cup in December 2011 and nothing but junior events in 2012.

The last time I reported on FIDE's plans -- 2009 FIDE Executive Board : Whither the World Championship? (December 2009) -- I wrote that I had two main interests: (1) Successful completion of the two current cycles, and (2) Plans for the subsequent cycles. Assuming that the current, ongoing cycle ends in a title match sometime in 2012, what happens then? Given that we will have a FIDE election in a few months, what do the two candidates have to say about the World Championship? Here is an excerpt from Ilyumzhinov's site (onefide.com/achievements):

World Championship: A stable structure is in place for the World Championship cycles, through a system of Zonals, Continental Championships, Grand Prix, World Cup, Candidates Matches and the World Championship Match. The current system offers more opportunities for hundreds of players, around the world, to participate in high level official competitions, with prize money for all the events exceeding 7 million USD. Furthermore, it is a comprehensive system that produces the best player.

It's easy to take issue with the term 'stable structure'. Stable would mean two consecutive cycles run using the same format. FIDE hasn't yet been able to deliver a single cycle run using the structure announced at the beginning of that cycle. Here is an excerpt from Karpov's site (karpov2010.org/platform):

4.2) The World Championship. For well over a century, predating FIDE itself, the crown jewel of the chess world has been the World Championship. Few titles are as hallowed in the history of sport. Even a mainstream, non-chessplaying public that has heard little of chess in the past dozen years has an instant and profound respect and fascination with the game of chess and our champions. This invaluable mystique has been damaged greatly during the last 15 years, as attempts to randomize results and a failure to promote events has dramatically reduced the profile of world championship matches. We will lead the way toward rebuilding the World Championship aura that captivated the world when Bobby Fischer took the title in 1972 and when Karpov and Kasparov battled through five consecutive world title matches.

4.2.1) The world champion, the championship title, and the championship cycle will be promoted consistently and treated with respect. Championship events must be scheduled well in advance so that proper promotion is allowed. This is essential for any serious sponsor and for the players.

4.2.2) The world championship match, as well as the qualifying and candidates events that lead to it, must be accorded special attention and respect. This means, but is not limited to, scheduling candidates events to allow for promotion as well as for preparation and recovery by the players, and holding matches of sufficient length to produce victors who will be credible world champions.

Here it's easy to take take issue with this revisionist view of recent chess history. It's not that the World Championship's 'mystique has been damaged greatly during the last 15 years', which just happens to coincide with Ilyumzhinov's term as FIDE President. In fact, the 'damage' started in 1993 with the Kasparov - Short match. Furthermore, we don't have to go back to the 1980s with a goal of 'rebuilding the World Championship aura'. The four most recent World Championship events -- 2005 San Luis, 2006 Kramnik - Topalov, 2007 Mexico City, and 2010 Anand - Topalov -- all attracted considerable interest. As for 'scheduling candidates events to allow for promotion as well as for preparation and recovery by the players', the most glaring example was the 1998 Karpov - Anand match, where a well rested Karpov played a tired Anand who just a few days earlier had battled to success in the 1997 Groningen knockout matches.

Neither Ilyumzhinov nor Karpov seems to have any idea where the World Championship is going, so neither do I.

1 comment:

R K Hansdah said...

I was shocked to find Anand-Kramnik (2008) Classical World Chess Championship relegated to the 'Candidates' column as Matches (2008-09) in your World Chess Championship Index. If at all, any other event was to be shown under the 'Candidates' column, it should have been Mexico City (2007), although I would prefer it to be continually shown under 'World Championship' column.
When you can show two events under 'World Championship' column, viz., Mexico City (2007) and Kramnik-Topalov (2006) for the 'Cycle' 2005-07, why cannot you show Anand-Kramnik (2008) along with Anand-Topalov (2010) for the 'Cycle' 2007-10? This beats me completely. Do you mean to say that Anand-Kramnik was not a World Championship Match but a Candidates Match? In this case, I will argue that Anand-Topalov (2010)was not at all a World Championship Match but a Candidates Match for the 'Cycle' 2008-11, and it should be put under 'Candidates' column along with Candidates event (2010).
By the way, apart from these small disagreements, I admire your site very much and am awed by the amount of labour and time that may have been spent on putting up and continuously maintaining the site. It is the definitive site for the World Chess Championships.
Best regards.