27 December 2017

Small Projects for 2018

This being the last post of the old year, let's set some goals for the new year. I did this nearly three years ago in Small Projects for 2015 (January 2015), and actually managed to accomplish all of them. Perhaps I haven't needed specific objectives since then because of the blog follow-up list: Posts with label zFLUP. Some of the most prominent small projects on that list can be done in small chunks whenever I have some free time:-

'Small Projects for 2015' included updates for both the World Correspondence and World Computer championships, two topics that I tend to forget. Comparing the last time I looked at the first topic, Correspondence Chess 2016 (May 2016), with the current situation reveals two events in progress, neither of which requires immediate attention:-

As for the second topic, one event has taken place since I looked at the 22nd World Computer Championship (August 2016). Details are on the home page for the ICGA : International Computer Games Association; see especially the post by David Levy, dated 19 June 2017.

On top of those World Championship subjects, I have two technical problems to address. The first is a replacement for my old FTP package. It ran under my browser, but was deemed obsolete after the browser's last major software update. My ISP's 'File Manager' is adequate for small updates to the site, but is too clunky for large updates. The second is a replacement for my old PGN normalization software, which was forcibly retired last summer. I added two recent events without including the corresponding PGN:-

Updates to the correspondence and computer championships will also require PGN normalization.

20 December 2017

World Championship Branding

In last week's post, 2018 World Championship, London, I mentioned a couple of drawings that I had found on the official site, london2018.worldchess.com:-
I couldn't find an official logo on the official site, so I reused two images that appear to have been created for the event. They are somewhat strange, particularly the one on the right, but many things that emanate from Agon are strange.

A few days after I posted that, I leaned that the images were indeed designed for the match: Branding for the 2018 Match Unveiled (worldchess.com):-

Key visual for the 2018 World Chess Championship is controversial and trendy, just like the host city. [...] The 2018 key visual has been developed by Shuka Design and we are very happy to unveil it today.

The 'key visual', the image I had on the left of the '2018 London' post, appears in much larger format in the Worldchess 'Branding' announcement...

...The announcement also mentions,

As organizers of the match we've been busy for over a year working with artists and designers to develop a perfect key visual, the image that will be associated with the 2018 match and which will find its way onto mugs, posters, outdoor displays, venue design, media, broadcasting graphics and more.

As for the image I had on the right -- questioned by one source as Pawn-ographic? (rt.com; 'Chess world divided on "suggestive" Russian-designed logo for World Championships') -- it's already available on a poster: 2018 World Chess Championship 'Sexy' Limited Edition Print (worldchess.store). I imagine it will soon be available on mugs as well.

13 December 2017

2018 World Championship, London

I created a new page for next year's World Championship, currently titled 2018 Carlsen - TBA. The page is only a stub with a link to the official site (available a year in advance!) and a link to the announcement of the venue. That Fide.com page said,
FIDE and World Chess announced that the 2018 World Chess Championship Match will take place in London in November 2018. [...] The 12-game Match will see current World Chess Champion, Norway’s Magnus Carlsen, defend his title against a challenger to be decided at the forthcoming FIDE World Chess Candidates Tournament in March.

Why create the new page only a month after creating one for the candidates tournament, 2018 Candidates, Berlin, which will be held in March? Because I expect that there will be some controversy surrounding the London match and I wanted a permanent place to record it. With announcements coming variously from Agonlimited.com, Fide.com, and Worldchess.com, it is difficult to keep track of World Championship news.

I couldn't find an official logo on the official site, so I reused two images that appear to have been created for the event. They are somewhat strange, particularly the one on the right, but many things that emanate from Agon are strange.

According to yesterday's post on my main blog, FIDE's Journalist Commission 2017, an 'official website' should have a domain name like hostcity20xx.fide.com. Using 'london2018.fide.com' produces a message 'can’t connect to the server'.

06 December 2017

2017-18 GP

After finishing the previous post, 2017 Grand Prix, Palma de Mallorca, I added the latest Grand Prix series against the names of all 24 players on the World Chess Championship : Index of Players. The chart on the left lists the names of those players along with the number of points they scored over the three events (of four total) in which they competed.

As you might expect, the 24 players were already listed on the 'Index of Players'. For GMs Hammer and Rapport, it was only their second appearance in a World Championship event, and for GM Riazantsev it was his third.

My page on the 2017 Grand Prix shows that GMs Mamedyarov and Grischuk qualified into the forthcoming 2018 Candidates Tournament (congratulations to both!), while the chart on this post shows how close was the race in terms of points scored.

The 2017 GP, the fourth such series of events to be authorized by FIDE, was the first to start after the previous cycle had finished and the first to take place in a single calendar year. For the wrapup post on the Grand Prix for the previous cycle, see 2014-15 GP (June 2015).

29 November 2017

2017 Grand Prix, Palma de Mallorca

I added the crosstable for the Palma de Mallorca event to my page on the 2017 Grand Prix. Since this was the fourth and last leg of the Grand Prix for the current cycle -- see 2017 Grand Prix, Geneva (July 2017) for the third leg -- I also added the final, overall standings to the same page. Those standings were taken from the official site, FIDE World Chess Grand Prix 2017 (worldchess.com).

Next step: Add the names of all players to the pages comprising the World Chess Championship : Index of Players. Also, create a wrapup chart comparing the total game scores for the players, like I did for the previous cycle in 2014-15 GP (June 2015).

22 November 2017

2017 FIDE Congress : Whither the World Championship?

After yesterday's post on my other blog, Spectating the 88th FIDE Congress, I'll use this first follow-up to look at the future of my favorite chess subject, the World Championship. In last year's post 2016 FIDE Congress : Whither the World Championship? (January 2017), we learned about Agon's plans for 2016-17, including the now-completed title match in New York. In this year's post, we'll learn about revenue streams, starting with the document 88th FIDE Congress; Executive Board meeting; Goynuk, Antalya, Turkey; 13-14 October 2017; Minutes (see the 'Spectating' post for links to documents and other background info):-
3.3. Agon Limited.

Annex 67 is Draft FIDE Live Moves Broadcasting Policy.

Mr. Merenzon made a video presentation of his company's activities.

Mr. Bond said he was trying to reconcile the fervor expressed at the Verification Commission with this brave new world and promise of gold. He said indeed Agon was making great new strides. At the same time we do not see money coming in and this is distress for FIDE.

Mr. Gelfer said he was the one among the others, mainly the Treasurer and the Executive Director who were worried about this situation. We had lived through several difficult years, and Agon was recovering from bad heritage, there was not enough financial means and FIDE was struggling very hard and some of us were close to lose patience. In spite of this, in the last five or six years, we received close to 5 million USD or Euro from all events, from Agon. Most of the time the money were received late. We live in quite difficult neighborhood, chess is not an easy game to collect money for, we have very few assets to sell and sometimes the situation is unbearable in a simple business world. This is the situation here.

Taking each of those four talking points in reverse order, that last paragraph was the start of a long discussion on payments from Agon to FIDE. I won't copy the rest of the text here, because it is too long. I'm not sure whether it is interesting for most people, but it was certainly interesting for me.

The previous paragraph, on the Verification Commission, was a new subject for me. I can't recall looking at this commission before and I wasn't sure what its responsibilities are. The FIDE Handbook ('Chapter 08 - The Commissions of FIDE') says the commission's first objective is:-

To verify the annual accounts and the financial statements prepared by the Treasurer, review the external audit report and make recommendations.

Its current activities were covered in two annexes issued after the Congress:-

6. Verification Commission's report. [July 2017]
87. Verification Commission meeting minutes. [October 2017]

Quoting from the minutes of October 2017:-

The Chairman proceeded to summarise the Commission's report [of July 2017]. A lengthy discussion ensued on the performance of Agon under the terms of its contract with FIDE of 22 February 2012. There were several expressions of concern that the performance of Agon was not satisfactory, that it was not discharging its responsibilities under the contract, and that it was contributing to the financial challenges of FIDE

From this we can better understand the concern of the Executive Board and the ensuing long discussion. As for [Ilya] Merenzon's video presentation, I'm sure it would be worth watching, but I doubt it will be made available to the general public. The first/last point, Annex 67, is perhaps the most important for the future of the World Championship:-

To: Members of the Working Group to Study the Proposal of Agon Limited on Protection of Live Chess Moves [...] The Draft Policy recognizes the right of the World Chess Federation to control the live dissemination of the FIDE events' moves. Furthermore, it provides for the measures to be taken against persons interfering with this right. [...] Sincerely, Matvey Shekhovtsov

We've already seen Shekhovtsov once on this blog in 2016 Candidates, Moscow (November 2015), regarding a 'change in the Agon/FIDE interface team' (Andrew Paulson out, Merenzon & Shekhovtsov in). We've also seen the subject of the draft in World Championship Bullying (November 2016). It's not clear to me how FIDE expects to contravene well-established copyright law with an internal procedure, so I'm certain we haven't seen the last of this topic.

As for other Executive Board topics related to the World Championship, two of the most important were mentioned at the beginning of the minutes.

1.1. Report of the Deputy President [G. Makropoulos].

Then we had Women's World Championship in Tehran. You remember that we faced a lot of criticism because we organized the Women Championship in Tehran, because of the problem for non-Muslims, I can say, for hijab. On this, I will tell you my personal opinion that I believe is really the opinion of most of the people in FIDE. We should support the traditions of the different communities that we have in FIDE. We are one family. [...]

In FIDE Grand Prix, we have introduced a completely new format that we will wait to see, to evaluate the whole cycle after the last tournament that we have in November. We believe that the idea is good with these Swiss tournaments. We'll see how the final results would be, and we will come back, of course, here to discuss if we will continue this system if we think that was success or we will have to make changes.

I covered the first topic in a pair of posts, Hijab Hubbub and Hijab Hubris (both October 2016), after the controversy caught the attention of the mainstream media. I last covered the second topic in Grand Prix Boycott (August 2017), after the series of events were caught up in Agon's continuing attempts to control the live dissemination of moves. The Executive Board also discussed the current plans for future events.

4.21. Commission on World Championship and Olympiads [WCOC].

4.21.2. FIDE World Cup 2019. • The event shall be held in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, Dates to be provided. Mr. Freeman said we have not finalised the contract with them.

4.21.3. FIDE World Championship Match 2018. • Mr. Gelfer said the dates and possible venue are know and we are waiting for the challenger. Agon is planning to do this in London and they are working there. WCOC at its meeting Mr. Makropoulos asked them not to make a formal announcement till all is finalised, including the prize fund.

4.21.4. FIDE Candidates' Tournament 2018. • Mr. Freeman said some of the participants are known, the rest will be decided eventually. It will be held in March 2018 in Berlin, Germany.

4.21.5. FIDE Grand Prix series 2017. • Mr. Merenzon showed a quick update on the series.

4.21.6. FIDE Women's Grand Prix series. • Mr. G. Borg said as reported in WCOC meeting, there are three host countries in the stage of negotiations. We have qualification for the world Championship match in November 2019. This means the cycle will slip into 2018 also. Hopefully in the next two or three months we will get a full picture. [...]

4.21.7. FIDE Women's World Championship Match 2018. • The event will be moved to the beginning of 2018. The Chinese Chess Association confirmed the organization of the match and will advise on the venue. [...]

4.21.8. FIDE Women's World Championship 2018. • The event has been awarded to Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. [...]

That last event, the Women's World Championship 2018, is a knockout event. I bet most observers have long forgotten FIDE's reasons for treating it as a title tournament instead of as a qualifying event to a title match, like their other event with a knockout format, the World Cup. Both knockout tournaments will be held in Khanty-Mansiysk.

15 November 2017

2018 Candidates, Berlin

I added a new page for the 2018 Candidates Tournament, to be held in Berlin, and included it on my index page for the World Chess Championship. The eight-player tournament, to determine a challenger for the next World Championship title match, is scheduled for March next year.

As for the title match, it is currently scheduled on the FIDE calendar for 9-28 November 2018. According to World Chess Championship 2018 in London? (chessdom.com), from early last month,

The World Chess Championship 2018 is going to take place in London. This is what the renowned Spanish journalist Leontxo Garcia writes for the chess section of El Pais, quoting two “close sources” to the organization of the match. [...] Agon says the decision is not official and other venues are still possible.

Earlier this year we learned,

Oslo has been dumped as a potential host city for the next World Chess Championship, with its arranger and the Norwegian government arguing over the reason why. (newsinenglish.no)

See World Championship, Oslo 2018 (June 2017) on this blog for the announcement by Agon.

08 November 2017

C28 Zonal Qualification Paths

In the previous post, C28 Other Zonal Clippings, I wrote, 'Next step: Add a page showing the Qualification Paths (QP) for all players in the 2017 World Cup.' This is now available in Zonal Qualifiers 2016-2017 (C28). I also added links for this page to the zonal index, World Chess Championship Zonals, and to the cycle clippings, Zonals 2016-2017 (C28).

Next step: The roadmap for the documentation of the cycle, Notes on C06, C07, C27, and C28 (May 2017), lists two more steps that were done for the previous cycle:-

  • 2016-01-27: C27 Zonal Rating Reports
  • 2016-02-03: C27 Zonal Links

I can do this when all of the reports are available in the FIDE ratings database. Before I check their availability, I have a number of other tasks to do.

01 November 2017

C28 Other Zonal Clippings

In the previous post, C28 Zonal Clippings TWIC, I wrote,
For the five qualification events remaining to be documented, preliminary info was given in C28 Zonals (September 2017). I'll add the documentation for those five as soon as I can.

That's now done with all continental championships, zonals, and related events for the current cycle accounted for and documented on the page Zonals 2016-2017 (C28).

Next step: Add a page showing the Qualification Paths (QP) for all players in the 2017 World Cup (see the previous cycle, C27: Zonal Qualifiers 2014-2015, for an example). The preliminary work for the new page was done in C28 Regulations for World Cup Qualifiers.

25 October 2017

C28 Zonal Clippings TWIC

Continuing with last weeek's post, C28 Zonal Clippings 2016, I added another 21 clippings to the page documenting the Zonals 2016-2017 (C28). These covered 19 zonals played in 2016-2017 (the Baltic zonal consisted of three events), making a total of 22 zonals covered over the past two years by Mark Crowther's The Week in Chess (TWIC), an indispensable tool for any chess historian. For the five qualification events remaining to be documented, preliminary info was given in C28 Zonals (September 2017). I'll add the documentation for those five as soon as I can.

18 October 2017

C28 Zonal Clippings 2016

After indexing the zonals for the current cycle, as documented a few weeks ago in C28 Zonals Indexed, I created a new page, Zonals 2016-2017 (C28), to collect crosstables and other clippings for the 27 events that qualified players into the 2017 World Cup. For now, the page has only clippings from TWIC for the three continental championships played in 2016, but the rest will follow soon. I added a link for the new page to the index of World Chess Championship Zonals and to the main index for the World Chess Championship.

11 October 2017

2017 World Cup Players

Continuing with my previous post, 2017 World Cup Results, I added links for the event to my four pages for the Index of Players covering all World Chess Championship events. According to my calculations, of the 128 players who participated in the latest tournament, 43 were taking part in a major World Championship event for the first time.

While documenting tiebreaks on my main blog for the previous World Cup, 2015 World Cup Tiebreak (October 2015), I counted the number of games played at each stage of the competition. Here is the same overview for the 2017 event.

The 'Tot' column shows the total number of games played in each round. The following columns show the number of games played for each stage of the round, tiebreaks starting at game three of each round (game five for the last round).


I have to solve a technical problem before adding the PGN file for the 2017 World Cup. I'll tackle that as soon as I can.

04 October 2017

2017 World Cup Results

I added crosstables for all seven rounds to my page on the 2017 World Cup. For the first time, I had considerable trouble to watch the games live. I'm not sure if it was the transmission service itself or something closer to home, but the signal for the live stream often dropped out.

Much of the interest in the event seemed to be for the two places in next year's Candidates tournament. Once that had been determined in the semi-final round, attention shifted to the Isle of Man Open, which overlapped the final round of the World Cup.

Congratulations to GM Aronian for his second victory in this very tough event; his first win was at the 2005 World Cup, Khanty-Mansiysk, which was the first of FIDE's World Cups. Congratulations to GM Ding Liren for his qualification into the Candidates tournament.

Still to do: Add the PGN game scores and add the names of the 128 players to the Index of Players.

27 September 2017

C28 Zonals Indexed

Continuing with C28 Zonals, I added the 27 events identified in that post to my page on the World Chess Championship Zonals. • Next step: Add clippings for all of the events.

20 September 2017

C28 Zonals

The previous post, C28 Regulations for World Cup Qualifiers, gave an overview of the different qualification paths for the 2017 World Cup, currently taking place at Tbilisi (Georgia). Using that as a starting point, I identified 27 events that served as World Cup qualifiers.

For a majority of those events, the following table gives a reference from The Week in Chess (TWIC). Where I could find no TWIC reference, I located a page giving results for the event.

0.0: (01, ACP)
1.0: TWIC 1124 (2016)
1.0: TWIC 1179 (2017)
1.3: TWIC 1182
1.7: (02, Baltics)
1.10: (03, Small nations)

2.0: TWIC 1126 (2016)
2.0: TWIC 1180 (2017)
2.1: TWIC 1170
2.2: TWIC 1183
2.3: TWIC 1178
2.4: TWIC 1173
2.5: TWIC 1175

3.0: TWIC 1126 (2016)
3.0: TWIC 1176 (2017)
3.1: TWIC 1183
3.2: (04)
3.3: TWIC 1165
3.4: TWIC 1181
3.5: TWIC 1131
3.6: TWIC 1159
3.7: TWIC 1152

4.0: TWIC 1184 (2017)
4.1: (05)
4.2: (06)
4.3: TWIC 1180
4.4: (07)

Vassily Ivanchuk Gets World Cup Wild Card | ACP

(02) FIDE President nominee:-
TWIC 1154 - Baltic Zonal Parnu Stage 2016
TWIC 1168 - Baltic Zonal Vilnius Stage 2017
TWIC 1181 - Baltic Zonal Liepaja Stage 2017

(03) FIDE President nominee:-
TWIC 1118 - European Small Nations 2016

GM Mollah Abdullah Al Rakib, WIM Hamid Rani Win Zone 3.2 Zonals

2017 Zonal 4.1 Chess Championships Open Section

2017 zone 4.2 individual championship open section

2017 Zone 4.4 Individual Championship - Open

13 September 2017

C28 Regulations for World Cup Qualifiers

The 2017 World Cup (Tbilisi, Georgia) is underway and has reached the fourth round as I write this. A few months ago, in the C28 portion of Notes on C06, C07, C27, and C28 (May 2017), I developed a roadmap for documenting the events that qualified the 128 players into the current World Cup.

FIDE published the list of qualifying players in World Cup 2017 - Player's Contract and Qualifiers (July 2017), which makes a good starting point. I loaded the list into a database and produced the following chart.

The left side of the chart lists ten basic qualifying paths (a-j) into the World Cup, along with a count of players who qualified via each path. The right side of the chart lists further qualification info and a count of the players who qualified via direct competition (paths d-h). The qualifying paths are described in the FIDE document, Regulations for the World Chess Cup 2017 (fide.com; 'Handbook :: Regulations for Specific Competitions'):-

3. World Cup 2017

3.1. Qualifiers - There are 128 qualifiers (in order of priority): World Champion + four (4) semi-finalists from the World Cup 2015, Women's World Champion, World Junior U-20 Champions 2015 & 2016, eighteen (18) rated players as described in 3.1.2, ninety (92) players from Continental Championships, the one (1) highest-placed participant of the ACP Tour who has not qualified with the previous criteria, two (2) FIDE President nominees, four (4) organiser nominees , three (3) qualifiers from FIDE-approved internet events. If there are no internet events, the spot(s) will be decided by the FIDE President after consulting the WCOC.

3.1.1. Replacements - World Champion, semi-finalists of the World Cup 2015, Women's World Champion, World Junior U-20 Champions and rated players can be replaced only from the average rating list. Continental and Zonal qualifiers will be replaced from their respective events, except that in the Zonal Tournament, the replacement must have scored 50% or more in the Zonal event. Otherwise the place passes to the Continental Championship. The average rating list has priority if a player qualifies either from the rating list or a zonal/continental event.

Next step: Add the the 25 events shown on the right side of the chart to my page on the World Chess Championship Zonals.

30 August 2017

Magnus in the Race to Challenge Magnus

Just after the 2017 Sinquefield Cup, Peter Doggers of Chess.com interviewed the World Champion.

Magnus Carlsen On Playing The World Cup (6:37) • 'Magnus Carlsen, World Chess Champion, discusses his participation in the FIDE World Cup in September in Tbilisi, Georgia.'

According to my records, Carlsen has played in knockout tournaments in three previous World Championship cycles:-

  • 2004 FIDE Knockout World Championship • Lost rd.1 to Aronian. This was the last title tournament using the knockout format; Kasimdzhanov won.
  • 2005 World Cup • Lost rd.4 to Bareev, but qualified for the Candidate matches, where he was eliminated in the first match by Aronian.
  • 2007 World Cup • Lost rd.6 to Kamsky, who went on to win.

If he reaches the final of the 2017 World Cup, he will have prevented all 64 players in his half of the elimination matches from qualifying into the Candidate tournament.

23 August 2017

'The Best Mind Wins'

Last month brought the unexpected news that Andrew Paulson had passed away: Andrew Paulson, 1958-2017 (chess.com; Mike Klein):-
Andrew Paulson, the founder of Agon Limited and the man with a vision for the growth of top-level chess, died Tuesday from cancer. He was 59.
For more than a year, Paulson played an important role in the development of the World Chess Championship. His first mention on this blog was almost five years ago, when I critiqued the first announcement from Agon.
  • 2012-08-29: Evolution of a Press Release • 'The chess world has cut Paulson a lot of slack, hoping that maybe, just maybe, Ilyumzhinov has finally discovered a worthy commercial partner.'

I received a response a few weeks later.

Sent: September 15, 2012
Subject: Recent Blog
From: Andrew Paulson

I read (with interest and pain) your comparison blog from August 29th. It's an uphill battle trying to bring up to speed our PR agency in chess terminology and establishing for them the tone I feel appropriate for communicating with a wide range of media outlets. Where they got 'fixture' instead of 'tournament' is a mystery to me!

However, we are working to try to find more interesting formats for staging chess than a proscenium stage with a couple of cafeteria tables and a plastic backdrop cluttered with logos of never-before-heard-of sponsors. You may have seen on various sites a rendering of a purpose-built arena Pentagram has been working on. And we are (for the moment) calling it the cockpit as this alludes both to 'cockfight' and to the knobs and dials and gauges that one finds in the cockpit of an airplane (with which we will be adorning the status screen in the playing hall from March).

We didn't 'buy' the commercial rights, per se, as our relationship with FIDE is a revenue sharing agreement; I felt that this should be corrected. And, although the deal is exclusive, I thought that it was a bit 'in your face' to boast about it so I toned it down.

I do recognise and appreciate the slack being cut!

Agon had been in the public eye since the beginning of 2012. I backfilled the gap in the next post.

There was a flurry of activity around Agon and Paulson in the following months, during which I documented Agon's first event in 2012-2013 Grand Prix, London (October 2012).

I summarized posts about the Candidates tournament in London Candidates - Wrapup (April 2013). The next mention of Agon was negative.

  • 2013-07-17: Catching up with FIDE • 'To approve the proposal of Mr. Makropoulos to authorize the FIDE President to take the personal decision as to whether to terminate the contract with Agon.'

Agon went into eclipse and there was little news.

It took me nearly a year to come back to that letter in 2016 Candidates, Moscow (November 2015), where I quoted it:-

It was the company's responsibility [Agon] to appoint two individuals to represent the Company on the Interface Team referred to in the Agreement and that following the change of ownership of the Company, and the resignation of Mr Andrew Paulson as a director of the Company, it was suggested that Mr Paulson should be removed as a representative of the Company on the Interface Team and that Mr Ilya Merenzon and Mr Maryey Shekhovtsov be appointed as the Company's representatives with immediate effect.

The story had already assumed the qualities of a soap opera, which I followed on my main blog.

  • 2014-02-06: Chess Leaks Like a Sieve • 'A few days later, Tim Rayment (TheSundayTimes.co.uk) brought news of a 2012 deal between Ilyumzhinov and Andrew Paulson of Agon'
  • 2014-11-20: Carlsen - Anand II : Rumblings • Livemint.com: 'Andrew Paulson, the founder of Agon, who until about a year ago was the principal promoter of the sport and described himself as the chief executive of world chess, has sold the firm to an associate, Ilya Merenzon, for £1.'

Another obituary, Andrew Paulson, Chess Impresario and Serial Entrepreneur, Dies at 58 (nytimes.com; July 2017), reported,

[Agon's] first major event, the 2013 London Candidates’ Tournament, was widely considered a success on the basis of the sponsors who underwrote the costs and the audience it drew. After that tournament, though, Mr. Paulson, reportedly already ailing, was unable to generate the sort of buzz that might have transformed the game into a profitable venture with pizazz, technical wizardry and marketing slogans like "The Best Mind Wins."

If Ilyumzhinov had indeed 'finally discovered a worthy commercial partner', the time was too short to make much of a difference. RIP, Andrew Paulson.

16 August 2017

Agon Calling ... Corporate Sponsors

Received from newsletter@worldchess.com...
Subject: Would you like to see your logo on the player's jacket? Now you can!
From: World Chess Team
Sent: August 14, 2017


If you ever wanted to see your company's logo on the top chess player's jacket, now you can make it happen! (or at least learn how much it might cost)

...You got my attention. What's the deal?...

World Chess, the organizer of the World Chess Championship cycle events, has launched an online store where one can buy a sponsorship contract with the world’s strongest chess players.

Probably for the first time in sports, a top-level sports sponsorship contract can be purchased online with a credit card. This is a step by organizers of the World Chess Championship to bring chess into the marketing mix of companies worldwide.

Chess had become increasingly popular in the last few years, helped by wider adoption of smartphones and rise of new young chess stars, including current World Chess Champion, 26-year old Magnus Carlsen from Norway (who is also a fashion model). Recent Championship Match that was held at the Fulton Market in New York City, reached an audience of over 1bln people and was attended by movie stars and tech moguls.

...One billion people? Movie stars and tech moguls? Almost sounds too good to be true...

A sponsorship contract for the Grand Prix Series, a qualifier for the 2018 World Chess Championship, will allow companies to become 'national partners' of such chess stars as Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France or Peter Svidler of Russia, to position the company logo on players’ uniform and get exposure to over 600 million people who play and follow chess globally.

Ilya Merenzon, World Chess CEO says: "Chess players are a phenomenal marketing asset. Considered some of the smartest people on the planet, they are admired by nations. We are bringing this asset to companies who perhaps never thought of adding chess players to their marketing mix.

Championship level sports marketing has very high entrance barrier and we are changing this by introducing a store where companies can choose a player and buy a sponsorship contract in one click", -- adds Merenzon.

For $20,000, companies can buy an individual sponsorship contract for a Grand Prix Tournament which will take place in November of 2017 in Palma de Majorca, Spain. The event is a qualifier for the World Chess Championship and will feature chess superstars, such as Hikaru Nakamura, the US Champion, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, recent winner of the prestigious Sinqfuild Cup in St. Lois, Peter Svidler, 4-time Russian Champion, Levon Aronian or Armenia and more. There can be only one sponsorship contract per player and the arrangement is regulated by FIDE, chess governing body and International Olympic Committee.

Online store is available at agonlimited.com/store.

The embedded links in the email message went to Store — AGON (agonlimited.com), with pictures of the Grand Prix participants. Here's an example showing the first six players.

The link for GM Aronian in the upper left corner went to Corporate Sponsorship of Levon Aronian's participation in the 2017 Grand Prix cycle:-

Levon Aronian: For many years in the top-3 in the world and consistently believed to be the biggest threat to the World Chess Champion, Levon Aronian is hugely famous in Armenia, his home country, and well-known around the World. Winner of several World Chess Championship titles (Rapid, Blitz) and numerous prestigious tournaments, Aronian is one of the top world’s chess players and has a cult following around the world.

Major benefits include: Sponsor’s logo sized 15*3 cm on the left side of player’s jacket is always in sight and in the frame of official online broadcast and official photography supplied to accredited media.

Will Agon/WorldChess manage to attract this type of sponsorship? For a previous Agon success (and a history of corporate chess sponsorship), see World chess secures sponsorship of Russian anti-malware firm Kaspersky Lab (telegraph.co.uk; February 2017).

09 August 2017

Grand Prix Boycott

A few weeks ago, while I was adding the Geneva Grand Prix tournament to my page on the 2017 Grand Prix, I learned of a controversy with the Grand Prix series that I hadn't encountered before, although it had been public knowledge since the Moscow Grand Prix event a few months earlier. Here is a Peter Doggers report from Chess.com.
Because of Agon's attempt to limit the live transmission of the games to its own website, one of the major Russian sites, ChessPro, has not covered their events since the Candidates' Tournament last year. Now Chess24, the number one site for watching live games online, has decided to boycott the Moscow Grand Prix altogether: no news reports, no tweets and no live transmission. • Hou Yifan Sole Winner In Moscow GP Round 1 (May 2017)

I reported on the Agon tactics last year in World Championship Broadcasting (November 2016), and World Championship Bullying (ditto), where the issue seemed to have been resolved against Agon's interests in a U.S. court, but the dispute went from bad to worse. Here are Doggers and Chess.com again.

By trying (and, thus far, failing) to limit the live transmission to the WorldChess website, Agon has alienated a number of well-established chess websites. One of the major Russian sites, ChessPro, hasn't covered Agon's events since the Candidates' Tournament last year. Chess24, who have been involved in lawsuits with Agon, decided to boycott the Moscow Grand Prix altogether and also did not cover yesterday's first round of the Geneva GP. • Agonized Grand Prix Resumes In Geneva (July 2017)

What did Chess24 have to say about the boycott? Other than the tweet embedded in Doggers' two reports, the site was silent. I did, however, find a few semi-official statements in a Chess24.com forum, Coverage of Moscow Grand Prix? (May 2017). The question was,

I'm curious why there is no coverage or discussion about the Moscow Grand Prix, which started today. It's an important event. Does anyone know why?

A few messages into the discussion, Chess24 editor Colin McGourty weighed in. In response to the question, 'Is chess24 prepared to sit out the next two World Championship cycles to "protest" AGON?', he answered,

The Candidates and World Championship match are an order of magnitude more important and I think it's 99% certain we would cover those, regardless of Agon's approach. For this tournament we decided against putting time, energy and money into manually adding games and reporting on the event and thereby giving publicity to Agon. Of course it wasn't an easy decision for us and we may make a different choice in future. On how long Agon will stick around - we'll see. They currently have numerous unpaid debts and have completely failed in their alleged aim of bringing commercial sponsorship to chess. The patience of many within and outside FIDE is running out. • May 16, 2017 | 15:18

The dialog continued: 'A commercial site boycotting another commercial site for making money with chess? How ridiculous is that?'

No-one is boycotting Agon "for making money with chess". Agon are free to make their video broadcast pay-per-view, just as you can in any sport, and no-one has the right to that content but them. They can also refuse to provide the live PGN file that any tournament that wants as many people to follow it as possible provides, though we're just as free to choose not to cover or support the event.

The main problem with Agon, however, is that they're trying to claim copyright of the fact that e.g. Magnus played 14.Nd5. Courts in the US, Germany and Russia have upheld that you simply can't do that, just as you can't prevent the reporting of Messi scoring a goal. Agon continue to waste money (their own and that of others) on lawyers over an issue they can't win and a policy they can't implement in practice even if they somehow found a judge to support them (try to stop people sharing the moves of the World Championship... even if in another reality you manage you'll simply have killed off interest in the event).

We'll have to agree to differ on Agon being a commercial company - they're attempting to justify their actions that way but there's nothing commercial about the way they operate or found themselves in the position they are now. Instead they're trying to kill off competition from genuinely commercial sites, which is a destructive policy in what is already a very tough industry. We have every reason to boycott their events, though as mentioned, we won't necessarily do so in future. • May 17, 2017 | 15:09

'You won a court trial and decided "against putting efforts" into this very high level event? [...] Such decision of Chess24 will only make people to buy Agon subscription instead of Chess24 subscription.'

You talk about it being possible given our court win, but although the US case is over Agon's second appeal is still active in Russia (they've lost twice so far), and in fact there was a hearing two days ago in a Moscow court. A decision was postponed for two weeks. In Russia Agon have a young lawyer working for them - Merenzon seems to own 90% of "his" company - and he probably has little else to do but submit frivolous lawsuits for his boss. It's very likely they would have sued again in Russia simply as a PR ploy, since it would cost them very little and us a lot (to date we've probably spent 6 figures on lawyers) - if we chose to defend a new case. Of course completely ignoring lawsuits as ChessGames & Chessbomb have done is a very valid option, but again, that plays into Agon's PR goals.

That's just one factor, but as you can see, it's not an easy decision. As I said, we will cover the most important events (and luckily most big chess events have nothing to do with Agon), but in this case we took the decision we thought was best. • May 18, 2017 | 10:15

'I'd really like to see Chess24 declaring up front that the event is going on and that they are not covering it for legal reasons etc, rather than just ignoring it as seems to be the case.'

You may well have a point, though it was decided that if we were going to skip the broadcast it would be better to go the whole way and completely ignore the event. It's a shame another major chess site that seriously considered a boycott ultimately decided against, since if more joined in Agon really would have a problem. If the legal case had been decided there would probably have been a statement about that (and the tournament in passing), but I agree - putting out some kind of statement in any case would have made sense. • May 21, 2017 | 01:18

Nearly three months later, the situation hasn't budged. Agon got half of what it wants, a halt to transmission of moves; Chess24 took a principled stand; and chess fans got the shaft. The fourth and final Grand Prix is scheduled for Palma De Mallorca in November. At least two tickets to the next stage of the World Championship, the Candidates tournament, will be up for grabs. Will the face-off continue?

02 August 2017

2017 World Cup in September

I added a new page for the 2017 World Cup, which is scheduled to start in a month at Tbilisi (Georgia). I also added links to FIDE news articles that relate to this World Cup.

Compared to the page for the 2015 World Cup, which I created for a post titled 2014-2015 Grand Prix, Khanty-Mansiysk (June 2015), the 2017 event has had fewer FIDE announcements leading up to its start. One of the announcements, the 'Final List of Participants' has created far more buzz than I have seen for any of the previous World Cups.


a) World Champion and World Cup 2015 semi-finalists
01. M. Carlsen (NOR)
02. S. Karjakin (RUS)
03. P. Svidler (RUS)
04. P. Eljanov (UKR)
05. A. Giri (NED)

World Champion Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin, Carlsen's challenger in the most recent title match, 2016 Carlsen - Karjakin, New York, will both be competing in the forthcoming World Cup. If both players reach the final round of the event, the FIDE rules are not clear about who else qualifies to the next stage of the World Championship, the Candidates tournament. I'll look at this in another post.

26 July 2017

2017 Grand Prix, Geneva

I added the crosstable and PGN for the third leg of FIDE's Grand Prix to my World Chess Championship page 2017 Grand Prix. For the schedule of the last event, see my previous post, 2017 Grand Prix, Moscow (May 2017).

Since my crosstables are always built from the corresponding PGN file, one of the steps I go through is to compare my final version against the official version. For the FIDE Grand Prix, there are no official crosstables; there are just final totals for the players.

For the Geneva event I noticed mismatches for two players and, thanks to Chessgames.com, discovered the reason. In Ernesto Inarkiev vs A R Saleh Salem; FIDE Grand Prix Geneva (2017), two CG members mentioned,

Jul-10-17 Willber G: The score is wrong, black resigned at this point. 1-0.

Jul-10-17 tamar: DGT gremlins took away 1/2 point from Inarkiev because King on e5 signals draw once arbiter puts White King on e4.

I corrected the PGN, rebuilt the crosstable, and compared the results again. Although everything matches, my experience with this sort of glitch is that there are always consequences downstream.

05 July 2017

FIDE Congresses

Every year on this blog I prepare a post titled 'Whither the World Championship?', where the most recent was 2016 FIDE Congress : Whither the World Championship? (January 2017). It's one of a series of posts stemming from minutes of the FIDE Congress, mostly on my main blog, 'Chess for All Ages'.

A few days ago FIDE published an article, Interview with FIDE Administrative Manager Polina Tsedenova, with some useful background on the organization of the FIDE Congresses. Here are some excerpts.

Q: How many Congresses have you organized so far?

A: I started officially working for FIDE in 1997 and my first Congress was in Chisinau (Moldova) in September 1997. Of course I very clearly remember that one because we did it with a previous administration jointly. Their experience was very helpful but I`m sure we improved a lot. Since 1997 we had annual Congresses which mean there have been 20 Congresses already.


Q: How difficult is it to organize such an event as FIDE Congress?

A: We have clear guidelines which we share with the organizers. We try to do it well in advance. First of all the organizers get pointed with the guidelines, second, they find a proper Congress manager, third, they find the adequate number of volunteers and fine facilities. I usually travel before any Congress for an inspection to see what they propose to us and they cooperate and collaborate in 95% of the guesses let’s say.

Neither chess players nor organizers really understand what kind of event is the Congress and many people mix FIDE Congress and let’s say a General Assembly or an Executive Board. Congress is the general term for the whole globe of the meetings which are under this umbrella. FIDE Congress today consists of several parts: General Assembly, Executive Board, commissions’ meetings, continental meetings and other meetings.

We have 188 national federations’ members of FIDE, who can delegate one person to represent their federation and vote on behalf of a federation and the meeting of these delegates we call a General Assembly. This meeting is organized every two years and it occupies the last three days of the FIDE Congress.

The Congress starts with the meetings of FIDE commissions. FIDE has more than 20 commissions and we separate the meetings during the duration of 4 days from morning till evening. When I started working we used to have a Central Committee of FIDE which was about 50-60 people and it was very bulky and it was not very convenient to have both the central committee meeting and the General Assembly. In 1999 it was decided to abolish it.


Q: What are the common problems which appear in the process of the preparation and organization of FIDE Congresses?

A: We try to put strict deadlines according to the FIDE Statutes but many federations don’t follow the terms. In several federations the administrative problems exist. People don’t read FIDE Statutes, people don`t follow the information we sent them. We send them all the information on the deadlines on the specific dates when they have to provide something. I don`t know why it`s happening, maybe because some federations are relaxed or have lack of the personnel or staff but then we have to deal with it.

More information on the Congresses can be found in 'Handbook :: A. Administrative Subjects :: 07. FIDE Congress Regulations' (fide.com). Thanks, FIDE!

28 June 2017

Spassky: 'The Dr. Zhivago of Chess'

In a recent post on my main blog, Sports Illustrated 'On the Cover', I showed that a prominent American sports magazine ('SI') once demonstrated a keen interest in chess. Through the series of Kasparov - Karpov clashes in the 1980s, SI had regular, multi-page features on top World Championship events. Here, for example, are the first two pages of a five-page spread on the Korchnoi - Spassky final in the 1976-78 Candidates Matches.

Sports Illustrated, 12 December 1977

The article started,

With the notable exception of Bobby Fischer, who won the world championship from Boris Spassky in 1972 in a memorable Icelandic psychodrama, Soviets have dominated world chess for 30 years. And their reign is not about to end. This week, in the shabby elegance of the Dom Sindikata Theater in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, two Russians, Spassky and Viktor Korchnoi, are meeting for the right to play still another Russian, 26-year-old world champion Anatoly Karpov, for the title.

Spassky is now 40, and his figure, which was trim in Reykjavik, is a bit fleshier, his dark hair longer and more styled. But the same calm green eyes study the board, and the same long artistic fingers are placed along his cheekbones. The world champion from 1969 to 1972, Spassky remains the gentlemanly, dignified, poetic grand master, the Dr. Zhivago of chess.

Across the board sits the volatile, daring Korchnoi, 46, the world's No. 2 grand master. In further contrast to Spassky, the formerly chubby Korchnoi has lost a great deal of weight recently. His brown eyes glitter, his shoulders hunch as he lunges forward to advance a bishop into dangerous territory. Korchnoi seeks the dangerous position -- in life as well as at the chessboard.

That's the sort of colorful sports reporting that is seldom seen outside of the mainstream press. Here is a list of all SI articles on the World Championship that I was able to locate.

  • 1960-04-18: A New Moscow Revolution • 'Mikhail Tal's brilliant and bewildering victories in world championship chess stunned the Russians'
  • 1960-05-30: A Nod for a Title • 'Sports Illustrated's correspondent in Moscow reports on the new world chess champion Mikhail Tal and on the new chess era that opened with a smile'
  • 1961-05-08: The Young Botvinnik • 'An aging champion created a new training technique to recover the fire of youth -- and his title'
  • 1967-11-20: The Further Adventures of Terrible-tempered Bobby • 'Bobby Fischer played like a champion at the international tournament in Tunisia, but he ended by forfeiting his way out of the competition'
  • 1971-08-02: Maybe You Can Win Them All • 'Bobby Fischer has pitched 19 no-hitters in a row'
  • 1971-11-08: Bobby Clears the Board for the Title • 'The young U.S. master, after Tigran Petrosian smashed his 20-game streak, closed strong to earn a shot at the world's chess champion'
  • 1972-07-10 A Sudden Stalemate in Reykjavik • 'The world championship was plunged into check when Bobby Fischer decided that a better game was hide-and-seek'
  • 1972-07-24: Boris in Wonderland • 'Russia's Spassky played Alice to Bobby Fischer's Mad Hatter in Reykjavik last week'
  • 1972-08-14: How to Cook a Russian Goose • 'First, catch a Russian -- and at long last Bobby Fischer apparently has, dominating Boris Spassky so completely...'
  • 1974-01-28: Memo from Moscow: don't get byrned • 'Hot on his world chess championship comeback, Boris Spassky faces a scholarly and unintimidated American'
  • 1974-09-30: A Case of Beauty Before Age • 'Two Russians are meeting to see who will take on Bobby Fischer...'
  • 1977-12-12: Taut Duel for Two Old Comrades • 'They grew up together in Russia and meet again for the right to face the champion, but one is a defector, the other an √©migr√©'
  • 1978-01-30: They Couldn't Zap the Viktor • 'Korchnoi came out of his match with Spassky smiling and ready for world champion Karpov, but in Belgrade he was grimly convinced that the Soviet KGB was bombarding him with rays'
  • 1978-07-31: Back to Drawing Old Board • 'The Soviet champ and a vocal defector drew the first three games of what could be a drawn-out world championship'
  • 1985-02-25: A Dubious Gambit In Moscow • 'Just when chess champion Anatoly Karpov seemed to be weakening, the challenger was abruptly checkmated'
  • 1986-11-13: Beating Back A Game Challenge • 'Anatoly Karpov played valiantly in their Leningrad showdown, but Gary Kasparov outlasted his rival to retain the world chess championship'
  • 1987-12-07: Duel Of Two Minds • 'Opposites Gary Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov battle for the world chess title'
  • 2016-11-12: Chess Pieces of History • 'Board in 1972 battle up for auction'

The reports aren't always perfect. There is sometimes confusion between the concepts of 'game' and 'match' that is irksome to many chess fans, and the 1971 baseball analogy...

Maybe You Can Win Them All • 'Bobby Fischer has pitched 19 no-hitters in a row'

...is clearly an exaggeration. Even with those nitpicks, I'll gladly accept a slightly flawed report that promotes chess to a non-chess readership. For some reason, the World Championship reports stopped after the 1980s. Was it because of a changing perception of chess as a sport, because of the political turmoil in the chess world, or because of something else? I would really like to know.

21 June 2017

Early Women's World Champions

The blog post originally scheduled for today has been postponed due to extreme heat. As a filler post, but fully deserving in its own right, here are photos of the first six Women's World Champions.

Top row: Vera Menchik, Ludmila Rudenko, Elisaveta Bykova (Elizaveta Bikova)
Bottom row: Olga Rubtsova, Nona Gaprindashvili, Maia Chiburdanidze

For more about the events in which they won their titles, see my index page World Chess Championship for Women. The photos were in a set that included the male world champions, Steinitz through Kasparov (although Capablanca is missing from the set I'm looking at), thereby dating their publication to no earlier than the mid-1980s. The description of the set said,

From the U.S.S.R. Ideal for framing and display in chess clubs and chess study rooms.

I'll be back in a week with the regularly scheduled post.

14 June 2017

World Championship, Oslo 2018

From newsinenglish.no:-
'Norway’s World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen was disappointed when he was told, right after tying another match at the Norway Chess tournament now underway in Stavanger, that he won’t be able to defend his title on home turf next year. Oslo has been dumped as a potential host city for the next World Chess Championship, with its arranger and the Norwegian government arguing over the reason why.'

From facebook.com/theworldchess/videos:-

2017-06-09: Video by Ilya Merenzon, World Chess CEO, regarding the statement of why the Match is not happening in Oslo in 2018.

From translate.googleusercontent.com -> chess-news.ru:-

From chess.com/article KajaMSnare

'Right now the culture differences are too massive. Norwegian bureaucracy and fastidiousness versus FIDE's and Agon's strictly-business approach and suspicious hesitation to show transparency. Stuck in the middle: Magnus Carlsen's dream of winning the World Chess Championship title where it all started. The dream of gathering the entire nation around chess -- because it would. Nothing could match the intense pressure, success, eventual lifting of the trophy, and singing the national anthem together with 100.000 Norwegians, showing him how proud he makes them.'

For more about Kaja Snare on this blog, see Carlsen - Karjakin, the Second Week (November 2016); on my main blog, see World Championship Closing Ceremony (December 2016).

07 June 2017

Zonal Qualifiers C01-C12 : Archive.org

Continuing with my previous post, Zonal Qualifiers C01-C16 : Archive.org, I noted the first steps for documenting the interzonal qualification process in C01-C12:-
I downloaded the three [GMG] pages from Archive.org and combined the ten different regional tables into a single table. I then split that table into cycles covering C01 through C16.

The tables for each cycle contain data about individual players plus info about the qualification process. For example, the data on the 20 players in the first Interzonal is shown here:-

C01 IZ Qualifiers

This should match my corresponding page on the 1948 Saltsjobaden Interzonal Tournament. Info about the qualification process for that same cycle is collected here:-

  • 'Hilversum Zonal 1947 gathered the champions of the various European FIDE member nations together. O'Kelly de Galway of Belgium came 1st, but must have declined to play at Saltsjobaden. Trifunovic and Pachman shared second. Szabo came in a tie for fifth. Pirc, Gligoric and Tartakover were not invited to Hilversum, but were nominated by ballot by the FIDE directors to play in the Interzonal.'
  • 'Isaac Kashdan came in second at the U.S. ch. of 1946. Reshevsky the winner was seeded into the 1948 World ch. at The Hague/Moscow, and Kashdan qualified to play at Saltsjobaden IZ 1948. Arnold Denker was selected by FIDE ballot, but apparently both Kashdan and Denker declined to play. Israel Horowitz seems to have been offered a place as well as a replacement, but must have declined as well.'
  • 'Najdorf and Stahlberg shared first and Erich Eliskases came third in a strong tournament at Mar Del Plata in 1947. Eliskases must have declined to play.'
  • 'All Soviet players were selected based on their results in ballots submitted by the FIDE directors. Boleslavsky came second at the 15th USSR ch. 1947, and Bondarevsky shared 3rd.'

This complements my corresponding page on the Zonals 1948-1951 (C01). In the 'C01-C16 : Archive.org' post, I also noted:-

There is some overlap in cycles C13-C16. I'll decide how to handle that when I come back to the subject.

For example, the first of my pages on those cycles is Zonal Qualifiers 1984-1987 (C13). Although I haven't decided how to handle the 'overlap', the C13 page shows the sort of thing I'm aiming at for C01-C12.

31 May 2017

Zonal Qualifiers C01-C16 : Archive.org

The last time I looked at zonal qualification paths, Zonal Qualifiers C27 - Qualification Paths (February 2016), I assigned myself an action:-
Another possible next step would be to work out the qualification paths for the cycles that I haven't tackled yet : C01 through C12. Part of that work has already been done (see 'G : GMG ' on my index page for the World Championship Zonals), so it needs to be reviewed and reworked into my own structure.

Although the GMG site has disappeared from the web, it lives on in Archive.org: Zonals in USSR, CIS and Asia. My remark that 'part of that work has already been done' was inaccurate. I should have said 'most of that work' has been done. The three pages --

  • Zonals in USSR, CIS and Asia
  • Zonals in the Americas and Africa
  • European Zonals
-- contain around 600 notes on individual players along with administrative decisions on why certain players were replaced for various Interzonals. The last zonal cycle covered is C16, which culminated in the Biel IZ, July 1993.

I downloaded the three pages from Archive.org, made some minor formatting changes to standardize them, and combined the ten different regional tables into a single table. I then split that table into cycles covering C01 through C16.

My previous work on qualification paths, Zonal Qualifiers C13-C27 : Summary (February 2016), indicates that there is some overlap in cycles C13-C16. I'll decide how to handle that when I come back to the subject.

24 May 2017

2017 Grand Prix, Moscow

I added the second event of the 2017 FIDE Grand Prix, which took place in Moscow, to my page on the World Chess Championship : 2017 Grand Prix. The first event was documented in my post 2017 Grand Prix, Sharjah (March 2017). As for future Grand Prix events, the last two are scheduled for:-
  • Geneva, Switzerland; 5-Jul-2017
  • Palma De Mallorca, Spain; 15-Nov-2017

In between those, we'll have:-

  • World Cup 2017; Tbilisi, Georgia; 2-Sep-2017

Two players from the 2017 Grand Prix and two players from the 2017 World Cup will qualify for the 2018 Candidates tournament, which is not yet scheduled. In another post from a few months ago, Chess in the 21st Century, I mentioned it was 'clear that FIDE has gone badly astray'. Nothing has happened to change my opinion since then.

17 May 2017

Elo and Edmondson

My previous post on Folke Rogard, FIDE's Consummate Diplomat, ended,
As for Cramer, the most comprehensive biography I could find is now in Archive.org: The Chessmill -> Fred Cramer by Roman Levit.

For convenience, here's the link again: Fred Cramer by Roman Levit. I found a couple of paragraphs particularly noteworthy.

Fred worked closely with [Arpad] Elo. He edited Elo's book, The Rating of Chessplayers Past and Present. He was a delegate to FIDE, and kept after FIDE to adopt Elo's rating system. Then, after its adoption, Fred continued to fight, this time battles with his own federation, who wanted to tinker with Elo's system as a promotional tool to make more money for the USCF. That led to some legendary battles between Cramer and Elo on the one side and USCF Director Ed Edmondson and Bill Goichburg [Goichberg] on the other.

The hostility grew between Edmondson and Cramer to the point where Edmondson had Fred replaced as FIDE delegate with Pearle Mann. (Fred always blamed Edmondson for the difficulties in negotiating the 1975 Fischer - Karpov match, claiming that just when things would be settling down Edmondson would stir up the Russians with insults or other violations of protocol. Fred always believed Edmondson resented being fired by Fischer during the Reykjavik negotiations, and so after that he tried to sabotage Fischer at every turn.)

Another page (undated) on the same site (now defunct), The Chessmill -> Interview With Arpad Elo, expands on both topics. The introduction to the interview starts,

We continue with our plundering of Wisconsin chess history by reaching back into the longest-published of all the local chess periodicals, Badger Chess, for this interview with Arpad Elo, conducted by Dave Brimble. Arpad Elo has influenced the history of the chess world with his scientific approach to the rating of chess players. In name recognition among chess aficionados, he ranks up there with the world champions.

The observation about name recognition is not exaggerated, although some chess players think 'ELO' is an acronym for something. The tie-in with the Cramer topics is later in the interview.

I was continually attacked by Goichburg [Goichberg] for example, for imagined and supposed usurpation of authority about the rating system. He eventually even got Edmundson [Edmondson] on his side and they tried to get me out of FIDE. They made quite an effort to get rid of me but I finally prevailed, I think because the people in FIDE that I worked with realized the integrity of the system and what I was trying to hold up was the integrity of the system. Whereas Edmundson and Goichburg [ditto] looked on it as a means to finagle and promote, inflating the egos of American chess players, that they are better than they really are. They wanted to use the rating system for political purposes, trying to influence the way the rating system worked. Then they would examine under the microscope all the numerical mistakes I would make and make an issue out of them. That was in the late 70's.

Fred Cramer had a run in with Edmundson in 1972 during the Fischer era. His gripe was about how Edmundson tried to manipulate Fischer. I still believe that Edmundson's shenanigans were a contributing factor to the failure of the Fischer - Karpov match in 1975. I think he deliberately insulted the Russians. Averbakh, the Russian master who was part of the negotiating team, who was also a member of the qualifications committee with me and who I became good friends with said that every time it seemed as if they were making progress about the conditions, Edmundson would throw about insults and such, and violate protocol. The Russians are very serious people and want to stick to the rules and when they get insulted repeatedly it really turns them off.

BC [Badger Chess]: So why would Edmundson try to sabotage the match?

Elo: Because he was fired by Fischer as his second back in '72. Edmundson was then the executive director of USCF and used his influence adversely. Fischer made certain conditions of course and the conditions were a matter of debate. Fischer insisted on the condition that in the event of an equal score at a certain point that the title would be retained by the champion and draws would not count and things like that. Eventually those conditions were slightly modified and adopted when Karpov became champion. So Karpov got everything Fischer asked for with minor changes. Of course I don't know if Fischer would have played in any case. I have a feeling that he would have found some other impossible condition. I agree with those who say that Fischer probably could psychologically not afford to risk losing the championship over the board.

Since the Elo interview might well be the source of the Cramer paragraphs, I would like to see these accusations against Edmondson confirmed elsewhere. Whatever I find, I'll report here. Fischer's default of the 1975 match signalled the end of the Fischer boom in American chess.

10 May 2017

FIDE's Consummate Diplomat

The last two posts -- An Organization of Amateurs and Notes on C06 and C07 -- have featured Bent Larsen giving his opinion on Candidate matches of the 1960s. In 'Organization of Amateurs', he was particularly critical of FIDE's Folke Rogard.
Q: To what do you attribute your loss to Spassky? A: 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.

Sour grapes? (Larsen lost the match.) Scandinavian rivalry? (A Dane and a Swede.) Something else? In the interest of fairness, let's move forward a few years to Chess Life, February 1971 (p.64), and examine a long excerpt from 'Folke Rogard of FIDE : The World Chess Federation Comes of Age' by Fred Cramer, 'Vice-President of FIDE, Zone 5'.

[Rogard] was a very promising young player, finishing ahead of Spielmann, but behind Rubinstein, Reti and Bogolyubov (with whom he drew) in a 50-player event at Stockholm in 1920, though aided by a pairing novelty (the IGM's played four games simultaneously!)

But he was an even more promising lawyer, beginning practice in London in 1922, setting up for himself in Stockholm in 1925, and building a prosperous organization with major clients, seven attorneys, and numerous clerks and chauffeurs, which still continues, but smaller now. (No one can ever know how much clerical time, materials, rent, cables, postage, translating expense, and the like this firm gave FIDE at no cost. FIDE's administrative operations far exceed those of USCF, though its budget is about one-tenth!)

Twenty-five years of European legal activity developed his personal magnetism and assurance, gave him a corporation lawyer's bedrock logic and a judge's compassion and fairness, sharpened his command of five major languages, and left him a consummate diplomat. He, if anybody, was adequately equipped for the terrible task of picking up the wracked remains of FIDE in those desperate days of the late forties. He was FIDE Vice-President for the northern zone when Dr. Alexander Rueb of Holland, FIDE's first president, who "for a quarter of a century fulfilled this important office with great skill and diplomacy," (Foldeak), asked him to take the helm, pleading that at 66 he did not feel up to the terrific post-war problems of FIDE. Rogard became the second president of FIDE in 1949, serving through 1970, when he became Honorary President. (Dr. Max Euwe is now President.)

Terrific indeed those problems were. Limping back from the war, FIDE mustered only seven members at its 1946 Congress. It took four years more to restore the Olympiad which, with cutting irony, drew 16 teams (Dubrovnik 1950), just what it drew when it began (London 1927). These were surface symptoms. The real malady lay in the cold war, which permeated every nerve and sinew of FIDE -- political enmity preoccupied most members; chess problems were approached on a political basis; deadlock followed deadlock; confrontation followed confrontation. Many people told Rogard that cold war problems made FIDE'S existence impossible, but others -- with whom he agreed -- advised that world discord presented a great opportunity, one FIDE could use advantageously.

Resolution of the underlying malady is Rogard's monument. FIDE needed a Churchill, and got one. He spoke softly, and he talked tough; he recessed meetings, juggled agendas, ordered cooling-off periods, mediated, bargained, reconciled, pleaded. For much of this the setting was that very lobby-spot where I now sat.

Political problems remained his first concern for three or four years, but a slight easing of the cold war and his resoluteness of purpose began to pay off. The FIDE delegates moved toward our position of today: that chess problems are for us and political problems are for other functionaries, that political coloration of chess matters serves neither chess nor politics, and that while political objectives differ, chess objectives essentially don't, though it takes a lot of time to agree on what they are and how to approach them, within the framework of political conflicts.

As political objectives grudgingly yielded the stage to chess objectives, FIDE began to move. Not that politics has disappeared -- only last year Russia insisted that Israel was an "unsafe" place for student teams -- nor that there have been no other problems. The world championship, after Alekhine's death, is a whole story in itself. Or take that July day in 1954, six weeks before the start of the Olympiad, when the organizers called the whole thing off. (It was held anyway, in another country!)

Perhaps FIDE 1949 was stronger than FIDE 1924 -- personally I judge the opposite -- but unquestionably FIDE 1971 is a maturing and vigorous organization, membership (at 72) up tenfold, functions vastly multiplied and expanded into many new fields. Most significantly, thinks the man who presided over this, the authority of FIDE has come to be recognized.

As for Cramer, the most comprehensive biography I could find is now in Archive.org: The Chessmill -> Fred Cramer by Roman Levit.

03 May 2017

Notes on C06, C07, C27, and C28

In my previous post, An Organization of Amateurs, I gave Larsen's point-of-view on the organization of the Spassky - Larsen semifinal match, Malmo, July 1968. After that match Larsen went on to a playoff match against Tal for 3rd place in the Candidates series of that cycle. In March 1969, he beat Tal 5.5-2.5 (+4-1=3) and had this to say in Chess Life, May 1969 (p.180).
The 1968 Candidates Matches ended with a match between Tal and me, played in the little Dutch town of Eersel (near Eindhoven). According to the FIDE rules, it should have been played in September, but FIDE's attitude seems to be one of happiness that it was played at all. In fact, the official minimum prizes for this event, 500 and 300 Swiss francs, do not encourage the players to play it. In Eersel, the prizes were better, 1500 and 1000 Dutch guilders, but there is the funny point that in the same place, with the same sponsor (a cigar factory), there was played at the same time a match between Grandmaster Kavalek and the Dutch Champion, Ree (Kavalek won 7-3), with higher prizes, 2500 and 1500 guilders. The Dutch Chess Federation thought it would be considered an unkind gesture towards FIDE to propose such high prizes for an official FIDE match!

This little story well illustrates what FIDE is doing to professional chess masters. FIDE expects World Championship candidates to sacrifice a lot of time and energy -- remember, they must not only play these matches, but also prepare only them -- but it would like them to do it as amateurs. A FIDE World Champion should have a millionaire father or government support!

And he should be ready to let FIDE humiliate him again and again. After losing this match, ex-World Champion Tal, if he wants to try again, must start in the semifinals of the Soviet Championship!! While from other zones players reach the Interzonal who have no chances and no ambitions in connection with the World Championship. What a system!

It's worth noting that in a semifinal match of the previous cycle, Tal had won against Larsen 5.5-4.5 (+3-2=5); see 1964-66 Candidates Matches. Larsen went on to a playoff match for 3rd place against Geller. Larsen won 5.0-4.0 (+3-2=4). In two consecutive cycles seeking a challenger to World Champion Petrosian, Larsen emerged as the fourth best player in the world, although Fischer did not compete in either cycle.


While I'm touching on the subject of zonal qualification, it's also worth noting that FIDE's World Cup 2017 -- the next step in the current World Championship cycle -- starts 2 September, in Tbilisi, Georgia. The zonal qualifications are still underway. In the previous cycle, I used a series of posts to document the zonal step.

I expect to do the same for the current cycle (C28).

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; the 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.