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.

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