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.

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