29 April 2020

90th FIDE Congress : Whither the World Championship?

A couple of months ago, mid-February 2020 to be exact, I had a couple of posts continuing an annual series on this blog, Whither the World Championship?: The Missing Link and The GSC. I ended that second post with a wish:-
I hope we'll learn more from the 90th Congress, although based on recent performance it might take a long time before anything is formally announced.

It only took a month before I was able to report on my main blog that the Minutes of the 90th FIDE Congress (April 2020) were available. They comprised two documents. I'll highlight a few paragraphs that touched on the World Championship.

First, here are extracts from the minutes for the 90th FIDE Congress; FIDE Extraordinary General Assembly; Abu Dhabi, UAE; 28th February 2020 :-

1. FIDE President address

The President's address is always a good source for current FIDE thinking. The 90th Congress featured FIDE President Dvorkovich's first address since his election in 2018. The first highlight answers a question from late last year, WADA Ya Know? (December 2019):-

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sanctioned Russia for doping practices and there was the risk that our Chess Olympiad could be under threat. However, following the discussions we had with WADA, it was agreed that most of the FIDE tournaments are not under threat. This was the result of our good collaboration with WADA.

Another point listed changes adopted for the current cycle:-

Mr. Dvorkovich illustrated the new projects for the future, firstly focusing on the World Championship Cycle. A new system of qualifications for the Candidates Tournaments was introduced, including the new tournament Grand Swiss, that allows more players to compete and have a chance to become a candidate in the World Championship Cycle. Another important point was the knock-out format of the Grand Prix Series, which increased the visibility and competitiveness of this stage of qualification. A more inclusive World Cup format has been developed, increasing the number of participants both in the open and women’s tournaments, thus allowing more countries to participate to the World Cup, which will start already this year in September in Minsk. [?]

I question that last sentence, because the Minsk World Cup is currently scheduled for August 2021. Another paragraph mentioned women's events, where I also had a small problem with the last sentence (what 'tournament'?):-

Mr. Dvorkovich is confident that there have been improvements in gender equality. The World Championship Cycle was reformed in such a way, that it could be the same as open tournaments. This goal has not been achieved yet, but FIDE is on the right track. We are also working on establishing the Women’s Grand Swiss Tournaments by this year. Moreover, the prize money for women has been substantially increased. According to the recommendations from the Women’s Chess Commission, a quota for the participation of women in management positions has been introduced, which means that there will be more space for women in the management positions and in the tournament. [?]

Another point mentioned WCC sponsors:-

Total (one of the main sponsors of the Women’s Grand Prix Series), [...] Algorand (for the World Championship Cycle) and a few other companies that supported the Women’s Grand Prix tournaments.

In the past I've been critical of FIDE communication under the Dvorkovich management, and I know I'm not alone. This is being addressed:-

He added that FIDE needs to improve its communication practices. FIDE already counts on multiple channels of communication, but it is still not enough. One of the initiatives which will start today is the publication of the electronic FIDE Newsletter.

The biggest news came at the end of the minutes, although it's entirely possible that the next title match will be postponed because of scheduling complications caused by the coronavirus:-

7. 91st FIDE Congress 2020 [...] Mr. Dvorkovich also announced that FIDE has almost finalized its negotiation with the organizers of Dubai Expo 2020 regarding the World Championship Match, which will most probably take place in the United Arab Emirates. The most likely starting date for the tournament will be the 20th December.

Second, the relevant extracts from the minutes for the 90th FIDE Congress; FIDE Executive Board; Abu Dhabi, UAE; 29th February 2020 came entirely from the report of the GSC:-

5.9 Global Strategy Commission • Mr. Dvorkovich reported about the activity of this Commission. Regarding the World Cup, it was established to increase the number of players who could participate to the tournament, thus increasing the representation of the national federations on this occasion.

The qualification requirements for both Grand Prix and the Candidates Tournament represent another issue to be focused on. Many players complained that the qualification requirements used for the current Grand Prix and Candidates Tournament had a bias on the initial rating. Therefore, it is necessary to change these requirements. This is one of the issues the Global Strategy Commission is discussing about and all the Federations are invited to share their opinions about this matter.

The Global Strategy Commission report was unanimously approved.

I'll come back to that so-called rating bias another time. It's an issue that has been simmering for some time.

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