29 March 2023

2023 Nepomniachtchi - Ding Liren Warmup

With the 2023 Nepomniachtchi - Ding Liren (m-w.com) due to start next week in Astana, Kazakhstan, I updated that page with the latest info, including the official site and a link to the schedule. The logo and domain name are copied here:-


The schedule says the opening ceremony will take place 7 April, the 1st game 9 April, with a rhythm of two days play and one day off through the 7th game on Tuesday, 18 April, which will be followed by a free day. Then the two days/one day schedule continues until the 14th game on Saturday, 29 April. If necessary, tiebreak will be played the following day. Games will start at 15:00 Astana time. [NB: Current Local Time in Astana (timeanddate.com).]

From the FIDE Handbook
'07. Regulations for the FIDE World Championship Match'

Also from the Handbook:-

4.2.2. The time control for each game is 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting from move 61.

As for tiebreak:- A four-game playoff shall be played with a time control of 25 minutes + 10 seconds increment per move, starting from move 1. There shall be a drawing of lots to decide which player starts with white. If the score is still a tie after the four-game playoff described in Article, another two-game playoff shall be played with a time control of 5 minutes + 3 seconds increment per move, starting from move 1. If the score is still level, another 2-game playoff shall be played with the same time control. There shall be a drawing of lots to decide which player starts with white before each of the 2-game matches. If the score is still level after the playoffs described in Article, after a new drawing of lots, a single game shall be played with a time control of 3 minutes for each player + 2 seconds increment per move, starting from move 1. If the game in Article is drawn, another game shall be played with a time control of 3 minutes for each player + 2 seconds increment per move, starting from move 1 with the colors reversed. If the game in Article is drawn, the procedure described in Article shall be applied until a game is played with a decisive result.

To see the previous results between the two players, follow the crosstable I created for last year's post Madrid Candidates - Kickoff (June 2022). According to Chessgames.com, the current standing is:-

  • Classical games: Ian Nepomniachtchi beat Ding Liren 3 to 2, with 8 draws.
  • Only rapid/exhibition games: Ian Nepomniachtchi beat Ding Liren 10 to 7, with 9 draws.

In the Madrid Candidates, Nepo as Black beat Ding and as White drew. Nepo would appear to be the favorite in the forthcoming match.


Sizing Up the Opponent; Photo from 'Before the Match'
Courtesy of FIDE / Stev Bonhage

22 March 2023

'Chess on Olympus'

Last week's post was about the 1998 Karpov - Anand FIDE Title Match. The post, Chess Heaven in Lausanne (March 2023), was based on Elizabeth Karnazes's report in the March 1998 issue of Chess Life. Summarizing the report at the end of the post, I noted,
The entire piece was more about the ambience surrounding the event. [...] As good a story as it was, I'll try to add a post that focuses more on the chess played in the match.

This current post is based on 'Le jeu d'Echecs vers l'Olympe' (English: 'Chess on Olympus') by Christophe Bouton, the introduction to a 16-page report that appeared in the February 1998 issue of Europe Echecs. Just like I did in Sanghi Nagar: The Kamskys vs. the World (March 2023), I'll use Google Translate together with my high school French to understand the report. It used the following photo at the top of the first page.

The photo didn't have a caption. If it did have, it might have been something like this:-

At the board: Karpov (left), Anand (right) • Behind the board: (left to right) FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Juan Antonio Samaranch, Match Arbiter Geurt Gijssen • Photo: SIPA/Sichov

The report started,

Suffocated by a hug from his French representative, Jean-Paul Touzé, at the end of his victory in the second game of the tiebreak, Anatoli Karpov finally relaxes. Head bowed, he immediately takes refuge with a few members of his team in the three-meter-squared box which served as a relax room during the match, on the side of the hall of the Olympic museum where he faced the Indian Viswanathan Anand for a week. And he cries.

That's not the behavior one normally imagines from the winner of a world class competition, and Bouton's article was no normal report. Why did Karpov cry? Because, 'The tension was too great.' And Anand?

At the other end of the room, Anand sports a strained smile. His dream came crashing down in just over a hundred minutes [for both tiebreak games]. His wife Aruna is at his side and does not stray far. He responds mechanically to timid questions and slips away discreetly so as not to be bothered by many fans, disappointed and sad.

From the above excerpts, we can be cetain that Bouton was an eye-witness to the match. From Karnazes's report we also know that there was a side-event for journalists without chess titles, in which she played. According to EE, in a small box attached to the full report, Bouton won the event and pocketed US$ 9000 offered by 'His Excellence' Ilyumzhinov. Bouton's understanding of current chess events permeated paragraphs like the following.

But is Karpov really champion of the world? Anand fans doubt it, the best players in the world laugh at it, the numbers speak: to qualify for Lausanne, Anand played 23 games and eliminated six of the best players in the world. Meanwhile, Karpov was preparing in peace, because he was directly qualified.

He and Kasparov were to enter the semi-finals. Kasparov did not follow up, as expected. And Karpov dug in behind the leonine [one-sided?; inequitable?] clause which stipulated that if one of the two "K"s did not play, the other went directly to the final. With this victory thanks to semi-rapids -- because finally in long games, Karpov drew 3-3 against Anand (two wins and two losses each) -- Karpov, sixth player in the world in the January international ranking, is champion of the world until the year 2000.

Bouton's two-page report, including more photos from the same photographer featured above, was followed by annotations of all games, three of them with detailed notes by GM Joel Lautier, who was ranked French no.1 (World no.28) at the time. I have access to about 35 years of Europe Echecs and it might be useful to inventory the many other world class events covered by the magazine.

15 March 2023

Chess Heaven in Lausanne

My main blog is often the inspiration for posts on this World Chess Championship blog. Consider the following two 'On the Cover' posts, where the quotes are from the introduction to the respective issues of the 1998 Chess Life (CL):-
  • 2023-02-02: February 1973 & 1998 'On the Cover' • '[Cover] photo by Elizabeth Karnazes. And she will be providing next month's cover, as well as a photographic essay of the final match, to accompany a report by Larry Christiansen.'
  • 2023-03-09: March 1973 & 1998 'On the Cover' • 'Elizabeth Karnazes shot the cover photo of Anatoly Karpov just after he successfully defended his FIDE World Championship title in Lausanne, Switzerland.'

The common element is the cover photo by Elizabeth Karnazes. The February 1998 issue of CL promised a pair of articles on the 1998 Karpov - Anand FIDE Title Match, and the March 1998 issue delivered, more or less.

GM Christiansen's one page report was really about the 1997 FIDE Knockout Matches, held in December at Groningen, where he played. Photographer Karnazes two page report was about the final match held in January at Lausanne, which she spectated. The report started with a half page of photos. Two of them are reproduced below along with their original captions.

Left: 'A little slice of chess heaven.' (taken from the photographer's Lausanne hotel?) • Right: 'Anatoly Karpov and his wife, Natalie Karpova, as they emerge from the Olympic Museum, just after Karpov defeated Anand.'

The report carried the same title as the photo on the left, 'A Little Slice of Chess Heaven' by Elizabeth Karnazes. It started,

Nestled on the shores of Lake Geneva high in the Swiss Alps lies the charming town of Lausanne, Switzerland. Lausanne is the Olympic Capital, headquarters of the International Olympic Committee and the Federation Internationale des Echecs [FIDE]. It is the site of the Olympic Museum, which hosted the FIDE World Chess Championship Finals under the auspices of the IOC from January 1-9, 1998. Lausanne is also the home of the Beau-Rivage Palace, arguably one of the top ten hotels in the world. Most importantly, Lausanne is where I first experienced a little slice of chess heaven.

The next paragraph set the tone of the entire piece, which was more about the ambience surrounding the event. Asking for directions to Lausanne while in a Parisian McDonald's is roughly equivalent to asking for directions to Lake Champlain while in a New York City McDonald's.

After a grueling ten hour drive over the top of the Swiss Alps from Paris with my usual caravan of luggage and two young sons in tow, I saw a glittering array of lights leading me to my destination. As it turned out, there was a shorter route via a major highway, which would have placed us in Lausanne five hours earlier. Surely the charming employees of McDonald's Paris, who provided me with directions for the journey, were having a great laugh at the silly American woman in the Volkswagen. No matter, the view was spectacular and we were on our way to witness two of the world's greatest chessplayers, Anatoly Karpov and Viswanathan Anand, vie for close to two million dollars in prize money and the right to be called World Champion. (Deeper Blue and Garry Kasparov notwithstanding.)

The 'two young sons' (ten-year-old twins) were also chess players and participated in a junior event held during the match. Their Mom played in a different event for journalists without chess titles. As good a story as it was, I'll try to add a post that focuses more on the chess played in the match.

08 March 2023

Sanghi Nagar: The Kamskys vs. the World

A couple of weeks ago I posted How to Lose a Sponsor in Ten Days (February 2023). It ended with a question:-
What happened between 'Chess deserves to be promoted' and 'I will never organize an event in which Gata Kamsky participates'? It will take another post to explain.

Remember that the post was part of a series about the 1994-96 FIDE Candidates Matches (m-w.com), specifically the 'Final matches', Sanghi Nagar, February 1995: Karpov - Gelfand and Kamsky - Salov. The 'Lose a Sponsor' post quoted from Leontxo Garcia's report in Europe Echecs, April 1995, translated from the French language. Garcia described an incident that defined the matches in the public's memory:-

Karpov has taken a number of precautions: his team is made up of [...] The Kamskys had strengthened their team with Alexander Shabalov, but he has just left after a quarrel with Rustam. According to several witnesses, [Gata] Kamsky's father had hit the second. Which Rustam denies by declaring: "It was a discussion between men" and by specifying that Shabalov was incapable of working more than two or three hours a day, against the thirteen or fourteen that he asked of him. Shabalov, who had a lip injury, explained the situation before returning to New York:

"It is very difficult to work with Rustam. Financially, he always keeps his word but he wants to make all the decisions, including on the purely technical level, despite his poor knowledge of chess. I'm sorry for Gata. But whether he loses or wins, it will not be because of my departure."

Rustam Kamsky was just getting warmed up. Later he took on the match organizer and sponsor:-

As match interest begins to dwindle faster than expected [NB: because the winners were clear], Rustam escalates the tension with a stormy statement. After Gata and Salov's relatively peaceful press conference, Rustam, still nervous despite the victory, goes to Ravi Sanghi's office to demand Gata's "money". According to Ravi, travel costs and the prize itself, according to Rustam, only plane tickets. Rustam complains that he is tired of always being told "tomorrow" when he comes to ask for his team's $7,000 for tickets. Sanghi explains to Rustam that it is very difficult to obtain foreign currency in India and reminds him that he has offered to pay him several times in rupees or traveller's checks, instead of cash. Kamsky's father becomes even more agitated and returns to the press center to launch an attack on Sanghi, accusing him of not providing him with proper food, of conspiring with Kasparov and Campomanes, of deliberately making life difficult for Gata in these semi-finals as in the previous quarter-finals, etc.

Sanghi then gets very angry and prepares to "take very severe measures". Dzindzi [GM Dzindzihashvili; see below], who has also been made aware of Rustam's outburst, then calls Sanghi to restore the situation. He demands a written apology from Rustam "before 8:30 p.m.", the time at which most Indian journalists must return to Hyderabad. In return, Dzindzi asks for a written guarantee that the amount due will be paid in full.

Rustam [Kamsky] then signs a document in which he retracts his attacks against Sanghi and the organizers. But Sanghi does not calm down and declares to the Indian press that he "will never organize an event in which Gata Kamsky participates". And Sanghi insists that Rustam can no longer give interviews without his formal permission.

The next day, Campomanes sends a fax to Rustam, announcing that his apologies "attenuate but do not absolve this misconduct... And [he] imposes a symbolic fine of 150 Swiss francs. Any recidivism or any similar attitude in the future will be severely punished". Rustam reacts very badly to the answers of Sanghi and Campomanes, and declares: "I am afraid for the life of my son".

Given that every controversy has at least two sides, the other side of the story was described in Kamsky's House Arrest (rec.games.chess; March 1995; 'Copyright by Chesstours'): 'Interview with GM Roman Dzindzihashvili (Gata Kamsky's second) by GM Larry Evans'.

01 March 2023

Zone 1.6 (Russia) Becomes Zone 3.8

Here's continuing a story from my main blog that was mentioned in First Yahoos of 2023 (January 2023):-
2023-01-30: Russian Chess Federation moves to Asia (chessbase.com) • 'The Russian Chess Federation has advised the European Chess Union that they have applied for membership of the Asian Chess Federation, and that they intend to withdraw from the ECU as soon as they have been admitted.'

The Europeans reacted immediately:-

  • 2023-01-30: Statement of the European Chess Union (europechess.org) • 'The European Chess Union (ECU) hereby expresses its position on the possible transfer of the Russian Chess Federation (RCF) to the Asian Chess Federation (ACF). '

FIDE took a few weeks to respond formally:-

  • 2023-02-22: FIDE resolution on the Russian Federation joining the ACF (fide.com) • 'The FIDE Council reviewed yesterday, February 21, the report prepared by the Constitutional Commission on the request made by the Chess Federation of Russia (CFR) to join the Asian Chess Federation (ACF).'

The ECU reaction was again immediate:-

  • 2023-02-22: Statement of the European Chess Union – 22.02.2023 (europechess.org) • 'Following the FIDE Council’s decision concerning the proposed transfer of the Russian Chess Federation (RCF) to the Asian Chess Federation (ACF), the European Chess Union (ECU) hereby declares [...]'

The vote of the Asian Federation was overwhelmingly in favor of the transfer, with six abstentions:-

The Chess24 report discussed the qualification for places in a forthcoming stage of the World Championship.

It’s already been confirmed by the European Chess Union that players who were already enrolled in the European Championship that starts in Vrnjacka Banja, Serbia in three days’ time will still be able to play -- and potentially take one of the 23 spots available in the upcoming World Cup. [...]

It appears there’s nothing to stop players competing in Serbia and then, later in the year, competing in the Asian Continental Championships in Kazakhstan, for which no dates have yet been set, according to FIDE’s calendar. The question of World Cup places is an interesting one, with the regulations of the 2023 World Cup, to be held in August in Baku, Azerbaijan, allocating spaces based on the number of players in the World Top 60 in January 2022.

Counting individual players, the Russian federation is FIDE's largest; see FIDE Rating List - January 2023 (January 2023), also on my main blog, for some numbers. The full impact of the transfer remains to be seen.