27 March 2024

Toronto Candidates - Sponsors

Given all the visa trouble we saw in the previous post, Toronto Candidates - Visas (March 2024), you might well ask, 'Why was Toronto Canada chosen to host the event?'. The answer to the question starts with Partners (candidates2024.fide.com), where we find,
The Scheinberg Family • The Scheinberg family is a long-term partner of the International Chess Federation. The cooperation that started a few years ago has already resulted in three Grand Swiss events (2019, 2021 and 2023), two editions oa [sic; 'of'?] Women Grand Swiss (2021 and 2023), and the FIDE Candidates (2022). Supporting the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2024 and the FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament 2024 in Toronto, Canada is another step to help the top-level chess as well as to promote the game on all the continents.

Other partners mentioned on the page are 1 Hotel Toronto, Chessable, and The Chess Federation of Canada. Here are some recent announcements by FIDE referring to the Scheinbergs:-

Despite the six previous events, the Scheinbergs have received only one mention on this blog: 2023 Grand Swiss, Isle of Man (November 2023). This says as much about their desire for privacy as it does about my journalistic skills. That one blog mention said, 'For the Scheinberg family, see the FIDE news item dated 2022-04-19 in the following list' [also above]. It turns out that there are three generations of the Scheinberg family with a keen interest in chess. All links are to Wikipedia:-

  • Matafia Seinbergas (wikipedia.org) • 'Matafia Seinbergas (also Matafia Sembergas or Matafia Scheinberg; 17 November 1909 — 11 September 2002) was a Lithuanian chess player, medical scientist (immunologist, microbiologist, virologist), and the father of Isai Scheinberg, founder of PokerStars.'
  • Isai Scheinberg (ditto) • 'Isai Scheinberg (born 1946 or 1947) is the Lithuanian Jewish founder of the PokerStars online poker site. Scheinberg previously had been a senior programmer for IBM Canada.'
  • Mark Scheinberg (ditto) • '(Igal) Mark Scheinberg (born 1973) is an Israeli-Canadian businessman and investor with investments in various sectors including real estate and luxury hospitality. He is the co-founder and former co-owner of the online gambling company PokerStars, which was sold in 2014 to Amaya Gaming for $4.9 billion.'

I doubt that anyone has become fabulously wealthy working as a 'senior programmer for IBM Canada', but the 'online gambling company PokerStars' offers a clue. Here are two sources, the first American and the second Canadian:-

  • 2020-01-24 The Incredible Rise Of PokerStars Cofounder Isai Scheinberg -- And His Surrender To Federal Agents (forbes.com) • 'Last Friday, Isai Scheinberg, the 73-year-old cofounder of PokerStars, the world’s biggest online poker company, boarded a plane in Switzerland for the nine-hour flight to New York City. On the other end, he would not be greeted at the airport by family members or businesses associates, but by federal agents who would take him into custody.'
  • 2023-11-23: How a Canadian billionaire made a fortune from illegal gaming and avoided prison (ricochet.media; 'The Israeli-Canadian founder of PokerStars used his vast wealth and powerful connections to cut deals') • 'He is arguably one of Canada’s wealthiest and most successful business people that the country knows virtually nothing about. But Isai Scheinberg is okay with that. [...] In 2016, the Scheinbergs bought a substantial stake in Chess.com, the largest online chess platform in the world. [...] The Scheinbergs decided to end their investment in 2020.'

Here's the full story given from the poker perspective:-

To understand that story, it helps to understand Black Friday. We're not talking the day after Turkey Day (aka Thanksgiving) here: United States v. Scheinberg (wikipedia.org). It starts,

United States v. Scheinberg (2011) is a United States federal criminal case against the founders of the three largest online poker companies, PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Cereus (Absolute Poker/Ultimatebet), and a handful of their associates, which alleges that the defendants violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) and engaged in bank fraud and money laundering to process transfers to and from their customers.

In the mid-2000s, I remember watching poker for the first time on television. It was at a bar run by a Brussels tennis club and it was riveting. Is there a connection between the success of online poker and the success of online chess? I bet that the management of Chess.com thinks so and that is has something to do with the Scheinbergs.

20 March 2024

Toronto Candidates - Visas

Visa problems for World Championship events and qualifiers aren't new -- consider, for example, the 1999 FIDE Knockout Matches (m-w.com; Las Vegas, VII-VIII, 1999), and the 2004 FIDE Knockout Matches (ditto; Tripoli, VI-VII, 2004) -- but they have never threatened to derail the organization of an event. The 2024 Toronto Candidates provided a new level of uncertainty:-
  • 2024-03-04: Candidates Tournament: Visa trouble (chessbase.com; AndrĂ© Schulz) • 'Four weeks before the start of the Candidates Tournament in Toronto, almost all the participants and their travelling companions are still waiting for the visas they applied for months ago to be issued. FIDE has now sent an "urgent visa appeal to the Canadian government" and is even considering moving the "most prestigious tournament in the chess world" to another country.'
  • 2024-03-08: Candidates Tournaments to take place in Toronto after all! (ditto) • 'FIDE has announced that all outstanding visa applications for the entry of the Candidates and their companions as well as organising staff have been approved by the Canadian authorities and the Candidates Tournaments will take place in Toronto starting from April 3, as was originally planned.'

The Chessbase.com reports provided a sober analysis of speculation concerning the global political issues behind the visa brouhaha. The corresponding Chess.com reports provided another level of brouhaha in the hundreds of comments about the situation:-

The second Chess.com report mentioned,

The event was at risk of being relocated to Spain with over 40 players and officials grappling with pending visa approvals, as revealed by Vladimir Drkulec, the President of the Canadian Chess Federation, last weekend.

The CFC's Drkulec participated in the commentary ('vdrkulec') during the rapidly evolving situation. One of his last comments, a long summary documenting the resolution of the crisis, is an important footnote to the historical record.

13 March 2024

Toronto Candidates - Women

In last week's post, Toronto Candidates - Kickoff (March 2024), I created a crosstable to determine the historical record of all eight participants playing each other. I ended the post saying,
Apologies for not creating a similar table for the Women's Candidates Tournament, which takes place at the same time in Toronto. I ran out of time for the table, but will make up for it when I can.

Since I was also interested in the results, I decided to give it priority. The last row is for the Women's World Champion, Ju Wenjun.

Gor Kon Lag Lei Muz Ram Sal Tan : Ju
Goryachkina xx * * * * * * * : *
Koneru, Humpy xx * * * * * * : *
Lagno xx * * * * * : *
Lei Tingjie xx * * * * : *
Muzychuk A. xx * * * : *
Rameshbabu xx * * : *
Salimova xx * : *
Tan Zhongyi xx : *
Ju Wenjun : xx

As with last week's table, the links under the players' names go to that player's FIDE rating page. The links in the crosstable go to Chessgames.com.

06 March 2024

Toronto Candidates - Kickoff

It's been nearly two months since I last posted on the two 2024 Candidates tournaments; see The Race for the 2024 Candidates Events (January 2024). Since the tournaments are due to start at the beginning of next month, it's time to get serious.

For the past six Candidates tournaments, I've produced a crosstable of links to Chessgames.com showing the record between each pair of players. The post for the 2022 tournament was Madrid Candidates - Kickoff (June 2022). First, here are some relevant links for the 2024 tournament:-

In previous kickoff posts, I included a link to my page for the event. I stopped creating my own pages starting with the current cycle, so I'll reference the Wikipedia page instead:-

The following table includes each players record against the reigning World Champion, Ding Liren. The players' names link to their corresponding FIDE page.

Aba Car Fir Guk Nak Nep Pra Vid : Din
Abasov xx * * * * * * * : *
Caruana xx * * * * * * : *
Firouzja xx * * * * * : *
Gukesh xx * * * * : *
Nakamura xx * * * : *
Nepomniachtchi xx * * : *
Praggnanandhaa xx * : *
Vidit (*) xx : *
Ding Liren : xx

(*) Vidit Santosh Gujrathi

Four of the eight players plus Ding Liren competed in the 2022 Madrid Candidates Tournament (m-w.com). The newcomers are Abasov, Gukesh, Praggnanandhaa, and Vidit.

Apologies for not creating a similar table for the Women's Candidates Tournament, which takes place at the same time in Toronto. I ran out of time for the table, but will make up for it when I can. The links for both the official site and the Wikipedia page lead to info on the Women's event.