26 April 2017

An Organization of Amateurs

Flipping through old chess magazines I often see reports on World Championship events of yesteryear, but rarely are there comments on their organization. The following remarks were about the 1967-69 Candidates Matches, specifically the Spassky - Larsen semifinal match, Malmo, July 1968. Spassky beat Larsen 5.5-2.5 (+4-1=3). The report is from Chess Life, December 1968 (p.435), 'The Larsen Opinion : An Interview with Bent Larsen' by Ben Crane of Ann Arbor, Michigan, during Larsen's exhibition tour of the U.S.
Crane: To what do you attribute your loss to Spassky?

Larsen: The main reason would be the way FIDE President Rogard organized this match. He did this in a way which I can only describe as scandalous. Both players and the organizations were very dissatisfied. He did not even do it through the Swedish Chess Federation or the local chess club -- it was just a private arrangement. I don't understand why he wanted to organize the match under these very bad economic conditions, with very bad organizers, when he could have had the match in another country under very good economic conditions for the players and their federations. The federations had to pay travel expenses and everything.

The first prize in this match was 1000 Swiss francs, or a little more than 200 dollars. Both Spassky and I were very depressed by this. We had a meeting with Rogard the evening before the match started and he made it very clear that he thought the players should not make any money on these FIDE tournaments.

If that is the way he wants it, I think he'll very soon see that the FIDE's championship is considered a kind of amateur world championship, and then other sponsors might very well get the idea to arrange a professional world championship. As I see it, when there is something like a match between Spassky and me, when Rogard has, so to speak, something to sell, he should not sell it as cheaply as possible.

If you consider the fact that the players probably used several months in preparation for the Candidates' tournament (the matches themselves began in April and the last one ended about the end of September), then it looks a little strange that we should have the smallest prizes possible. During that time it may be difficult for the players to make money any other way. Yugoslavia, for instance, was ready to organize the match with prizes that were much better, with all expenses paid for two persons from each side.

Wikipedia's page, Folke Rogard (1899–1973), informs,

Rogard was vice-president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), from 1947 to 1949, then succeeded Alexander Rueb as president, a post he held until succeeded by Max Euwe in 1970. He was also chairman of the Swedish Chess Federation from 1947 to 1964

Nearly 50 years after the match was played, FIDE's cavalier treatment of top chess players hasn't changed much.

19 April 2017

He Didn't Resign

After a two week break, let's look again at Chess in the 21st Century, where I noted FIDE's recent organizational problems, especially in World Championship events. The tensions within FIDE became visible to outsiders in a story I covered on my main blog: Did He Resign? It quoted a Reuters report that started,
The Russian head of world chess's governing body FIDE said on Monday he was the victim of a plot to oust him but denied a report by his own organization that he had resigned.

Over the following weeks FIDE insiders jockeyed for position before a special PB meeting called for 10 April:-

1. Legality of meeting
2. Powers delegated to the FIDE Deputy President by the FIDE Presidential Board
3. Statement of Mr Kirsan Ilyumzhinov regarding revocation of his powers
4. Resignation of Mr Kirsan Ilyumzhinov ('nobody [...] had asked for his resignation')
5. Misleading Statements to the media by Mr Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

Peter Doggers of Chess.com covered the evolving story in a series of informative news items:-

Ilyumzhinov: "Today I was analyzing everything that has happened, and I have decided to run for another term as FIDE president. I want to continue uniting the chess world. I will be working towards my goal to have one billion people playing chess." Continue uniting the chess world? The man is clearly delusional.

29 March 2017

Chess in the 21st Century

Finishing the actions on the 2016-17 Women's World Championship, I added the names of the 64 players from the 2017 FIDE Knockout Matches to the Index of Women Players. Of these players, 17 were competing in a Women's World Championship event for the first time.

The event was troubled from start to finish. Last October, we had the controversy that I documented in two posts: Hijab Hubbub and Hijab Hubris. The final word was announced shortly afterwards in Visit of FIDE President to Tehran, Iran (fide.com; November 2016).

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov arrived in Tehran on October 24. The next day, he spoke live on Central Television in Iran, after which he held talks with the President of the Iran Chess Federation, Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh. [...] The FIDE president spoke with reporters of Tasnim News Agency. In replying to the question of how he relates to the need to wear hijabs by women chess players, Ilyumzhinov said: "There are 188 members in FIDE, each of them has the right to hold chess competitions. All these countries have their own laws and customs, under which the tournaments are held. FIDE adheres to the belief that these laws should be respected."

Of course, all countries have the right to hold chess competitions. That doesn't mean that FIDE is required to hold prestigious, high visibility events in those same countries. By Ilyumzhinov's logic, even the most repressive countries in the world have 'the right to hold [FIDE] chess competitions'. This might fit Ilyumzhinov's personal interest, but it's clearly not in the best interest of chess.

A few weeks ago, rumors started to swirl that the players had not received their prize money. This was confirmed in List of Decisions of the 2017 1st quarter FIDE PB (fide.com; March 2017), where 'PB' means Presidential Board:-

  • 1PB-2017/3. To pay the prize money for the Tehran WWCC from FIDE money.
  • 1PB-2017/4. To give a two-week deadline for the Iranian Chess Federation to send the money they owe to FIDE failing which the services for them will be frozen.

'WWCC' means Women's World Chess Championship. Not only were the players expected to play under a restrictive dress code, they did so for free. At least one of them got to be called Women's World Champion; they others got zilch.

FIDE's current problems aren't exclusive to women's events. At the beginning of the month, when I reported on the 2017 Grand Prix, Sharjah, I ignored controversies surrounding that event. See, for example, Leonard Barden's FIDE Grand Prix struggling in Sharjah as big names stay away (theguardian.com; February 2017), or Colin McGourty's What went wrong in Sharjah? (chess24.com; ditto). 'What went wrong?' started with...

  • Too many short draws
  • The Swiss system with only 18 players
  • Top players missing
  • The prize fund
  • etc. etc.

...and ended with no.11...

  • A dysfunctional website ('failed to meet the most basic of standards')

And I thought I was alone in detesting the Worldchess.com site. Add to all of this another flap emanating from the 1st quarter FIDE PB, Did He Resign?, and it's again clear that FIDE has gone badly astray. In the 'Resign?' post, I asked,

When was the last time a chess story grabbed so many mainstream press headlines without once mentioning the name Magnus Carlsen?

Now I remember. It was the hijab kerfuffle.

22 March 2017

PGN for Recent Events

Continuing with the two most recent posts...

...for which I had created the corresponding page on my WCC site and added crosstables documenting the events, this left both pages in an unfinished state. For this current post, I added PGN files to both pages along with relevant notes.

For the first time in a long while, I discovered an incorrect result recorded against one of the games. The initial error was made on the official site for the women's championship and was then propagated elsewhere. Of the sites I looked at, only Chessgames.com had already corrected the result.

15 March 2017

2016-17 Women's World Championship

For my previous post, 2017 Grand Prix, Sharjah, I created a stub page for the World Championship (Women) : 2017 FIDE Knockout Matches. For this post, I added crosstables for the matches played in all six rounds. For the record, the previous report on a related subject was 2014-15 Women's World Championship (April 2015).

Still to do: (1) Add the players' names to the Index of Women Players; (2) Add PGN files to both the 2017 Women's Knockout and the Sharjah Grand Prix; and (3) Add various explanations like FIDE.com links.

08 March 2017

2017 Grand Prix, Sharjah

In my previous post, Missing Months, I mentioned,
I'm in a holding pattern this week, waiting for a couple of events to finish : (1) the first of the 2017 Grand Prix tournaments, and (2) the 2017 Women's World Championship. Both should finish some time next week, which will keep my Wednesdays busy for a month or so.

Both events have since finished and today being International Women's Day (wikipedia.org), I should have addressed the Women's World Championship first. Unfortunately, there is so much work there that I settled for creating a stub page, 2017 FIDE Knockout Matches (Women), and adding it to the index page World Chess Championship for Women.

As for the Sharjah Grand Prix tournament, I added the crosstable to my page on the 2017 Grand Prix. There is also more to be done there, including the PGN file, but that will have to wait for the next time.

22 February 2017

Missing Months

I'm in a holding pattern this week, waiting for a couple of events to finish : (1) the first of the 2017 Grand Prix tournaments, and (2) the 2017 Women's World Championship. Both should finish some time next week, which will keep my Wednesdays busy for a month or so. In the meantime, what to do?

A couple of weeks ago, while working on a post about the 1995-1999 Women's Cycle, I noted,

As long as I'm filling gaps, I should also complete the missing months ('--') in pages like the 1999 Xie Jun - Galliamova match.

Knowing when an event was played is useful to locate tournament reports in chess magazines. A quick search located about 50 events missing months. How long would it take to research those? Maybe an hour or so? Ha!

Tackling the events in chronological order, the first batch was easy enough. Just as in 1927-39 Women's Title Tournaments (September 2009), I used Kazic's 'International Championship Chess' (Batsford 1974), to fill in months for eight women's title matches from 1953 to 1972. Then the exercise became trickier.

The next two events were both from the 1961-63 cycle: the 1962 Stockholm Interzonal and the 1962 Curacao Candidates Tournament. In both cases, the event missing a month was a playoff match. As I started looking into the two matches, I realized that there was more than a missing month to document -- I was lacking basic information on how the playoffs fit into and affected the rest of the cycle. As I looked deeper, I realized that the little project might be spinning out of control. I know from past experience that once I get sidetracked, I risk losing sight of the original goal, so I stopped and simply documented the months the playoffs took place. That will do for now.

I'll come back to the remaining 40 pages missing months some other time. Ditto for the 1961-63 cycle.