26 July 2017

2017 Grand Prix, Geneva

I added the crosstable and PGN for the third leg of FIDE's Grand Prix to my World Chess Championship page 2017 Grand Prix. For the schedule of the last event, see my previous post, 2017 Grand Prix, Moscow (May 2017).

Since my crosstables are always built from the corresponding PGN file, one of the steps I go through is to compare my final version against the official version. For the FIDE Grand Prix, there are no official crosstables; there are just final totals for the players.

For the Geneva event I noticed mismatches for two players, and thanks to Chessgames.com, discovered the reason. In Ernesto Inarkiev vs A R Saleh Salem; FIDE Grand Prix Geneva (2017), two CG members mentioned,

Jul-10-17 Willber G: The score is wrong, black resigned at this point. 1-0.

Jul-10-17 tamar: DGT gremlins took away 1/2 point from Inarkiev because King on e5 signals draw once arbiter puts White King on e4.

I corrected the PGN, rebuilt the crosstable, and compared the results again. Although everything matches, my experience with this sort of glitch is that there are always consequences downstream.

05 July 2017

FIDE Congresses

Every year on this blog I prepare a post titled 'Whither the World Championship?', where the most recent was 2016 FIDE Congress : Whither the World Championship? (January 2017). It's one of a series of posts stemming from minutes of the FIDE Congress, mostly on my main blog, 'Chess for All Ages'.

A few days ago FIDE published an article, Interview with FIDE Administrative Manager Polina Tsedenova, with some useful background on the organization of the FIDE Congresses. Here are some excerpts.

Q: How many Congresses have you organized so far?

A: I started officially working for FIDE in 1997 and my first Congress was in Chisinau (Moldova) in September 1997. Of course I very clearly remember that one because we did it with a previous administration jointly. Their experience was very helpful but I`m sure we improved a lot. Since 1997 we had annual Congresses which mean there have been 20 Congresses already.

[...]

Q: How difficult is it to organize such an event as FIDE Congress?

A: We have clear guidelines which we share with the organizers. We try to do it well in advance. First of all the organizers get pointed with the guidelines, second, they find a proper Congress manager, third, they find the adequate number of volunteers and fine facilities. I usually travel before any Congress for an inspection to see what they propose to us and they cooperate and collaborate in 95% of the guesses let’s say.

Neither chess players nor organizers really understand what kind of event is the Congress and many people mix FIDE Congress and let’s say a General Assembly or an Executive Board. Congress is the general term for the whole globe of the meetings which are under this umbrella. FIDE Congress today consists of several parts: General Assembly, Executive Board, commissions’ meetings, continental meetings and other meetings.

We have 188 national federations’ members of FIDE, who can delegate one person to represent their federation and vote on behalf of a federation and the meeting of these delegates we call a General Assembly. This meeting is organized every two years and it occupies the last three days of the FIDE Congress.

The Congress starts with the meetings of FIDE commissions. FIDE has more than 20 commissions and we separate the meetings during the duration of 4 days from morning till evening. When I started working we used to have a Central Committee of FIDE which was about 50-60 people and it was very bulky and it was not very convenient to have both the central committee meeting and the General Assembly. In 1999 it was decided to abolish it.

[...]

Q: What are the common problems which appear in the process of the preparation and organization of FIDE Congresses?

A: We try to put strict deadlines according to the FIDE Statutes but many federations don’t follow the terms. In several federations the administrative problems exist. People don’t read FIDE Statutes, people don`t follow the information we sent them. We send them all the information on the deadlines on the specific dates when they have to provide something. I don`t know why it`s happening, maybe because some federations are relaxed or have lack of the personnel or staff but then we have to deal with it.

More information on the Congresses can be found in 'Handbook :: A. Administrative Subjects :: 07. FIDE Congress Regulations' (fide.com). Thanks, FIDE!

28 June 2017

Spassky: 'The Dr. Zhivago of Chess'

In a recent post on my main blog, Sports Illustrated 'On the Cover', I showed that a prominent American sports magazine ('SI') once demonstrated a keen interest in chess. Through the series of Kasparov - Karpov clashes in the 1980s, SI had regular, multi-page features on top World Championship events. Here, for example, are the first two pages of a five-page spread on the Korchnoi - Spassky final in the 1976-78 Candidates Matches.


Sports Illustrated, 12 December 1977

The article started,

With the notable exception of Bobby Fischer, who won the world championship from Boris Spassky in 1972 in a memorable Icelandic psychodrama, Soviets have dominated world chess for 30 years. And their reign is not about to end. This week, in the shabby elegance of the Dom Sindikata Theater in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, two Russians, Spassky and Viktor Korchnoi, are meeting for the right to play still another Russian, 26-year-old world champion Anatoly Karpov, for the title.

Spassky is now 40, and his figure, which was trim in Reykjavik, is a bit fleshier, his dark hair longer and more styled. But the same calm green eyes study the board, and the same long artistic fingers are placed along his cheekbones. The world champion from 1969 to 1972, Spassky remains the gentlemanly, dignified, poetic grand master, the Dr. Zhivago of chess.

Across the board sits the volatile, daring Korchnoi, 46, the world's No. 2 grand master. In further contrast to Spassky, the formerly chubby Korchnoi has lost a great deal of weight recently. His brown eyes glitter, his shoulders hunch as he lunges forward to advance a bishop into dangerous territory. Korchnoi seeks the dangerous position -- in life as well as at the chessboard.

That's the sort of colorful sports reporting that is seldom seen outside of the mainstream press. Here is a list of all SI articles on the World Championship that I was able to locate.

  • 1960-04-18: A New Moscow Revolution • 'Mikhail Tal's brilliant and bewildering victories in world championship chess stunned the Russians'
  • 1960-05-30: A Nod for a Title • 'Sports Illustrated's correspondent in Moscow reports on the new world chess champion Mikhail Tal and on the new chess era that opened with a smile'
  • 1961-05-08: The Young Botvinnik • 'An aging champion created a new training technique to recover the fire of youth -- and his title'
  • 1967-11-20: The Further Adventures of Terrible-tempered Bobby • 'Bobby Fischer played like a champion at the international tournament in Tunisia, but he ended by forfeiting his way out of the competition'
  • 1971-08-02: Maybe You Can Win Them All • 'Bobby Fischer has pitched 19 no-hitters in a row'
  • 1971-11-08: Bobby Clears the Board for the Title • 'The young U.S. master, after Tigran Petrosian smashed his 20-game streak, closed strong to earn a shot at the world's chess champion'
  • 1972-07-10 A Sudden Stalemate in Reykjavik • 'The world championship was plunged into check when Bobby Fischer decided that a better game was hide-and-seek'
  • 1972-07-24: Boris in Wonderland • 'Russia's Spassky played Alice to Bobby Fischer's Mad Hatter in Reykjavik last week'
  • 1972-08-14: How to Cook a Russian Goose • 'First, catch a Russian -- and at long last Bobby Fischer apparently has, dominating Boris Spassky so completely...'
  • 1974-01-28: Memo from Moscow: don't get byrned • 'Hot on his world chess championship comeback, Boris Spassky faces a scholarly and unintimidated American'
  • 1974-09-30: A Case of Beauty Before Age • 'Two Russians are meeting to see who will take on Bobby Fischer...'
  • 1977-12-12: Taut Duel for Two Old Comrades • 'They grew up together in Russia and meet again for the right to face the champion, but one is a defector, the other an √©migr√©'
  • 1978-01-30: They Couldn't Zap the Viktor • 'Korchnoi came out of his match with Spassky smiling and ready for world champion Karpov, but in Belgrade he was grimly convinced that the Soviet KGB was bombarding him with rays'
  • 1978-07-31: Back to Drawing Old Board • 'The Soviet champ and a vocal defector drew the first three games of what could be a drawn-out world championship'
  • 1985-02-25: A Dubious Gambit In Moscow • 'Just when chess champion Anatoly Karpov seemed to be weakening, the challenger was abruptly checkmated'
  • 1986-11-13: Beating Back A Game Challenge • 'Anatoly Karpov played valiantly in their Leningrad showdown, but Gary Kasparov outlasted his rival to retain the world chess championship'
  • 1987-12-07: Duel Of Two Minds • 'Opposites Gary Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov battle for the world chess title'
  • 2016-11-12: Chess Pieces of History • 'Board in 1972 battle up for auction'

The reports aren't always perfect. There is sometimes confusion between the concepts of 'game' and 'match' that is irksome to many chess fans, and the 1971 baseball analogy...

Maybe You Can Win Them All • 'Bobby Fischer has pitched 19 no-hitters in a row'

...is clearly an exaggeration. Even with those nitpicks, I'll gladly accept a slightly flawed report that promotes chess to a non-chess readership. For some reason, the World Championship reports stopped after the 1980s. Was it because of a changing perception of chess as a sport, because of the political turmoil in the chess world, or because of something else? I would really like to know.

21 June 2017

Early Women's World Champions

The blog post originally scheduled for today has been postponed due to extreme heat. As a filler post, but fully deserving in its own right, here are photos of the first six Women's World Champions.


Top row: Vera Menchik, Ludmila Rudenko, Elisaveta Bykova (Elizaveta Bikova)
Bottom row: Olga Rubtsova, Nona Gaprindashvili, Maia Chiburdanidze

For more about the events in which they won their titles, see my index page World Chess Championship for Women. The photos were in a set that included the male world champions, Steinitz through Kasparov (although Capablanca is missing from the set I'm looking at), thereby dating their publication to no earlier than the mid-1980s. The description of the set said,

From the U.S.S.R. Ideal for framing and display in chess clubs and chess study rooms.

I'll be back in a week with the regularly scheduled post.

14 June 2017

World Championship, Oslo 2018

From newsinenglish.no:-
'Norway’s World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen was disappointed when he was told, right after tying another match at the Norway Chess tournament now underway in Stavanger, that he won’t be able to defend his title on home turf next year. Oslo has been dumped as a potential host city for the next World Chess Championship, with its arranger and the Norwegian government arguing over the reason why.'

From facebook.com/theworldchess/videos:-


2017-06-09: Video by Ilya Merenzon, World Chess CEO, regarding the statement of why the Match is not happening in Oslo in 2018.

From translate.googleusercontent.com -> chess-news.ru:-

From chess.com/article KajaMSnare

'Right now the culture differences are too massive. Norwegian bureaucracy and fastidiousness versus FIDE's and Agon's strictly-business approach and suspicious hesitation to show transparency. Stuck in the middle: Magnus Carlsen's dream of winning the World Chess Championship title where it all started. The dream of gathering the entire nation around chess -- because it would. Nothing could match the intense pressure, success, eventual lifting of the trophy, and singing the national anthem together with 100.000 Norwegians, showing him how proud he makes them.'

For more about Kaja Snare on this blog, see Carlsen - Karjakin, the Second Week (November 2016); on my main blog, see World Championship Closing Ceremony (December 2016).

07 June 2017

Zonal Qualifiers C01-C12 : Archive.org

Continuing with my previous post, Zonal Qualifiers C01-C16 : Archive.org, I noted the first steps for documenting the interzonal qualification process in C01-C12:-
I downloaded the three [GMG] pages from Archive.org and combined the ten different regional tables into a single table. I then split that table into cycles covering C01 through C16.

The tables for each cycle contain data about individual players plus info about the qualification process. For example, the data on the 20 players in the first Interzonal is shown here:-


C01 IZ Qualifiers

This should match my corresponding page on the 1948 Saltsjobaden Interzonal Tournament. Info about the qualification process for that same cycle is collected here:-

  • 'Hilversum Zonal 1947 gathered the champions of the various European FIDE member nations together. O'Kelly de Galway of Belgium came 1st, but must have declined to play at Saltsjobaden. Trifunovic and Pachman shared second. Szabo came in a tie for fifth. Pirc, Gligoric and Tartakover were not invited to Hilversum, but were nominated by ballot by the FIDE directors to play in the Interzonal.'
  • 'Isaac Kashdan came in second at the U.S. ch. of 1946. Reshevsky the winner was seeded into the 1948 World ch. at The Hague/Moscow, and Kashdan qualified to play at Saltsjobaden IZ 1948. Arnold Denker was selected by FIDE ballot, but apparently both Kashdan and Denker declined to play. Israel Horowitz seems to have been offered a place as well as a replacement, but must have declined as well.'
  • 'Najdorf and Stahlberg shared first and Erich Eliskases came third in a strong tournament at Mar Del Plata in 1947. Eliskases must have declined to play.'
  • 'All Soviet players were selected based on their results in ballots submitted by the FIDE directors. Boleslavsky came second at the 15th USSR ch. 1947, and Bondarevsky shared 3rd.'

This complements my corresponding page on the Zonals 1948-1951 (C01). In the 'C01-C16 : Archive.org' post, I also noted:-

There is some overlap in cycles C13-C16. I'll decide how to handle that when I come back to the subject.

For example, the first of my pages on those cycles is Zonal Qualifiers 1984-1987 (C13). Although I haven't decided how to handle the 'overlap', the C13 page shows the sort of thing I'm aiming at for C01-C12.

31 May 2017

Zonal Qualifiers C01-C16 : Archive.org

The last time I looked at zonal qualification paths, Zonal Qualifiers C27 - Qualification Paths (February 2016), I assigned myself an action:-
Another possible next step would be to work out the qualification paths for the cycles that I haven't tackled yet : C01 through C12. Part of that work has already been done (see 'G : GMG ' on my index page for the World Championship Zonals), so it needs to be reviewed and reworked into my own structure.

Although the GMG site has disappeared from the web, it lives on in Archive.org: Zonals in USSR, CIS and Asia. My remark that 'part of that work has already been done' was inaccurate. I should have said 'most of that work' has been done. The three pages --

  • Zonals in USSR, CIS and Asia
  • Zonals in the Americas and Africa
  • European Zonals
-- contain around 600 notes on individual players along with administrative decisions on why certain players were replaced for various Interzonals. The last zonal cycle covered is C16, which culminated in the Biel IZ, July 1993.

I downloaded the three pages from Archive.org, made some minor formatting changes to standardize them, and combined the ten different regional tables into a single table. I then split that table into cycles covering C01 through C16.

My previous work on qualification paths, Zonal Qualifiers C13-C27 : Summary (February 2016), indicates that there is some overlap in cycles C13-C16. I'll decide how to handle that when I come back to the subject.

24 May 2017

2017 Grand Prix, Moscow

I added the second event of the 2017 FIDE Grand Prix, which took place in Moscow, to my page on the World Chess Championship : 2017 Grand Prix. The first event was documented in my post 2017 Grand Prix, Sharjah (March 2017). As for future Grand Prix events, the last two are scheduled for:-
  • Geneva, Switzerland; 5-Jul-2017
  • Palma De Mallorca, Spain; 15-Nov-2017

In between those, we'll have:-

  • World Cup 2017; Tbilisi, Georgia; 2-Sep-2017

Two players from the 2017 Grand Prix and two players from the 2017 World Cup will qualify for the 2018 Candidates tournament, which is not yet scheduled. In another post from a few months ago, Chess in the 21st Century, I mentioned it was 'clear that FIDE has gone badly astray'. Nothing has happened to change my opinion since then.

17 May 2017

Elo and Edmondson

My previous post on Folke Rogard, FIDE's Consummate Diplomat, ended,
As for Cramer, the most comprehensive biography I could find is now in Archive.org: The Chessmill -> Fred Cramer by Roman Levit.

For convenience, here's the link again: Fred Cramer by Roman Levit. I found a couple of paragraphs particularly noteworthy.

Fred worked closely with [Arpad] Elo. He edited Elo's book, The Rating of Chessplayers Past and Present. He was a delegate to FIDE, and kept after FIDE to adopt Elo's rating system. Then, after its adoption, Fred continued to fight, this time battles with his own federation, who wanted to tinker with Elo's system as a promotional tool to make more money for the USCF. That led to some legendary battles between Cramer and Elo on the one side and USCF Director Ed Edmondson and Bill Goichburg [Goichberg] on the other.

The hostility grew between Edmondson and Cramer to the point where Edmondson had Fred replaced as FIDE delegate with Pearle Mann. (Fred always blamed Edmondson for the difficulties in negotiating the 1975 Fischer - Karpov match, claiming that just when things would be settling down Edmondson would stir up the Russians with insults or other violations of protocol. Fred always believed Edmondson resented being fired by Fischer during the Reykjavik negotiations, and so after that he tried to sabotage Fischer at every turn.)

Another page (undated) on the same site (now defunct), The Chessmill -> Interview With Arpad Elo, expands on both topics. The introduction to the interview starts,

We continue with our plundering of Wisconsin chess history by reaching back into the longest-published of all the local chess periodicals, Badger Chess, for this interview with Arpad Elo, conducted by Dave Brimble. Arpad Elo has influenced the history of the chess world with his scientific approach to the rating of chess players. In name recognition among chess aficionados, he ranks up there with the world champions.

The observation about name recognition is not exaggerated, although some chess players think 'ELO' is an acronym for something. The tie-in with the Cramer topics is later in the interview.

I was continually attacked by Goichburg [Goichberg] for example, for imagined and supposed usurpation of authority about the rating system. He eventually even got Edmundson [Edmondson] on his side and they tried to get me out of FIDE. They made quite an effort to get rid of me but I finally prevailed, I think because the people in FIDE that I worked with realized the integrity of the system and what I was trying to hold up was the integrity of the system. Whereas Edmundson and Goichburg [ditto] looked on it as a means to finagle and promote, inflating the egos of American chess players, that they are better than they really are. They wanted to use the rating system for political purposes, trying to influence the way the rating system worked. Then they would examine under the microscope all the numerical mistakes I would make and make an issue out of them. That was in the late 70's.

Fred Cramer had a run in with Edmundson in 1972 during the Fischer era. His gripe was about how Edmundson tried to manipulate Fischer. I still believe that Edmundson's shenanigans were a contributing factor to the failure of the Fischer - Karpov match in 1975. I think he deliberately insulted the Russians. Averbakh, the Russian master who was part of the negotiating team, who was also a member of the qualifications committee with me and who I became good friends with said that every time it seemed as if they were making progress about the conditions, Edmundson would throw about insults and such, and violate protocol. The Russians are very serious people and want to stick to the rules and when they get insulted repeatedly it really turns them off.

BC [Badger Chess]: So why would Edmundson try to sabotage the match?

Elo: Because he was fired by Fischer as his second back in '72. Edmundson was then the executive director of USCF and used his influence adversely. Fischer made certain conditions of course and the conditions were a matter of debate. Fischer insisted on the condition that in the event of an equal score at a certain point that the title would be retained by the champion and draws would not count and things like that. Eventually those conditions were slightly modified and adopted when Karpov became champion. So Karpov got everything Fischer asked for with minor changes. Of course I don't know if Fischer would have played in any case. I have a feeling that he would have found some other impossible condition. I agree with those who say that Fischer probably could psychologically not afford to risk losing the championship over the board.

Since the Elo interview might well be the source of the Cramer paragraphs, I would like to see these accusations against Edmondson confirmed elsewhere. Whatever I find, I'll report here. Fischer's default of the 1975 match signalled the end of the Fischer boom in American chess.

10 May 2017

FIDE's Consummate Diplomat

The last two posts -- An Organization of Amateurs and Notes on C06 and C07 -- have featured Bent Larsen giving his opinion on Candidate matches of the 1960s. In 'Organization of Amateurs', he was particularly critical of FIDE's Folke Rogard.
Q: To what do you attribute your loss to Spassky? A: 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.

Sour grapes? (Larsen lost the match.) Scandinavian rivalry? (A Dane and a Swede.) Something else? In the interest of fairness, let's move forward a few years to Chess Life, February 1971 (p.64), and examine a long excerpt from 'Folke Rogard of FIDE : The World Chess Federation Comes of Age' by Fred Cramer, 'Vice-President of FIDE, Zone 5'.

[Rogard] was a very promising young player, finishing ahead of Spielmann, but behind Rubinstein, Reti and Bogolyubov (with whom he drew) in a 50-player event at Stockholm in 1920, though aided by a pairing novelty (the IGM's played four games simultaneously!)

But he was an even more promising lawyer, beginning practice in London in 1922, setting up for himself in Stockholm in 1925, and building a prosperous organization with major clients, seven attorneys, and numerous clerks and chauffeurs, which still continues, but smaller now. (No one can ever know how much clerical time, materials, rent, cables, postage, translating expense, and the like this firm gave FIDE at no cost. FIDE's administrative operations far exceed those of USCF, though its budget is about one-tenth!)

Twenty-five years of European legal activity developed his personal magnetism and assurance, gave him a corporation lawyer's bedrock logic and a judge's compassion and fairness, sharpened his command of five major languages, and left him a consummate diplomat. He, if anybody, was adequately equipped for the terrible task of picking up the wracked remains of FIDE in those desperate days of the late forties. He was FIDE Vice-President for the northern zone when Dr. Alexander Rueb of Holland, FIDE's first president, who "for a quarter of a century fulfilled this important office with great skill and diplomacy," (Foldeak), asked him to take the helm, pleading that at 66 he did not feel up to the terrific post-war problems of FIDE. Rogard became the second president of FIDE in 1949, serving through 1970, when he became Honorary President. (Dr. Max Euwe is now President.)

Terrific indeed those problems were. Limping back from the war, FIDE mustered only seven members at its 1946 Congress. It took four years more to restore the Olympiad which, with cutting irony, drew 16 teams (Dubrovnik 1950), just what it drew when it began (London 1927). These were surface symptoms. The real malady lay in the cold war, which permeated every nerve and sinew of FIDE -- political enmity preoccupied most members; chess problems were approached on a political basis; deadlock followed deadlock; confrontation followed confrontation. Many people told Rogard that cold war problems made FIDE'S existence impossible, but others -- with whom he agreed -- advised that world discord presented a great opportunity, one FIDE could use advantageously.

Resolution of the underlying malady is Rogard's monument. FIDE needed a Churchill, and got one. He spoke softly, and he talked tough; he recessed meetings, juggled agendas, ordered cooling-off periods, mediated, bargained, reconciled, pleaded. For much of this the setting was that very lobby-spot where I now sat.

Political problems remained his first concern for three or four years, but a slight easing of the cold war and his resoluteness of purpose began to pay off. The FIDE delegates moved toward our position of today: that chess problems are for us and political problems are for other functionaries, that political coloration of chess matters serves neither chess nor politics, and that while political objectives differ, chess objectives essentially don't, though it takes a lot of time to agree on what they are and how to approach them, within the framework of political conflicts.

As political objectives grudgingly yielded the stage to chess objectives, FIDE began to move. Not that politics has disappeared -- only last year Russia insisted that Israel was an "unsafe" place for student teams -- nor that there have been no other problems. The world championship, after Alekhine's death, is a whole story in itself. Or take that July day in 1954, six weeks before the start of the Olympiad, when the organizers called the whole thing off. (It was held anyway, in another country!)

Perhaps FIDE 1949 was stronger than FIDE 1924 -- personally I judge the opposite -- but unquestionably FIDE 1971 is a maturing and vigorous organization, membership (at 72) up tenfold, functions vastly multiplied and expanded into many new fields. Most significantly, thinks the man who presided over this, the authority of FIDE has come to be recognized.

As for Cramer, the most comprehensive biography I could find is now in Archive.org: The Chessmill -> Fred Cramer by Roman Levit.

03 May 2017

Notes on C06, C07, C27, and C28

In my previous post, An Organization of Amateurs, I gave Larsen's point-of-view on the organization of the Spassky - Larsen semifinal match, Malmo, July 1968. After that match Larsen went on to a playoff match against Tal for 3rd place in the Candidates series of that cycle. In March 1969, he beat Tal 5.5-2.5 (+4-1=3) and had this to say in Chess Life, May 1969 (p.180).
The 1968 Candidates Matches ended with a match between Tal and me, played in the little Dutch town of Eersel (near Eindhoven). According to the FIDE rules, it should have been played in September, but FIDE'S attitude seems to be one of happiness that it was played at all. In fact, the official minimum prizes for this event, 500 and 300 Swiss francs, do not encourage the players to play it. In Eersel, the prizes were better, 1500 and 1000 Dutch guilders, but there is the funny point that in the same place, with the same sponsor (a cigar factory), there was played at the same time a match between Grandmaster Kavalek and the Dutch Champion, Ree (Kavalek won 7-3), with higher prizes, 2500 and 1500 guilders. The Dutch Chess Federation thought it would be considered an unkind gesture towards FIDE to propose such high prizes for an official FIDE match!

This little story well illustrates what FIDE is doing to professional chess masters. FIDE expects World Championship candidates to sacrifice a lot of time and energy -- remember, they must not only play these matches, but also prepare only them -- but it would like them to do it as amateurs. A FIDE World Champion should have a millionaire father or government support!

And he should be ready to let FIDE humiliate him again and again. After losing this match, ex-World Champion Tal, if he wants to try again, must start in the semifinals of the Soviet Championship!! While from other zones players reach the Interzonal who have no chances and no ambitions in connection with the World Championship. What a system!

It's worth noting that in a semifinal match of the previous cycle, Tal had won against Larsen 5.5-4.5 (+3-2=5); see 1964-66 Candidates Matches. Larsen went on to a playoff match for 3rd place against Geller. Larsen won 5.0-4.0 (+3-2=4). In two consecutive cycles, emerged as the third best player in the world, although Fischer did not compete in either cycle.

***

While I'm touching on the subject of zonal qualification, it's also worth noting that FIDE's World Cup 2017 -- the next step in the current World Championship cycle -- starts 2 September, in Tbilisi, Georgia. The zonal qualifications are still underway. In the previous cycle, I used a series of posts to document the zonal step.

I expect to do the same for the current cycle (C28).

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.

15 February 2017

The Last Standard Women's Cycle

In my previous post, I collected reports from Wikipedia on the unusual events that occurred during the 1995-1999 Women's Cycle Now let's hear from Mark Crowther's The Week in Chess (TWIC).

1997-12-29 TWIC 164:-

FIDE Women's Candidates • Alongside the FIDE Championships in Groningen was the women's Candidates tournament. The ten player double round robin,was won by Alisa Galliamova of Russia who dominated the event. The battle for second place was between Chiburdanidze, Xie Jun and Ioseliani all of who could have qualified for the important second place which entitles them to play Galliamova in a match for the right to meet Zsuzsa [Susan] Polgar.

1998-08-17 TWIC 197:-

Introduction • The oddest story of the week is one which I'm trying to confirm the details. Galliamova was due to play a ten game match against Xie Jun in China starting on August 15th. She did not show according to Chinese sources and is reported to have defaulted the match allowing Xie Jun to challenge Polgar for the World title. There is surely more to this than meets the eye.

1998-08-24 TWIC 198:-

Galliamova defaults against Xie Jun • The Women's World Chess Championships have been thrown into chaos by the no-show of Alisa Galliamova of Russia for her match with ex-champion Xie Jun of China in Shenyang last weekend for the Candidates final match. The match went ahead with press and TV there although it was known to FIDE that Galliamova would not turn up. She is reported to be both in dispute with her own Federation and unhappy that the match was not split between her home town of Kazan and China. Kazan could not raise the required funds for the match. Quite what the sponsors of the $US 120,000 match think is not known but the Chinese Chess Federation are already asking for compensation from FIDE. It is also clear that this makes it much harder to find a sponsor for the final match between Zsuzsa Polgar and Xie Jun. It will be interesting to hear in more detail why Galliamova decided to default, especially as even under the circumstances she would have been favourite for the match.

1998-09-28 TWIC 203:-

'Xie - Galliamova : From Beginning to the End' by Sun Lianzhi (The original text was published in a Chinese newspaper). • Ignatius Leong sends a story about the events leading up to Galliamova defaulting against Xie Jun. Of course it is merely one take on the affair although much of the detail is persuasive. [...]

1998-10-16 TWIC 205:-

33rd Chess Olympiad [...] FIDE Congress • [...] The defaulting of Alisa Galliamova for her non-appearance at her match against Xie Jun was confirmed. There are stories from the States that Zsuzsa Polgar does not plan to defend her title. An application was made to have Galliamova as her replacement was in the event of a no show was made by Russia. This will be the last traditional match for the title as next championships will be a knock-out event, possibly to be held in Moldova in Sept 1999, with 60 players and $500,000 prize fund.

1999-03-29 TWIC 229:-

FIDE Press Release • Regarding the Women's World Championship final match between Zsuzsa Polgar of Hungary and Xie Jun of China, the Board decided that FIDE shall organise the match in line with the resolution of the General Assembly in Elista between the last week of May up to 20 July 1999. After noting that no offer had been received to meet the minimum prize fund, it called for the best offer possible to be submitted to the FIDE Secretariat not later than 15 April 1999.

1999-06-21 TWIC 241:-

Introduction • Off the board the reports (that appeared firstly on Club Kasparov) that the Women's World Champion Zsuzsa Polgar has been defaulted and that FIDE have arranged a match between Xie Jun and Galliamova for the title in China makes the news. Whilst is it clear why FIDE have done this, they have their next Championships with a sponsor in September. Zsuzsa Polgar makes an extremely forceful case that this crisis was of FIDE's making and that the default is entirely against their own rules. [...]

Letter from Zsuzsa Polgar • Zsuzsa Polgar has reacted to reports that FIDE have decided to hold a match in Shenyang, China from 3 July to 27 July 1999, between Xie June and Alisa Galiamova for the Women's World Championships, claiming that Polgar has "effectively declined to defend her title". • Zsuzsa Polgar replies: [...]

1999-06-29 TWIC 242:-

Willy Iclicki replies to Zsuzsa Polgar • FIDE have decided to hold a match in Shenyang, China from 3 July to 27 July 1999, between Xie June and Alisa Galiamova for the Women's World Championships. Women's World Champion Zsuzsa Polgar has been defaulted and been replaced by Galiamova. Last week in a letter from Zsuzsa Polgar she outlined her position. This week Willy Iclicki [Chairman of the World Championships Cycle Committee] speaking to me from Belgium on Saturday, has reacted to Zsuzsa Polgar's letter of last week. He makes several points: [...]

1999-07-05 TWIC 243:-

Introduction • [...] More Women's World Championship news. According to one source the Xie Jun - Galliamova match has been delayed at least until July 27 and Galliamova is looking for a Russian host for the first half of the match (deja vu) and if she fails the whole match will begin in China in early August.

1999-08-02 TWIC 247:-

Women's World Chess Championships • The Women's World Championship Final Match between Xie Jun and Alisa Galliamova is taking place from July 30th to August 23rd. For The first half of the match takes place in Kazan, Tartarstan the latter half in Shenyang, China. [...] The Women's World Championships were to have had a knockout championships to start in September almost directly after the finish of the Xie Jun - Galliamova match. This has now been cancelled.

1999-08-23 TWIC 250:-

Women's World Chess Championships • Xie Jun regained her FIDE World Championship title by defeating Alisa Galliamova in a match July 30th to August 23rd. The first half of the match took place in Kazan, Tartarstan and finished in a 4-4 tie. The second half in Shenyang, China started on August 15th with a win for Xie Jun with black in game 9, game 10 was drawn. Xie Jun seemed to be almost home after winning game 11 but Galliamova struck back in game 12. Game 13 was drawn before a wild game saw Galliamova go two down with two to play. A final draw saw Xie Jun home. Galliamova was ELO favourite in this match but the scrappy play suited Xie Jun.

This match was originally meant to be the Candidates final but when Galliamova was unhappy with the match only been in China Xie Jun won by default. A similar situation applied to the championship match against Zsuzsa Polgar where long negotiation and a supposed September date for the FIDE knockout championships where the title was up for grabs (along with Polgar's pregnancy) led to FIDE defaulting the World Champion. Xie Jun then had to play the highest placed player in the cycle which was Galliamova. This time sponsorship for a two part championships was found and the match went ahead. Xie Jun is FIDE's recognised champion, whether FIDE might feel that a match with Polgar, if finance is available and now that time is available, would be fair is open to question. It has certainly been extremely unsatisfactory.'

1999-08-30 TWIC 251:-

Introduction • [...] In the letters section Xie Jun (in response to statements on Polgar's own website) says she is ready and willing to play Zsuzsa Polgar in a match if she can raise the finance.

Letters from GMs • [...] Xie Jun Women's World Chess Champion • Beijing, 30th August 1999 • Dear Zsuzsa Polgar, Having finished my match against Alisa Galliamova, I finally have the time and energy to reply to the open letters and comments you published on your web site, some of which I felt were directed to me personally. [...]

This was the last cycle in a Women's World Championship featuring an Interzonal, a Candidates tournament, and a title match. The next World Championship would be the 2000 FIDE Knockout Matches at New Delhi.

08 February 2017

1995-1999 Women's Cycle

The top part of my page on the Women's World Championship provides a bird's eye view of the last 30 years.


World Chess Championship for Women

Despite its apparent completeness, one important piece is missing: details about the two forfeits in the 1995-1999 cycle. These occurred between two major event:-

Why aren't the forfeits explained in more detail? I started that page in 1999, while the cycle was ongoing. The first version was released in September 1999, and I had so many events to document that I never went back to the 1995-1999 cycle. It's high time I corrected that oversight. [NB: As long as I'm filling gaps, I should also complete the missing months ('--') in pages like the Xie Jun - Galliamova match.]

What does Wikipedia say? Three pages are particularly relevant.

Women's World Chess Championship 1999

1997 Candidates Tournament • The seven qualifiers from the Interzonal Tournament were joined by the loser of the last championship match, Xie Jun, as well as the two runners-up from the previous tournament, Chiburdanidze and Cramling. These ten players contested a double round-robin tournament in Groningen in December 1997, from which the top two would advance to the final to determine the challenger. Galliamova and Xie Jun finished first and second. FIDE decided that the whole final match should be played in Shenyang, China, after Chinese sponsors made the best offer for the prize fund. However, Galliamova refused to play entirely on her opponent's home turf, so Xie Jun was declared the winner by default and given the right to challenge champion Polgar.

1999 Championship Match • The championship match was at first scheduled to take place in November 1998, but champion Susan Polgar requested a postponement because she was pregnant. FIDE had been unable to find a satisfactory sponsor, so the request was granted. By the time FIDE announced the new date and venue for the title match to be played China in 1999, Polgar had given birth to her son Tom - however, she still considered that the time to recover from childbirth and prepare for the new match was insufficient. In addition, like Galliamova, she didn't want to play entirely in the opponent's home country. She also wanted a significantly larger prize fund, so she requested that the match be postponed again. This time FIDE refused and negotiations broke down. Instead FIDE ruled that Polgar had forfeited the title and arranged a new title match between the two Candidates finalists, Xie Jun and Galliamova.

Xie Jun

At the age of 20 Xie won the right to challenge for the women's world title, and in 1991 she defeated Maya Chiburdanidze of Georgia, who had held the title since 1978, by a score of 8.5 - 6.5. In 1993 she successfully defended her title against Nana Ioseliani (winning the match 8.5 - 2.5). In the summer of 1994 she was awarded the full Grandmaster title. She lost the 1996 Women's World Chess Championship to Susan Polgar of Hungary (8.5 - 4.5) but regained the title in 1999 by defeating another championship finalist, Alisa Galliamova (8.5 - 6.5), after Polgar refused to accept match conditions and forfeited her title.

Alisa Galliamova

In December 1997, she won the Candidates Tournament for the Women's World Chess Championship held in Groningen, Netherlands. She was scheduled to play a match with Xie Jun, who finished second, in August, 1998 and the winner of that match was supposed to play a match in November 1998 with Zsuzsa Polgar for the Women's World Chess Championship.

However, after the match with Xie Jun had already been scheduled, Galliamova objected because the entire match was scheduled to be played in China, the home of her rival. The reason for this was because only China had bid for the match. Galliamova wanted half of the match to be played in Kazan, Russia. However, the Russians did not have the money required. Finally, when Galliamova failed to show up to play the match, the match was declared forfeited to Xie Jun.

FIDE then scheduled a match between Xie Jun and Zsuzsa Polgar for November 1998. However, Polgar said that she could not play at that time because she was pregnant. After Polgar had given birth to her son, Tom, in March, 1999, FIDE again tried to schedule a match. This time Polgar said that she could not play the match because she was nursing.

Finally, after repeated efforts to organize a match which was supposed to have taken place in 1998, FIDE declared that Polgar had forfeited her title and that the title was vacant. FIDE decided to let Galliamova back into the cycle and held a match between Xie Jun and Galliamova for the Women's World Chess Championship 1999. This time, Galliamova was willing to play because her original demand had been met in that Russia had come up with the money to sponsor half of the match. The match was held in Kazan, Russia and Shenyang, China in August, 1999 and Xie Jun won by 8.5 - 6.5.

While that is certainly 1000% better than what I have, there is even more to the story. I'll come back to it in my next post.

01 February 2017

FIDE's Finances

From Jorge Vega, FIDE Continental President, the Americas, President Report, Barbados (fideamerica.com; 26 December 2016):-
Politics: Actually we do not see an active opposition to our management. Those who in the past criticized due to destructive personal power ambitions have virtually disappeared, perhaps beaten by internal setbacks, freeing everyone from the waste of time that was fighting lies and rumours. I can feel proud of the unity shown by our members who have made America the strongest political bloc that exists in FIDE.

In the FIDE context, the situation is more complicated because the President, Mr. [Kirsan Ilyumzhinov], continues to be sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department, a sanction that has been in force for more than a year and is not seen to be over in the short term. In order to avoid FIDE being blocked by the Treasury Department, the President passed all the executive powers that the investiture of the position means to the Deputy President, Mr. Geogios Makropoulos, in November 2015, being in practice like President with license. Although Mr Iljumzjinov has reiterated on several occasions that he will run to re-election in 2018, it is not clear how he will be able to do so if the sanction persists without putting FIDE in serious financial danger.

For the aforementioned, it is not surprising that in a relatively short period of time, candidates for the FIDE Presidency will emerge.

In the first paragraph, is he referring to GM Kasparov? Later in the same statement:-

Financial: The situation is complicated, as predicted in previous meetings. The fall in oil prices and the strength of the dollar hit our economies resulting in a reduction in participation in official events that consequently reduces CCA's revenues. [...]

Referring to FIDE we find that its financial situation is worrying, the factor that aggravates this is due to the repeated failures of AGON, the company to which FIDE has awarded the organization of the events belonging to the cycle of the World Championship, which does not comply with its payments to FIDE for this concession or does only partially, seriously affecting the stability of the FIDE budget.

This affects us directly as FIDE has consequently modified the development allocations to DEV/CCA and/or delayed transfer dates. In view of this situation, I have written to the Deputy President Mr. Makropoulos requesting, in strong terms, to cancel the contract with the company AGON given the inability of the same to fulfill its obligations within the stipulated time. I hope that the next meeting of the Presidential Board will address this issue.

Although our Treasurer will make a more detailed explanation, 1 can report that CCA operates in black numbers, which should not be a reason for not worrying but always keeping us alert to avoid any unforeseen situations.

The summary was made for the CCA Board Meeting, 9 January 2017, where we find similar statements:-

Minutes CCA Board Meeting, Barbados 2017; [...; Allan Herbert, Treasurer] noted the current situation of U.S. sanction with the FIDE President have us very worried for the future. We have supported the president in all FIDE campaigns. America has always been viewed as the bed rock of the FIDE president's campaign. The longer this problem prevail, the more difficult to project the future. [...] The situation in FIDE is very serious; the U.S. Treasury might block our accounts after the elections if FIDE President remains under sanctions. The new U.S. government can be very unpredictable.

On my main blog, I've used previous statements by Jorge Vega to understand politics within FIDE. For example:-

FIDE Election: Four More Years (August 2014) • 'Let's go back to November 2013 and re-read an interview posted by Chessdom.com: Jorge Vega, Continental President for Americas, about upcoming elections.'

Spectating the 86th FIDE Congress (September 2015) • 'Jorge Vega, the president of FIDE America, played a key role in last year's election between Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Garry Kasparov. His thoughts on that election are an important part of the historical record.'

The statements about Agon remind of a Peter Doggers report from last summer, Is FIDE Going Bankrupt? (chess.com; August 2016):-

The financial accounts for 2015 show an alarming decrease of the World Chess Federation's assets. An extensive reform of FIDE's internal structure seems inevitable to guarantee a healthy continuity.

This information is a supplement to my post on 2016 FIDE Congress : Whither the World Championship, earlier this month.

25 January 2017

ACP WCC Survey 2017

Last year on my main blog I posted about the ACP Survey 2016 (February 2016; ACP: 'the most detailed opinion poll related to the professional chess ever released') and the Survey 2016 - Results (April 2016). The ACP is the Association of Chess Professionals (chessprofessionals.org), and for the start of this year the group produced a World Championship Format Poll and a Summary of the General Assembly of the ACP and Polls.

The poll ties in nicely with last week's WCC post, How to Break a Match Tie? Here is a summary of the results. The last column shows the number of responses received by the ACP.

***

Q6: Which format do you prefer determining the World Champion?
Match 92% 421
Tournament 8% 35
 
Q7: If you prefer to have a tournament, what would be the best format?
8 players double round robin 58% 76
KO Format 21% 28
Other (please specify) 21% 27
 
Q8: If you prefer matches, please answer the following questions: How many games do you think is optimal to award the WCh title in a match?
12 11% 47
16 53% 236
20 20% 89
Other (please specify) 16% 72
 
Q9: Which time control do you think is best for a WCh match?
100’x40 moves + 50’ x 20 moves + 15’ with 30” increment from move 1 37% 168
90’x40 moves + 30’ with 30” increment from move 1 20% 89
120’x40 moves + 60’x20 moves + 15’ with 30” increment from move 61 34% 155
Other (please specify) 9% 39
 
Q10: In case of a tie at the end of the match, you would prefer?
The title stays with the Champion. 34% 153
The title is awarded based on rapid/blitz playoffs 48% 218
Other (please specify) 18% 79
 
Q11: In case you think rapid/blitz playoffs should be used in the WCh title match - what would your preference be?
Tie breaks should be played after the regular games. 38% 119
Tie breaks should be played before the regular games. 62% 194
 
Q12: In case you think rapid/blitz playoffs should determine the WCh title, what would your preference be?
All tie break games should be played in one day 36% 113
Tie break games should be played in 2 days. 64% 199

***

Except for Q9 (time control), where I have no preference, and Q12 (days to play rapid/blitz playoffs), which I've never thought about, my responses would be the same. I especially like the idea behind Q11 (playoffs after/before the regular games) of playing tiebreak before the match starts. This would give one of the players an advantage in case of a tied match, which would force the other player to win at least one game.

18 January 2017

How to Break a Match Tie?

On my main blog I wrote a couple of posts about the last two playing days of the recent 2016 Carlsen - Karjakin title match:-

I wasn't surprised to find that my 'fizzle' opinion was shared many informed observers of the chess world. GM Yasser Seirawan -- who competed in five Interzonals, two Candidate events, and the first of the FIDE Knockout championships -- wrote a three part series on Chessbase.com that received dozens of comments:-

A Radical Solution • 'Still reeling from the 35-minute punch of Game 12 of the "Classical" World Chess Championship match [...] Let the players have a 13-game match. The player with the extra game with the Black pieces has "draw-odds" in the match.'

A Radical Solution - Redux • 'I'd consider it a massive improvement if the next World Championship Match were a 15-game contest with the player who is given the extra game with the Black pieces at the drawing of lots ceremony having draw-odds.'

A Radical Solution - Final Thoughts • 'So where do I stand on all of this?
A. The [World Championship match] is too short.
B. The World Championship title is losing prestige.
C. These developments are not coincidental or inevitable.
D. My proposal:
   a. Play a 17-game match.
   b. The Challenger gets the extra White.
   c. The Champion retains the title in the event of a tie.
   d. The Challenger chooses when to play the extra White game.'

Despite the mission creep across the articles (13 games to 15 to 17) and some refinements, the basic idea is to play a match with an odd number of games. In his last article, GM Seirawan included a shoutout to two other prominent GMs, 'Big thank you to both GM Emil Sutovsky and GM Maurice Ashley for contributing with their articles about the format' (also on Chessbase.com):-

While this discussion was going on, the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP) conducted a poll to determine the thoughts of its members. I'll discuss that in my next post.

11 January 2017

2017 Grand Prix

I added a new cycle (C28 using my name and numbering conventions) to my index page on the World Chess Championship. The first event in the new cycle will be the 2017 Grand Prix, for which I created a new page.

Two small evolutions are worth noting. Excluding the zonal stage, C28 will be the first cycle in 12 years that doesn't overlap the previous cycle. The cycle's Grand Prix will be the first to fall within a single calendar year.

04 January 2017

2016 FIDE Congress : Whither the World Championship?

A year and a month after 2015 FIDE Congress : Whither the World Championship? (December 2015), what can we learn from Spectating the 87th FIDE Congress (December 2016)? In that '2015 Whither?' post, as well as previous yearly 'Whither?' posts, much of the news came from the annual report delivered by FIDE President Ilyumzhinov. In 2016, the focus shifted to Agon. The first point from the 87th FIDE Congress; Baku, Azerbaijan; General Assembly; 11-13 September 2016; MINUTES, was about Agon's transparency:-
4.2. Agon Limited

Mr. Makropoulos [FIDE Deputy President] informed the General Assembly that as appeared in the EB minutes, he has sent a letter where he was asking Agon to establish a corporate structure in one of the following jurisdictions: European Union, United Kingdom, United States or Canada. Because of issues of transparency FIDE would have preferred if they have established this corporate structure in one of these areas. His letter has been approved.

Mr. Merenzon [Agon CEO] said in the next few months they will register Agon in United Kingdom and all financial and ownership details about the company will be public. The General Assembly ratified the recommendation of the Executive Board for FIDE to send a letter to Agon regarding jurisdiction of the company and sign the same agreement with the new entity.

The General Assembly ratified the recommendation of the Executive Board for FIDE to send a letter to Agon regarding jurisdiction of the company and sign the same agreement with the new entity.

Annex 94 is a presentation from Agon.

All annexes can be found by following the links in my 'Spectating' post. I captured part of the presentation in a post on my main blog Agon Presentation (September 2016). One slide I hadn't seen before is shown below.


Official National Sponsor Package
Sponsorship of the National Player

The next paragraph explains further.

Mr. Merenzon presented his report. He started with the changes in the Grand Prix format. From now 24 players can take part in the Grand Prix Series instead of 12 and it will last 11 days instead of 16. He said they are setting up a sponsorship model where FIDE and local federations have sponsors. They are also paying for the prize fund so it will be much cheaper to organize an event. At the same time they have the idea to sell sponsorships not only for the events but for the players. The cycle is planned to be exactly 2 years which makes things easier for the sponsors.

Regarding the upcoming World Championship match in New York, he presented the venue. He also said that VIP area will become a main revenue stream as they will sell access to it. The area will have good catering, special guests like celebrities and commentators which will make it a great experience. They are partners with an agency which is called CAA (Creative Artists Agency). It is the most famous sports agency in the world selling hospitality packages for Formula 1, top football clubs etc and now they will offer hospitality packages for chess and they will test it as a revenue opportunity. They are also changing the spectators' area. The players will be playing in a sound proof glass box so the experience of enjoying chess as a spectator will be completely different, spectators will be free to use their phones, talk and discuss the moves. They tried this in Moscow during the Candidates Tournaments, it worked fine and they are now improving on this method.

They are working with FIDE to make sure that anti-cheating rules are followed and at the same time the visitors are being taken care of. Another thing they are doing is that every day there is going to be first move ceremony in the Match, they are bringing celebrities, members of charities and other important people, so they are making it a media event in every first move. He also introduced new technology decisions for the match. They have developed a new broadcasting system and they are also working for protecting the moves legally. In Moscow they banned all other sites from broadcasting moves.

Their point was that according to laws which apply in Russia, USA and other countries, if it costs money to produce an event those who spend the money [own] the live broadcast. They worked with a top US law firm to produce a legal opinion on this and also spoke to US Southern Court which confirmed that they are right. What they will be doing now is something different, there is currently a new reality in chess, the game has over 1 billion downloads, chess is in almost all smartphones and the number of people playing chess has increased dramatically.

For the first time in any sports the World Championship is going to be broadcasted in 360 degrees virtual reality. That means that everyone around the world can download the application and be in the room with the players. They can be closer to the action than ever before. The cameras will be placed between the players so the match could be seen through the player's eyes. They can also wear 3D glasses. The cardboard with the glasses will just cost a dollar. They are producing a lot of them to give them to schools and also inside the venue. They will also have multiple cameras inside the playing room to choose from.

Regarding the dashboard, he said that they have been criticized for not offering the best online viewers experience so they worked with FIDE and other chess organizers and he believes they developed the best possible dashboard for chess, there is analytics, chats, multifunctional boards and other great features. They are also introducing [pay per] view like many other sports have done. There will still be free version as well, anyone can go into the official website and follow the moves but if somebody would like to get premium features like the 360 degrees video, they are charging for it. The model is call freemium. For him this is the best approach to make chess sustainable in the 21st century.

They are building a studio and it is going to be fun to watch chess which means it will not be targeted only to chess players. It is also the first World Chess Championship for the iPhone generation. In general the price for the premium features (right to ask online questions during press conferences, analytics, 360 degrees video etc) will be 15 dollars for the whole tournament, for 45 dollars they are selling subscription to the next cycle which includes the next Championship Match, all the Grand Prix and the Candidates Matches, for 99 dollars they will sell all of that plus premium gifts like signed posters, pins and other souvenirs.

He said that Mr. Carlsen is a huge supporter of this concept. He thinks chess will never go back to free and that this approach creates good reasons for the federations to develop their membership. So building communities and offering to their members subscriptions for events will be a way to bring revenue to the federations and further to the whole sport.

He explained that generally chess has a huge potential and the market size is very big, there are 300.000 paying subscribers in top 5 chess sites, 4.4 million who follow chess events and the overall market is even bigger, 35 million who regularly play chess online on top 5 sites. According to US studies, more people play chess than tennis and golf combined so the marketing opportunity is amazing. They would like to get partnerships with federations so they will send them an email with the option of signing up. They will offer affiliate programs. They will use selected partners: federations, major medias and chess websites so they will be able to follow the games on their media if they want to but if they prefer premium subscription the federation or the chess site will get commission.

This was followed by a Q&A where the 'protection of live transmission rights' was the main topic. Two months after the Congress, Agon's position was struck down by the courts; see my post World Championship Bullying (November 2016), for more on this.

The Grand Prix changes mentioned in the first paragraph above are also significant. Let's skip ahead in the minutes to the discussion of the group sometimes called the WCOC.

5.20. Commission on World Championship and Olympiads

5.20.1. FIDE World Cup 2017. • The event shall be held in Tbilisi, Georgia, 1-25 September 2017. Mr. Azmaiparashvili asked for permission to move the event to Batumi and to start on 15th September in case it is not clashing with other events. He said the hotel prices will be cheaper. He said only the final match will be held in Tbilisi and the organisers will cover the expenses for that extra day.

5.20.2. FIDE World Cup 2019. • The event shall be held in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, dates to be provided.

5.20.3. FIDE World Championship Match 2016. • The event shall be held in New York, USA, 11-30 November 2016.

5.20.4. FIDE Candidates’ Tournament 2016. • Annex 40 is Chief Arbiter’s report.

5.20.5. FIDE Grand-Prix series 2016-2017. • [...] Annex 41 is Regulations for the 2016-2017 FIDE World Chess Grand-Prix series. Mr. Merenzon informed about the Grand Prix Series in his presentation.

5.20.6. FIDE Women’s Grand-Prix series 2015-2016. • [...]

5.20.7. FIDE Women’s World Championship 2016. • Mr. Makropoulos advised that Tehran was interested in bidding and recommended that it be awarded to Tehran should the offer be acceptable. The General Assembly awarded the organization of the Women’s World Championship to Tehran, Iran, February 2017, provided the terms of the offer are acceptable.

5.20.8. FIDE Women’s World Championship Match 2017. • The event will be moved to the beginning of 2018. Bidding procedure will begin once the winner of the previous Championship is known.

5.20.9. FIDE Women’s World Championship 2018. • The event has been awarded to Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.

From Annex 41, 'Regulations for the 2016-2017 FIDE World Chess Grand-Prix Series':-

1. Introduction

1.1. Following the approval of the FIDE Presidential Board, the World Championship and Olympiad Commission of FIDE (WCOC) has agreed on these Regulations which will apply to the Grand Prix Series which forms part of the World Championship Cycle for 2016-2018. [...]

2. Format of the Grand Prix 2016-2017

The Grand Prix Series will consist of four tournaments to be held over two years (2016-2017). 24 top players will be selected in accordance with Section 3 below to compete in these tournaments. Each player agrees and will contract to participate in exactly 3 of these 4 tournaments. [...] Each tournament will have 18 players with a schedule of a nine (9) round swiss system. The dates scheduled for the Grand Prix tournaments are listed on the FIDE website and may be subject to change. The winner and second placed player overall of the Grand Prix Series will qualify for the Candidates Tournament to be held in the first half of 2018. [...]

3. Qualifiers for the Grand Prix 2016-2017

The players who qualify for selection to play in the Grand Prix Series will be chosen on the following prioritised basis until 24 players have accepted:

3.1 World Championship Match: The current World Champion and his opponent in the most recent World Championship Match (2 players).

3.2 World Cup: The players who have qualified to the semi-final stage of the FIDE World Cup 2015 (4 players).

3.3 FIDE Rating: Based on an average calculation [...] (8 players).

3.4 ACP Tour: The one (1) highest-placed participant of the most recently completed ACP Tour, who has not qualified with the previous criteria (1 player).

3.5 Organiser Nominees: Nine (9) players nominated by AGON with a published rating in classical (standard) chess of at least 2700, in at least one FIDE rating list of 2016 (9 players).

3.6 Replacements. [...]

Not to be forgotten in all of this are the ongoing U.S. Treasury sanctions against FIDE President Ilyumzhinov. I covered this in my previous 'Spectating' post and have nothing more to add here.