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Plan of the Week

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Over at ChessBase.com we've basically given up trying to keep up with all the plans to save the chess world and are forced to post them in packs of three or more. As well-meaning as Seirawan, Ponomariov, Levy, Kasparov, and Lautier may be, most of these plans are utopian. They willfully ignore how certain participants would have to go against their own best interests to make these plans work. And for the most part they are putting the cart before the horse, or the format before the cash.

The 2002 Prague agreements were remarkable because they were made without any money on the table. Everyone committed in principle to unify the title for the greater good. We now see how far you get in the chess world relying on principles. Despite a two-year delay, as soon as he got sponsorship for his match with Leko Kramnik was quick to threaten to bail on Prague and FIDE. Of course now he's talking through the Kramnik Association of Chess Professionals, but the message is the same.

You have to wonder how many dues-paying (K)ACP members are going to be in Tripoli taking FIDE money while the ACP leaders declare FIDE and its titles irrelevant and invalid. As always, it's going to be about money. If the ACP can put together serious cash for a qualifying event, the players will play, just like they all showed up for the FIDE KO events when the Ilyumzhinov money was flowing freely and just like they played in the PCA events back in the mid-90's. Most players aren't ideological about it, they just want to play and get paid. That makes the ACP's haste to abandon FIDE misguided at best. If FIDE can get the money together for unification and a new world championship cycle, why not take it? [I meant that from the players' perspective, not mine. As long as FIDE can scratch together some money, the players will be there.]


It was a nice dig at (K)ACP. Mig we used to know from TWIC days would have continued, "Kramnik is following the foot steps of 'his great predecessor'", just for the 'pun' of it. Form an association you can control, blackmail FIDE, make money (yourself and your partner in crime), ditch the association, form another association and go on...doesn't it sound familiar. If Kramnik loses to Leko, this may be the possible script - come to the side of FIDE, cry for unification, ask for direct seeding, find a jounalist that can support you and dig at Leko. For Leko, hang on to the title, form (L)ACP and keep wondering why he (or chess in general, but these champions do not care about general chess any way) can not get a sponsor.

"Most players aren't ideological about it, they just want to play and get paid. That makes the ACP's haste to abandon FIDE misguided at best. If FIDE can get the money together for unification and a new world championship cycle, why not take it?"

The only problem with this logic is that this is exactly what allows FIDE to continue to be the most inept and stupidly run organization I've ever seen. At some point people need to get ideological and get rid of FIDE for a completely new world federation. All the big players- Russia, England, Germany, France, USA, etc., need to meet together and come up with the rules for a new federation.

I actually meant that from the players' perspective, not mine. They aren't going to abandon FIDE as long as there is a money supply, however inconsistent. I'd be more than happy to dump FIDE, but they don't sign any of my paychecks so it's easy for me, and most of us, to say that.


I enjoy most of your commentary, as you normally do not hesitate to call things as you see them and you opinions are normally fairly rational.

However, to a disinterested observer (I am not a great fan of either Kasparov's or Kramnik's conduct as "World Champions")your comments on the current problems with unifying the world championship often (albeit admittedly not always, as you have taken Kasparov to task on occasion) show a consistent pro-Kasparov and anti-Kramnik bias, as do your thinly veiled attacks on the ACP. Given your longstanding relationship with Kasparov, it would seem that this bias is somewhat self-serving. As a result, it it somewhat ironic to criticize the professional players for acting in their own self interest when you are adopting an "attack dog" approach to the ACP which (once again to this disinterested observer) seems to be one of the most hopeful developments of the last 10 years re: title unification.

A little more objectivity would be nice, as I think Kasparov has enough sycophants already (as does Kramnik, I suppose) and this is one reason the chess world is in such a mess: these guys always have people who will tell them what they want to do is the right thing.

Anyway, I would just like to repeat the sentiment in the first paragraph that I always read your commentary with interest.

- Geof

I understood what you were saying was from the players perspective, and my answer was aimed at them. I honestly belive that the players would make far more money in their careers if FIDE got dumped.

Thanks for the comments. Geof, is it okay for me to agree with Kasparov on a few things without being called an ass-kisser? Perhaps we're close because we agree on many things in the chess world instead of the other way around. Just a thought. How about addressing the issues instead of trying to read my mind?

I've been very supportive of the ACP, as you'll find if you look through my writings here and at ChessBase. An organization that represents the players' interests and provides a counterbalance to FIDE is essential. My current beef with them is that their support of Kramnik-Leko does little or nothing to serve their membership. It is also a conflict of interest since Kramnik is on its board and Lautier, now in charge of the match (likely not a volunteer position), is its president.

Basically the ACP seems to have started repeating everything Kramnik has been saying for the past few years. Prague is crap, his is the only title, the FIDE title is irrelevant, anyone who wants to play him must go through a qualifier, Kasparov has no place, etc. If someone can explain how these positions help the average GM, supposedly the ACP's objective, I'd like to hear it. Seems like a waste of a lot of energy to me, and a potentially harmful one if it interferes with unification.

At best it's a distraction unless they really plan to replace FIDE as if by magic. That means setting up a new rating system, etc. Otherwise, they should be working with them instead of throwing around ultimatums they can't back up.


I am of two minds about how to respond to your comment on my comment. The first mind (perhaps my evil twin) wants to say that, as someone who has frequently speculated (often unflatteringly) about the motives of others in the chess world, you are hardly in a position to object to such speculation about your own. (Turn around is fair play, is it not?)

However, my more rational self tells me that my previous comment went a little farther than it should have. It was written in haste and some anger at your continuing potshots at the ACP. To the extent I implied (and I guess that I did) that there is some sort of improper or corrupt motive in your defense of Kasparov and your criticisms of Kramnik and the ACP, I have no real basis to believe this is true. I therefore retract that implication and apologize to you for it. Moreover, I think it is probable that you have the best interests of chess in mind in making the comments you make. Certainly, your love of chess and your hope for a better future for professional chess appears clear from your writings.

However, I do not retract my opinion that you are biased in favor of Kasparov and against the ACP (I'll leave Kramnik aside: like I said in my previous comment, I am no big fan of his conduct as World Champion either), perhaps with the best of (misguided)intentions. The very tenor of your comments regarding the ACP in the last few weeks, which I think could fairly be described as polarizing and somewhat inflammatory, indicates a lack of objectivity. You attack the motives of Joel Lautier, specifically, and the ACP board in general on the basis of some speculation as to motives and the existence of an alleged conflict of interest. But assuming that the purpose of the ACP is inclusiveness (is Kasparov a member and, if not, why not?), and assuming that the election of Kramnik to the board was legitimate, your theory that there is somehow a conflict of interest if the ACP acts in matters affecting Kramnik's interest is very strained. The ACP is presumably supposed to act in the interest of its members, and presumably many of its acts will affect the entire community of chess professionals, including Kramnik and its other board members. Thus what you call a "conflict of interest" appears to be inherent in the ACP's purpose and membership, and it will perforce have such a conflict whenever something will effect different chessplayers differently.

Your chief quarrel with the ACP seems to be that it supports Kramnik's alleged rejection of the Prague Agreement. I don't know if this is true or not, as it is not clear to me to what extent Kramnik has actually rejected the Agreement. But the ACP was not a party to the Prague Agreement, and is not bound by it nor is it clear that it should be (you could perhaps make that argument, although I don't think that you have done so in any convincing fashion). I also don't think that you have made any real case whatsoever that the actions of the ACP board or Lautier are contrary to the interests of its members. I would guess that a large majority of the ACP's members would like to have the unification process finished and a new world championship cycle started as quickly as possible, and that ACP pressure to keep things moving is actually consistent with what its membership wants. (I have a feeling that the same strong majority would have no problems with making Kasparov qualify for a chance to play a world championship match like anyone else, but that is a different question.)

So I don't see any real basis (other than your suspicions about motives) for your attacks on the ACP leadership or their conduct. And to the extent you are worried about unfairness to Kasparov, this seems misplaced. Kasparov never seemed so interested in a title unification when he had a title as he is now that he doesn't, although he bears as much of the responsibility as anyone (some would say more)for the existence of competing titles in the first place. Moreover, although I am a big fan of Kasparov as a chessplayer (or at least I was back in the days when he actually played more than a few games a year), I see no evidence that in matters of titles and matches that he has ever acted other than in his own self-interest. Practically every purported misdeed you criticize Kramnik for has been committed by Kasparov, and over a longer period of time, and with fewer mitigating circumstances. And yet somehow you keep giving the impression that Kramnik is the bad guy and Kasparov is the good guy. To the extent such moral judgments are fair, neither of them are particularly good guys when it comes to the world championship. Too much greed, egotism and self-serving conduct, too little honor.

So I say you seem to me to be somewhat biased on the issues of unification and the ACP, and you do seem so, not only in your opinions but in the manner in which you present them. You can be biased (i.e, not objective) without impure motives, and in the absence of any evidence to the contrary I will assume that your are. This is just my opinion and you can disagree with me (and I expect you will). Moreover, when I say that I am hopeful for the ACP and its potential for imposing a collective will on a world championship process that has been dominated by giant and self-serving egos, that I wish you would give them a chance, that your harsh criticisms about its effectiveness(perhaps a little early in the day)and thinly-supported accusations are polarizing and counter-productive, there is no real reason why you should listen to me. Except perhaps that I, like you, am a lifelong fan of chess who wants to see a return to fairness and dignity in the world championship process and other professional contests. And that many chess fans, like me, are tired of all the infighting and wars on words in the chess world, tired of hearing the cross-complaints and accusations among players and organizations, and tired of the bickering and inflammatory rhetoric. And that with the moral and financial bankruptcy of FIDE approaching fast, and the problems plaguing the performance of the Prague Agreement its reliance on the committments of a few individual players, many of us see the ACP as the best, perhaps only, hope for some return to some normalcy in the chess world. And the proposition that such a return is long overdue is one thing that I think you and I CAN agree on.



My point is that accusations about motives cloud the fact that I am disagreeing with issues. I think the ACP is WRONG on this and doing something that will HARM a cause I feel is important. It is simply my opinion. When I voice my opinion and my disagreement you call it attacking the ACP and when I agree with Kasparov on something you call it sycophancy. I talk about things I think are right and things I think are wrong. Fine if you want to guess at my motives (which is a way of saying I can't have an honest opinion), but it's a poor substitute for saying why you think I am right or wrong on the issues.

I don't have an obligation to be nice to anyone or to voice my opinions in a tone in any other than the one I think will be most effective in communicating my thoughts. It's my blog. Couching every statement in "I think maybe" or "gosh it's possible" would be silly.

This is not a historical journal. I try to keep things short. Recapping Kasparov's history with the PCA might be interesting, but it is irrelevant to my comments about the ACP. (And the PCA paid out a few million dollars to players not named Kasparov. Self-interest can also benefit others.) I call this debating method the "YeahbutKasparov". That Kasparov may have done something similar doesn't make it any less wrong today.

I have criticized Kasparov extensively when I have disagreed with him. At various times I have called him childish, ridiculous, bombastic, and hairy. I was once accused of being part of the "anti-Kasparov" forces. But his personality and your opinion of his history don't make him wrong on every issue. Facts make him wrong, or right. In lieu of those, we have opinion, educated opinion in the best of times. For example, what horrible thing has Kasparov done lately to harm the chess world?

I say that the ACP is demonstrably serving Kramnik's interests, possibly at the expense of the interests of a majority of its members. I say that a unification plan should involve the FIDE champion and Garry Kasparov (basically, Prague). I say that it's bizarre of the ACP to make statements about pursuing other unification plans when so many of its members are currently participating in the current plan by playing in the FIDE KO in Libya. I say it's a potential conflict of interest when the president of the ACP is hired by another board member to run his WC match and proceeds to use it as a platform to criticize the parallel world championship event instead of endorsing unification.

Are these "attacks"? If you insist on hyperbole. I feel strongly about unification and when I think someone is harming its chances I speak up. I also think a player organization is great and wouldn't want to see it hijacked to support the interests of a few.

Hi Mig,

I think that Ponomariov's recent proposal for unification is the most fair, to all players concerned. It is especially important to bring the worlds strongest player into the reunification process (Anand). Another is that everyone will be starting from the same place (ie no goofy qualification where someone who plays kasparov who is seeded in semi-finals for who knows what reason (money)) and with all of these strong players playing a match tournament we can be certain of a couple of things:

1. The winner will clearly be world champion.
2. Certainly it will be the greatest tournament, since the 30's.

I think everyone should get behind Ponomariov's proposal, so at the very least trivial pursuit can have an answer to "Who is the World Chess Champion"


Michael Parsons

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on May 25, 2004 11:59 PM.

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