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Winning Is In

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On July 31 in Dortmund, GM Joel Lautier, the president of the Association of Chess Professionals, gave a statement to the press. It announced the creation of the ACP Tour, a grand prix of events culminating in a Masters event toward the end of 2005.

The goal is a very good one and it's not without precedent. There has long been a grand prix of established events in the USA. The main advantages are 1) it co-opts established events instead of conflicting with them and 2) it doesn't need a pile of money to start out. It's a math formula applied to existing events, not new events that need money. Only the concluding Masters event will need sponsorship. Technically, they don't even need an event's participation to count it as an ACP Tour event. But it could quickly become a hot ticket, especially since open events will be included.

That last is no small thing. Bringing in some new blood is critical to put a fire to the feet of the big guns who have grown complacent. Not that I think the top ten are overrated, but they are definitely underworked. (At least at the board. They study like madmen.) I hope the ACP formula is aggressive enough to encourage some of the elite to play in open events the way tennis players on the cusp scramble to play in smaller events to gain enough points to make the ATP final. The hypothetical list of players who would qualify for the final based on the first half of 2004 results is interesting: (in order of points) Anand, Rublevsky, Kramnik, Leko, Mamedyarov, Kasparov, Grischuk and Short.

The crucial thing is to heavily reward winning events and winning games. Years of being rewarded for cautious seconds or thirds has made it possible to win a cautious first. Let's hope appearance fees and rating obsessions are out and winning is in.


I would like to point out that if Tallinn rapid tournament was included (and there are no reasons not to include it)I would be ahead of Short in the hypothetical list. When I noted it to the ACP board, instead of including the tournament they simply removed the names of non-ACP members (such as Kasparov, Morozevich, myself, Ivanchuk, Mamedjarov to say a few) from that hypothetical list. So at the moment it seems that not all the best players will be involved in the ACP tour.

With all due respect, an ACP event of this type (the ACP Masters final) can only reasonably be for ACP members. If the event is successful, and the ACP likewise, then chess professionals who have not joined may have further reasons to reconsider their position. If they still don't want in, that's their choice, but they can hardly complain of being left out.


Why can't they complain? The ACP is an organization to represent the professional players. Event organization is great, but should be separate in many ways.

If some players aren't joining the ACP they need to find out why and see if they can address these concerns. I'm not sure unilaterally locking non-members out of events is wise this early in the organization's history. There should be a few carrots but no sticks.

Joining should provide bonuses (grand prix prize money, for example). I agree that at some point members-only events are logical and essential. But there must be ample time to iron out grievances so everyone has a fair chance to join and to be heard before money becomes an issue.

I agree with Mig. Even if some non-member, say A.Shirov, won the ACP Masters, ACP will profit from that greatly. IMO, exluding some top-players from that event from the start is great mistake.

As I mentioned in another discussion, the ACP move is very much welcome and will also solve a lot of the chess ills discussed in recent discussions.

- The chess world will be less dependent on FIDE.
- More positive/aggressive play as opposed to short draws.
- More activity, as in that case some bad results can be discarded. Top players will play more often and positively and not restrict themselves to 1-2 events per year.
- Chance for more positive players (like Moro and Rublevsky) to qualify despite not getting into super-GM tournaments.
- The annual rating list will be more dynamic than the FIDE rating and thus forcing players to play as opposed to living on past achievements.

To be successful, ACP needs to be more inclusive. Leaving out some like Shirov is indeed a shame.

I am curious as to why Shirov and Moro and not with the ACP. Do they have any issues or grievances that have been highlighted anywhere? I feel that in their interest for ACP to succeed. Once most of the top players are with ACP, the relucant ones like Kasparov (who might prefer status-quo and pre-qualification) will be forced to follow suit.

If it has worked for Tennis, why not for Chess? Chess is far more widespread now and what worked in the first half of the 20th century may not work now (was too slow and far too much dependence on the incumbent champion). We have seen how world champion could sabotage the system and it may take years to recover.


kapalik asked why Morozevich and Shirov are not with the ACP. I do not know about Alexei Shirov but Morozevich answered this question recently during an interview at the Biel Chess festival tournament. To quote:

Q: Are you member of the newly created Association of Chess Professionals (ACP)?

Morozevich: No. Why should I be? The ACP is good at talking, but not at taking action. We couldn’t see any positive result during the negociations for the World Championship in Libya. The ACP doesn’t need just chess players, they need managers and lawyers to get a chance to play a serious role.


A bit of american bias.

For years the so-called top GM's in Europe have been pampered by the extensive system of league championships and cozy round-robins, which for them essentually meant playing for guaranteed money. They're used to making short draws and because of that now they're soft and squishy. Hikaru will run through their circuit like a freight train, just like Gata did 10 years ago.
ACP does nothing for US players. It's based in Europe. All their events are in Europe. Why would I join such outfit? Forget it.

For a Grand Prix circuit to work, it must be more like the World Cup of the 80's, it must be held in many countries, and invite many strong players (not just the top 10). Also, the prize funds must be substantial.

My understanding is that all events above a certain category are considered for the ACP tour. Why would American (or other non-European) players be left out if they if they participate in tournaments with average rating above 2575. I am not sure of Yermo's confusion.

However, ACP tour members can only be eligible for the annual event. And they have till 15th Nov. I think ACP has been very reasonable. I also cannot understand Shirov's complaint. The list is more of a demonstration of the system - it looked at sample events and is not exhaustive. There is no reason why the Talinn tournament will be excluded when the actual ratings are computed.


For years the so-called top GM's in Europe have been pampered by the extensive system of league championships and cozy round-robins, which for them essentually meant playing for guaranteed money. They're used to making short draws and because of that now they're soft and squishy. Hikaru will run through their circuit like a freight train, just like Gata did 10 years ago.
I have been a big fan of Yermo's postings and views for his honesty, analysis, wit, and outspoken nature. However, the above comments surprise me. US currently has some of the most overrated players (Irina Krush tops them all) and yet make good money (look at US championship prize money).

Most top American players are emigres from Europe who prefer a cosy life and prefer making money by teaching chess or commentary than through active play. They seem better at chess politics than chess play (Seirwaran et al) - either on their own or in alliance with the Israeli lobby. And there are those like Susan Polgar who chose not to defend her title and then cried foul. A common approach is to shoot off criticisms at the unpopular FIDE to score cheap bownie points.

There is mainstream interest in chess in US at the school level but seems to die out after that.
No wonder, Boris Gulko continues to be among their top players!

It's impossible to make a living "through active play" in the USA. Maybe one magic year you win half of your big opens and manage to get by, but there is no support system like the European leagues and invitationals to provide steady income. That is why teaching and writing are essential. You can't gamble your life on winning Swisses (which the US championship is now), let alone raise a family.

Travelling to Europe all the time while living in the US is not economically feasible. Only if you have the star power (and rating) like Kamsky did can you get to invitationals with expenses paid. And even then you are spending all your time far away from home and are at a disadvantage to those who live in Europe.

You make it sound like the players gain something from complaining. Brownie points don't buy food either. Many US players took a stand and gave up cash by not playing in the tainted Libyan event. Gulko is still a top player because he's incredibly strong, first of all. The US isn't producing new GMs because there's no incentive, no career path. Unless you are a prodigy like Kamsky or Nakamura who can burst out early, it simply doesn't make any sense for a bright 17-year-old to pursue chess full time (as is required to be a top-100 professional) instead of going to university. Not unless he enjoys being hungry.

Yermo can not blame the Europeans that they have more tournament opportunities including league opportunities than the Americans. And Yermo can not blame ACP that all “cozy round robins” are in Europe and that not many American tournaments are strong enough to qualify for the ACP tour. And if it really is so much better to play chess in Europe why don’t Yermo move to Europe? Many European/Asian/African golf players lives in USA to play on the PGA tour.

The creation of the ACP tour is a chance to get the chess world organized like tennis or golf and this can only be beneficial for all players including the Americans. But for this to succeed ACP needs the support from the players including Shirov and Yermo.

Hopefully the ACP tour can motivate American organizers to create some events strong enough to join the tour.

Lately I've been alternatively told to move to Baghdad, Paris, or wherever the hell I came from (the latter would require time travel as the Soviet Union no longer exist). I'm glad you have joined the fray.
I'm also sick of promises given by yet another alphabet soup chess organization of questionable legitimacy. PCA, WCC and now ACP. Those outfits have one more thing in common - they never deliver.

Yermo (just a fan, don't know you, so maybe I'm taking liberties in using the nickname), very good to see your commentaries on the Internet again! Even though I suspect you may not post here too much longer... I can't find any of your old site's content ("Yermo's Diary", etc) on the Web any more, which is tragic.

Here is part of a letter from Garry’s old website, by Frank Dixon. He makes a wonderful point which should be pointed out to the leadership of the ACP.

"I believe one point is of paramount importance. ......to emulate the success of sports like golf, top players cannot dominate the organization. For example, although Tiger Woods is the best golfer in the world, he does not run the PGA Tour. .........However, top players have crucial roles to play, so that an advisory board of Grandmasters and Masters should have tangible input into the governance of chess. (They)know more about chess than anyone else, and this knowledge must be utilized to develop the game at all levels. However, to excel at chess requires specialization and enormous hard work with a narrow focus, so many GMs are not among the most rounded of individuals, and hence are unsuited to important jobs like public relations and dealing with sponsors. Also, chess requires and builds strong wills, which makes for acrimonious dealings when personalities interact and combust!

I recommend that you check into the structure of the PGA Tour in the United States, and learn from its successes. An individual sport like golf is a better model for what chess could achieve, than any team sport such as soccer or baseball.
Frank Dixon, Kingston, Canada"

I believe Mr. Dixon is a very wise man. (and, no, I do not know him)

The PCA paid out a few million dollars to over 100 players. Kasparov and Anand got the lion's share in the 95 WCh. Those two plus Kramnik and Ivanchuk took the first prizes in the PCA rapid grand prix events. But there were qualifiers for those and an interzonal that paid out good money. We always remember things for how they failed in the end, but just because our sun will be a burnt cinder in a few billion years doesn't mean life isn't worth living.

The PCA was primarily a sponsorship vehicle and Kasparov tool to begin with. The WCC was a stillborn joke. A comparison between the GMA and the ACP is more apt.

It's important to have a players' voice, but it's never going to be unanimous. That's what voting is for. It's better to have everyone in the tent and deal with disagreements inside. Otherwise the danger is allowing the players to be divided and, no pun intended, played against one another by FIDE and organizers. FIDE keeps doing this, e.g. trotting out a few players who support the new fast time control when it seems 4/5 GMs prefer classical.

I agree with Mig and also inky's posting of
Mr Dixon's comments.

While there can be no certainity of ACP's success,
it seems far more likely to succeed compared to
such associations earlier. Mig has highlighted
those well in the original posting. Best of all, it leverages existing events and seems to have borrowed from what has worked in the tennis and golf world and also learnt from failures in the chess world.

Another difference from the past is that currently, there isn't one dominant player in the chess world who can bring it down by not joining or working against it. Needless to say, it would be best both for ACP and chessplayers if most players are with ACP. Then ACP can better negotiate in players interest with FIDE, sponsors, and tournament organizers (the way ATP does with ITF and sponsors in the tennis world).


Mig wrote: "Why can't they complain? The ACP is an organization to represent the professional players. [...] I agree that at some point members-only events are logical and essential. But there must be ample time to iron out grievances so everyone has a fair chance to join and to be heard before money becomes an issue."

My point was that there doesn't seem to be much point to complaining of being left out of an event at the perogative of the organization running an event when one has refused to join said organization. More helpful and constructive would be to highlight the reasons why one hasn't joined, and I trust Shirov et al have done just that elsewhere, but I don't know his reasons.

As for the ACP in the US, the ACP started as a players initiative, and as Europe is the centre of the chess-playing universe, it is based there. Presumably it would take a US player showing enough initiative and belief in the ACP to make real things happen in the US, but waiting for the benefits to flow automatically might not cut it.


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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on August 9, 2004 11:08 PM.

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