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Match Off, Match On

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After a few days of rumors that it had been officially delayed, the Dubai Kasimdzhanov-Kasparov match is officially on. The money is in the bank and the dates have been announced. (January 14 - February 1) Kasparov was somewhat relieved, but he is still troubled about the entire process after Kramnik's statements about ditching Prague and starting from scratch again.

That's the real issue here. What happens if Kramnik, as predicted, refuses to play? Since FIDE screwed up their side of Prague it's not unreasonable for Kramnik to have some new conditions. The question is whether or not he is willing to keep his word that he will put his classical title on the line for unification. We don't even know where to begin negotiations. Having Kasparov as FIDE champion instead of Kasimdzhanov might make sponsorship easier to find, but doesn't achieve squat in the way of unification on its own, especially since Kramnik is less likely to want to play Kasparov than Kasimzhanov. I say that not because Kramnik is afraid of Kasparov – he's not – but because he doesn't feel Kasparov deserves to be there.

Kramnik has considerable leverage, and I hope he and the ACP use it to push FIDE and to work with them to design and commit to a reasonable qualification system. Getting rid of the KO and the fast time control that came with it are right behind unification on the "save chess" wish list. But you have to have something to replace it instead of being nihilistic.


Nice one Mig. All very valid points.

In a display of diplomacy not often seen in chess politics, Kramnik has expressed his broad views on reunification without ruling out anything.

Despite his reservations about a) seeding Kasparov and b) the casino-like nature of the FIDE WCC, Kramnik agreed to sign onto Prague when that option appeared the best way to get on track to a fair WCC system.

Kramnik kept his part of the bargain, putting together Dortmund and playing Dortmund's winner.

FIDE, on the other hand, staged its WCC in a venue in which excluded anyone who had ever visited Israel. It is ironic that Kasparov himself would have been barred from the Tripoli event. It is unfortunate that with all his connections to Israel, Kasparov did not loudly and vehemently put all his influence into opposing this situation. It is also unfortunate that Kasparov, by playing the winner of the "no Israeli" Tripoli event, effectively sanctions Tripoli's anti-Israel policy. And Kasparov appears to have done so not out of a motive of reunification (he could have played at Dortmund, or entered the WCC on par with everyone else) but for purely personal advantage.

I would guess that Kramnik's position on reunification is the same as it was in Prague. Kramnik would reluctantly play the Kasp-Kasim winner if that was the quickest step to a fair, principled, system of selecting a world chess champion.

But given FIDE's exclusion of the Israelis and its unfortunate delays in the staging of its WCC, Kramnik probably (and reasonably) feels that an ACP-run "interzonal" and "candidates" is the quickest way to the goal shared by everyone.

Yeah, but Kasparov (if he wins) playing Kramnik makes a unification which works, both historically, and financially. Even Anand, when Prague was signed, was more interested at the time that a good next cycle was set up. Of course, that was supposed to be in the futuristic year of 2004. Oops.

Kramnik is worried about his qualifier going through a legitimate qualification proces on equal terms with everybody else? Refresh my memory but didn't Kramnik qualify for his match with Kasparov by being hand picked to play Shirov in a qualifer which he lost?


Greg Koster:
You are right....I also felt something very strange about Kasparov's silence on Tripoli event banning Israeli players. I am proud of the American players openly opposing this event. The ACP also showed their support for Israeli players.

When the ACP shows it can run something that expectation will sound more reasonable. Pretending they are ready to replace FIDE right now is fantasy. They are a useful counterbalance so far.

Kasparov did speak about Tripoli, but it's amusing that many of the people here who are always complaining about Kasparov interfering in things seem equally distressed about his lack of interference in the case of Tripoli. Kasparov basically said it was a shame but that he wasn't a FIDE organizer.

FIDE has been finding its champions in increasingly bizarre ways every since Ilyumzhinov took over. Tripoli may have been the low point, but give them a year or two and I'm sure they can do worse. That's one reason unification is an end unto itself. It would be nice to go back to having bidders instead of peddling events to dictators.

I really disagree that Kramnik is not afraid on some level. Kramnik has been ducking a re-match with Kasparov for 4 years, going on 5 now. He is just the latest world champion to hang on to his title at any cost.

If Kasparov wins his match and Kramnik ducks him again, he will be the biggest wussy in chess during my lifetime.

I too believe kramnik should have behaved like real sportman by giving a chance to Kasparov loong ago.I don't believe if some one say he wants to reform chess, hence he doesn't play.

Since the good old zonal/interzonal/candidates scheme was dismantled we've had a look at three attempts to replace it:

1) FIDE, as Mig says, has been using increasingly bizarre ways of choosing a champion.

2) Kasparov must be given credit for inviting the best player in the world (1995-Anand, 2000-Anand/Kramnik) to contest the title.

3) And Kramnik must be given credit for inviting the world's top seven (plus home-town favorite Lutz) to play a match-tournament to select his challenger.

Kramnik and Kasparov have shown admirable restraint, thus far, in setting forth their positions about the future without ruling out any options.

Assuming henceforth a Kasparov victory in January, both he and Kramnik qill be optimally positioned to take prominent roles in the building of a new cycle.

Following the spirit of Prague, Kasparov will, after a defeat of Kasim, reasonably expect to play a match with Kramnik for a unified title.

Also following the spirit of Prague, Kramnik will insist upon an agreement on an equitable challenger's cycle (even if he has to set it up himself) before he will play a WC match.

Both Kasp and Kram have a major stake, financially, and in the establishment of their legacy, in a unified title and a unified title cycle. Let us hope that cool heads will prevail, tht a unified cycle will be planned, and that Kramnik and Kasparov will then play a reunification match as the last relic of the post-breakup chaos and the first step to a new, fair, unified cycle.

Kramnik is just stalling until Kasparov is well past his prime so that he can be certain to keep the crown.

I think a lot of comments are being too unfair
to Kramnik. Infact, Mig's post if far more

I am not sure how many have read Kramnik's
interview in ChessBase where he has rationally
and reasonably explained his views. As Mig says,
it is not fear but a fair sense that is leading
to Kramnik's protests.

Playing Kasparov would be even more unfair now than it was in 2002. And what for? As he demands, there should be some clarity in what comes afterwards. It may take a moment to break all the years of hard work that have gone into unification. What if FIDE goes back to its own crazy ways post-unification? What if Kasparov wins and starts hand-picking challengers again? We need guarentees and commitments for post-unification to be fruitful and long-lasting. Only then will it be worth it.

Also what Kramnik proposes would involves him playing, most likely, Kasparov or Anand. On current form, Anand would be an equal or more fearful prospect. How does that show cowardice on his part? Also he has not taken a hard stand and has been very flexible.


It's hard for me to imagine Kramnik ducking a Kasparov rematch if the money is there. He has a reasonable point about Kasparov being unfairly seeded, but in the end he's not going to turn down a big payday.

I don't think Kramnik is scared of Kasparov, because Kasparov hasn't beaten him over-the-board in years, and lately Kasparov has not played well. To defeat Kasparov a second timewould cement Krankik's legacy. To defeat Kasimdzhanov would not.

Many players have been affected bin the history of chess, but that should be no reason for delaying anymore a reunification process. I could name four of those players:

Anand (a few times)
Ivanchuk (twice, as a FIDE finalist not included in Dortmund, and not named substitute for Pono)
Ponomariov (discarded after FIDE negotiations)
Shirov (remember his fiasco match vs Kramnik?)

Now, if you want to make it larger, you could add all the Israeli players left out of Tripoli. Just to be historically comprehensive, lets add Kasparov (1985), Korchnoi (1978-81), Fischer (1975) and Bronstein (1951). I would include Keres, but he is not around to get some compensation. Same with Capablanca, Rubinstein, etc.

So, what do I mean? In the history of chess, many players have been in the wrong side of the deals. We should try that this does not happen again. But trying to correct all the wrongdoings in the past is absurd, even more when you ask to the opposite side to bend over to fix them.

Braingames had a chance to give a place in Dortmund to the main two losers out of Prague (Anand and Ivanchuk), but they refused to do so, correctly stating that they have all their organization set already for 8 players. But now Kramnik asks for a FIDE new tournament, disregarding all the organization set by FIDE. Blows me.

Kramnik should stop nagging about the imperfection in the FIDE process in the past (as if any process have been perfect). What he must do, is forcing FIDE to adopt a reasonable elimination process if they want a reunification. I am sure many more players and fans will be grateful to him this way.

Eduardo Sauceda says that, "In the history of chess, many players have been in the wrong side of the deals." However, in some of the examples he gives, the players themselves were there own undoing.

For instance, I disagree that FIDE "discarded" Ponomariov. He had an opportunity to play Kasparov, and the match was canceled due to the ridiculous terms that he insisted on. (Has there ever been a worse career move in the history of professional chess? I can't think of one offhand.) Just like Fischer, he was given a deadline by which he had to be reasonable, else he would forfeit his title. FIDE then did the only thing they could, which was to find somebody else.

Of course, I agree with Mig that the knockout is a ridiculous way to choose a world champion, but I don't blame FIDE for concluding they had no choice but to replace Pono.

According to the Russian website www.dachess.ru, Kramnik has pulled out of the upcoming super Russian Championship. It looks like he is doing everything possible to avoid playing Kasparov. When can we start considering Kramnik to be the biggest chicken World Champion ever? I think the chess world should start to move on without Kramnik.

Are you serious? Could you translate the relevant sentence so I can quote it? Thanks.

Now it is also on ChessBase. http://chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=2015

He is truly a chicken! He denied Garry a chance for a rematch for a number of years now. He should be known as the biggest wuss in chess. He is no longer worthy to be considered a champion. What a joke!

We have talked about the "fracture" in the World Championhip for some time now (we as in the chess world in general). Perhaps in the spirit of the more modern era, and comparing to other modern sports, we abolish the notion of a World Champion altogether.

What I mean by this is, there are other sports where there are a large number of players participating of very close caliber, and where a good or bad day could make the difference for any of them. They do not have the notion of a world champion, but rather a "Worlds Best Player", using another formula (tournament results, individual match play, etc) which is also concrete and measureable.

I got this idea when thinking about the analogue between chess and golf. I find that, barring the nature of the tourneys where it is not match play alone, I could envision a format like the yearly tour for the chess world, and it would eliminate the possible stigmas that have arisen in the past 20 years.

Just sort of thinking out loud here.

There is an interesting interview with Ponomariov at the www.chesspro.ru site (http://www.chesspro.ru/events/ol04-pono.shtml) about unification and the Olympiad (mostly about the Olympiad).

Towards the bottom he says he's glad the Kramnik-Leko match is over and the Kasparov match has been announced, since at least things are finally heading to unification. When asked about Kramnik's recent statements, he says it sounds to him like Kramnik is looking to get out of playing the winner of Kasparov-Kasimzhanov, since he thinks the winner will probably be Kasparov.

He also points out that while Kramnik did retain his title of "classical" champion of the world, he didn't prove he was stronger than Leko, since he only kept the championship through the "tie privilege", and he only managed to save the tie in the last game. (A privilege that he points out isn't shared by Kasimzhanov).

Finally, he pleas for an end to the chaos, and the establishment of an understandable and orderly system for deciding the world champion on an annual or bi-annual basis. Less talk, more playing.

Doesn’t sound to me like he thinks Kramnik is doing him any favors by proposing a new closed qualifier, even if it includes him. I was also a bit surprised not to detect any hostility towards FIDE or Kasparov; more an attitude of “let’s get on with things”.

This article finally gave some credit to Kramnik. You say "we don't even know where to begin negotiations" That answer is simple someone with authority from FIDE should pick up the phone and call Kramnik. At the very least it should not decline to see Kramnik and Kasparov when they want ot meet to talk about this! Where to begin is obvious why FIDE refuses to negotiate but only scream orders at players is not so obvious.

Kramnik has issued a press release, which Chessbase has in English:


It's nicely stated, and acknowledges the fans and in a positive way. It also reflects the concerns that many have expressed in the past with FIDE.

I still wish he had found better timing for this, though.

This exact same statement (the part about FIDE and reunification, I mean), issued BEFORE the Tripoli event, would have gathered a great deal of support and sympathy.

Still, I am impressed with GM Kramnik's efforts to address fan concerns directly, and to keep the reunification effort cast in a positive light.

I have no idea what will happen in 2005, and that is unsettling, both as a fan and as a (very minor) chess journalist. But I do appareciate the attempt to reach out to the fans with this press release. And I certainly hope GM Kramnik recovers fully soon.


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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on November 5, 2004 4:15 PM.

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