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Our Questions for Bessel Kok

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[Below is the letter and the questions I sent to the Bessel Kok and Ali Nihat Yazici campaign for the FIDE presidency. Many are culled from or inspired by your posts to the comments of this item. The questions are after the break. His replies will come in a separate item when they arrive.]

We’ll try not to repeat material already available on your campaign website or other interviews. If something looks similar it’s mostly likely a request for more details or explanation. Of course the presidency isn’t a dictatorship, or shouldn’t be, and your wishes won’t be law, but we would still like to hear those wishes and opinions.

As you can tell, the world championship dominates the thoughts of the fans. This is important because to me this has always meant the prestige and success of the cycle and final are essential tools for creating new fans, and fans mean sponsors. As many relevant thoughts and details you can provide about your plans and opinions here will be appreciated.

1) What other sports federations can FIDE learn from and why? What specific initiatives could we import? (Thanks to Matt Phelps)

2) FIDE’s stated goals are admirable but vague. FIDE must try to please professional players, amateurs and fans, and the federations themselves, which in many cases have developed interests separate from the players they represent. Is your view more trickle-down or bottom-up? I.e., emphasize the professionals so they can spread the game via spectacle or spread the game wider at the grassroots directly? Perhaps we could put it this way, if a donation of a million dollars comes in to put toward new initiatives (or expand current ones), how would it be distributed? Should FIDE itself sponsor pro events, amateur events? (Thanks to rockrobinoff)

3) As president, how would you define success or failure in various areas? What would expect/hope to have achieved after one year, two years?

4) How can we balance corporate sponsorship with the traditions of the game? Must we be reduced to doing whatever sells or are there any lines that can’t be crossed? E.g. if Samsung or ESPN says they’d put up millions for world championship decided by blitz shuffle chess, exaggerating to make the point.

5) FIDE officially represents the federations, not the individual players. Should FIDE be more involved in promoting the sports’ stars?

6) What are the necessary conditions and steps to establish a unified and viable world chess championship? What comes first, next, etc.? And how would this decision be reached? No matter how many panels are convened or polls taken, in the end it would be your decision to say tournament or match. What factors would go into that decision? (Thanks to Susan Grumer and everyone else. The future of the world championship is by far the #1 issue with fans.)

7) The faster control adopted by FIDE hasn’t found much support among players or sponsors to my knowledge, while decreasing the quality of the games dramatically. By what alchemy will decisions be made regarding matters of format? How to balance the players, the fans, the sponsors, the quality of the chess itself and the traditions of the game. E.g. time control, tournament system, rating formula.

8) The future is important, but perhaps we can learn from the past. What, if it can be summed up, went wrong with the Prague Agreement? Do you feel you fulfilled your intended role as well as possible? (Business plan.) (Thanks to edu, greg koster, others)

9) As a chess fan yourself, how would you like to see the world championship decided? The matches, the giant KO, the exclusive tournament? Why? Or is the championship passé and should we just go with big tournaments and the rating list, like tennis and golf? Do the traditions matter or do we need to start from scratch? (Again, just about everyone)

10) Will FIDE recognize Kramnik’s title? I know this is a tough one to give a yes/no answer to, but principles must have a place along with practicality. If FIDE decides to stay with tournament world championships, is it unreasonable for a “long match faction” to perpetuate the schism?

11) What structural changes in the FIDE decision-making mechanism do you envision, if any? (Thanks to Alkelele)


12) For obvious reasons of incresing population in the world, the number of professional chess players and chess grandmasters has increased, but in the meanwhile, the number of tournaments and the economic support they recieve have not increase at the same rate and allow just a few professionals to live and devote completely as chess players. We know the importance of the World Championship issues, but we know than in general top players have a "comfortable" life, which is not the case of the vast mayority. How FIDE could make policies to adjust to this reality? My impression is that the presidential campaings looks the favor of top players, but they are not the representative ones in these delicate issues.

I want to know why FIDE appears not to be working hard to open up China to chess, as this would be a huge boost to world chess. Sure, China has a number of good GMs, but there are no FIDE tournaments in China (except for rare novelty events, nothing that players like myself can join in), and the only clubs I have seen are closed to just certain members.

I wasn't aware this would be a written question and response. The inability to follow up lends itself to fluffy non-answers. If he were really trying to get votes and support from fans he would give detailed responses. However I'm not sure that has anythign to do with winning a FIDE election. All we can do is cross our fingers and wait for a response. Thanks for taking the initiative Mig.

We can certainly follow up, but it's not like we can or should hold a gun to anyone. But note that all goodwill and PR aside, it's not fans who are voting. He might win a hypothetical fan vote with 80% and lose the delegate vote by the same margin. Time spent answering questions is time not spent twisting arms and making outlandish promises to delegates!

Don't you just hate it when ... you're having an extra-chessticular drink and somebody in the group comes up with an idea like "How about a chess match on an 8x10 board where one side has six extra pawns and two extra queens, and the other side has eight extra bishops?" Then they go on and on about WHY this would be a good idea, even when you pointedly change the subject to 18th century philosophers or ravens. And after the subject has been changed, they pipe up with "Pardon my fianchettoed bishops" or "I'll trade off all the light ones and you'd
be left with five bad bishops. They could elect an anti-pope" until all you want to do is silence the joker with a pewter beer stein. Please be charitable. Shoot the message, not the messenger. Hate the sin, not the sinner.

How about a 4-game Chess-960 $1 million match between Garry Kasparov and Judit Polgar, organized by Bessel Kok and Ali Nihat YazIcI, with the prize fund donated to two charities, one each chosen by Kasparov and Polgar ?

1. It would prove in a timely manner that Bessel can organize a big chess event at short notice, rather than the lame explanation deep in the NiC interview that actually FIDE wasn't interested in unification, only in domination.

2. Garry has stated that he would like to play chess as a non-professional and spoken in positive terms (although with caveats) about Fischerrandom / Chess-960. If he plays a real game, though, somebody is going to rate it and his colleagues (ex-colleagues?) will be miffed at him reactivating his top rating. Chess-960 is not ratable ... yet.

3. Part of the rap against Chess-960 is that some setups can produce boring chop-wood draws. Not with these two players! You could even have some system where Black gets to exercise up to two vetoes before each game each game. "Variant 241? Hmm. Nope. Try another one."

4. More PGN-viewers would support Chess-960.

5. Garry would prove that he can do something concrete for Russian voters, who love a man of power/action more than a man of yadda yadda.

No fair peeking, JB. Wait till Christmas like everybody else.

Peeking? No, it was an idea that came to me at 6 in the morning, when your typical frosty chess player is just getting to sleep. The lark in me. It's like a thousand other ideas, but it may be timely. If there's something already in the works, I guess I'll find out when everybody else does.

Regarding the Chess-960 veto, a small correction: in a two-person match, White should have the veto.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on January 7, 2006 4:17 AM.

    Mamedyarov Replaces Kramnik at Corus was the previous entry in this blog.

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