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Chess Grand Slam

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Breaking News: It barely rang a bell, and the only reports so far are in Spanish, but it looks like the Grand Slam Association tipped at the MTel this year came into being furreal in Spain yesterday. [With blurry photo.] MTel, Linares, and Corus are obvious, but the inclusion on the list of the Spanish city of Bilbao – the meeting took place in nearby Santurtzi – is a surprise. Morelia and Dortmund are mentioned as potential candidates for inclusion, as well as "maybe a Russian city." Bilbao has been the home of the human-machine rapid tournaments over the past two years.

Danailov was there for MTel, Antón Madariaga, Juan Carlos and Josu Fernández for Bilbao, and Linares mayor Juan Fernández sounded excited: "We are delighted with the idea. It's something that's been missing. It will bring a new dimension to chess and create more resources. This sports needs to modernize. It needs greater diffusion and better marketing and the union of all the big tournaments will help this be achieved." The Morelia and Wijk aan Zee organizers were there by telephone. The Grand Slam won't just mean a "new shared logo," and "a single corporate image," although not all the listed ideas sound like good news. A few seem contradictory. Some translated excerpts from the various reports, all emphasis mine:

To assure the participation of the biggest stars in all the Grand Slam tournaments, the members of the Association reached a fundamental agreement: the four top players in the world ranking must play in all four of the events or they won't be allowed to play in any of them. ...

As things stand now, the organizers of each GS tournament have the freedom to use whatever format they like. It will be necessary to establish a common format, say the principals. ...

There will be a single main sponsor and a shared scoring system (10 points to the winner, 6 for second, 2 for third) by which a yearly champion will be found. ...

What's more, the Chess Grand Slam Association will make a common front against internet piracy [sic], where every day there are more servers that copy the games from the server that bought the rights. ...

A minimum of six and a maximum of 14 players will take part in these international tournaments. "The winners of each tournament will take place in the Masters," added Madariaga, who said the winner would get "a purse of 300,000 euros."

First off, this is generally good and overdue news. With FIDE intent on destroying the value of chess (time controls, KO events) and the world championship (tournaments, challenge matches, dead cycle), it's good to see the real professionals coming together to save themselves and the sport. Combined sponsorship, ensuring the top players participate, a stable calendar, and guaranteeing professional standards are all good things.

Common format? Ick. That would be like playing all the tennis Grand Slam events on the same surface or golf events at the same course. I would particularly hate to see every event become a super-exclusive six or eight-player double round-robin. But one report gives 6 and 14 for minimum and maximum, fitting with previous events, so let's hope standardization is dropped.

Obviously the Bilbao hosts were running the show, but a human-machine rapid event isn't the same as a super-tournament. Including them with no track record, and no confirmed dates on the schedule, is a little odd. (Bilbao was in October 2004 and November 2005.) They should have released a calendar at the same time. But they must have been convincing because I have faith in Corus organizer Jeroen van den Berg. I hope a few documents will be released soon.

It's been gone over so many times it's barely worth mentioning, but every new organization, tournament, website, server, and guy on the street wants to reopen the can of worms of copyrighting live game transmissions online. ("Piracy" above.) This isn't even a can of worms anymore, it's more like a can of dead horse. The instant a move is transmitted online it becomes a fact, news that can be relayed and reproduced anywhere just like the score of a basketball game (which is where this went to court in the US years ago).

In a way it would be nice if broadcasts could be protected since it would give organizers a better chance to monetize their web traffic, but it's a pipe dream and one with a train wreck track record of stupidity and failure. At the 1998 Olympiad FIDE tried to charge for PGN downloads (rounds 1-4 for $19.95!); KasparovChess.com (among others) threatened lawsuits to protect event transmission; in London 2000 Braingames briefly stopped showing the Kasparov-Kramnik moves to journalists in the press room they were so paranoid (and deservedly so; one of the techs running their server passed the moves to me via IM anyway); Dortmund didn't show live games at all for a while in 2005 and got nothing but grief. What you CAN protect is multimedia, what is called "robust content" like audio and video, even live chat commentary. (My memory credits Eric C. Johnson bringing up that argument six years ago. Chess Pride!) Use those things to attract people to your site or just be happy that so many people can follow your event worldwide.

Okay, sorry for hijacking my own item, but this is a pet peeve and one I fought from the other side for a few years. Back in 2000 we had lawyers looking into proving that the value of live moves is high enough to count as protected broadcast content. All those arguments make economic sense, and you can find a lawyer to sue anyone for anything, but they didn't really stand up. The real value is exclusivity – being the only site to show the moves would have the same high value ten minutes or ten days later as long as no one else knew the moves and results. Organizers might intimidate some sites into cooperation or submission with legal threats, but it's just bad blood and spilt milk. Multimedia is already here, so let the games go. Chess moves want to be free!

Getting back to the Grand Slam, it's a good start and we must realize there will some false steps at first. The players will have to give up some of their freedom in the name of professionalism and sponsorship. (Trivial things like a dress code seemed blatantly offensive to many players just a dozen years ago.) A real calendar that can guarantee the participation of the top players is a minimum and they will benefit too. Having top guys drop out at the last minute for anything less than serious illness is even worse than Rublevsky in a neon Hawaiian shirt.

There's an inevitable element of the rich getting richer, but that's the nature of any professional sport. As many have pointed out, for the world #50 to make $100,000 a year, the #1 probably has to make five or ten million. Sport is elitist by its very nature; this isn't a socialist democracy. The rest of the NBA didn't complain (at least not the owners) when the Lakers and Celtics were winning all the championships in the 1980's because the hot rivalry made the league boom and soon there was more money for everyone. If chess booms at the top it will trickle down, and I'm not talking Ronny's voodoo economics. More demand, more tournaments, bigger prizes. It all starts with the consistency we must have to be commercially marketable. The ACP and the Grand Slam can be critical ingredients. It's a pity FIDE is still part of the problem and not the solution.

Let's hope there's a press release of some sort soon – and that they let the Dutch or anyone but the Spanish do the website... I've written to various of the participants and we'll see what we get for a report at ChessBase later.


It all sounds good, dare I say almost too good. The dress code shouldn't be much of a problem this time around...unless spandex is the key element. ;)

Is this somehow related to the boiling pots re new organisations beside FIDE you were mentioning a few weeks back?
And if not, was noone of those you said you'd ask if they'd be willing to come forward to make something public, open to do so?

No direct relation, Albrecht, although it fits in with a few other things. Most of the stuff I was talking about then are website and rating list related.

Yes, that's why I was asking. Interestingly enough, in that article you were linking to, FIDE isn't mentioned once...

Great news. I really hope it happens.

For a Grand Slam I don't like the idea of some of them possibly having as few as 6 participants. This seems to me to give these exclusive few a better shot at winning the overall prize than the poor souls who don't get to attend due to so few slots being available. I think it needs to be fair. Yes, mix it up with number of rounds or format, but keep a consistent number of players. Perhaps each event should have a few slots reserved for people who win certain other qualifier events. These could be other big events already in existence, such as the Aeroflot Open or the US Open, etc.

I am very happy to hear of this, and wish them good luck with it.

Regarding content that can be copyrighted: the simplest is commentary. In any format, text, multimedia, even just chat. Provide commentators and you have something that CAN be protected under US copyright and that is also unique to your particular broadcast.


Looks good to me although I like larger fields. Or at least I think that every single one of the grandslams shuold give anyione a chance to qualify via some reasonable means. Maybe 2-4 spots per tournament, as opposed to it being completely shut off to outside players.

The great thing about this Grand Slam is that it gives ENDURING MEANING to each tournament beyond just each tournament's own week of action.

To soar even higher, this GS needs to have some formal input into the World Chess Championship cycle. Maybe FIDE should guarantee the winner a slot in its bi-annual FIDE Championship tournament. (Later, the FIDE Champ should thereby earn a WCC title match against the sitting match champ.)

The tennis Grand Slam (Australian, French, Wimbledon, US) has high prestige because there is no other form of tennis champion. Tennis cannot have another kind of World Tennis Champion of exaulted prestige because it takes only one afternoon to play a tennis match.
(Jimmy Connors & Manual Orantas tried a WTChamp match once in the 1970's, broadcast on ABC. Even the announcer Jack Whittaker doubted that the concept would catch on.)

Chess is different. Chess has one exaulted match champion. It takes weeks to conduct a chess match. This could seem like a burdensom inconvenience inherent in chess matches, but actually it is what gives the WCC title much of its prestige (no pain no gain).

Tennis has player ratings/rankings in a numeric format. Hardly anyone in the general tennis public cares about tennis ratings, and rightly so.
Yet in chess the ratings carry enormous weight. Players have warped their playing habits as a strategy for managing their rating, to maximize their chances of tournament invitations: yuk. Players should not be dis-incentivized from playing.

Therefore, these super tournaments need to find ways to admit as many players as they can possibly fit. That probably means a SINGLE round robin format would be best. (Double RR cuts the number of players in half, bad.)

why not run 4 big swiss tournaments like the world open. everyone can play.

the big one is to win all 4 Grand Slam events in the same year. that will be a milestone.

and if a player does not want to play so what. this rule trying to force players to play all 4 seems counter productive. If the reward to play is big enough then the player will play. better to make it worth while than to try to manipulate people into playing.

Lets say it was the same 8 players playing all 4 tournaments. that would be boring to me. same old thing 4 times. I hope they work this out properly. It might be more fun to watch the young studs like Magnus and Nakamura than to watch the draw artists play so many drawn games in 4 tournaments.

I say lets have some intertainment.

OK I gave my opinion. Now everyone can slam dunk me and my opinions.

Frank H:

I'm not crazy about the idea of having four Swiss tournaments, given how easy it is to collude in such a tournament. Also, Swisses do a good job of putting the very best players at the top of the standings and the very worst players at the bottom of the standings, but the middle standings are usually all mixed up.

I do agree with you that identical tournaments would be very boring, though. Also, I agree that single round-robins would be more exciting the double round-robins (sharing is caring :) ). Since this tournament series includes Corus along with Linares and Sofia, I'm not too worried about that. I definately think that single round-robins are better than double round-robins, since more players mean more interesting matchups. Perhaps there could be one Swiss somewhere along the line, or a couple more 14- or 16-player round robins (especially in the autumn) that give a few seats away in a qualifying Swiss. The Russian Superfinal might be a good example of this. Heck, he winner of Aeroflot already gets a seat at Dortmund.

Maybe, Linares could take the winner from Linares Anibal, and Sofia could take the winner of the Dubai Open, and the Dutch could run an open sometime in November for two or three seats at Corus, and the Americans could host a round-robin sometime in autumn that has a few qualifiers from the World Open. Not the US Open, though, I don't think it's really strong enough. I think something like ten grandmasters showed up this last time (as opposed to 40 or 50 for Dubai and the World Open, and 100+ for Aeroflot).

Re copyright: Duif is absolutely right. I hope the tournament organizers allow the games to be freely distributed when there are so many other things that can be protected by copyright without anyone complaining. Video streams, commentary, like that. As Mig mentioned, I don't even think it's possible for the organizers to defend a copyright on games if they tried.

Things like dress code, though, are completely reasonable. It's not that hard to put on a collared shirt and a nice pair of trousers.

Besides the copyright issue and the tourney format issue, this is wonderful news. Not only does this puts the presentation of major chess events primarily in the hands of people that care about chess (unlike some high-ranking chess officials), but the added stability alone will help chess break more into the mainstream. Maybe it's not perfect, but it's a huge step in the right direction.

One sticking point is the following, picked up form teh Chessbase article:

"To assure the participation of the biggest stars in all the Grand Slam tournaments, the members of the Association reached a fundamental agreement: the four top players in the world ranking must play in all four of the events or they won't be allowed to play in any of them." ...

If there was a world championship match in the same year and players have prior commitments (e.g. Dortmund, Anand in Mainz and the Amber lot), we could end up with top players playing too many games- i.e crap chess... Will be interesting to see player reaction and if the top 4 commit to play in all 4 events.

This sounds more like the top players are nothing but indentured servants to the organizers. I furthur don't like the idea of a Black list, participate in all or not at all. This just plain sucks for the aspiring player another lock out from the top tournaments. More and more tournaments are just round robins with the same few people and that isn't a way to popularize the game.

I actually think it would be rally fun if all tournaments were arranged differently. One were a swiss. One used a sonnenborn-berger system (of course the one with most participants. Like Aeroflot). One were a double round robin. The last tournament could be a knockout tournament with eight players, and four games against each other. Then the combined winner (however that would be calculated) would really feel like the true winner of chess tournaments.

I liked the GMA World Cup and I think that should be the long term goal. But you have to get started somewhere and this seems as good as any.

The forced participation in all four events of course makes structural sense but I forsee a lot of problems. What happens in the case of illness? Or even feigned illness?

There are a number of reasons players don't compete in all four events at the moment.

Firstly there is the Wijk aan Zee, Linares and Amber tournament glut at the start of the year. This is really too much chess.

Secondly players have over the years fallen out with various organisers and simply won't play in certain venues.

Thirdly this is going to clash somewhere along the line with a FIDE event either by accident or design, or if it doesn't clash, it will clash in the same way that Kamsky was forced to play two candidates matches without a break.

What will happen then is that at some point this insistance on players competing in all four events will fall down and one player will be forced to miss all.

The second issue raised here is that of copyright / sponsors getting the rights they are due. I think this is extremely important for the future of chess.

The details above seem to suggest they are trying to protect live coverage rather than not releasing the games at all. It seems that games per se can't be protected and that's entirely right. Apart from anything else the biggest consumers of chess data are the players themselves.

We instead are revisiting the issue of can you rebroadcast moves from an official site during the game. Its never been a big issue for me so long as the moves are made available right at the end of the game. The legality of rebroadcasting games has to my knowledge never been tested. I seem to recall that things like Box Scores (whatever they are) for Basketball is always cited and that somehow these couldn't be protected. It does somewhat worry me that apparently in the UK you can't even publish football fixtures on websites without paying the football leagues (although this in itself has recently come under scrutiny and may be challenged). But I guess worldwide (server in Panama anyone) its simply not going to happen.

There is a delusion I think, which having worked for 10 years on internet chess I think I can dispell. There are lots of chess players out there with money that they're ready and willing to pay out for high quality chess coverage. There isn't and never will be. If live games have to be paid for and they can shut down alternate sources, the amount of money generated even for the largest and most attractive of events is minimal. Its the truth and anyone who thinks there is a huge hidden income generation stream out there needs to think again.

This idea of companys bidding for the right to carry out live coverage and then earning income only happens in Spain, elsewhere these companys are brought in and actually paid to do this! It is and always will be uneconomical.

That said I really, really would like to see official sites get there full due of hits.

This doesn't happen for a number of reasons.

1) The sites crash. This is the main reason I use ICC for many events for getting moves. I used to always go to official sites and use them but they crash a lot.

2) They use viewers. Sites don't provide PGN or indeed any text format for games. When I follow games live (and I don't do it that much to be honest which speaks to the point about how big the market actually is) I like to load the games into ChessBase, find out where the novelties are and run a chess client. All of these things are made impossible if you can't get the games out of viewers except by typing the moves in. There are now a lot of different viewers out there the sole purpose of which as far as I can tell is to try and hinder getting the moves out of the site.

3) They don't provide any of the extras that being the organiser and the official site should bring. Kasparov went through a patch of having flash notes compiled by one of his seconds based on his instant comments. This could be a contractual ten minute obigation at some point after the game so that some nice instant notes could be compiled. There are photos and videos (such as at the recent NH Hotels). There are many privalages to being the organiser, they should use them.

None of this will produce huge amounts of money but a nice, quick fully featured site providing PGN, notes and background would surely get hits and the possibility of revenue. But the bottom line is as I've repeated there is no big chunk of change out there. The only way to increase the money in chess is to have meaningful events which catch the mainstream media's eye and imagination. A Grand Prix of chess tournaments may, in the very long term have some small potential to do that.

Mark Crowther

I think that best would be if all Grand Slams have their own qualifying tournaments from which a X number of players would qualify for the big show. Joining them there would be the seated players.
Forcing the same system on the Grand Slams (same number of rounds, same players, same chess pieces, chairs etc) means loosing the individuality of the tournaments themselves and I am against it.
If Linares and Dortmund can claim Kramnik and Topalov but not Anand, and Corus Adams and Morozevic but not Griscuk, all the better. It will give us a lot of nice things to argue about (who is the best and why) and I can already see and imagine all the disputes at local chess clubs.

Has anyone taken a look at the structure of Go or Shogi in Japan. They have several prodessional titles, with leagues for each one. The problem for chess is defining professionalism. Right now most players with the Grandmaster title consider themselves professional, while the reality maybe the top 50. This is where I see the PCA getting involved, by actually awarding a professional title to a few chess players a year based on a long tournament qualifier and the top three after tie break games will be awarded a professional title regardless or rating or ranking.

eh. It's on ok idea, but who really cares unless we have a legitimate world championship system that concludes with a world championship MATCH.

Baby steps, RS. Baby steps.

Overall good news.

I don't like this idea of forcing the top players to enter all or none. I especially think it is unfair differentiating the top 4 players in this way - so the world no 4 has the choice of all or none, whereas the world no 5 can pick and choose? It doesn't seem a stretch to imagine circumstances where the world no 4 might be tempted to drop a couple of rating points ....

Sounds like a very bad implementation of actually good idea, completely ignorant of players' and spectators' interests. Maybe it is financially attractive for the founders, who knows?

Forcing World Top 4 playing in all the events clearly fails due to the reasons listed by Mark Crowther, I have nothing to add.

Mentioning 'Internet piracy' is a really bad way of launching a new project by yelling at 100% of chess community 'You are criminals!'

Including Bilbao into the GS list for virtually nothing (ever heard of Bilbao Supertournament?) contradicts the idea of a Grand Slam. In tennis, you do not include the tournament into GS for promises. Even more, tennis GS rules would disqualify Sofia, because Sofia did not run sufficiently long.

If everything works, we'll have 14 privileged, ok, 10 privileged players selected by unknown criteria. Was there a qualification announced, like GMA used to have? So we'll probably see all Topalov's helpers plus a number of Spanish players with inevitable Vallejo fighting for the pot. Sounds unfair to the others...

Overall, a very raw project lacking everything but ambition.

Of course you're right, Mig, that trying to enforce copyright protection on chess moves is not going to go anywhere.

Now, of course, what they COULD try is to approach the thing from a licensure angle. For example, suppose that when you log on to the tournament site to follow the game, you are asked to click "yes" to agree that the game is the intellectual property of the organizers, that you will not re-transmit the moves, and that if you do you will have to pay some huge fee or penalty. They could also send word to other servers explaining that they were doing this and that anyone broadcasting the moves on their server is doing so in violation of their own site's user agreement.

This, it seems to me, would be legally enforceable at least in theory, and would give the organizers an angle to proceed in civil court against rebroadcasters. Note that this is different from the copyright angle. The point is not that the move belongs to the organizer in the copyright sense. It is that if you get the information from the organizers' site under a particular contractual arrangement, your agreement not to rebroadcast the moves is binding on you.

Actually, I think it would be very interesting to at least experiment with some kind of arrangement work whereby the organizers get some kind of compensation from the viewers, directly or indirectly (the big servers could pay the organizers, and users of the big servers could pay an additional fee). However, nobody ever thinks it out this far, and they probably won't do it this time either, which means that we will all get to view the games for free as always.

I agree with zigomar about qualifying events.

If these events will have a combination of the same 10 or 12 players in each event, then chess at-large will not benefit a great deal. Frankly, I'm tired of games between the same handful of players. I reminded me of the U.S. Championships which had practically the same dozen players for about a decade. I hope they come up with innovative ideas.


Yes I should have explained myself better.

even though it is a swiss. they world open still has an open section. My intention would be to limit the participants to some high elo level. Certainly only GM's and maybe the 2600 level or 2650 level.

then all qualifying GM's can get into the swiss if they so choose. The trick is to decide how many players you want. say maximum of 64. and then you could open the field to the top 100 players and pretty much figure only 64 will show up. or make a rule that only the top 64 of those signing up will be accepted.

How many tennis players show up for each of the Grand Slam tournaments. Probably 64. But I am not a big tennis fan so I am not sure. Like tennis but do not follow it like I do chess.

I strongly agree that you must keep out all low rated players. it must be only the really strong players.

I like King Arthur's idea of 4 different tournaments. horse racing has 3 different races. each one a little longer. 4 identical tournaments is likely to get very boring all too quickly. it also loses the uniqueness of each tournament. the tennis grand slam has different playing conditions. I know some tennis is on clay and some on grass. dont know if both are in the grand slam of tennis. someone here should know.

Overall the Grand Slam idea is great. Just have to get it set up as well as possible so it really helps to popularize chess.

Sorry if I missed something. Is it possible to find any press-release available? About Bilbao included. All this sounds a bit strange: two events in Spain. But since Anand and Topalov are living there, well...

Rebroadcasting. Just a simple question: if the official event sites would allow people to enter into theie live games zones only after visitors are asked not to provide moves to any third parties (until the game finishes) and answer "yes". Would it not be enough? Would the big playzone sites make their own broadcast under such circumstances as well?

One sponsor with whom I spoke looked crazy after I told him that his (hypothetic) live coverage can not be protected...
I really hope that some solution can be found sooner or later: it hardly normal that the organiser can not control the coverage of his own event, and that other sites can use the official coverage to their benefit.


Two points about your points:

"The instant a move is transmitted online it becomes a fact, news that can be relayed and reproduced anywhere just like the score of a basketball game (which is where this went to court in the US years ago)."

a) surely, the chess move has no comparability to a basketball score? In chess, the sequence of moves is the entire intellectual content of the game. Just as your sequence of words makes you a writer with something to protect.

b) don't think (purported) US policy establishes a global common standard. Intellectual property law is very different in different countries.

I like the present system in chess(we all get everything free), but it is potentially very complicated.

Mikhail and fff, the problem is that by legally protecting the game scores (let's think it is possible, even if in Bulgaria alone) the organizers will just greatly cut interest to their events. I am comfortable with the ICC and highly uncomfortable with 99% of the viewers used by tournaments site (even when they don't crash), so I'll just wait until the games released in a proper format.

fff and other people concerned, there was a lawsuit by GM Sveshnikov against Chess Assistant. Sveshnikov, who is known for his struggle against publishing game scores for free, demanded his games or his name removed from CA databases. He lost the case. At least in Russia plain game scores are not subject to copyright. What can be protected is commentary, so I totally agree that charging for unique content (like Yaz's brilliant comments on CB) is acceptable.

This debate about preserving intellectual property rights in the moves is as old as Lasker at least, of course; his idea was the masters themselves should retain the rights.

It is a little hard for non-intellectual-property lawyers to perceive why it should be possible to retain exclusivity on the live video feed of the event and not in the moves, although to the only one I’ve tried it out on the point was immediately obvious. I understand that the moves are a fact and therefore can’t be protected; what I’m less sure about is why the same isn’t true of someone kicking a football. I suppose it’s the film itself you can’t copy, somehow.

I’m a bit surprised sponsors care though. I would have thought what they wanted most was maximum interest in the event, and that means more people following it, rather than trying to sell it pay-per-view or whatever – surely that can never be more than a tiny trickle of income?

I also wonder at the notion of a dress code: I would have thought it was obvious that in a competitive activity you should be able to play wearing something comfortable, and that means anything but a suit. Personally if I had to play wearing a tie I simply wouldn’t play, but of course no-one’s paying me. Again I am rather surprised sponsors care; although in bridge some events demand evening dress in the evening session, those are always the sort of pro-celebrity fun events rather than serious events. (and in fact serious events have no live spectators anyway; it’s all via commentated screens or the internet).

Of course anything which may strengthen chess commercially and preferably weaken the lunatics who presently run FIDE is good, but one does feel there are some fairly bonkers elements to this agreement, at any rate as Mig reports it. Still, as someone said, Vallejo must be pleased.

How do you FORCE someone to play in all 4 events? What if Kramnik plays in a few and then says "forget it" -- what could they really do.

Even a pre-series contract surely would have acceptable "out" clauses for health and other dire circumstances that are subjective.

Chess is hard to compare directly to other sports, arts, and disciplines. I could see chess puzzle composers having a shot at copyrighting their compositions. But players are engaged in a sporting contest and the score is simply a record of that contest. That chess can be so easily recorded and transmitted doesn't mean it will receive greater protection than other sports. As I said, you can get a lawyer to do anything, and every country and every court is different, but everything we've seen so far says it's not going to hold up and we need to move on. Most of us have done so already. People need to accept that the moves are just a basic minimal service and move on to multimedia and other rich offerings.

Trying to hold every individual who visits a broadcast site responsible with a restrictive EULA is another fool's game. If someone is sending me the moves via IM and I'm entering them into another server, then what? It's not necessary to prove I'm doing that, only that it's possible. If the content itself cannot benefit from copyright protection trying to limit the distribution is hopeless. You would have to go after the server people to turn in the individuals who are sending them the moves, which of course can be done anonymously.

Things like dress codes and having the top players play in a calendar of top events are just the minimum. We can remain a loose confederation of independent operators who all scrape along or we can try some solidarity with the goal of greater mutual success. That may mean acting like a professional before being treated like one. It may mean doing what's better for everyone in the long run. It all comes down to whether or not chess is going to be a professional sport or not. If everyone does as they please with no order or structure, the answer is clear.

As for how, it's about whether not the sport and organization have the power or the individual players. If the top tournaments say "all or none" they are going to go for all. They might not like it, but the tournament organizers have the right to organize and protect their interests. Again, professional and organized or amateur and individual? Professional athletes in every sport have injuries and such. But they also understand that if the coach (and owners and those who run other teams) think they are dogging it when they aren't really ill, they won't survive long.

Mig, I disagree.
I am sure that most of the top GMs will be dissatisfied with "all or none" format.
This will make them play in other tournaments, not even if those are not so prestigious like Linares or Corus. One or two of those tournaments will become a super-tournament after some very limited time, say a year or two. And the others will play it too, and Linares and Corus will just lose their actuallness. All the chess fans need is a tournament where players like Anand, Topalov, Aronian, Kramnik etc. play. No one cares whether it is named "Linares" or "Bora-Bora".

Necessary for a chess competition are sponsors, organizers, and players. So far the "Chess Grand Slam" has neither sponsors nor players.

I've never been very clear where new ideas start in chess anyhow.

Every chess player follows in the footsteps of his predecessors. Improvements can be found on previous games. These can be intellectual non-events such as just centralising a piece instead of perhaps dropping a piece in a previous game, they can be found by Fritz, they can have been found by someone else and played by you.

Many games contain little or anything that is new. To state creative title is a little hard to justify.

Probably the most creative thing the very top players do is not their choice of moves in any specific game but their whole choice of openings and how they fit together. Kasparov I believe used to traul through as many games as he could get his hands on. A novelty played in a blitz game by a no-one which is misplayed is not that same move played by Kasparov with a whole different idea in mind.

If you claim creative title, then perhaps you can claim money from fellow professionals if they repeat the idea. Its simly never going to work.

On the subject of players in these events. Players will sign up for a series of events if they think its in their best interests.

At the moment the order of events you want to play in probably goes Wijk aan Zee, Mtel and then Linares (mostly because of the near clash with the extremely lucrative Amber tournament). You wouldn't want to sign up for an as yet unorganised event far too many players have been stung by this in the past. There is also always going to be a conflict of interest if this is to be a true series as in the case of MTel and Dortmund where they're organised at least in part by managers of the leading players.

However from the tournaments point of view including some not yet included they do need some protection from random calendar interference and some sort of chance of getting the best players to play.

I'm certainly interested in seeing a more concrete expression as to their plans.

Re Misha

We should not forget that for sponors it may look natural that coverage is provided at the official site only. Chess is losing some sponors (well: possibly not too many) because of this problem.

About commentary: people wants to watch games, first of all, as I guess, while comments have only a secondary importance (unless someone like Kasparov or Lennox Lewis would perform the commentator's duties)

ICC and Playchess are extremely nice sites (we may wish to see games of all world events at either of them: a double-communism), but, if speak about concrete events, then interests of sponsors should have priority, as I feel.

I should have registered chessshouldbeliketennis.com years ago, since I've been preaching that gospel for a while now and it makes perfect sense.

even perfectly implemented, the chess world championship would be just about obsolete.

four majors a year. nobody sits on their novelties. desperate, fighting chess, and a chance for anyone in the second tier to get hot and maybe win one.

this is how it needs to be. really, what is lost if we scrap the "world championship"? just a lot of arguments, as far as I can see.

Why not scrap chess altogether and save even more arguments?

If chess should be like tennis, then you're in favor of 3 or 5 game KO matches?

For those interested:

This is the judgs' ruling in the NBA vs Motorola case, where Motorola was reporting midgame scores on its SportsTrax pager service.

It lays out in detail how copyright vs "hot news" comes into play.


Although some like to argue that chess is more like music composition, there are two issues of that with regard to US copyright law.

First, US law is specific about what CAN be copyrighted, not what can't. So if you don't fall into one of the existing categories, you're not copyrighted.

Second, whenever there is an adversarial nature to an event, courts have ruled that its activities are matters of fact, not creation. That is, the two players are not together cooperating to produce a creative result. Each is trying to "trip up" the plans of the other. Each is trying to surprise the other to some extent. So this is why a tournament game is more like a sporting event than, say, a staged play.

A photograph, audio, or video of a sporting event is protected under US copyright law for the simplest of all possible reasons: a law was written specifically to say it is. (This is discussed in the motorola case.)

Sponsors don't care whether an official site/broadcast is the exclusive source of the facts of the event, because for the most part, it can't be, at least in the US.

Sponsors want one of three things when they agree to sponsor an event:

1. Access to the audience for that specific event
2. Legitimacy with the hardcore fans of that activity
3. Association with the image of that event when they advertise to their own established market.

#3 is what most sports sponsors are looking for when they sponsor nonmajor sports. The classic example is the Wheaties box. Sports heroes were put on the front of a Wheaties box because it presented the right image to the Moms who bought the cereal for their kids. It implied that Wheaties would make the child heathly and strong, and added an element of excitement to what was a pretty plain cereal. It didn't matter whwether the kids knew the rules of the sport or had ever seen the athlete perform. It was enough to know that that particular person was great at that sport.

Ar Mark points out, there are all kinds of scheduling reasons why true pro players might like an established circuit. And as Mig has mentioned, all sports that have established circuits, like golf and tennis, have reasonable accommodations for things like illness, family emergencies, etc. All this stuff is in the detalis of the contracts.

I have suggested previously that advertisers already see a value in using chess as an image, for everything from local car dealers to multinational insurance companies. (You can tell this is so just by counting the number of advertisements in a given time period that have chess images in them.) "Make the right move" as a slogan is often accompanied with a chess picture. Chess symbolizes the use of intelligence under pressure, and that's a good image whether you know the rules of the game or not.

What advertisers have NOT had is any way of telling who the top players are, what their own images are, and how to reach them. There can be a use in advertising for "the bad boy" (think John McEnroe) or "the sweetheart." And every other type of sports personality. But the image needs to be consistent and it needs to be understandable to that sports' fans.

Chess has failed to tell our own stories clearly enough to provide a commercial value to sponsors in using specifics rather than generics in their advertisements.

I believe that a straightforward, simple circuit of a small group of top players promoted in a way that lets both real time audiences and long term sponsors understand the "playing personalities" of each would be quite attractive to sponsors over time.

Such a circuit doesn't have to solve all the problems of chess at all levels. If it does nothing more than make more money for those tournament organizers and those players, it's going to be a success. If it needs to grow, it will.

If not, others can produce a competing or complementary business model.


p.s. The biggest advantage to a league of having a dress code that includes a league logo is then the league can control the licensing of the use of that image. For example, if you want a picture of a particular player in basketball uniform, the league is going to get some money out of that. Sure, you can use him wearing something else--but there will be more value to sponsors in the uniform image.

One more thought: "a common format" does not have to mean an identical format.

Here's an example of some of the commonalities that tennis imposes:


For example, there's a rule stating the minimum height of the ceiling for an indoor match. But once you meet the minimum, variation is allowed.

I don't know what the chess Grand Slam is intending. I'm just saying I wouldn't read too much into the phrase "common format" until more details are available.


no, Parsnips, and I don't advocate they replace the queens with fuzzy yellow balls either. DRR of course, like Linares and the other big tourneys. Don't be a troll.

Mig, I think the EULA road has more potential than you apparently do. I agree there are ways to cheat, but there are ways to catch people who cheat. Suppose you needed to download some spyware thing to access the site, which would then snitch on you if you are uploading the moves elsewhere? Suppose they introduce variation into the timing of the moves being transmitted to you, or even a fake move from time to time?

But, even more importantly, once the EULA concept was out there, would ICC or Playchess actually go on rebroadcasting the moves? At present, they do, despite claims of "piracy", because they and their users and the community to which they respond all know (or believe) that the moves can't really be copyrighted, and so it isn't piracy at all. But suppose that everyone knew that the only way that ICC or Playchess could be rebroadcasting the moves would be if someone were breaching their EULA and sending the moves to them? Would it be as easy, as routine, for them to do it? Wouldn't people start to criticize them? Mightn't they actually decide that they should pay the organizers "some money" for the rights to rebroadcast? I think it'd be an interesting try.


I have read most of the comments and I consider this is not going to work well ... ALTHOUGH I HAVE NO BETTER IDEAS, I admit it to make it clear. Of course, the Bilbao thing seems ridiculous to me ... unless the people there put money, something that Chess lack (is is acceptable to count money as the only reason to accept this idea?)

I believe there is a lot of emphasis in the top players, but if they try to imitate something like tennis, the most important missing point is: The biggest problem in chess is that the average titled player, namely a "non super GM" has few possibilities to make a living from chess. And even is is difficult to top GMs to play in supertournaments because of the limited spots, so, corporate dialogue should be invested in make chess more open to people, not to give a better life (considering the proportions, of course) to the few players that already can live from chess.

So, in my opinion the idea is ill conceived and I agree with some people who has commented the idea of doing and consolidate open tournaments (like Aeroflot, for example). This is where chess money should go...

In tennis vocabulary, invitational tournaments like Linares, Sofia, Corus (Corus is the "more open of the three) or Dortmund are kind of "Masters" in tennis... Not the gran slams.


I don't see any harm in someone trying a EULA idea if they want to, I just think practically speaking it won't get very far. All you have to do is have about 15 people sign on at different Internet cafes, and someone who hasn't signed the EULA will be able to see the moves and there won't be any legal liability.

To a different point, I've been surprised at the negative comments about Bilbao. This is a city that has hosted a multi-day top grandmaster event for two years, participants including Topalov, Ponomariov, Khalifman, Kasimdhzanov, Karjakin...Ponomariov went twice, so the conditions must be OK.

Yes, it's been a novelty format. But they obviously know how to treat top GMs and provide coverage of games.

It may well be that they themselves feel the Man/Machine format is a bit played out, wanted to get on the calendar as a regular event, and that's part of what kicked off all the discussions.

But I think they have considerably more credibility than many organizers who just have a good idea. Granted, of course, someone like Dortmund comes to mind more quickly. But one of the things that the tennis tour has done is give new tournaments a chance to join by meeting the necessary requirements for scheduling and conditions.


Actually the Bilbao event web coverage has been miserable except for the fact ChessBase is usually present. Their official sites have been very poor, if average by Spanish chess website standards. No bandwidth, slow to update, etc. Not that the Linares sites have been good.

I think this whole idea is ridiculous. There is nothing wrong with attributing the title of Grand Slam to the four most prestigious tournaments in the world (like the tennis grand slam and the golf majors), but forming them into a kind of a grand prix circuit would impose too many restrictions on players and organizers.

In that case it would be better to go back to the world cup cycle that the GMA used to organize during the eighties. In fact, such a world cup cycle in addition to the traditional super tournaments could add a number of prestigious tournaments to the calendar. It could actually move new organizers, who want to do a super tournament, but are not interested in establishing a yearly tradition, into action. The idea of a world cup cycle would give them the necessary publicity.

The Corus Website has a commentary column by Gert Ligterink in Dutch which kind of puts cold water on a lot of things.


A Babel fish translation gives this as the final para:

"Provisionally I wait. Corus-toernooidirecteur Jeroen of pine mount insured that definite appointments still no me have been made. The committee stands plan kind compared with the Grand Slam, but it is on its hoede. It will never permit that it is fiddled to the autonomy of the tournament. I had not differently expected."

which whilst not perfect seems to pour cold water on some of the things we've been speculating about.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on September 9, 2006 9:48 AM.

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