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Anand on Topalov-Kramnik

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Always the most circumspect of Grandmasters, India's Vishy Anand, the world #2, rarely has much to say on the sordid world of chess politics. Over the years this has earned him both praise for staying above the muck and criticism for not being more of an activist or taking a stand. So while it really only states the obvious, it's a little surprising to see him comment on the state of the match in Elista. John Cox sent in a link to this item in The Hindu. Excerpt:

The World Championship fiasco has not gone down too well with the 36-year-old (Veselin Topolov accused Vladimir Kramnik of taking too many bathroom breaks, suggesting that he was cheating). "It's great entertainment, no doubt. But there is no place for such things in sport. He (Kramnik) was accused not of something he actually did, but something he could have done, and losing a game was extremely unfair to Kramnik. To say that it could have been handled better would actually be putting it mildly. The event is tainted now," he said.

On the future of re-unification, he added that the validity of the event was in doubt now. "The Mexico Championship will be the legitimate World championship. Most of the top players play there," he said, adding that the hunger to win the World Championship had barely diminished. "It's very much there."

This highlights what was a flaw in organization before the crisis and is now a serious annoyance. As it stands now, only one of the two Elista match players will be in Mexico City. The winner goes, the loser is shut out of the system for years. Dumb. I'll mention yet again that I've heard FIDE will try very hard to get Topalov into Mexico even if he loses. (They would love to have him, so it's more a matter of getting it by the other players. But they never seem to care much.) Speaking of that eventuality, the Elista match isn't 100% tainted. If Kramnik wins the controvery dies on the spot -- unless Stopwatch Danailov has some actual, y'know, proof of misconduct. Which he doesn't or he'd have used it instead of talking about toilets and Fritz.

If Topalov wins, or if it finishes 6-6, the controversy is already in place. Not the psychological warfare, which is hardly new, but the forfeited point. Regardless if where you stand in the should-he-or-shouldn't-he about Kramnik not showing up for game five, it provides an automatic avenue of protest for him (and many others) not to recognize the loss of his classical title. In other words, no unification. Not that it's all wine and roses should Kramnik win. BladderGate dies, but his manager Hensel's interview in the last 64 strongly implied that Kramnik doesn't accept the validity of Mexico City as a world championship. Sigh.

[Added] I'm a match guy to the death, but why dis the Mexico event (and its sponsors and organizers) without any constructive suggestions? If Kramnik becomes FIDE champion and wants to work to change things from the inside, great. But managerial whisper campaigns to prepare the ground for future schism plotting are low.


Others have already pointed out, that, even if Topalov wins the last two games, he has 6 over-the-board points, i.e. less than the 6.5 points required for a win. Topalov can no longer win the match over the board as far as classical time control is concerned.

But why "sigh"? FIDE was about to kill the match tradition anyway. I for my part would rejoice if Kramnik succeeds in keeping the match tradition alive. And if that happens outside FIDE, so be it.

Yea, why the sign, Mig?

I agree with zero. IF Kramnik keeps the match tradition alive by refusing to unify, more power to him. FIDE has proved its complete incompetency once again in this ongoing match in Elista and perhaps Kramnik realised that it is a huge mistake to give the classical title back into the hands of such a sorrupt organization.

A lot of people looked forward to unification, but I prefer no unification to unification scenario where World championship match tradition is dead. I thought you were a big match/classical fan too, Mig.

I've never heard of a system where the loser in the championship match is excluded from the next cycle. Stupid. How did they ever come up with that idea?

Was there some political reason? Or, are they just trying to do everything wrong? Time control too fast, matches too short, qualification system designed for "excitement" rather than doing it right. Trying too hard to be modern?

True, but I wasn't thinking about it that way. I was just hoping for some sort of clear resolution here so we could consolidate and move forward. Kramnik holding sporadic matches without comprehensive qualifiers was killing the classical title and was a dead end. I'm hoping a professional movement in FIDE, perhaps by Kok, might lead to restoring match play. Having Kramnik working on this from the inside wouldn't be a bad thing. He wasn't achieving much on the outside, as he surely realized. And even if Topalov won and FIDE continued with tournaments, etc., a unified title had/has the potential to bring back big-time events and sponsorship. The way things were we were fighting over nickels and dimes.

Of course it's also worth fighting about purely chess issues like match vs tournament. But having two lesser evils was hurting us and getting worse.

I'm also worried at the thought of a Kramnik FIDE champion giving the Mexico City sponsors and organizers a push off the cliff by invalidating their event. I'd like to see something more constructive, like, "this is what we've got and it's the best we've seen in a while, but I'm going to work to change it because I believe in these principles."

This system does not have a cycle.

Good, good series of punches by Anand. Saying Kramnik was accused not of doing something but of being able to do something. Saying losing a game was extremely unfair. Saying the match is now tainted. All true.

And then, sadly, like often, Vishy ruins it all by saying Mexico tournament is the legitimate world championship. Yeah, winning a little round-robin every couple of years is the same as the kind of mental slugfest we are watching right now, isn't it? Never more so than now when we are watching two great players take on each other in a classic battle are we reminded how every little joke of a championship we saw in the past eight years from Kirsan pales in comparison. And now, Khalifman vs Ponomariov, for the world title. Excuse me while I barf.

how about the winner of mexico city versus kramnik for the title? i don't like the idea of a round robin, because FIDE tend to throw in some weaker players (like Polgar), who tends to feed the more aggressive players. because at this level, even a Top 10 player can become a "feeder". Determining the challenger via a top level tournament sounds good to me, but not the champion.

Mig, holding sporadic matches without qualifiers was the way World chess championships functioned for 50 years before World War 2. Not that there weren't problems with that kind of system, but still, it worked.

Do you really think Kramnik could work with FIDE and change the system from the inside? Are you ready to sacrifice 120 years of chess World championship tradition for a prospect of Kramnik convincing the corrupt FIDE that match tradition is indeed something worth keeping? I am not sure Kramnik would even bother trying to convince FIDE beuracrats. And how much influence would Kramnik really have on FIDE decisions? I would say, next to nothing. Because - how good are Kramnik's chances of winning, say, the tournament in Mexico? Even if he goes back to 2800 level (like he seems to this year), he probably won't have more than 40% chance of winning the tournament. So in a year (or whenever the Mexico tourney "WC" will take place), Kramnik is likely to lose his title. The very reason Kirsan wants to devalue the World champion title is so that World champion's don't get in the way of his tyrannical rule. So a year later (or 2 years later, of whenever KRamnik will lose the title in a tourney), how much influence will he really have over FIDE policies? Next to nothing. And how much interest will FIDE have in restoring the match system of old - the system that gives so much influence and power to the champion? Not much at all. So if unification will indeed happen, it will mean a quick death of the classical/match World championship tradition and there will be very little hope of reviving it in the forseeable future.

You say how it was bad to have two lesser evils. I don't know if I agree. I for one, agree with a view expressed in one of the Russian chess forums. There is this joke in Russian schools about the main law of organic chemistry - that if you mix a kilogram of jam and a kilogram of dung (to put it politely), you get two kilograms of dung. So, I don't know about you, Mig, but I am afraid that unification will be a lot like mixing a kilo of Kramnik's jam and a kilo of Kirsan's dung.

You seem to be under the impression that what Kramnik has been doing for the past few years is great. A cycle and a fair shot aren't things to throw away for the sake of having a match instead of a tournament. Regular, predictable, scheduled, and sponsored cycle and title events are also essential for a professional world. Having such things, with huge prize funds and world news coverage, was too long ago for many fans today. That's the bigger picture, where we might be able to go if things go well. The "it will probably get worse" attitude is self-fulfilling.

As much as I love the match tradition, as things were going, starting in 1996, say, it was falling apart. If it's a choice between a haphazard pseudo-qualifier (Dortmund 2002) with matches scheduled for 'whenever' and a regularly scheduled broad zonal-interzonal cycle with sponsorship for a tournament final, I'd have to go for the latter. It provides hope for professional chess. It shares the wealth, it builds the game.

Of course for the past years we haven't had that, either. London 2000 was a mess but FIDE was worse, so went the logic. And even now FIDE has dropped the ball on the candidates matches. I suppose I'll just say that right now I think FIDE has a better chance of putting together a reasonable cycle and championship than Kramnik does.

I'd say, right now it makes sense from every standpoint to include the loser of the Topalov - Kramnik match into the Mexico tournament and then have the winner of the tournament play a match against the current world champion for the title. This would solve the problem of the disgruntled loser (whoever it will be) as well as keep up with the match tradition.

Please don't use the comments of new items to continue old, completely off-topic discussions. These hijacks are really annoying and I'm going to start deleting them. Keep them where they were, please. If there's something you want to bring to my attention, email is fine.

Mig: I guess we disagree, then. I prefer matches even without qualifiers like Dortmund. Handpicking is fine as long as a worthy challenger is handpicked (like Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine or Kramnik). What is the point of having huge and regular cycles if you will screw them up by having a champion decided in a tournament? I am saying "screw them up" because the tournament doesn't really prove anything. A tournament is very random and can be won by beating up the people at the bottom of the crosstable even if you don't do so well against the better players. Has Topalov proven he is a better player than Anand in San Luis? I don't think so. For all we know, Anand would beat him in a match.

A tournament, even a supertournament, can be won by a guy like Naidich. In the match, on the other hand, you have to play the best of the best - day after day after day.

Dear Mig,

I read your last comment and given the amount of opinions, I just post here that I disagree with some of your points about the impartiality of the media in the issue of the Match Topalov-Kramnik. Given that you are a smart person, I guess may call Topalov ridiculous for blaming a website, but the reasons you gave are entirely wrong.

For example, reading today in Chessbase when they quote: "Spassky made it unequivocally clear that his support is with Kramnik, and that he doesn't consider Topalov's actions to be proper.", without any quotation of Spassky (hope he gets better and recovers as soon a possible), they are just putting an opinion without any references to support it, especially the sentence "made it unequivocally clear". Why the "unequivocally" word come from? Do they need to emphasize so much that Spassky favours Kramnik, because the way Spassky said it is not clear enough? They didn;t even put Spassky words!!!

By the way, the publish Kramnik interview after victory in game 10, but not Topalov interview after victory in game 9...

Even if I disagree what Mr. Danailov does and the way this match became a war between two opposite versions of what happening ...

- Opinion of people depends strongly on the version of the news they read ... we made an opinion based in what we believe is the truth or what we already know.

- The location of the match makes chess fans dependent on the chess websites to have an iea what happens.

- So, the way news are presented make a big influence in the opinion that chess fans and grandmasters have.

- In order to avoid a manipulation of opinion from media, they should be responsible on the way they document things and impartial as much as possible, especially with such a high power media has.

- The reason I like this blog is because even if we have to tolerate Mig's version/opinion, there is a nice space of expression and Mig has designed a wonderful site.

- Unfortunately, Chessbase has been completely irresponsible in the way they document news and have made coverage of the event... Despite, the excesive flavor of commercialization towards Fritz 9 ... when you read a kibitzer here mentioning the sentence "fritzy moves", we know the power of Chessbase.


I really like for example Mark's work in TWIC, the site is the most complete in terms of games and calendar of tournaments. Of course, what TWIC lacks is the part of showing articles and interviews ... that is the reason we cannot avoid Chessbase ... it is a shame.


Mexico City? What is the difference between this and San Luis? What a mess!!

People criticized Topalov saying that despite winning San Luis, he didn't won his title in the "classical way" like Kramnik did, so we needed this match. Now people are saying that in Mexico city the champion will be decided? Ego, Ego, Ego...

I wonder if we really need to call someone "world champion", this is not precisely what chess need. I guess they are following boxing steps...

- You argue that a website would publish

I agree with some of what is said, but I think that his comment about the real champion being decided in Mexico is more than a little self-serving. There will certainly be controversy if Topalov wins, but a clean win by Kramnik (even if he wins the playoff) indicates that he is the deserving champion.

IMO, the winner of Mexico should play the winner of this match to determine the true champion.

Thanks Mig for the coverage and the space and, yes, I got pretty sad to see how Chessbase took advantage of the sickness of a wonderful person (and unassuming, very discrete with press - only Anand represents this tendence now among current top players-), to put more fire in opinions favouring Kramnik ... not because Kramnik would be or not favoured, just because they took advantage of a person who is recovering from a stroke ... pretty low.

Hopefully Spassky gets better and Anand, I hope to see more exciting chess from you. Even if Anand does not correspond to the model of a world champion, what a extraorinary player he is!!

Pacual and others, why are you hijacking this thread to talk about ChessBase and media coverage? Is it so hard to figure out? Some of the people here want to have an intelligent discussion about a topic at hand, not read about whatever is on your mind about something entirely different.

Agree with Yuriy Kleiner. Too bad Anand has always taken a rather passive and ignoring stand when it comes to defending the classical world championship matches. Of course that is his right, The rest he's saying about Kramnik-Topalov is exactly to the point.

Kramnik already has secured his Classical World Champion Title thanks to the idiotic accusations of that twit Danailov and his puppet Toiletlov (too bad the boss is the puppet, but so it seems!). The only way for Elista 2006 to unify anything is Kramnik to win. And even in that case the future will be very insecure when it comes to the Title because FIDE is for the silly tournament format and Kramnik most likely - and correctly - against it.

Easiest solution (and in my mind the best) : 1)Kramnik wins Elista 2006 match, 2) FIDE holds it's silly tournament, but changes it into a Candidates tournament with the loser of Elista 2006 taking the place meant originally for the winner of the current match, 3) The winner of the candidates event meets Kramnik for the Title in 2008. Clean and simple and lots of chess to enjoy!

The alternative that I see is: 1) Topalov 'wins', 2) Kramnik brings up the dispute of game 5 and claims himself (rightly) the Classical world champion, 3) FIDE arranges its silly tournament with Topalov participating with his devalued title and Kramnik (any quite a part of the chessworld with him) laughing at the whole thing they World Championship.-> Unification down the toilet. Sad.

I agree with Mig here. Matches are great, but the most important thing in a real world championship is a legitimate qualification system. Hand-picking strong challengers is by no means an adequate alternative. It's not so much that a challenger who defeats the champ isn't worthy (he did beat the best, after all), but that many who are might be able to wrest the title never get the chance (since the hand-picked challenger never proved superiority to the rest of the field). Thus, a player who defends a crown under such a system doesn't necessarily continue to be a legitimate world champion, in my opinion.

Historically, we can see that in Steinitz' and Lasker's time, many players (Rubinstein etc.) who would have had an excellent chance to be champion under any organized qualification system instead never got the chance to play for the crown.

Perhaps FIDE should create the title of Tournament World Champion in addition to the traditional Match World Champion, thus recognizing that the best match player isn't always the best tournament player and vice versa (both require a different set of skills). In an ideal world we would see two independent qualifiction cycles (one relying on matches, obviously...), but for practical reasons a combination is also possible.

It is not the first time that Anand has expressed his view in favor of World Championship tournaments. In fact, he has been saying this for a long time. This view seems to be shared by many other top players. To create two different titles would recognize the desire of these top players while at the same time preserving the cherished tradition of World Championship matches.

Personally, it does not matter very much how the world championship is decided.

But I have to say this match system really can add to the drama. The problem is that if a person, like Kasparov, places himself above the others he can claim being the champion even though it is not officially recognized. The problem persists so long this person actually is the strongest player in the world. But you can't blame Kasparov, you can only blame the system.

But what is there to do about it? There are different kind of championships in many sports and it can of course be that we have "classical" champion as well as FIDE champion. Why not both? After all, we can have Italy as World Champion in soccer and Greece as European champion at the same time. Where do we really need unification for? There is Champions League in Football and also WC tour and qualifications for it. If somebody does not want to attend it is his problem.

Anand has been a really strong player for years and even though he is getting older, it would be fascinating to see a match between Kramnik and Anand or Anand vs. Topalov. I'm sure a lot of people would follow these matches.

And then we can always check the rating list to see which player is objectively speaking the strongest player in the world. But this so booring, it's like reading a telephone book.

Personally I think Mexico would work best as a candidates tournament in which the loser of Topalov-Kramnik would be included. The winner of Mexico could then play a world championship match vs the winner of Topalov-Kramnik for the title in 2008.

The major problem with this is that it downgrades Mexico for the organisers/sponsors there, but it would still be an important tournament so perhaps this could be managed (probably with a lower prize fund as a result). Perhaps Mexico could be given first refusal on the 2008 title match.

Candidates matches seem problematic at present for sponsorship reasons, so I think the best idea going forward into future cycles would be:

- the loser of the 2008 title match and the runner-up in Mexico get automatic seeding into the next 8 player double round robin candidates tournament

- the next World Cup KO event produces the other six candidates (as well as being a significant event to win in itself)

This could operate on either a 2 or 3 year cycle going forward. Ad hoc matches of the Topalov-Radjabov kind should not be for the title.

Of course none of this works longer term without professional organisation and a business-like approach to potential corporate sponsors.

Of course I'm accutely aware that ChessBase is getting a lot more material up on the match than TWIC is. I have always taken the attitude that material on other people's websites are theirs unless I'm invited to use it. That's photos and interviews and so forth.

I'm not at all clear whether I'm allowed to reproduce the press conferences or photographs from the official site. Its something I'm definitely going to have to look into in the future (its a bit late now). In this case Misha Savinov seems to work for both FIDE and ChessBase so of course they can publish what they like.

In general ChessBase also are bolder in taking material from elsewhere (Russian interviews, PGN files I've worked on etc) it may be that they have better contacts than me or that they assess that people don't mind. You'd have to ask them.

I'm pretty happy with our coverage of the match but obviously we've been slightly hobbled in this case compared to ChessBase.

My preference:
KRamnik wins the match - justice
KRamnik drops out of Mexico
Topalov added to Mexico
KRamnik plays winner of Mexico tournament
New cycle established under KOK

Actually, I am quite happy with the coverage on TWIC. TWIC sticks to the facts and has no conflicts of interest. Chessbase is obviously biased in favor of the Western countries and proponents of the agenda of Bessel Kok / Seirawan et al. I am not too happy about the objectivity of the Chessbase news site, though I won't go so far as to call it " a shame for a developed European state like Germany."


Kramnik makes his position clear on the match. He wants game 5 still to be played.

It certainly is dumb that only one of the Elista match players will be in Mexico City. So dumb indeed that if this was innocently decided, these FIDE people need a brain transplant. I suspect, however that it could be a deliberate device to get their man Topalov in if he loses, while excluding Kramnik if he loses. If Topalov loses, they will say an 'adjustment' is needed. Getting this by the other players will not be too difficult as Kirsan is in control, and they are afraid to offend him. If Kramnik loses, they can say to him tough, this is what you signed up for.
Mig is right to be worried about the Hensel interview. Where have we heard this sort of talk from the Kramnik camp before? Having signed up to the Prague agreement in 2002, 2 years later Kramnik says he is 'not obliged to play the winner of Kasparov-Kasimdzhanov'. Watch this space.
Of course the root cause of all these problems is Ilyumzhinov's FIDE. Unless this lot can be got rid of, we are always going to have these troubles.

Chessbase’s coverage of the legal issue has been abysmal. Politically I haven’t seen any bias. I’m sure if anyone worth listening to wants to put in a word for Topalov they’ll put it up.

I suppose the reason the loser isn’t in Mexico (ha ha, of course Topalov would be if he lost and Kramnik won’t be if it’s him) is that Mexico was arranged while Kramnik was still outside the fold, is it? So that it was already full once this match was arranged, with only one place for Topalov and none for Kramnik.

It’s obvious that what ought to happen is that Mexico should be a candidates tournament and the winner should play the winner of this. I dare say the sponsors might be unhappy, though.

If Topalov wins that obviously won’t happen. If Kramnik does win he’ll have a tough decision – going to play at Mexico, which would mean the end of a proper world championship for the foreseeable future and would be a huge letdown for those of us who admire his struggle to keep it alive, - or not going, which would, or might, mean schism again.

But I dare say there’s a lot of politics to flow under the bridge before then. It may even be that Kirsan comes to his senses. This episode must have been a little bit of a jar even to him, and they do say there’ve been signs of Kok taking some kind of role, which would be a start.

Of course, if Mexico did become a Candidates Tournament, we are right back to where we were with Curacao 1962 - who wants that? A return to the quarterfinal/semifinal/final Match System is desperately required.

Migs sigh is understandable - he wants some resolution at the top of the chess world. On the other hand the world champion to be meaningful has to win his title in single combat manos a manos in am match. (I know the famous AVROS tournament was different but thereafter it was all matches)Being world champion is not necessarily the same as being the best tournament player in the world ie the highest rated player in the world. Ideally the 2 would be the same. For me the modern solution is this: an annual knockout tournament (with varied entry criteria but grading playing a big role) determining the challenger for a relatively a relatively short match 12 games. The challenger must take the title ie win the match no rapid finish - its too important for that. this should give a world title match every 12 - 18 months. we are not so from that the biggest obstacle is Kirsan - you gotta go pal. He has made all the critical bad decision in this match (closing the toilets, forfeiting the game insisting on continuation with the forfeit). Anyone who thinks otherwise is being very very naive. All the relevant guys did as they were told he has got the money he calls the shots - nothing repeat nothing happens without his ok. Toppy panicked ang got silly it needed a mature person to tell him to sit down and get on with the chess. Remember Spassky korchnoi match? Spassky spent all I mean all his time away from the borad playing from the demo board relly disturbing korch but he got on with it and did the bus and won the match. Kram is a winner whatever happens here on in. Enjoy!

I agree with everything Adrian said.

If you don't give everyone a chance to play, how can you call it a world championship? Any format which invloves handpicking is nonsense.

Please, please, no more knockout tournaments.
Seed the top 4 players (including the World Champion) into quarterfinal matches. The other 4 places to be decided from a 16 player Candidates Tournament. Seed 12 players into the Candidates Tournament, the other 4 to be decided from an Interzonal. Surely that's gotta be good.

Mig's sigh is understandable. He wants unification AND he is working for the Mexico event...

I for one would see as an ideal scenario: 1) Kramnik wins (and in fact retains his title); 2) Mexico becomes a qualifying tournament for a WC match against Kramnik (guaranteed under FIDE, i.e. the titleholder having a contractual obligation to play it or forfeit it Fischer-like)
3) the match tradition to decide who is the world champion is upheld.

This scenario is, in a way, a compromise between tradition (matches) and modernity (no more candidates, because they cost to much, are hard to organize, etc.). We could easily have a two- or three-year cycle this way. Especially if it is organized by professionals, like Kok... and Mig! ;-)

And Hensel's letter (cited by Mark Crowther above; see, I'm not off-topic) is a surprise to me in the sense that he says "Vladimir Kramnik will be playing this match, including a possible tiebreak, up to the last move under protest." I assumed (making an ass of u and me, as the saying goes!...) that he would not play the tiebreaks until Game 5 was replayed. But, in fact, his position makes sense (he could win the tiebreaks) without injuring his legal rights. However, if Topa wins the tiebreak, we are in for a never-ending mess...

When we had legitimate attempt at unification in the Prague accords, there was lots of difficulty in finding sponsors for the semifinals. Some of this due to lack of sponsors, some due to bad organizers. When there were attempts at championship by Kirsan starting at Khalifman and ending in Kazimdzhanov, all championships not much respected or viewed as very legitimate, sponsorship was found every time.

The success or lack of success in finding a sponsor for chess championship seems to depend on looking hard enough at the right time, I am not sure the sponsors care what they are hosting, just how much money they are spending.

There is a term known as "money mark". It is often used to refer to finding a large financial source who is stupid enough to put money into an upstart company because he likes the product enough--not because he hopes to turn a profit. Such a mark can be bled repeatedly (or at least a couple of times) for financing as long as he is willing. Chess sponsorship depends more than anything on being able to find money marks and getting them interested in chess. I doubt they care if they host 12-game matches or round-robin tournaments.

No Anand, No NO NO.
This "a tournament decides the World Champion" nonsense needs to stop. Knock the King of the Hill off the top and seize the sceptre, that's how it's done. A tournament has too much of a random outcome factor. One player might play horribly against you one round, giving you an easy win, and then play the game of their life the next round against someone else, and now that "someone else" who is your precise equal in strength won't win the tournament. It's not, and never has been, a way to decide World Champion.

Anand must be with Topalov in the nonsensical Zukertort School. Look, I love Zukertort (more than Stenitz even!!), but he wasn't World Champion, and he has no prestigious line of royalty to join. The House of Steinitz is the ruling family. Anand should know better. In chess, if in nothing else, it's good to be a Royalist.

Why should the Mexican organisers ever agree that their event will be downgraded to a mere qualifier?

Why should the Mexican organisers ever agree that their event will be downgraded to a mere qualifier?

Um, because an undisputed qualifier is better than a disputed championship that nobody takes seriously?

Graeme, don't be naive.

Try to sell to the Mexicans the "qualifier concept" and if they agree I will pass 100 bucks to Mig through Paypal.

Go Joshua B Lilly! Excellently put.

Blimey, we could have had Naiditsch as world champion. Or Bologan - charming fellow, but really.

Or Kasimdzhanov!

But seriously, wishing for matches we don't have doesn't mean bashing tournaments we do have. We love the traditions but we shouldn't cut off our noses about it. If there is a few million dollars in sponsorship for a tournament we have to ponder that. The KO's were silly and they also proved unmarketable. All the money had to come from Khan Kirsan. I'm still angry at FIDE for ditching the planned match at the end of the cycle. But I hold out the hope that if we get some decent sponsorship back under us and a unified title, we'll again be able to sell the big matches.

Seriously Mig, do you reckon FIDE want to "sell the big matches"? It seems clear to me that they have concluded that a proper world champion is an undesirable rival power base.

I imagine the political climate will change sharply, one way or the other, after Friday. If we have a unified champion, as you say, that's one thing. If we're mired in Lausanne, that's another.

The are only interested in money. If Kok gets in and finds a buyer for matches for a unified title they'll be telling us how they always just looooved matches.

Latest proof that Chessbase is biased against Topalov. All non-western countries should boycott Chessbase, Seirawan and Kok.


I would just wish the chess world to return to the old way. Play a cycle with zonals, interzonals, candidate matches and a world championship match.

That is how it should be.

I really am astonished that Mig would think it is fine (though he prefers matches also) to have the world title decided by a tournament. This would be no different from the Khalifmans or Ponomariovs of the world - are they real world champions? Of course not! No one cares about them as 'World Champions' and it will be the same with these tournament champions. It will be another random 'champion' each year - how pathetic.

The obvious thing to do, as several posters have pointed out is to have the cycle be to have the tournament be a qualifier that includes the loser of the last match. Thus Topalov would be in Mexico to try to qualify to play Kramnik in a match again. I think the Mexico organizers sound like reasonable people and if they were sold on it properly they would agree to have the event be a qualifier, especially if FIDE would allow Mexico to hold the match also (to make up for the change).

Don't become so infatuated with our ideas that we forget there are people out there doing real things with real money. We can be critical of them, no doubt, but there is usually a reason they are doing what they are doing. Even Ilyumzhinov, alien-abductee that he is, had what he believed were valid reasons for spending millions on knock-outs condemned by just about everyone else on every ground except the money itself.

So if tournaments like San Luis and Mexico City are saleable, and so far they seem to be, we have to acknowledge that fact and wonder why matches are not. Even Kasparov's fame and standing were hard to sell in an un-unified world. While much of this we can blame on FIDE's (Ilyumzhinov's) lack of interest in matches and unwillingness to sell them, I do think these tournaments are more attractive to many sponsors for sound reasons. The huge prize funds and the lavish attention to the Kasparov-Karpov matches had political intrigue and a strong tradition behind them. That tradition is now so tarnished it will take a strong hand to rebuild it. That has proven impossible with a fragmented title, but correlation doesn't always mean causation.

I'd rather have a unified title and a tournament than a split title and nothing. Then we can begin to rebuild the damage done by the schism and Ilyumzhinov. It doesn't mean that will happen automatically, especially with Kirsan still in charge, but it gives us a fighting chance. Obviously we need professionals in charge of professional events, too. We don't know how much of the damage was caused by the schism and weak title. Or if people putting up millions for tournaments will put up money for cycles and matches. These are questions we have to work on instead of pretending we have all the answers. There are simply too many things wrong with the patient right now. And while we are, hopefully, nursing it back to health, having well-funded and popular world championship tournaments is hardly a curse.

So let's not rush to ignore Mexico or to encourage Kramnik to hold out and create a new schism as soon as he can. Abusing sponsors is not going to help anything. We've solved one of the many major problems, unification. Now we need to work on professional management of events, especially title events. If matches are marketable, great. The sooner, the better.

Yesterday I wrote a friend:

"Can't wait for Mig's posts about how:
--Kirsan's not such a bad guy.
--a WCC tournament isn't such a bad idea after all.
--Kramnik's a jerk if he doesn't play in it."

Two down, one to go.


I wonder why you don't prevent Greg Koster from posting. I would have done so with half the provocation.


It is to Mig's eternal credit that he disdains censorship and prefers addressing feeble sallies such as mine in a patient, instructive, and mature manner.

Most commenters here don't have to make the best of anything because they don't do anything but talk. It's a luxury and I'm aware of the irrationality and absolutism it inspires. It's just as common in politics, when actual politicians have to make compromises to get anything done. Making fun of them for it is easy.

You may have noticed that this match (again, this MATCH) took place because of Ilyumzhinov. It may have happened only as part of his electioneering, but it did happen. He doesn't have to be in love with matches, and it might have just been a unification expedient, but he's about money. If matches can be profitable, he'll be into matches. "Is Kirsan a bad guy" isn't the question to ask. He is the president of FIDE and must be dealt with. We must ask "how can we make things better?" He has done many bad things and may do more. Saying "Kirsan is bad" isn't helpful. Again, most commenters aren't trying to help, of course.

Next, you can't just break everything into separate parts. It's a long haul. First we needed a unified title and now we have one. Mexico was already signed and sealed. Is it as good as a long cycle, candidates matches, and a long match? No, but we haven't had those things since 1995 and unless you've got room for them up your sleeve with all that sarcasm, we'd better take what we can get.

And what we got is a fairly decent cycle with zonals and a big candidates event. That is by far the most important element, a wide and fair shot. FIDE has bungled the next step, the candidates matches, but it does look like they will happen. All of that makes the final event, any final event, much more palatable. One of the reasons San Luis was objectionable was the use of the rating list (and an old one at that).

As for jerks, and not to dispute such a renowned expert on the topic, but I'm in the enviable/unenviable position of having to work with these people on occasion. Not as often I used to, but I try to be both professional and reasonable. An all or nothing mentality is both pointless and fruitless. It must be nice to have the luxury of absolutism anonymity (literal or practical) affords, but it wouldn't get anything done or allow me to do what I hope are good things for this community by promoting the game through my work.

So be right in a fantasy world and congratulate yourselves for spinning these flawless fantasies. The real world involves work, compromise, and incremental progress. Some people actually have to work in reality. So don't forget to spit on us whenever you have the chance. It keeps us cool.

I disagree that "a wide and fair shot is the most important thing". We know who the legitimate contenders are. Personally I don't much care whether the likes of Kasimdhzanov get a look in. What I want to see is two of the real top guys playing each other in a match every so often to find out who is truly the best. We can see who wins Linares and the rest any time we want.

However, your other points are well made.

If Kirsan doesn't stage a long match WCC, Kramnik will have to decide which is more important:
--a tournament-based "unity" or
--the match-based "classical title"

This tournament-based "unity" means
--friendly rivals colluding (e.g. Curacao 1962)
--a second-tier GM getting hot and winning the WCC.
--the new champion losing at Corus or Linares or Dortmund and immediatly losing his legitimacy
--a bottom-feeding Bent Larsen crowned
--an unbeatable Tigran Petrosian bypassed
--the end of the 120-year classical title

I hope Kirsan tops the tournament cake with a match cherry.

But if he doesn't, I hope Kramnik refuses to trade the 120-year-old classical tradition for a UNIFIED sack of beans.

Greg, some of the points you make are fine, but you are not paying attention to what Mig is saying - you have to deal in practical realities.
It is not a matter of Kramnik 'deciding'. The package that Kramnik signed up for with the Topalov match included defending the title at Mexico City. He has ALREADY signed away the classical title to the Mexico City event.
If Kramnik refuses to defend his title at Mexico City, then legally he forfeits his title, like Fischer in 1975. It is his perogative if he chooses to do this, but he cannot then go around claiming he is any sort of World Champion any more than Fischer could after 1975.
If Kramnik decides to try to create a new schism, he may find that he is not able to get matches this time around.

Chris B.

Your post states the problem precisely.

Kramnik can skip Mexico and play a long match with the best available player...Kasparov, Topalov, Anand, Ivanchuk etc. Kramnik couldn't call that match the WC Championship. And he couldn't call the winner of that match the WC Champion.

But what real value would the Mexico title have? It has nothing to do with match play. And if the winner lost the next supertournament or two, even his "world's-best-tournament-player" status would turn into soggy nachos.

From the classical perspective (that the WCC should have the best claim to beating anyone in the world in a long match):
--The Mexico winner would have the title of world champion without the reality.
--The winner of a Kramnik-Kasparov rematch, for example, would have the reality of world champion without the title.

As Mig has often pointed out, FIDE has a long track-record of folly and corruption.

Let us praise Kirsan for Kramnik-Topalov. But let's remember, as well, that it was just a handful of moves in the Game 4 tiebreaker that separated our current happy "unity" from utter chaos.

Perhaps Kasparov's greatest mistake was not that he bolted this perpetually corrupt institution. Perhaps his error was in failing to demonstrate diplomatic skills sufficient to create a new, stable, more responsible chess organization.

Let's hope that Kirsan and Kramnik can work together for a unified title worthy to take its place in the classical tradition.

But if that does not come to pass, let's encourage Kramnik in his battle to preserve chess' crown jewels; the 120-year-old classical chess title.

"If Kramnik refuses to defend his title at Mexico City, then legally he forfeits his title, like Fischer in 1975."

I suspect this is according to the same contract that it looks like FIDE has breached already. And what happens if FIDE lets Topalov sneak in as well? It is quite possible that Kramnik is neither morally nor legally obliged to play in Mexico any more.

"It is his perogative if he chooses to do this, but he cannot then go around claiming he is any sort of World Champion any more than Fischer could after 1975."

Two words come to mind, 'Kasparov' and '1993'. Fischer is completely different. He resigned his title, refused to play his challenger and retired. I don't understand why anyone would find this an adequate parallel.

Good points there, acirce, greg.

If FIDE does breach the contract first, or let Topalov in, I would agree that Kramnik would not be morally or legally obliged to play in Mexico.

I don't think the Kasparov 1993 case is an equivalent. Kasparov played his moral and legal challenger, Short. And FIDE, by its actions in 1985 and 1993 had lost all moral (and perhaps legal as well - I'm not sure) right to control the Title.

I, myself, would much prefer to see matches decide the World Championship. But for it to work, Kramnik would have to take nearly all the players with him. He did not manage this previously - most of the players shunned him and went to FIDE's San Luis tournament.

I agree with you about FIDE, Greg. As far as I'm concerned, under Ilyumzhinov & Co. they are chess Public Enemy No. 1 and are the root cause of all the troubles. It is simply amazing that we are all under this dictator just because he can bribe some tin-pot outfits that apart from their vote are of virtually no consequence in the chess world at all.

Although Kasparov is not always the most diplomatic of people, I doubt if he could have created a new organisation all by himself, no matter how diplomatic he was. It needed unity of the players, and Kasparov had powerful enemies such as Karpov.

I take it from your posts, Greg, that you do not recognise Topalov as World Champion from 2005-6 because San Luis was only a tournament.
Here, then, is a curly one for you. Botvinnik won the Title in 1948 from a tournament. Does this not break the 120 year-old tradition? - it could have been arranged thru matches, which might have given Reshevsky and Keres a chance. Would you not recognise Botvinnik as World Champion until 1958 [the first time he won a WC match] then?

Some tournament results leave room for doubt, some don't.

"Tournament format problems" did not surface in 1948 where Botvinnik defeated each of his rivals in their individual 5-game mini-match.

Botvinnik-Smylsov +1,=4
Botvinnik-Reshevsky +3,=1,-1
Botvinnik-Keres +4,-1
Botvinnik-Euwe +2,=3

Botvinnik 14
Smyslov 11
Reshevsky 10.5
Keres 10.5
Euwe 4.0

On the other hand, there's San Luis.

Topalov defeated Svidler +1,=1 in their TWO-game mini-match. Both went undefeated the rest of the way. Topalov's obviously your winner, but the results leave room to argue that Svidler might have held his own against Top in a long match.

....also,Alekhine passed away 1945,so tournament was only fair solution.....

Greg, that commits the sin of judging the format based on the results of a specific event. This is the same mistake FIDE made in hailing San Luis because Topalov dominated. Had Botvinnik not dominated in 48 it would have been controversial. Of course adding more rounds and having fewer players helps increase the accuracy and a quadruple vs a double is a huge difference.

Asking Topalov to win every mini-match is a little silly. Maybe Svidler or Anand would have done better against Kramnik in a match, who knows? It's not as if +1 in a 12-game match could be called domination. But you make the best of what you've got and try to fight for what you want. Wanting matches doesn't mean having them unless you are going to put up the money for them. Wanting unfunded chaos instead of funded cycles and tournaments is suicidal.

After how bad things have been in recent years I don't understand why some people are so eager to rush back into schism.


I don't defend the 1948 format. I do believe Botvinnik's dominating performance made that flawed format "work" in 1948. I think we probably agree, here.

I agree that the San Luis format was more flawed than Hague/Moscow. But did the result make that event "work?" I don't think so. Maybe we agree here, too.

I'd fit the flawed Dortmund 2002 format, with it's 4-game mini-matches, somewhere between San Luis and Moscow/Hague.

I also agree that +1 over twelve games is symbolic, but not actual "domination."

+1, the typical victory margin in the Kasparov-Karpov matches, is even less "dominating" when spread over twenty-four games. Kasparov's achievement is that he did what he had to in four matches against a great player.

We will have the candidates matches, Mexico, etc. in any case.

So which is better:
a) Kramnik's participation in the above, and the death or dormancy of the classical title or
b) A Kramnik-______ match, and the preservation of the classical title.

An "unknown" Kramnik and a charisma-less Leko found funding for a match two-years after Dortmund2002. A famous Kramnik and a more exciting challenger should have no problem repeating that feat.

The current FIDE cycle is more inclusive, and the candidates MATCHES will be a joy. But it all leads to....a double round-robin tournament, like Linares.

It's like the rich, ugly stepsisters buying a fabulous prom dress, spending all day in the beauty shop, being picked up in a stretch limousine....and being taken to a hot-dog stand.

No, give me the lonely Cinderella champion, sitting forlorn in the fireplace ashes.
When opponent and sponsor appear on a white horse, Kramnerella will graciously forgive the ugly stepsisters and sit down to play his fourth(!) classical world chess championship match.

And if it's another handpicked challenger or another qualifier that includes only the few top rated guys? Why not work toward having it all instead of giving up so early? Give the game a chance to get back on its feet, get sponsors back with a unified champion. Get sponsors back with professional management. Then start talking about formats. Putting the cart before the horse here is just going to perpetuate the misery.

This is why I lectured above about talking about what to DO now and tomorrow and next month and next year instead of all this theoretical "what would you like" blather. We aren't ordering pancakes. This will take time and it needs a foundation of credibility. Kramnik's jumping ship now to split the title again and play your fantasy Mr. X in a private match against a supertournament tournament winner or handpicked challenger a few years from now is not progress. Seeing Brissago as a success is a dangerous delusion. Four years to put together that little money for only two people with no shot or interest for the rest of the world is not what it's supposed to be about. The same goes with 2000 for that matter. We have a chance to start working to overcome this lesser-evil mentality.

There are professionals who would like to see chess flourish and become respected as a sport. That's not going to happen if we can't get our house in order. All this "which is better" is irrelevant in the real world, where your options aren't on the menu.

"Get sponsors back with professional management."

Deja vu all over again. Shades of Prague2002.
Who was in charge of organizing this professional management under the Prague Agreement? Bessel Kok.

As you, yourself, have often said, sponsors will not touch a Kirsan-led organization with a ten-foot pole.

"This will take time and it needs of foundation of credibility."
You're going to build a foundation of credibility on.....Kirsan? Talk about building a house on sand!

"Why not work at having it all instead of giving up so early?"

We are each giving up something:
--Staging a "top-dog" qualifier or handpicking, I may have to give up the possibility of longshots like Magnus, Judit, and Hikaru competing for the title.
--What are you giving up? The classical long-match title.

"There are professionals who would like to see chess flourish and become respected as a sport. That's not going to happen if we can't get our house in order."
--No, Mig, that's not going to happen as long as Kirsan's in charge. He owns the house, remember?

Believing that Kirsan's going to cede control to "professional management"; believing that Kirsan will eventually be persuaded to allow a strong classical champion; believing that a kleptocrat loonybin is suddenly going to become palatable to sponsors, now THAT is living in a fantasy world.

Kramnik will find an opponent and a sponsor. He will play a fourth world championship match. That's as real as it gets.

Re 1948 WC Tournament:

I don't buy this argument that it was a series of mini-matches. These multiple meetings were still within the context of a TOURNAMENT, with all the defects of a tournament - tournament luck, possible throwing of games, friendly draws, etc. This is a completely different dynamic to one-on-one matches.

Although the format of the 1948 tournament was certainly better than San Luis, there was an unfortunate counterbalancing factor - the possibility of Soviet cheating/collusion, whether it actually happened or not.
The Americans were certainly well aware of the possibility before the event - Reshevsky said so in an interview given about 1991. It was an important factor in Fine declining to play in this event. So how could Reshevsky be able to play properly with this possibility in the back of his mind? What about his morale? So Reshevsky played under a significant and unfair disadvantage.
Keres, too, played under serious disadvantage. Although I think he probably was not forced to actually throw his games to Botvinnik (though you never know), I think he was probably under some sort of pressure to not beat Botvinnik individually in their games (at least until the outcome of the tournament was clear), and to not come ahead of him in the tournament. How can you play properly under these conditions? - and Keres played very badly against Botvinnik.

In light of this, I do not think Botvinnik's huge result on paper necessarily means that much. Botvinnik's huge result was based on his 3 (suspect) wins against Keres in the first 3 cycles of the tournament.
Reshevsky scored even against Botvinnik (+1-1=1) in the first 3 cycles (when it mattered), and his loss was from a won position in time trouble. He only collapsed against Botvinnik when it was already clear that Botvinnik was going to win the tournament anyway (thanks to Keres 3 (suspect) losses).
Thus Botvinnik did not fairly dominate Keres and Reshevsky, and he was not particularly dominant against the other two.
In other words, I do not think Botvinnik's 'dominating performance' made the flawed format "work" at all. There definitely is room for doubt.

In view of this, I don't think Botvinnik's win in 1948 is any more valid in making him World Champion than Topalov's win in 2005 is in making him World Champion. If you don't recognise Topalov in 2005, you cannot recognise Botvinnik in 1948!

I do not agree with rmm that just because Alekhine passed away, a tournament was the only fair solution. Why? Why couldn't you have had a quarterfinal/semifinal/final Match series with Botvinnik, Reshevsky, Keres, Fine, Euwe, and Smyslov all seeded to the quarterfinals, with the remaining two places being decided from a qualification tournament?
Sorry, but the '120 year old classical tradition' was broken in 1948. 1948 was a seriously flawed event in which Reshevsky, Keres and Euwe played under serious disadvantage.

Fischer said that if Reshevsky had played Botvinnik in a set match around this time, he would have won. He may well be right. The outcome of a match system could have been completely different.

Chris B.,

My comments, and probably Mig's too, presuppose, for the sake of argument at least, that the 1948 contest was on the "up and up".

If 1948 was fixed then there's no point wasting one's time discussing it as a serious sporting event.


1948 fixed, Candidates 1950 fixed, Candidates 1953 fixed, Candidates 1962 fixed, Smyslov organises free pass for himself into the 1964 Interzonal, Taimanov bribes his way into the 1971 Candidates.
All these are good arguments for keeping tournaments as far away from the final of the World Championship as possible.
You should be arguing therefore not to make Mexico City a Candidates Tournament [how do you expect the organisers to accept a downgrading of their tournament to a qualifier anyway?], but to replace it with a quarterfinal/semifinal/final series of matches, with Kramnik being obliged to play at the quarterfinal stage.

I take it, then, that you do not accept Botvinnik as World Champion in 1948! Correct?

Chris B.

The issue is not whether matches are superior to tournaments for choosing WCC candidates. They are. The issue is: in an imperfect, practical world, what is to be done?

Kramnik and Kirsan may eventually agree on a WCC match. But if they don't, the practical question is whether "the classical WCC" is more important than "unity under FIDE." In other words, whether Kramnik should organize his own WCC. Mig says "no", some say "yes".

What if Kirsan agrees that the Mexico tournament winner should play Kramnik in a WCC match? Should Kramnik?, Anand?, Topalov? reject this arrangement and try to set up a competing qualifier or a competing WCC organization altogether.

Here I'd agree with Mig(?). It's wiser to proceed with the "flawed" Mexico tournament already in place than to launch into the void, seeking perfection. The candidates selection structure is less important than unity under FIDE, particularly when there's hope that the tournament structure can eventually be improved.

Chris B.

If, following one of your "fixed" events, another individual (Reshevsky?, Fischer?) bolted FIDE and staked a competing claim to long-match excellence, we might have something to talk about. But no one did, so we don't.

The classical WCC should have an unsurpassed claim to being the world's best long-match player. Who has a better claim than the FIDE champions 1948-1990?

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on October 9, 2006 8:49 PM.

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