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Ilyumzhinov Interviews 10/06

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ChessBase has a brief interview with FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov by Misha Savinov. In it he reaffirms some of the current points of contention in the chess world concerning the recently finished unification match between Kramnik and Topalov. He says the "crown has returned home" and that, while it always really belonged to FIDE, the schism is over and that "The crown is on a shelf of our safe, well-locked, and we will never give it away to any person. It is the property of FIDE, a public property."

Well, one thing about public property is that it belongs to the public. If FIDE begins to abuse the title again no one will have to steal it from that safe, it will leave on its own volition. You have to treat your title like you treat your woman – with love, respect, and, umm, no smacking her around with rapid time controls and KO events. (And before this ignites another Mexico 07 flamefest, honoring contracts with players and sponsors is an essential part of that respect requirement. Those who decry FIDE vacillation and instability when they change rules and break contracts but now want them to do just that in order to get what they want are hypocrites.) The interview continues.

- Do you consider the idea to return to a match system? Maybe matches will be alternated with match-tournaments?

We must think this over well. I cannot answer this question right now. The decision has to be taken at the Presidential Board, Executive Committee, and then approved by the General Assembly. Right now there is no need to haste.

- But the tournament in Mexico will definitely be played?

Of course! This is not a subject of discussion. And the candidates matches will take place in Elista in April, too. Everything goes as planned.

- Will you also discuss the issue regarding present status of Mr. Topalov, or Veselin has no chance to return to the running championship cycle?

What we have is what we have. Sadly, but sport is sport.

Note that this time it says "candidates matches" and not tournament. Right, just as planned. And these monkeys planned to fly out of my butt. The candidates matches were planned for this month. They planned to have sponsorship. They planned to finish this cycle with a match, not a tournament. FIDE is to plans what a crocodile is to a nest of baby ducks.

There is a very long interview with Ilyumzhinov in the latest New In Chess, which arrived at my house yesterday. It takes place right after they decided to play game six in Elista. (NIC pushed their deadline until they were sure the match was going to continue.) Apart from the now-usual over-emphasis on his tales of dreams and aliens there is the more serious delusion about chess on TV requiring fast time controls. Our model isn't action sports like football or tennis, it's poker and, less so, golf. These employ a huge amount of post-production or live cuts to keep it interesting to the viewer. If you boil a two-week chess event into two hours of television with key reaction moments and loads of commentary and interview material it's going to be interesting to the casual viewer. Chess has no future on live TV and with good reason, the same reason there is little or no live coverage in the hundreds of hours of poker on TV each month. When the Kasparov-Fritz match was live on ESPN it was with regular cuts and even with all the commentators it was often dull because you just don't know when they are going to move or if the game is going to be interesting at all. Chop it into the interesting bits and you have something.


In Russia they don't show poker on TV. So Ilyumzhinov and others do not have the example of poker available to them.

And I don't know about others, but I enjoyed Kasparov-Deep Fritz on TV. I think commentary can make chess quite interesting even if nothing is going on for a long time.

Mig: I think that KO was not so good idea only because Kirsan could not convince Kasparov and Karpov to give up their priveleges and to play there. Otherwise, KO is quite OK. As it seems, it is a big question, which system is preferable. Right now, I can not say that I wish to see any other matches for the title in the future. Too stressful, too dirty.

Well, of course WE enjoyed the chess on ESPN. We enjoy any and all of it. But my unscientific poll of non-chess people found it punchless compared to poker, which is heavily edited into a series of reaction shots and big moments. Can we get Kirsan a satellite dish?

Nothing against Khalifman and Kasimdzhanov personally, but they serve as examples of how the KO system as implemented by Kirsan puts the traditional concepts of strength and "credible best player" into the darkness. I agree they are fun events; I just have trouble with them as anything more than that. The chess tends to be terrible even from the top players. The terrible stress turns it into a lottery of nerves.

Mig, could those non-chess people play chess? Poker variants they show on TV are very intuitive- I think even a monkey could play it. Poker is more accessible to general public. Everyone knows an ace and a king is better than a two and a three, even people who don't know poker. But people who don't know chess rules can't tell a rook from a bishop.

I think that the rating system is reliable enough to define the best player. (At least at top levels a small penalty for non-playing is desirable though.) I can not call the best player a GM who once in a year won either KO, tournament or match. Kasparov had a reputation of the best player without being the champion, and not because he is Kasparov, but simply because his rating was best. And if there were some doubts, this is only because he played seldomly enough.
Also, I think that Kasparov's main achievement was dominating in the rating for 20 years (only once along the way sharing first flace with Kramnik), not that he won some 5 matches in these 20 years. Thus, it is not that critical who has the title. The unification should be the first priority, not a formula. If for someone the formula (system) is critical, it makes the problem for everyone.

Speaking of chess on TV, there is a TV show in Russia where GM Makarychev examines the games. The program lasts about 30 or 40 minutes. He usually examines a game or two from the biggest chess event of the week. Obviously, he cannot do too much analysis in so little time, but he covers the main plans and most important lines. Often, after the analysis of game, his wife does a short video report on the event or interview of some chess personality. The show is normally on once a week, but if there is a world championship match, they do one the evening of each game. This time around they even did one or two shows on Toiletgate only during the break after game 5-showing press conferences and interviews and such. I guess it is pretty close to what you are suggesting, but instead of showing the video footage of players makes the moves, etc, they show a split screen with a board on one side and Makarychev on the other.

i actually think live coverage of single games is the best format for tv. i was on the edge of my seat watching kasparov-x3d fritz. live coverage is the best way to capture the drama and keep continuity. the downtime was noticeable, but experienced commentators/production should be able to handle that no problem.

an edited show per day of a big tourney like linares would also be good - the poker model. give it a semi-live feel, and highlight the dramatic moments. packaging a full tourney into a single show i think would just turn into a long highlight reel - not nearly as interesting or dramatic.

bottom line, put real chess from real events on tv. when the top players/teams from a sport/game are competing at the highest level, it almost automatically makes for compelling tv. no need to shoot for astronomic tv ratings - there are plenty of chess fans out there. besides, plenty of ppl know the basics of the game and could pick it up. i'm really surprised no one has tried to make this work with all the random networks and shows that are on (american) tv now.

Mikhail Golubev:
I think this is not a great time to speak of reliability of ratings. Topalov, the top rated player in the world, was just beaten in a match. Kramnik also beat Kasparov when he had considerably lower rating. Clearly, rating is not the best measure of chess strength in top levels. People can get high rating by beating up people who are considerably weaker and avoiding players/events where they would likely lose rating points. On the very top level, nothing shows one's real strength like a match.


I have ssen poker lately on television and I have to say I did not understand anything. It was much too fast to follow, too many games in a very short time. I switched the channel after ten minutes.

...and don't you just love Kirsans view on democracy?

"- Do you consider the idea to return to a match system? asks Misha.

- I cannot answer this question right now. The decision has to be taken at the Presidential Board, Executive Committee, and then approved by the General Assembly. Right now there is no need to haste.
-Do you see a chance of Kasparov returning to chess? asks Misha.

- (---) Actually, I would be happy if not only Kasparov, but also Spassky and Fischer come back. If they do, I am ready to organize a supermatch of FIDE champions. A good idea, by the way! (---) It is going to be a good supertournament! proclaims Kirsan."

You could of course argue that he's just joking about this supertournament, but isn't this just his leadership style as such?

An idea Kirsan dislikes (matches) demands serious thought and is problematic in all aspects. But an idea Kirsan likes (Kasparov & Fischer in the same rapid tournament) is his decision to take instantly...

Chess has no future on television, whatsoever. No matter how clever the spectacle, how tantalizing the hype, how charismatic the players, or how compelling the rivalries, chess can never draw sufficient ratings to make it viable as TV programming. Obviously, your model of using substancial editing, and distilling the "action", is the better way of presenting the game. However, even with a finely polished production, with commentary and interviews, will not draw viewers. At best, the show would be placed on some abysmal time slot, where only insomniacs would be up watching. I doubt that there would be viability even in chess mad countries.
Consider: ChessBase magazine DOES cover events in the way that you suggest. But do these discs outsell even their opening monographs? Let's face it: even amongst the rather small pool of active chess enthusiasts, only a minority of tournament players have more than a passing interest in a World Championship match.

Of course, Chessbase Magazine cost $20 a pop. Now, Mig, consider if there might be a market for a free videonewsmagazine, which covers the same ground. I see no reason why it should not be viable for a TWIC, or for that matter, you, to produce a half hour video news round-up of recent events. It would just be a matter of compiling various video clips, and soliciting the submission of amateur footage. Given the number of events, and the number of chess geeks with digicams, there is no reason why such a project cannot be sustained.

By the way, much of the Poker shown on TV is either in the form of an outright "infomercial", or subsidized by "bubble" money, in an effort to keep the online poker boom going. Once the market matures, and online gaming runs out of suckers to fleece, the quick money operators will move onto some other scheme. But the Poker will be off the TV.

On http://www.fide.com/news.asp?id=1161

"The Head of Kalmykia and FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who is presently in Lebanon, congratulates Muslims on the occasion of Uraza Bayram (Eid al-Fitr), the Islamic holiday that marks the end of Ramadan."

Very interesting and nice of Mr.Ilyumzhinov. But .. it has nothing to do with chess. FIDE likes to show congratulations. To each other and to the world.

Why is this message placed as opening on the Fide-site? How far can this go?

While I'm at it: 450 million hits on the official site...

I do hope that sponsors of FIDE events is presented more serious numbers than this.

(Or actually: in this case I don't care much for the sponsors, one of them being Russias arms exporting agency (renowned for trading arms to various wars and dictators around the globe). But if we want sponsors that are not embarrassing in the future we better be more honest.)

Anybody has a reasonable estimate of real live audience.

How about some 8.000 daily at Playchess
+ a bit less at ICC
+ some 10.000 other sources e3e5.com, Polgar, Chessgames.com etc
+ some 10.000 at the official site.

Could something like that be more serious?

Could you perhaps even get a more serious "official site"-figure by taking 450 million (given that that figure is not completely imaginative) and dividing by the number of times the pages reload after each move, which I guess is how they came up with the high figure in the first place?

George, actually I don't mind these greetings from Kirsan and FIDE to the world's muslims.

The vast majority of muslims are having a hard time due to some extremists. It is a nice sign from FIDE to say that "gens una sumus" and muslims are more than welcome amongst us.

And on December 25th 2004 FIDE send "season greetings" do those of us who are of christian and jewish fait, so marking Eid Al Fitr this time seems more than proper.

I had more problems with the FIFA+FIDE-article at the same website earlier this year.

Is it just my dirty imagination or is the language of that message just too inappropriate?

"In his turn, FIFA Secretary General invited FIDE President to see not less attracting competition of the World Footbal Championship Final, Girls Under 20, which will take place on 3 September in Moscow. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov promised to be there and watch one of the most enthralling sights in sport."

Russianbear, TV poker is available through dish in Russia.
And TV chess coverage caould be interrupted by education series injections. We'll get general public more profecient in chess. But to attract the general public to these TV shows, prize funds should be really noticable. Nobody (exscept existing chess fans) will watch a coverage of a tournament where No.1 gets 15 grand, at least in the US. But if the winner gets 500,000, even redneck and housewife would watch it, having a zero chess knowledge, if they are provided by some educational clips, and live comments from GM and/or best chess engine evaluations, similar to what we had on chesspro.ru for free.

Poker works on TV because its narrative is easy: it's a series of little moments of tension and relaxation (at least it is in its highlights form). The tension associated with poker is what grabs people who don't even know the rules of the game (or, like me, have a rough idea, but can't calculate the odds whatsoever). This tension is, in effect, universal -- the gamble, the money to be made or lost, the "luck of the draw -- and is most of the reason why poker's doing so well on TV at the moment.

Chess has its own narratives (beginning, middle, end -- which is one reason why I don't like Fischer random: it destroys this narrative, although it creates another one in its place: chaos to clarity). But these narratives are generally only available to people who are strongly acculturated, and they take a long time to develop over the course of a match. Highlights are useful in focussing on the critical moments in the game -- but each moment grows out of a larger narrative, which is really what chess is about: the ebb and flow of advantages. Poker highlights work because, in effect, each highlight is the same as any other: the same principles are in play; all that changes is what's at stake (which presumably grows as players get knocked out).

Having said that, I got hooked on chess by watching the coverage of Short-Kasparov in London, in which games were shown live (if memory serves). Perhaps I had a lot of time on my hands...

I still get people talking to me about the Kasparov - Short match in 1993 on tele and they didn't even play chess. The Master Game worked even better. But there are two threads here. Does chess work on television, I think a cautious yes, would anyone pay to do the coverage? I think the answer is a resounding no, any company would almost think they were doing chess a favour.

Clarification about Candidates event format, if it clarification, of course.
The ChessBase article mentioning matches, is an interview with Kirsan, taken on the same plane and at the same time (Oct.15), another interview with Kirsan taken by Vasiliev was taken. ChessBase interview says matches, Vasiliev - tournament.
Kirsan as usual. Two opposite statements made at the same time, and both announced as final :-(

Vlad, I think Vasiliev interview was not clear on what Kirsan meant. Vasiliev asked about candidates matches (prior to the WC tourney), and Kirsan seemed to respond positively, but he was talking about candidates tournament. So I think it maybe be a mistake by either Vasiliev or SE editor, because there is an inconsistancy between the question and the answer.

During Essent round 3 yesterday, kibitzers Frederic Friedel, Yasser Seirawan, and Nigel Short poked fun at the latest Kirsan interview on playchess chat, i.e. they poked fun at the Kirsan interview in public. Frederic Friedel himself may have been a bit embarrassed having to post such a ludicrous interview on chessbase.

The point is that FIDE vacillations etc will undoubtedly continue, not just with Mexico, and this is so regardless of what chess fans say.

The FIDE vacillations etc are not caused by chess fans or any external forces at all, the FIDE vacillations etc are caused by FIDE itself, just like it has been for 11 years and more. Anyone knowledgeable but not seeing that must be willfully blind.

BTW, the vast majority of chess fans have always wanted a final WC match, there is nothing hypocritical in that.

TV-Chess ?

I remember when the last Olympiad of Mathematics was broadcasted on TV. The students from China, Russia, Romania and Vietnam won the gold medals.

The public did not need to be explained by some university profs of math (i.e., GMs) the problems
given for exam.
They of course recalled from high school that an "abelian group" is just an ordinary algebric group with the commutativity condition always satisfied (as for instance the group of usual real numbers that we use every day to count our money).

What a show it was...

in china, they show chinese chess on TV all the time, every day. they analyze through all the games slowly, and have many fans. one of these Chess TV watchers claimed to have never played chinese chess in his life, yet he beat me, and i'm pretty good too!

From what I understand, it's still candidates matches. This is from FIDE and one of the participants.

It's definitely not hypocritical to want a final match. I want a final match. But not at the cost of screwing everyone and making ourselves (again) to be just the sort of amateur clown show we are accusing FIDE of being all the time. As for future vacillations there is no way to plan for them so we need to do our best with what we have and lobby to get what we want instead of saying "everything will be a mess anyway so let's mess it up now!"

If there is a gripping narrative, chess can work on TV. So can plastic surgery and anything else. But most chess events lack such narrative. Even if you get people interested in a few individuals, the stakes in a tournament (money, etc.) aren't high enough to create the sort of drama people want. But with post-production and good commentary you can make ANYTHING interesting. Poker would be a joke if they showed it live. 75% of the hands are as dull as dishwater with no real consequences. So they only show people going all in and people getting chucked out. Picking the 1% of the time that is dramatic and connecting them together into a story is the key.

Not that chess will ever be that popular. You can figure out poker from watching the show to sufficient degree to at least sympathize. The more difficult a game is to understand, the narrower the potential audience. Chess his hard. But spending a few hundred K to put together a pro package has never been done. (Although the little clips the PCA put out wasn't bad, and ESPN aired them.) The problem there is vested interest. Nobody has the resources to go out and put something together anyone might want to buy and no one is going to buy it sight unseen.

>in china, they show chinese chess on TV all the time, every day. they analyze through all the games slowly, and have many fans.>

How about GO in Japan and Korea ?
There are professionals and tournaments and IGS ( go servere as ICC) etc...(but no Kirsan I guess)

there we GO

CHO BACK TO WINNNG WAYS, 11 march 2001

He may have lost the big title, but there's life in the old dog yet - Cho Chikun hit the winning trail again as he took the 20th NEC Cup. His victim, Kato Masao 9-dan, is another oldie who has gone back to the mental gym and is showing improved performance.

The NEC final will be broadcast on TV Tokyo on 20 March.

They say ikken tobi is never bad, but this game is a remarkable example of the proverb. Of just 170 moves, 34 were ikken tobis (one-space jumps), and not surprisingly there were therefore a large number of peeps - 12. Adding to that the obvious connections that flow from these, around a third of this pro game was played with moves we can all make!

Doug says:
"However, even with a finely polished production, with commentary and interviews, will not draw viewers. At best, the show would be placed on some abysmal time slot, where only insomniacs would be up watching."

Anybody watch TV on Sunday Mornings? Besides cartoons (Beep Beep!) and latest Jesus=for=Hire shills, there is plenty of crap TV to go around. No matter, ANY timeslot is good for chess....

I cannot understand for the life of me why someone can't produce a low-rent Chess show to air once a week that covers the goings on in the chess world. Imagine if that show was running during the recent WCC? Chess clubs would probably be FILLED to the brim with activity and new memberships, not to mention USCF. Get some simple advertising (MonRoi, Playchess, ICC, USCF, your local Chess Equipment retailers....), and it is off and running.

I sense an elitist attitude in this in that if "we can't do it as good as poker, we ain't gonna do it".

Give us the "USCF Game of the Week" with a couple of photos, some video, and 30 minutes of in the trenches commentary with a wrap-up of the week to come and you got "game", as the famous Ray Gordon would put it.

At least get it onto PBS, for goodness sakes! Start simple, start slow, but for god sakes START!

Stop telling us why we CAN'T do it and start showing us that IT CAN BE DONE!

You have the cart before the horse here.

The public wants a final match, but FIDE screwed up. If there is anything hypocritical then it is FIDE that is hypocritical, not the public.

And if there is an amateur clown show, (or whatever you want to call it), then it is FIDE, not the public.

I take the opportunity here to point out one Kirsan manipulation in his latest interview. Kirsan said: "The title belongs to FIDE, it is public property." That is a ridiculous, because the title has always been public property long before FIDE even existed. FIDE merely (mis)administers the title.

Anyway, this misadministration of the title (including misinvestments) is FIDE's doing, not the public's doing.

Mig - Chess could work on live TV, since there are enough examples of live chess "broadcasts" generating interest. A multiplayer event wmight work best, since that increases the probability of something dramatic happening. Also you would need rules and time controls that keeps the action going throughout the broadcast. Draw agreements on all boads within the first 15 minutes would be disasterous. And of course to pace the broadcast, you'd need to run periodic pre-recorded clips on the personalities, places, and prior happenings that are relevant to the event.

>That is a ridiculous, because the title has always been public property long before FIDE even existed>

Not true, Kirsan is right here.

Before FIDE (the death of Alehin) the title was owned, until lost in a match, by the champ who could play whomever he wanted for it, set the contract rules etc.

Kasparov returned to the pre-1948 situation when he left FIDE.

Since FIDE is ruled, owned, by Kirsan he now owns the title, he is the 15th world champion.
Everybody wants this title and fights for it
as he can by all means.

BTW, Mig, there is an implicit contradiction in your previous post. You said that you want a final WC match. But you also want a final WC tournament.

Anyway, there is no valid reason for the public to go with FIDE's misinvestments/misadministration of the title, it is against the public interest to do so, 11 years of misadministration has to stop.

LOL Ovidiu, but if you go by the FIDE line, then Kirsan would be WC #19, or even better, he has a running number to make sure that he always has a number

"You have to treat your title like you treat your woman – with love, respect, and, umm, no smacking her around with rapid time controls and KO events."

Unless you've already printed t-shirts, in which case, go ahead and smack her around.

mig, your comments about chess on tv are strangely dogmatic...the constant comparison to poker is holding you back imo.

your basic argument is that chess is boring; therefore, it needs big prizes and big production to be interesting. this is false. it's already interesting. what's more dramatic than a sacrifice? or a kingside attack? (these aren't hard concepts to understand, either)

the non-accessible/non-popular argument i also don't. who hasn't played a game of chess? all we need is a decent commentator. and no big deal if it doesn't become hugely popular...all it needs is a solid audience to get aired on ESPN8.

now if there was just an event in the states that was actually worth watching...

After LOL about Ovidiu's joke, I'd like to say a couple of obvious things, but it may be useful to do so.

Alekhine (and other WCs) obviously misadministered the title, and one of the main reasons FIDE exists is to administer the title for check and balance. But that does not mean that ownership of the title belongs to FIDE.

Alekhine (and other WCs) and FIDE made/make a common mistake to usurp ownership of what they administer. For example, we say 'a government building' meaning a building owned by the government. But that's strictly speaking not true, the building is public property.

This common mistake of usurping ownership of things administered lies at the heart of Kirsan's manipulation when he said: "The title belongs to FIDE, it is public property." I am pretty sure that Kirsan does the same kind of manipulation in Kalmykia too.

In this context is remarkable that Kramnik has looked into the title ownership issue and has recognized that the title does not belong to him, he merely 'borrowed' the title for some time.

It would be very wholesome for chess at large if Kirsan also recognized that FIDE does not own the title, but only administers the title for some time. But futile thoughts here, no?

zero, it makes sense. And it is probably more thought than Kirsan has given it.

"Anybody watch TV on Sunday Mornings? Besides cartoons (Beep Beep!)..."

Are you kidding? If they still showed the Road Runner and Bugs Bunny and the other WB classics I might still watch TV. Now all the weekend cartoons are crappy Japanese imports.

1) Poker on TV has already experienced a big downturn in the number of viewers. With the exception of ESPN’s World Series of Poker Championship series, and the tenacity of the WPT on the Travel Channel, and High Stakes Poker on GSN, all the “third-rate” poker shows have fallen off dramatically. Where once there were many casual viewers caught up in the craze (including a big audience who had no interest in gambling themselves), only ‘core’ viewers who mostly play the game are remaining, and even those core players are not watching as religiously as they used to. Poker, to the surprise of no one who actually is in the field, is showing itself to be more of a fad on television, nothing more. How many times can the casual viewer watch an all-in AK vs QQ coin flip and find it interesting? How many times does it need to be demonstrated that luck plays heavily in the results before casual viewers realize how random the results from poker can be? Seems like the answer is 2-3 years worth of shows. In this respect, chess has the advantage of the cream CONSISTANTLY rising to the top. But it also suffers from the ‘sameness’ effect that casual viewers had with poker, and thus if it did take off it would be initially for the novelty, last for a short while, and then lose casual interest. Then only the core fans would remain. For chess, this core fan number will probably be much too low to justify these chess shows continuing.

2) Poker’s popularity was not _artificially_ ‘subsidized’ by the online poker industry. Rather, the online industry was ‘subsidized’ by the rise of poker on television. The shows are cheap to produce, attract a young male audience (the hardest demographic to capture in television), have great rerun potential, and the numbers they produced in their hey day completely justified their timeslots. Does the current money from the online poker industry advertising make these packages more attractive? Of course they did, but they would have been put on the air and found other, different advertisers based on their ‘true’ performance anyway (beer, erectile dysfunction pills, hair growth ads, etc – all the stuff you see on the NFL is the same market advertisers have with poker). Now that the online industry has taken a severe blow, poker on tv will be hurt, but it was hurting anyway.

3) Strictly as a sample size of one and just anecdotal evidence, for the recent WC match, I only bothered to watch one game ‘live’ in real time – game 6. This was mostly due to the drama of whether or not it would be played, and then wanting to see the first struggle. Even then, I fell asleep before it ended. All the other games I couldn’t bear to watch in real time, it was agonizingly slow and I was just fine catching up with them later, where they had full commentary and all the moves could be replayed at my leisure. However, I DID watch the rapid playoffs in real time. The pace was fast enough to stay interesting. If chess insists on real-time broadcasts, then Ilyumzhinov is probably right.

4) My feeling hasn’t changed – with chess being dominated by foreigners, its subtle pacing, its deep requirements of commitment to understanding, its lack of difference from being shown on TV versus being shown on a java board via the internet, and most importantly its negative reputation on the coolness factor (here poker/gambling will always trump chess), chess on television in the United States will never succeed. I believe in market forces, and the barriers of entry to broadcasting chess in the US can be had for a song, yet no one wants that deal. If it was to be a lasting program, why hasn’t TV chess’ biggest kick-starting events – Fischer vs Spassky or X3D vs Kasparov on ESPN – maintained the momentum of chess being show on TV? It was on TV for those events, had lots of publicity and press interst, etc. – but died soon after anyway. What is different about chess now than it was back then with Fischer vs Spassky that will keep that audience? We no longer have an American born powerhouse, the Cold War backdrop, the patriotism that overrode the chess as the main interest in such an event. So there is nothing – if anything, there are more distractions and short-term attention spans to deal with than ever before, and chess does not have the appeal to overcome that, then or especially now.

>LOL Ovidiu, but if you go by the FIDE line, then Kirsan would be WC #19, or even better, he has a running number to make sure that he always has a number>

sure, what FIDE wants is very human : to get the benefits from all this fuss around WCC, to be the one with the owner rights (the one who set the rules, decides and signs for money and contracts etc ).

you see, wonder kids play but they must know what their place is, it is the adults who take care of the money and of the "human affair" side ( politics)

FIDE is to World Championship what Danailov is to Topalov

Kramnik must be an absolute idiot to give up to his right chose whom he play, under what conditions, and for what money.

And Kramnik isn't an idiot.

You dont need any Mexico 2007 or other nonsense
to decide the challanger (let alone the champ).

Reputation gained in years of successful tournament play is the necessary and sufficient to legitimize one as a rigthful challanger.
The champ will be under moral pressure to play him but not under legal obligation, ultimately it is his choice whom he plays.

Such system produced Lasker, Capa and Alehin and
rest assured Kramnik too won't choose Kosteniuk to play in a central park in Moscow.

Next on line is the Kramnik-Anand match
(Leko and Topa were also worthy ones but not because they had won any particular "candidates tournament" but because their lifetime record)

"Ikken tobi is never wrong": hmm, "ikken tobi" would be a good name for an online persona!

But a lot of the moves in a world championship chess match could be predicted by the readers of this board--opening book, "natural" moves as positionally sound as ikken tobi, recaptures, good endgame technique.... Certainly 1/3 of total moves, perhaps as many as 2/3 on occasion. (That's another reason Danailov's Fritz/Kramnik argument was so bogus....)

"Right, just as planned. And these monkeys planned to fly out of my butt."

Mig, you are such a riot! XD

"At best, the show would be placed on some abysmal time slot, where only insomniacs would be up watching."

Or using their DVRs (probably relatively common among the geek-friendly US chess crowd).

"The tension associated with poker is what grabs people who don't even know the rules of the game (or, like me, have a rough idea, but can't calculate the odds whatsoever)."

There's a lot of truth to these arguments. But, I think this is also a weakness. These tensions are very transient and and temporary. And from one to the next, they're all very much the same. I think that's why popularity is waning (as Stern points out).

Because results in poker are highly arbitrary*, it's going to difficult for the audience to become really attached to the players or their style of play. It's missing a lot of the human element. There drama isn't there (drama in the grander sense of character development, story arcs and so forth).

Chess has the greater potential in this area, what with chess prodigies, national affiliation, ratings lists, one-on-one matches, head-to-head scores, upsets, and so on. The top of the rating list is also relatively stable, so folks can pick favorites, and get truly interested in the players. Seen this way, I think chess has much more in common with golf (as Mig also mentioned). And I think folks should remember what happened to gold when Tiger Woods came on the scene. Which just goes to show how heavily the human aspect can impact the popularity of a sport.

Now, whether all of this is enough make chess truly marketable on TV is beyond me. But it's been enough to keep chess rolling for centuries (millenia?). And I love some of DOug and Mark's ideas. It'd be a perfect match for PBS and/or subscription video podcast.

(*) I don't deny that poker at the highest level requires skill, but luck is still plainly evident in individual event outcomes. I imagine one is more likely to lose from bad luck than from bad form.

Mig wrote:

It's definitely not hypocritical to want a final match. I want a final match. But not at the cost of screwing everyone and making ourselves (again) to be just the sort of amateur clown show we are accusing FIDE of being all the time. As for future vacillations there is no way to plan for them so we need to do our best with what we have and lobby to get what we want instead of saying "everything will be a mess anyway so let's mess it up now!"

The opposite is a more legitimate and logical position:

Let's not allow Kirsan and his silly promises to the Mexico organizerst screw the unification that was so hard to achieve.

BTW, the only clowns are Kirsan and those who believe his empty promises. I pity the poor Mexican organizers, but they should have known better. Without Topalov and Kramnik, their tournament will be greatly diminished, but they can only blame Kirsan and their own terribly bad judgement.

On "saleability" of "non-accessible material" on "TV":

I did watch Yasser's audio coverage of the Elista match. I paid 100 ducats in total for it, so did hundreds of others if not more. That's a measure for "saleability".

I did enjoy being walked through the main ideas of the game as it unfolded (as vastly distinct from the variations given by the engines that I also ran). That's a measure for "non-accessible material" (and how to deal with it)

And finally, the measure for "TV": I did enjoy the real time aspect of the game AND the sharing of the joy with others in interactive chat as the game unfolded.

However, I enjoy Yasser only and no other commentator really comes close. Perhaps that's the reason why they have star commentators in 'real' TV?

Mig wrote:

It's definitely not hypocritical to want a final match. I want a final match. But not at the cost of screwing everyone and making ourselves (again) to be just the sort of amateur clown show we are accusing FIDE of being all the time. As for future vacillations there is no way to plan for them so we need to do our best with what we have and lobby to get what we want instead of saying "everything will be a mess anyway so let's mess it up now!"


If Kramnik comes to accept that the Mexico City tournament WILL be for the FIDE World Championship, he might be wise to exploit that FIDE Challenge match provision, and take on Radjabov. That is, if he could get a guaranteed million dollar payday from the Azerbaijani oil money.

Even if Kramnik doesn't win the Mexico City event, he should still enter and play. It'll be another payday, and Kramnik will get generous appearance fees and under the table $$. Finally, while "losing" his title will decrease his marketablility somewhat, he could STILL be in position to accept challenge matches, even if he failed to win Mexico City.

Let's face it: the only reason the Brissago match came about is because Leko got the sponsorship for it. There is no real chance that Kramnik could organize a meaningful Candidate's cycle to vie for "His" (Match) title.

As people have already suggested, perhaps the best solution is to have an annual tournament, which Generates a FIDE tournament World Champion, and STILL have FIDE match world Champion. At this stage, neither the Chess Professionals NOR the community of Chess Fans would have much objection to having multiple chess champions, in different disciplines. Indeed, if the funding for one cycle fizzled, there would still be the other, functioning as an active cycle.

It is nice what people are discussing here. Poker, etc. Still, what about the world championship? Should we have one?

Kramnik, Roshal, Russian federation wants Mexico to be a qualifier. FIDE is still unable to announce the candidates matches. What is the opinion of the Mexico organisers, by the way? What is the opinion of Anand and also Svidler and Morozevich? What are opinions of the candidates, these 16 guys?

All what is going on looks as a pure noncence. If these guys are unable to express their ideas clearly, why should anyone have any interest?

What I see now is that FIDE destroys its own cycle, and that Kramnik decided to help.

If all candidates + Anand, Svidler, Morozevich + Mexico organisers + FIDE, are agree to make a qualifier, why not? But why not to ask other parties before making press conferences?

Basically, Roshal was first to announce the idea of "Mexico=qualifier", there was a reference in Chess Today. The Kramnik + Russian Federation press conference was a few days later.

This is a direct quote from Mr. Jorge Saggiante to me. It was published on my blog on Monday, October 23, 2006:

"We have a contract with FIDE to host the 2007 World Championship in Mexico City next fall. We will not permit FIDE to change the format of the World Championship from what that has been agreed to.

We already transferred 100% of the prize funds to FIDE's account and we have spent a significant amount of money and effort to promote this World Championship. We expect FIDE to stand by their words and honor the contract that we signed.

The people in Mexico are looking forward to an incredibly exciting event. The world will witness one of the most spectacular chess events in history next year in Mexico City."

Best wishes,
Susan Polgar

Go ahead any play the Mexico tournament. Just don't tell me it (or San Luis) is a legitimate event in the Steinitz/classical title tradition.

When Elista was announced (signed, sealed, and T-shirts), Mig did NOT react with joy that we finally had a WCC match. No, Mig wailed that Kramnik's defense of his title in a mere TWELVE-game contest against ONE opponent would have only borderline legitimacy.

And now we have Mexico, (signed, sealed, and T-shirts). And taking a cue from Mig, the Daily Dirty wail that a Kramnik title defense involving FOURTEEN games against SEVEN opponents does not have legitimacy.

Yeah! Go, Kramnik, go! Kick that WC tournament crap out of FIDE! You owe that to the entire Steinitz lineage and to chess fans all around the world!

YOUTUBE (in an increasingly polished form, complete with an advertising model) is the foreseeable future of chess on TV.

I am convinced that 20 years from now more non-live video content will be consumed from the web than is consumed today from television, the networks and cable combined.
(I mean real content, not all the silly college-kid-with-a-video-camera nonsense that has got YouTube rolling.)

Google already gets more advert revenue than does the NBC tv network (in America).

In the future the video audience will be sliced into a thousand niches. Nobody will watch much outside their specific areas of interest. But you and I will have chess shows we can watch.
These videos might motivate some people who like chess but never quite got back into as adults.

- - - - - - - -

Mig is right about how chess on TV should be done: all post-event video editing is best.

The old television show BBC Master Game did it the right way, during its long run in the 1980's. Best is commentary from the players themselves, captured after the game yet spoken as in the present tense, and edited in over a mock quick replay of the game (complete with smacked down rooks on rank 7, and with hammed up facial expressions).

The success of BBC Master Game may disprove the assertion by 'DOug' that chess cannot succeed on TV: BBC Master Game already succeeded.

I believe the Rapid Game/20 event shown live on TV in 2005 was ill-designed for TV.

A few months ago, Don Schultz of the USCF said he was working on a deal to create a chess TV show involving celebrities (tho Don was not yet declaring the deal would finally happen).

- - - - - - - -

Normally the spoils of victory in the FIDE cycle are supposed to include gaining the right to challenge for what we should start calling the "Steinitz Match Cup".

The San Luis 2005 winner enjoyed those spoils of becoming the challenger. That brought him $500,000 for challenging Kramnik, and a place in history along side long remembered names like Zuckertort, Bronstein, Korchnoi, Anand.

Mexico 2007 offers its winner much less than San Luis 2005 offered.

Ironic or not, it would *INCREASE* the prestige of Mexico 2007 if its purpose were changed to determining the next challenger for Kramnik.

FIDE and Mexico 2007 can confer the Galaxy Chess Championship title for all I care. FIDE can never "own" the Steinitz match wcc title.

- - - - - - - -

We are not "hypocrits" for consistently defending the Steinitz Match WCChampion title tradition from Kirsan's attempts to morph it into a tournament.

Gene Milener

what about covering the us chess league on tv. they have teams play. Larry C won a nice game today. that would lend some drama as different cities have teams.

do some bios on the players and some moves. this could be done at lower cost because no prize money is needed.

Many thanks, Susan. So, at least something is clear. If Mexico organisers are not agree to change format... well, FIDE should go on with the Mexico Wch, what is the alternative? I hardly can see any variants. If Kramnik will not play, some will continue to regonise him as the champion and it will be a new division: we will return to what we had. Perhaps it is not really bad to have an alternative to FIDE. Still, I think that in this unique case FIDE can be right (therefore there is a great chance that they will do something else instead).

Kramnik will in WIjk aan Zee... Topalov and Kramnik will go head to head...

will play...

Why everything we discuss at some point comes to poker?

To Jens Petersson and other people interested in statistics: the official WCC site published daily statistics once or twice, but it was easy to miss it... Each day there were circa 500,000-550,000 unique hosts.

I totally agree with Greg and Gene. Mexico 2007 could NOT take away Vlad's title of the World's Chess Champion. They may now call the winner of Mexico 2007 FIDE Champ, but this will again split the title. As Gene stated, the "prestige" will INCREASE for Mexico 2007 if it produces a challenger for Vlad. Although I'd want eventually to get back to candidate matches to determine the legit challenger to face the World's Chess Champion. Kirsan has been changing arrangements for years, would not hurt to do it again, and Mexico 2007 for this cycle producing a challenger for Vlad, will create all the interest it needs to be a succesfull tourney. Topa gets invited, maybe wins...and we get Kramnik-Topalov 2 in 2008 for all the marbles again. Having the winner of Mexico 2007 being called the World's Chess Champion and FIDE Champion combined, minus a Topalov appearance is blasphemous behavior in the Steinitz lineage. Have Topa compete instead of Vlad, and now Mexico 2007 WILL be worth following and mean something credible.

I've never understood the logic behind the clause which excluded the loser of Topalov-Kramnik match from Mexico 2007 - or for that matter why either player agreed to it ? By definition both participants are among the strongest players in the world, so why would you want to exclude one of them just because he loses a match to another of the strongest players ? Can someone please explain the thinking to me ?

Mexico Organizers:

"We have a contract with FIDE to host the 2007 World Championship in Mexico City next fall. We will not permit FIDE to change the format of the World Championship from what that has been agreed to."

Foolish statement, at best.

The poor Mexican organizers don't have an iota's worth of leverage in this situation.

Imagine their tournament without Kramnik and Topalov. Yes, FIDE can deliver the "Official Sanctioning", but it can't deliver the players, so it follows that the Mexico "World Champion" will be no more "World Champion" than Khalifman or Kazimdanov.

Kramnik doesn't have to worry, because he holds all the cards right now. Who can argue with his status after beating Topalov? Who's going to believe that the Mexico winner is the "real World Champion"?

The Mexico organizers are deluding themselves if they think that Kirsan can deliver a legitimate World Championship Event to their door.

Why should Kramnik defend his title against 7 people at once, with the tournament's outcome not in his hands?

Why play in Mexico when he can defend his title (according to FIDE!!!!) against Radjabov?

Very slim chances to see anything meaningful happening in Mexico. Sorry, but that's the truth...

"Those who decry FIDE vacillation and instability when they change rules and break contracts but now want them to do just that in order to get what they want are hypocrites."

Having respect for the game and it's history and wanting a meaningful championship is not being a hypocrite.

FIDE has failed in it's duties to the game. That sponsors signed contracts with an organization run by a self-serving meglamaniacal criminal is a shame for those sponsors.

But if we ever want chess and it's title to return to a level of respectability then we have to start by having some respect for the game.

That starts with recognizing stupid ideas which serve to cheapen the title as stupid ideas which cheapen the title.

Mexico got screwed the moment Kirsan sanctioned the match between Topalov and Kramnik, and they got bent over even more when Kirsan started talk about Kramnik v Radjabov.

Mexico is already devalued as an event. The question isn't "do we honor the contracts." It's patently clear that Kirsan made that a non-issue. Mexico will be no more of a title event than any other tournament is.

So, what can be salvaged?

FIDE can either use this scheduled event to some effect or not. But what it will never be is a determiner of any title of any merit.

Misha, thanks a lot for those stat's.

Wow, half a million unique visitors at the official FIDE WCC2006-site! (Yes, "daily", but probably most of them returned daily so you can't really add all days.)

Anyway: 500.000! Wow, THAT's a figure to boast about instead of confusing everyone with this bs about "450 million hits".

If I owned ChessBase (or anything else that people interested in chess might want to buy) and felt comfortable in that the half million-figure is correct I would've loved to buy a big ad on the page!

I posted this over at Susan Polgar's site, and thought it goes here as well:

What it comes down to for those who want to earn a living from this game is the ability to garner sponsorship dollars.

And that's the problem.

Most successfull sports pay their professional players based on fans actually spending money, not on the largesse of companies looking for sponsorship deals.

Sponsorship in other sports is a bonus on top of actual revenue generated by the sport itself.

Now, we're never going to have the kind of fan base in chess that allows for million dollar prize funds derrived from fan support.

So what to do?

Well, then you need an event that will generate the kind of media coverage that will allow for large prize funds.

And for that to be the case, you actually need stability in organizing the events.

The problem is not that Kramnik v Topalov can't raise money from sponsors. The problem is that FIDE can't be counted on to make the event happen for the sponsors.

And that doesn't change if you move from match play to tournament play.

I suspect that Kramnik will not have any problem about playing in Mexico. I imagine that he holds the FIDE title (as it stands under the current rules) as being distinct from the true, classical world title. He will be more than happy to put his FIDE title on the line in Mexico and try to capture it again, and if he fails then so what, he will still be able to continue playing classical world championship matches with the most qualified challengers until he loses it. And who would be the most qualified challenger at that point? Probably the winner of the Mexico tournament. So, I am not really worried too much about it, though I think it is disgraceful that both FIDE and the Mexican organizers don't see the need to have a truly viable title with gravitas.

I believe that right now is a unique moment for FIDE, with the aid of the Mexican organizers to set things right, but I believe they will allow this moment to pass by, thus splitting the title again between the title that means nothing (Kasim, Pono, Khalifman, et al) and the one that really matters.

I see the point David Wagle is making, but am not convinced about the sources of payments to professional players. Arguably the most successful sport in the world is football, which derives the bulk of its income from sponsors and TV rights. After that tennis and golf are probably next and a better comparison with chess since the players are free agents. In both cases most of the prize money is once again generated from sponsorships, " bums on seats "is not the prime source of revenue. Formula 1 is totally dependent on sponsorship and TV rights.


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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on October 25, 2006 8:51 AM.

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