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Morozevich Bails on FIDE Grand Prix

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The always exciting and ever-flighty Alexander Morozevich said in an interview with Sport Express that he won't be playing in the recently announced FIDE Grand Prix. Interview translation at ChessBase here.

The whole system for playing the world championship, of which this Grand Prix is a part, has seemed to me to be flawed from the start. Judge for yourselves: firstly, its length – it is almost a four year (!) cycle. In 2008, we begin the qualification for the 2011 match. This didn’t even happen back in the days of the rivalry between Botvinnik and Smyslov. Between the winners of the Grand Prix and the World Cup becoming known, and the world championship match taking place, there is an 18-month gap – in this time, the whole “pecking order” in world chess could change.

Secondly, its unwieldiness. In order to get to the final Candidates Match you have to take part in four (!) tournaments over the course of two years. For the leading players, this is a huge interference in their individual tournament plans.

But the final straw in my decision was that Global Chess [the company, to which FIDE has given responsibility for organising the whole thing. Y.V] has not not actually coped with organising the Grand Prix. The players are being required to sign a contract to take part in four tournaments, without having any definite information about where or when they will be held. I do not think it is right that I should agree in advance to play wherever they might tell me.

Many of your colleagues are prepared to play, even in such vague conditions…

As far as I know, Anand, Kramnik and Topalov have also refused, although they had planned to play. However, my position does not depend on anyone else’s opinion. I have already faced a similar position before the world championship knockout at Las Vegas in 1999. And I did not play then either…

Your numerous supporters will probably be disappointed that you are effectively opting out of the fight for the world championship…

No, by refusing to play in FIDE’s Grand Prix, I am not giving up the fight altogether. There is still another chance to fight for the title – the 2009 World Cup.

Yes, which is one of the numerous reasons the superfluous World Cup should be done away with. That's not he main issue, of course. It was inevitable that some of the the most independently-minded GMs would buck at the horror of having to show up to play on a consistent basis. After several decades of chaos the players are used to popping up whenever and wherever, playing as often or as little as they like. The free spirits, and Moro is certainly the freest of them, want the rewards without the responsibility that comes with professionalism. I sympathize with this attitude and as long as he can make a living doing things his way there shouldn't be anything wrong with that. Punitive measures should be limited to a lack of carrots, not the use of sticks. If you don't want either the rewards or the responsibility, as Morozevich seems to be saying, there should still be work available for a high-rated ronin out there (and not Har Zvi). But if the Grand Slam works out and the top events also decide they want professional standards, guaranteed appearances, and the increased drama and market bundling a cycle provides, times could get tough for the outcasts.

It will be interesting to see how much there is to Moro's statement about Anand, Topalov, and Kramnik. Global Chess seems to have done a decent job of working with the players and keeping them informed, certainly compared to the FIDE diktat glory days. That doesn't mean there's no room for constant improvement and I hope the ACP or some version of it can stay involved to protect the players' interests. Following the model of the tennis tour and just about every other sport you can name some individual freedoms are going to be lost in the interest of more money for the players (and the politicians, naturally). This will require a combination of begging, bribing, and bullying. Mostly, you need a campaign to make it clear this is in the players' best interests.


"The free spirits, and Moro is certainly the freest of them, want the rewards without the responsibility that comes with professionalism."

I don't think this is fair to Moro if the following statement is true:

"The players are being required to sign a contract to take part in four tournaments, without having any definite information about where or when they will be held."

You can't expect the players to commit to the whims of the organizers. If the players need to be professional about showing up on a regular basis, then the organizers had damned well better have things planned in advance.

And as for showing up on a regular basis, that is the norm in team sports, not individual sports. Golfers typically play where and when they want (if they have a tour card), as do tennis players.

Now it is true that everyone that can shopws up at the four majors in each of those sports, but both tennis and golf can accommodate large fields of competitors in a way that is satisfying for the fans and organizers. I doubt very many chess players want to see Linares or WAZ or Sofia go to a Swiss or knockout format. (Remember when Tilburg switched to a knock out format? Does anyone even remember the Tilburg tournaments anymore?) In the face of limited spots it is no surprise that the top players carefully select which events they will participate.

"The free spirits, and Moro is certainly the freest of them, want the rewards without the responsibility that comes with professionalism."

With hindsight, I'm so glad I didn't listen to many of my contemporaries when I was young. I admit I was fortunate, but by being adamant about independence and autonomy, I recently was able to retire at a relatively young age--for retiree's--Had I gone the traditional route, I'm positive I would, at this time, be working as a cog in the wheel for some uncaring company or corporation hoping to retire by age 66 or 70.

Also, one can definately be a free spirit and show responsibility and professionalism. Perhaps Mig didn't mean it quite like that, but that's how he worded it and I thought it somewhat myopic.

I believe Morozevich is standing on principle and doing what's right for him.

"If a man does not keep pace with his fellow companions, let him step to the music which he hears...however measured or far away."
Henry David Thoreau

"The players are being required to sign a contract to take part in four tournaments, without having any definite information about where or when they will be held."

Agree with Icepick above.
A bit early also to talk about chess now being "professionalised" imo. Seeing is believing, especially with FIDE's track record.

I second the thoughts of chesstraveler, especially his adage from Thoreau.

As characterized by Mig, Morozevich sounds like the veriest wingnut, but wingnuts don't consistently earn 2700+ ratings month after month and enrich the game with incredible games.

If the current-chess-establishment-of-the-month can't accommodate a player of Moro's proven skill and consistency, let it hang. I would rather be "wrong" with such a sportsman than "right" with the likes of the present thugocracy at FIDE.

This time, I completly agree with Mig. It is not easy to establish a constant circle of qualification (remember that previously (80's 90's) there were Zonals, Interzonals and then a series of matches that someone had to pass to qualify. Now it is 4 tournaments and then one match... Not huge difference).

Also, with this grand prix, a large amount of money has been granted for chess profecionals. Also, a lot of action for the spectators. The only "drawback", is that a player has to commit playing to those. But then, when someone participated in the Zonal it wasn't fixed where the interzonal will be and certainly where the candidate matches would be held.

And, btw, if you are the best player, you are more certain to qualify from the grand prix than the knock out (statistically speaking).

I completely agree with those cwho side with moro. Why should anyone sign such vague contracts?

BTW, are all GM's (yes, even 2450 GM's - any GM) required to sign? Or only those who "qualify"? Is there a list of people who have qualified already?

OFFtopic: Whats happened with that siberian tourney in honor to karpov?

Yes, Mig, this was your worst comment in a while.

You're equating the dubious promise of a FIDE committee to a clear-cut schedule. There is a zero guarantee that the Grand-Prix will not conflict with established, serious, tournaments.

The problem is not that players will be forced to play tournaments on a consistent basis -- after all people do play pretty consistently in the Grand-Slam chess events when they are invited. The problem is that there is no reason to trust FIDE that the Grand Prix will not be scheduled in a way that is most hurtful to a player's other tournament commitments.

Fortunately, those that believed in the communist way of doing things are not that much in power those days. Moro has to be applauded for not letting such communist methods get the upper hand again.

Alex, I have no idea what you think the Communists have to do with this issue. Perhaps you're just channeling Fischer's Ghost?

Derida, the difference between the time of the zonals, interzonals, candidate tourney/matches and now is that back then FIDE managed to actually get things done on a consistent basis. (That is not to say there weren't hiccoughs, of course.) But since the time of the problems surrounding the Karpov-Timman WC Match, FIDE has lost a lot of credibility.

Furthermore, one thing the Communists had to do with that old system is that the Soviet bloc (and in particular the Soviets themselves) both subsidised their players and put a lot of stock in the processes of those times. Thus, if a top player missed an invite waiting for a tournament, chances were that the he was a Soviet, that he had a guaranteed income from the state, and that there would be pressure applied to compell him to meet the demands of the process, rather than the other way around. These days, with the players as free agents and FIDE changing its mind with every change in the weather, and vagueness in the system will be punished.

Derida writes "The only "drawback [to the Grand Prix system] is that a player has to commit playing to those. But then, when someone participated in the Zonal it wasn't fixed where the interzonal will be and certainly where the candidate matches would be held."

True enough, but at least one was fairly sure that the Zonals would occur! Can the same be said about the current roster of tournaments?

This is a valid question considering the numberless changes the current FIDE regime has made to its numberless recent qualifying schemes. Whereas the players are asked to sign on to these schemes (if and when they appear) -- to give their word -- FIDE has always been free to break ITS word at a moment's notice, a right it indulges in all too often to the players' harm.

All of us can agree that a just and reliable qualifying system is a good thing. Let's work toward that. But let's also bear in mind the utter unreliability of those who run FIDE, starting with its self-appointed president. In fact given this state of affairs, a person would be insane not to raise the very criticisms Moro does.

Someone who is able to read is usually able to differentiate between "communists" and "communist way of doing things."

It is also customary to assume that those that read are usually not autistic and they can take a little hyperbole now and then in their lecture.

But you should not take those as personal criticisms, "Icepick" -- I think you've managed to achieve marvelous things in your life, given that you can't read.


Cheparinov will participate in the Grand Prix as a reserve based on rating (the average of Oct 07 and Jan 07 ratings). http://www.chessdom.com/news/cheparinov-grand-prix

Given that the last reserve on the http://www.fide.com/news.asp?id=1563 page is Grischuk with his 2716 average, while Cheparinov's is just 2655 ((2670+2640/2), it's clear that _LOTS_ of players must have declined.

To the extent the players are asked to agree to the unknown, Moro is obviously right. However, Moro's maverick statements and behavior (and similar exciting play) lead me to believe his position would not be different if such defects were removed from the Grand Prix plan. To that extent, I would say, fine - play only where you want, but don't expect the same rights as regular players.

Note that while Golf and Tennis allow you to pick and choose individual events, their rating system and availability of special rewards strongly incent a substantial minimum participation.

To my mind, the major downside of only Grand Prix as the qualification method for WC challenger candidate selection is exclusivity. Tennis and golf can allow large participation in every event. As someone else pointed out, this has not worked well in Chess. Thus, I see intrinsic value in the World Cup as a way to select a possible wild card from the 'rest of the GMs' who have no opporunity to play in the Grand Prix.

Ahh, Chessdom had updated the article. Now it says "We were informed by a FIDE official that Ivan Cheparinov didn't qualify by rating criteria, but as FIDE President's nominee, ..."


the chessdom article also says the following:

"Information given by Alexander Morozevich, that Vishwanatan Anand, Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov will not participate, has been confirmed."

so, at the moment it's known that moro, anand, kramnik and topalov - the top 4 at the latest official rating list - will not participate. i've got good reasons to believe that the fide grand prix will suffer more of these harmful "unparticipations". it just hasn't reached the public yet.

It is a kind of misleading statement to confuse people. I tend to think it is confirmed that Morozevich gave such statement. Otherwise, it would have been something like Anand, Topalov, Kramnik confirmed their non-participation. I could be wrong.

I'm certainly not qualified to comment one way or the other on how the chess Grand Prix has been structured or whether it makes sense for any particular player to participate.

However, I thought people might be interested to know that on the professional tennis circuit, any player who is in the top 50 ATP rankings is, indeed, required to play in a preset number of events, and doesn't always know what they will be in advance.

The rules are quite complex and vary depending on the player's level. And one can request substitutions in some cases. But they're available online in the player's handbook at http://www.atptennis.com/en/common/TrackIt.asp?file=/en/players/2008rbook.pdf

The top players are also required to participate in various promotional activities up to 2 hours per week. (Again, all specified in the handbook.) There are also rules about when appearance fees can be paid.

Part of the point of the ATP was to provide objective rankings as a fair means of determining who would get invitations to top events. In exchange, the ATP attempted to assure the event organisers that it would and could deliver top players without requiring extensive individual negotiations.

Finding the right balance between these two issues is a challenge for any organisation.


I am a fan of Moros but he is wrong here, if chess is his professions it is not asking soooo much of him to do this for the game. I work 60 hours a week and i am on call 24/7, I did not think he was such a primmadonna. I am sad for him and for chess.....

One question I did have....I noticed in the FIDE handbook on the Grand Prix that there is a "recommended" prize fund for each event, but not a required one. And the player's undertaking just says that the prize funds will be "in accordance" with the handbook. Does anyone know if the 6 announced events are in fact going to meet the "recommended" level?

Also, I should mention that a big difference between the chess Grand Prix and the ATP tennis circuit is that in tennis the players for each event are chosen based on ranking or through a qualifying event. At the start of the cycle no one knows exactly who's going to play in each event, but they do know how they will be chosen, and it's all supposed to be merit-based.

In the chess Grand Prix they're allowing the players to request specific events through a preference list, but "FIDE reserves the right to assign players to tournaments according to the organizational needs..." so there really isn't a predefined process for deciding who plays where. The undertaking also says "FIDE reserves the right to change locations and dates."

Again I don't know all the details, so I can't comment on whether this is a good situation for any given player. I certainly agree with Mig that most competitive organisations work by having the players give up some individual choice in order to collectively get more certainty and usually more money. However it is a bit difficult to tell from what's been published just what the overall benefit to the players will be.


The fine print:
Player's Contract: http://www.fide.com/news/download/Undertaking.pdf


"I work 60 hours a week and i am on call 24/7, I did not think he was such a primmadonna. I am sad for him and for chess....."
John Druis...one could argue that it is your priorities that are wrong. You seem to be at the beck and call of others, slaving away long hours at a job instead of spending more time with loved ones, perhaps devoting your life to the "company". Compared to your work schedule, perhaps Moro's priorities are healthier? Making lots of money is grand, but perhaps the cost many people (and in some places whole cultures) incur is far more prohibitive than they realize until it is too late. Just a perspective from someone who has been there, done that, regretted it, and lost some things that can never be regained. Best wishes to you, John.

I wonder how many of us on our death bed will look back and think...Gee, I wished I would have worked more!? Sorry John, but no company or corporation is worth 60 hour workweeks and on-call 24/7. That's not living, it's existing.

I wish someone would hire me for 60hrs/wk and on call 24/7. Right now I'm working those hours but barely getting paid. Count your blessings, chesstraveler et al.

"Right now I'm working those hours but barely getting paid."


I'm not sure what your situation is, but--if you can--get the hell out of there asap. If someone has you working those hours and your pay is at all in question...leave! I know that it's easy for me to say, but I also know they're not going to take care of you if you stroke out.

I'm just glad he rejected it because its a bad system.

The first WC final match will get allot of press because we know one of the players will be Kramnik Anand Topalov or Kamsky. Whoever of those four it is will have just played two matches to beat out the other three.

But the whole ssytem for determining a challenger is terrible. Kirsan just chooses some players and equally important who plays in what tournaments??

If one tournament has an average rating 100 points lower than a different tournament what top player will get to play there? The whole thing is set up for favoritism. Any cycle needs to have a balanced playing field. It shoudl not depend on who kisses up to the president of the organizing commission. This one explicitly does.

LOL! Father Kamsky says Kasparov is still after his son: http://www.01chess.com/article1.php

Good find, rasi.

I only wish Rustam's father was Kamsky's manager, so that we could get the dream match-up of managers in the Topalov-Kamsky match.

I only wish Rustam was Kamsky's manager, so that we could get the dream match-up of managers in the Topalov-Kamsky match.

Not so many players bailed out in the end. Just Kramnik, Topalov, Anand, Morozevich and Shirov if I am not mistaken (maybe Ponomariov, even though he wasn't a direct qualifier). They are very significant loss to the series but by no means a massive boycott. Aronian and Carlsen will take part, and they appear the most likely winners of the cycle. The difference in the average rating of the strongest and the "weakest" tournament in only of 18 rating points.


Ponomariov wasn't invited. Judit was reserve ahead of Grischuk. When Judit declined, Grischuk took her spot.

Carlsen and Aronian are going to enjoy slumming. 75% scores predicted.

It won't be a lock for Aronian (2739) or Carlsen (2733)--Svidler (2763), Mamedyarov (2760), and Ivanchuk (2751) are also competing, as well as Leko (2753) and Radjabov (2735). And that's even without considering Kamsky, Adams, Grishuck, Cheparinov, and the rest of the field.

Average rating of the 21 players is 2709; each of the 6 events is a category 14. Each event is a 13 round single round robin format, with a player's best 3 events counting towards the final standings.

The full list and schedule is available in the March 5th press release: http://fide.com/news/download/gp_2008_participants.pdf

So there will definitely be some interesting events. The question now is whether the publicity provided can make each change in standings exciting, and encourage individual fan followings for the players.

Standings are going to be a little hard to determine until the 5th event is complete. Svidler will play events 1, 2, 4, and 6. Carlsen will play 1, 3, 4, and 6. But Ivanchuk will play 2, 4, 5, and 6, as will Aronian. So at the half way point (just before event 4 in Switzerland), we'll know more about how Svidler and Carlsen are doing than Ivanchuk and Aronian.

But I think the GP has a lot of potential to give us an exciting two year cycle even without half of the top 10 players.


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