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FIDE Candidates 2012 (Venue)

Ilyumzhinov states Candidates will start in London in October

FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov |

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has told Yuri Vasiliev of "Sport Express" (his usual outlet when he has chess related announcements) in an Article of 10th February 2012 that the FIDE Candidates tournament will take place in London October 23rd to November 13th 2012. He adds that the rights to entire cycle will be transfered to a new company called Agon run by a US businessman Andrew Paulson who according to Business Week is building a growing Internet empire in Russia. The players are set to be Carlsen, Aronian, Kramnik, Svidler, Grischuk, Ivanchuk, wildcard Radjabov and the loser of the Anand-Gelfand World title match in May. If it goes ahead this is very good news for chess fans in the UK. However the announcement through a short interview rather than official press release does not suggest to me that the deal has been done yet. There are also the reservations of Ilya Levitov of the Russian Chess Federation who it seems to me has barely disguised his contempt for the deal. This all follows the Presidential Board meeting in Al Ain in the UAE. More information below.

The announcement that London was first of all in the running for the World Chess Championship Candidates tournament along with Bulgarian and Azerbaijan, then the favourite and then that it was a done deal all came as a bit of a shock to those in the UK who thought they would have at least heard something if there was a UK bid. But in fact this is a Russian based bid and London has been chosen as it is a major world city.

The first news came via a tweet from Berik Balgabaev the Executive Assistant to FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and was directed at Ilya Levitov the Russian Chess Federation delegate and a FIDE Vice President.

Berik Balgabaev

Ilya, why give false info? If you hadn't rushed away from the Presidential Board me meeting you'd have learned the dates and location of the Candidates Tournament: London, 23/10-13/11.

Levitov himself had an extensive say on the Russian Chess Federation website. It is fair to say that he is not a believer in the deal. Some of his objections to Agon included "complete lack of experience in organizing chess competitions" and about Andrew Paulson "His motivation for these investments remains unknown, as you can't accuse him of a love of chess.". He described Agon's bid as "virtual". If this was a diplomatic account of the meeting one shudders to think what his real views are.

This was translated by Peter Doggers and quoted in his excellent article. The Candidates' in London; is FIDE selling its World Championship cycle?. See also ChessBase's article on the developments.

Ilya Levitov

At the Meeting we also discussed the proposal from the company "Agon" to buy the rights to the whole cycle right to redeem the whole cycle - holding the Grand Prix, the World Cup, the Candidates Tournament and the World Championship match. They guarantee prize funds and promise to take on responsibility for organising everything. "Agon" was founded in January of this year in some offshore centre. It has nothing to do with chess, or with sport in general. It was founded by Andrew Paulson, one of the founders of the company "Afisha". The agreement itelf is very profitable for FIDE, but the complete lack of experience in organizing chess competitions raises concerns.

Mr. Paulson was present at the Presidential Board. His presentation was disappointing. No specifics, just general words about lifting chess to a new level. He seems ready to invest a huge amount of money in chess. His motivation for these investments remains unknown, as you can't accuse him of a love of chess.

The Presidential Board decided to sign an agreement with him if it turns out that it doesn't conflict with the existing agreement with CNC (which is, in general, exactly the same). For now the Candidates Tournament is in limbo. There are two bids - from Azerbaijan and Bulgaria - and the "virtual" one from "Agon", if an agreement is reached with FIDE.

In any case, after signing the contract all the tournament rights go to the company "Agon," which will determine the time and place. Of course, the whole situation is a concern. I believe that Mr. Paulson is obliged as soon as possible to clarify his ideas and plans to the general chess public.

Then we had FIDE's own report on the meeting in a press release of 7th February 2012.

The main points they make.

"It was confirmed that the 2012 Chess Olympiad and FIDE Congress will be held in Istanbul, Turkey from 27th August to 10th September."

Which is a good confirmation to have as there has been very little news about the Olympiad.

"The bids for the Candidates Matches were discussed, with a final decision to be made before 29th February, 2012."

Only 3 days later Ilyumzhinov was already announcing via Yuri Vasiliev of "Sport Express" that the deal with Agon was done. I wonder what the 29th Feb deadline referred to.

This opens the question as to whether the decision been takem yet or is Ilyumzhinov trying to bounce FIDE into an agreement. This packaging up of the whole cycle and giving it to a commercial company to exploit is an idea that Ilyumzhinov has been trying to get to work for a long time. I thought that his 2010 agreement with Chess New Network (CNC) was supposed to be that deal. CNC have done almost nothing in the intervening time but as Peter Doggers points out their website has half heartedly sprung to life again. The timing cannot be coincidental.

If the deal is done there is certainly plenty that should be done to market chess as a sport. Whether the articles and wikipedia entry about Andrew Paulson actually represent reality I don't know but I would like to know more anyway. What he plans to do we don't know (Levitov thought his plans vague and full of platitudes when he heard him speak at the Presidential Board). How does he plan to make money? Will he change his mind about the venue as being London, maybe choosing say New York instead? Will the deal be done at all? Where do CNC fit in with all this?

I'd love to see a major FIDE event in the UK for the first time since as far back as Speelman v Short, Candidates 1st Round Match, 1991 (I'm open to correction on this but this now seems right, my thanks to David Sedgwick). Right now there do seem many more questions than answers. I've reported far too many such announcements that have proved to being subject to change to state with certainty, just yet, that there will be a Candidates tournament in London in October - November 2012.

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