Alexei Shirov: FIDE steps back to medieval ages

11/28/2002 – Ten days ago we published thhe details of a new world championship format, as has been decided by FIDE for the current and next two cycles. Now Alexei Shirov has criticized the proposal in an open letter to his GM colleagues. "I think the last time when so many players got direct seeds from one cycle to another was in 1985 which is nearly the same as medieval ages." You will find Shirov's letter here.

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Shirov on the new world championship format

An open letter to grandmasters

FIDE steps back to medieval – for better or worse?

Dear colleagues,

As I wasn’t playing in Bled I had at first very little information about what was going on at the last FIDE congress. Still, after having gathered some of it from various Internet sources, I would like to express my concerns. And of course, as an active professional I am mainly concerned about the future World championships and time controls. As I can understand, at the moment there is no proposed alternative to Seirawan - Kasparov scheme. But the scheme is not without drawbacks. If you put together ‘first’, ‘second’ and ‘third’ cycle, the logic simply disappears.

I don’t wish to interfere in ‘the first cycle’, so let me pass directly to the ‘second’. The ‘double knock-out’ qualification is interesting but it doesn’t seem easy to put it into practice as for the number of qualifiers concerned. Fourteen or eight qualifiers would fit easily into the system but seven? Either there is a mysterious way to make a double knock-out for seven qualification places (as suggested for the ‘third cycle’) or the authors of the scheme know that the ‘third cycle’ isn’t going to happen. It’s needless to say that the old Swiss system offers more flexibility for the number of qualification places than the double knock-out.

I wouldn’t be concerned about the number of qualifiers if I didn’t see it as the only logical explanation why all the four players involved in the first cycle get direct privileges for the second cycle. The following are the arguments against this unfair planning.

1. The direct seeding of four players into the second cycle wasn’t mentioned in the Prague agreement. Neither Dortmund nor Moscow was a direct qualifier for future cycles.

2. Ivanchuk, Anand (who otherwise would be the Elo favourite to win Dortmund) and several other strong players were not even given their second chance in the first cycle and we all know that FIDE is responsible for that. Giving the Dortmund winner an extra bonus for the next cycle is definitely not a correction of that mistake.

3. Not all the four players involved in the first cycle have higher Elo than others.

4. Giving wildcards to as many as four players would be a giant step back from the sporting point of view. Three last FIDE World championships were played with equal conditions for all the participants and this was a big success for democracy in chess. And I think the last time when so many players got direct seeds from one cycle to another was in 1985 which is nearly the same as medieval ages.

My conclusion would be simple - the losers of the matches Kramnik-Leko and Kasparov-Ponomariov should start the second cycle on the same basis as all the other players in the double knock-out event or whatever. Since I don’t know whether my opinion would be supported by other players, I suggest that the 200 best players decide this (as well as the time control issue) in a poll.

Alexei Shirov
26th November 2002

Here are full details of the new FIDE world championship format.

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