Classical Chess World Championship announced

5/13/2004 – In a beautifully-staged press conference in Hamburg, the Swiss Tobacco manufacturer Dannemann today formally announced the staging of the "First Classical World Chess Championship after four years" between Vladimir Kramnik and Peter Leko. We bring a keynote statement by ACP president Joel Lautier in our pictorial report.

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First Classical World Chess Championship after four years

The event was announced by the sponsors and organisers in a press conference which was staged in the exclusive Hamburg hotel Vier Jahreszeiten. It will take place in Switzerland from September 25 to October 18 this year. The location is the Centro Dannemann and the prize fund one million Swiss Francs, which currently converts to US $772,700 or €649,100.

The opening ceremony is on Friday, September 24, the 14 games will be played on September 25, 26, 28, 30, October 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18. The arbiters will be Dr. Markus Angst (Switzerland), Dr. Andrzej Filipowicz (Poland) and Albert Vasse (Netherlands).

The press invitation, started off with the drawing of colours – with a new and interesting twist. Adriana Madeira, a representative of Dannemann, selected a square, f5, which was not revealed to the players. Kramnik and Leko started a blitz game, and the first to place a piece on the selected square got White in game one of the match.

Peter Leko managed with the move Nh4-f5 in the above position. So he will be White in game one on September 25th.

Present at the press conference were Hans Leusen, President of Dannemann Brazil, the title holder Vladimir Kramnik (28), challenger Peter Leko (24), ACP President Joel Lautier and a few others involved in the staging of the match.

The press conference was attended by a group of around 40 journalists and photographers.

Hans Leusen, speaking in German with a pleasant Dutch accent, told the audience that the size of the prize sum "underlines the global importance of this tournament – our commitment is intended to contribute to the further development and professionalisation of chess.“

The proceedings were simultaneously-translated for Vladimir Kramnik. Peter Leko and Joel Lautier are both fluent in German. During the conference Vladimir's mobile phone suddenly rang. There were no serious consequences, like disqualification or anything.

One of the main speakers was Joel Lautier, who announced the full backing of the event by the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP). His speech, which is given below, retraced the schism in the chess world and the problems created by the World Chess Federation FIDE. Lautier, who is also the tournament director of the Dannemann event, presented the rules for the World Championship, which according to ACP could also form the framework for future World Championship duels. He set FIDE a deadline for October to organise the match between Kasparov and the winner in Libya, or they would have to look at other reunification options.

In his address Vladimir Kramnik mentioned that the person on the Dannemann logo (behind his head) had a stunning resemblance to the first chess world champion Wilhelm Steinitz. When asked about his chances against Leko he drew laughter by quoting Alekhine, who speaking about his opponent Capablanca, said: "I don't know how I'm going to beat him; but I also cannot imagine how he can beat me." We have video-taped Kramnik's speech and will bring it to you at a later date.

Peter Leko spoke about the importance this match has for him personally and for the Hungarian chess community which has for such a long time been close to providing a challenger for the World Championship but never quite made it – until now. Peter told the audience that Hungary is planning live coverage of the event in public places all over the country.


The two players pose with Hans Leusen and Adriana Madeira.


Adriana attaches a lucky band around Peter Leko's wrist


After the press conference the two players take time off to chat with each other

About the Centro Dannemann SA – Brissago, Switzerland

Inspired by the success of the Centro Cultural Dannemann (Bahia, Brazil) at the start of 2002, the Centro Dannemann was founded in Brissago. It is a place where ideas, dreams and thoughts are found. The guests of the Centro Dannemann include among other things: the Locarno Film Festival, the Ruggero Leoncavalo Opera Festival and Miss Switzerland 2003. During the 2nd. Dannemann Chess Classico on January 29, 2004 the reigning World Chess Champion Vladimir Kramnik beat the German national team in a simultaneous match with 2.5:1.5. Contacts:

Rosanna Pierantognetti
CENTRO DANNEMANN
Via R. Leoncavallo 55
Casella Postale 364
CH - 6614 Brissago
T +41 91 7868133
F +41 91 7868149
M +41 76 4995807
r.pierantognetti@centroDANNEMANN.com

Ellie Zips
IRA WÜLFING KOMMUNIKATION
Infanteriestraße 19
Haus 4a
D-80797 München
T +49-(0)89-200030-31
F +49-(0)89-200030-40
M +49-(0)177-8168158
ellie.zips@wuelfing-kommunikation.de

Links


Joel Lautier's Address at the Dannemann Press Conference on May 12, 2004, in Hamburg

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,

Obwohl es für mich immer eine aufregende Herausforderung ist, in Goethes Sprache zu reden, reicht mein Wissen unglücklicher Weise nicht aus, um meine Meinungen über einige der eher komplizierteren Themen, die ich heute vor Ihnen erläutern werde, auszudrücken. Lassen sie sich nicht von diesen wenigen deutschen Sätzen täuschen, da ich sie heute morgen sorgfältig geübt habe. Wenn sie mir erlauben, wechsle ich jetzt auf Englisch.

[This introduction says: It is always an exciting challenge for me to speak in the language of Goethe. But my knowledge of it is unfortunately insufficient to adequately express my opinion on the complicated themes which I will explain to you today. Please do not be fooled by these German sentences – I practised them carefully this morning. If you permit I will now switch to English.]

Ladies and gentlemen,

For those of you who do not know me, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Joel Lautier, I’m a chess Grandmaster and the highest rated player in France. I am here in a different capacity however, as the President of the ACP, the Association of Chess Professionals.

To start with, I would like to briefly describe the current situation in the chess world. In order to do that, I need to go back a little in the history of our game. In 1993, the then FIDE World Champion Garry Kasparov and his official challenger Nigel Short left FIDE, the international chess federation, in order to play their match under the roof of a new organization created specifically for that purpose. Ever since that date, the chess world has been split in two, FIDE continued to stage its world championship events, while Garry Kasparov stayed away from them and played independent matches with his world title at stake. After successfully defending it in 1993 and 1995, Kasparov was defeated in 2000 by Vladimir Kramnik, who thus became the new World Champion. This schism has remained to this day, and that is why we currently have two World Champions, the FIDE titleholder Ruslan Ponomariov from Ukraine and the Classical World Champion Vladimir Kramnik.

What exactly entails the title of “Classical” Champion must be explained. It is a testimony to the fact that the holder of this title belongs to the long, classical tradition of World Champions that goes all the way back to 1886 and to Wilhelm Steinitz, the first World Champion. Such a lineage of champions is unique in the history of sports, and what makes it so valuable is the fact that every World Champion has beaten his predecessor in a fair duel. The only exceptions were in 1948 and 1975, but there were good reasons for that: in the first case Alexander Alekhine abruptly died, while in the second Bobby Fischer just stopped playing chess. Therefore, Garry Kasparov himself, in his recent best-selling book “My Great Predecessors”, only recognizes Vladimir Kramnik as the current World Champion, the fourteenth in the history of chess.

Since 1993, FIDE has been struggling to hold its own championships, as it was always lacking the participation of the strongest player at the time. In 2002, by signing the so-called ‘Prague Agreement’, FIDE recognized the necessity to reunify the chess world. It took upon itself the responsibility of organizing a FIDE title match between the current holder Ruslan Ponomariov and Garry Kasparov. The winner of this match was due to meet the winner of the Classical World Championship for the reunified title. For reasons that are not fully elucidated to this day, the match between Ponomariov and Kasparov was eventually cancelled by FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. This means that FIDE has gone one step backward in the reunification process, since Ponomariov has lost his status as World Champion and now has to defend his title in a large knock-out event involving 128 players before being able to play Kasparov in a separate match. FIDE’s attitude towards Ponomariov is very questionable and has provoked a strong reaction from Ponomariov who has refused to take part in the knock-out world championship, but we shall not dwell on that now.

Vladimir Kramnik, in the meantime, has obtained a worthy challenger in the person of Peter Leko, who convincingly won a very strong candidates’ tournament in Dortmund in 2002. Once their match will be over, we shall know the name of the Classical World Champion and this part of the Prague Agreement, at any rate, will have been fulfilled. FIDE’s part of the Prague deal, however, is not likely to be delivered very soon. At the moment, FIDE is experiencing serious difficulties in attracting the best players in its World Championship knock-out event that will be staged in Libya in June-July. All the FIDE World Champions since 1993, all four of them – Karpov, Khalifman, Anand and Ponomariov, have refused to play in Libya. On top of that, out of the best 16 players in the world, 9 have declined to play in Libya, not counting Kasparov who is granted a direct match for the FIDE title against the winner from Libya. This basically means that FIDE has already failed in its avowed attempt to reunify the chess world. It also means that in the current state of things, FIDE’s World Championship title cannot be considered legitimate if so many top players are missing from the competition.

As you can see, FIDE has not done a stellar job in running high-level chess during the last years, and that is precisely why the ACP has come into existence. In September 2003, a small group of strong professional players decided that it was time to take matters in their hands and not let the bureaucrats from FIDE or the ECU, the European branch of FIDE, dictate professional players how and where they should play chess. This small group of players gathered together and created the ACP, a not-for-profit international organisation established in Paris under the French law. We actively started recruiting new members from October 2003 and in December of last year, a Board of nine members was elected to run the association and I was elected as its president. Eight months after the birth of the ACP, we have more than 200 members, a large majority of which are high-level professional chess players. The aim of the ACP is twofold, to defend the rights of chess players worldwide and to promote chess by setting up a circuit of professional chess events.

Both FIDE and the ECU have, unfortunately, given us a lot of work as far as defending the players is concerned. I will just explain briefly some of the more recent conflicts we have had to solve. As I mentioned previously, the next FIDE World Championship will be a large knock-out event with 128 players, to be staged in Tripoli, Libya. However, in order to take part, the participants had to sign a so-called “Player’s Undertaking” that had very little to do with a proper contract. It is actually a written commitment signed by the players, which contains no obligations on FIDE’s part and does not even bear any signature from a FIDE representative. This means that if a dispute arises between a player and FIDE, the organization can use this document at leisure while the player has no binding evidence of FIDE’s obligations towards him or her. FIDE has turned a deaf ear to our offer of improving this undertaking, as a result many top players have refused to sign it and have consequently been excluded from the World Championship.

I must also point out that, by holding the FIDE World Championship in Libya, FIDE is de facto depriving all Israeli players and several American participants of a chance to fight for the world title. To this day, it is absolutely unclear whether Israeli players are allowed to enter Libya, as FIDE’s press releases assuring that all players will be granted visas have just been completely contradicted by a public statement coming from the Libyan authorities claiming that they never intended to allow Israeli citizens to enter Libya. If this were confirmed, it would be an obvious breach of a basic sporting rule, namely that no participants in a major sports competition can possibly be disqualified on account of race, citizenship or religious beliefs.

Another striking example is FIDE’s absurd decision to stage the Women’s World Championship in the city of Batumi, located in a province of Georgia called Ajaria. This province was refusing to obey the central powers in the capital Tbilisi, and therefore the Georgian government had warned FIDE and the participants that it was against the staging of a World Championship in Batumi, as it couldn’t guarantee the safety of the participants. The ACP repeatedly asked FIDE to let common sense prevail and it finally did, but at a very late stage. The event in Batumi has just been cancelled and moved to Elista, capital of Kalmykia, only a couple of weeks prior to the event. The list of FIDE’s management mistakes goes on and on, but I will bore you no longer with that.

The second part of the ACP activity, promoting chess, has been more rewarding. We have staged two successful Internet chess tournaments and we are now actively working on building a unified circuit of tournaments called the ACP Tour. In a nutshell, the idea is to group important existing tournaments, both at classical and rapid time-controls, both from closed and open tournaments, all into one system. The top performers of the season will then be qualified to a Masters event that the ACP plans to organize at the end of next year. For some reason, this simple model, which has worked very well for major individual sports such as tennis, golf or Formula 1, has never been implemented in chess. Given the time and means, we also envision to develop chess teaching for children, as chess is ideally suited to help kids develop a strong sense of logic and therefore, serves as an ideal introduction to mathematics and sciences in general. Numerous other qualities are stimulated by the early practice of chess, such as independent thinking, competitive drive or a sense for aesthetics, to name but a few. Chess is best taught at an early age, around six or seven, when children usually learn to read and their intellect develops at a very fast pace.

Having introduced the ACP, I would now like to state its role as far as the Classical World Championship goes. For the reasons described previously, the ACP recognizes the World Championship match between Vladimir Kramnik and Peter Leko, as opposed to the FIDE event in Libya. However, I must stress that the sponsor Dannemann is the official rights’ holder to the Classical World Chess Championship, therefore it would be incorrect to call this the ACP World Championship. Nevertheless, the company Dannemann shares the views of the ACP on the current situation in the chess world, that is why I have been offered the function of match director, which it has been my honour to accept.

Of course, the big question on everyone’s mind is now: what will happen after the World Championship match between Vladimir and Peter? Well, we all agree that what chess needs more than anything else, is the reunification of all the best players in one championship cycle. FIDE has such a damaged reputation nowadays that we fear it will be hard for them to find sponsors to fulfil their part of the reunification process. In fact, the only thing they have going for them is Garry Kasparov’s commitment to play one match for the FIDE title. However, even that may not last forever, since Kasparov has already seen his match with Ponomariov twice announced and twice cancelled, in Buenos Aires and Yalta. If FIDE struggles to find the financial backing for a match between the winner in Tripoli and Kasparov, it is not quite clear how they could stage a reunification match. The ACP position is the following: FIDE should be given some time to stage its match between the winner in Tripoli and Kasparov. By the end of the match in Brissago, we should already have a fair idea of how far FIDE has advanced in that direction. If nothing definite is announced by FIDE by the end of October 2004, the ACP will seriously consider taking part in the reunification process. When the time comes, we shall advise everyone in another press conference. Something tells me we might see each other again in the near future!

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention.


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