Morozevich drops out of FIDE Grand Prix

2/27/2008 – "The whole system for playing the world championship is flawed," says Alexander Morozevich. In a Sport Express interview the current number four in the world rankings has announced that he will not be participating in the FIDE Grand Prix cycle – joining the top three Anand, Kramnik and Topalov (he says) in his boycott. Sport Express interview.

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Alexander Morozevich: “I am not giving up the fight!”

Interview with Yuri Vasiliev

After his brilliant victory in the Russian Championship Superfinal last year, where he established a unique record by scoring 6/6 during the event, Moscow grandmaster Alexander Morozevich currently has the third-highest rating in the world, 2765, by current rating, behind only Anand and Kramnik. [We have been informed that the results of the “Superfinal Russia 2007” and “Corus 2008” weren’t included in the rating list on the 1st of January. Morozevich is the third by the current rating ahead of Topalov. In fact his current rating is more than 2770].

The name "Morozevich” never fails to attract thousands of Internet spectators to any tournament. But Alexander decided not to play either in Wijk aan Zee, nor in Morelia-Linares, the two most prestigious tournaments at the start of the year. His many fans who so love his fiery, creative style, were hoping that he would at least take part in the next top-class classical event in the calendar, the April super-tournament in Baku, which marks the start of the FIDE Grand Prix. Sport Express (“SE”) has already published details of this two-year cycle of six tournaments. But Morozevich has decided to turn down the chance to participate in this cycle! Why?! SE put this question to the man himself.

Morozevich: 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 their participation was planned by the organisers. 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.

Certainly, the system FIDE have chosen for the current world championship round has attracted many critics, for its length and unwieldiness. But what system would you consider more dynamic and modern?

I have not thought in detail about this question, but I am sure of this: the cycle should be exactly two years. The match-tournaments in San Luis 2005 and Mexico 2007 attracted great interest from the chess world. I think this format could have been retained for th Candidates event, and the winner play a match against the champion, or a final candidates match against the winner of the World Cup.

But how does one choose the eight lucky participants?

You are asking too much of me. I would not like to steal the bread from FIDE’s mouth. Working out the system is their prerogative… (laughs)

Russian chess fans have started talking about a degree of “discrimination”, in view of the fact that our players are no longer being invited to super-tournaments. Thus, in the main tournament at Wijk aan Zee, only Kramnik played, in Morelia-Linares, we have nobody, nor in Sofia, and now it is far from clear whether we will have any at Baku…What do you think about this?

No, no! (smiling) There is no discrimination. As long ago as last autumn, when my trainer Alexey Kuzmin and I drew up our plans for the “winter campaign”, we decided to concentrate on the Russian Superfinal. The characteristics of my style, with the maximum fight in every game, require me to rest between big tournaments. January was selected as the month for a time-out.

Morelia-Linares is another matter. After last year experiencing the “charm” of playing a tournament on two different continents, with two different time zones and two sets of climatic conditions, I became an opponent of such “diversity”. This mid-tournament transfer, and only a three-day gap to acclimatise before the start of the second cycle, disrupts the whole rhythm of the tournament, the mood and dynamic. Incidentally, I believe that both Kramnik and Mamedyarov share my opinion. If the organisers listen to our views, and return the first cycle of the event to the Old World, then next year, the “Wimbledon of chess” will have at least two Russian grandmasters.

So what are your immediate plans?

My next tournament is the melody Amber. It starts in mid-March, in Nice. Of course, it is not classical chess, but a mixture of blindfold and rapid. Virtually all the top ten will be playing. "The show-tournament in Monaco", as it is called, is an extremely entertaining event. It would be nice to extend the geographical horizons of such tournaments. Perhaps we could hold one in Russia as well, and then combine the tournaments into a Grand Prix.

Translated by Steve Giddins


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