The news broke on Tuesday night (Wed. early morning in Europe): a top chess event was planned for December 2003 in Mumbai, with players like Kasparov, Karpov, Anand, Kramnik, Leko, Grischuk, Shirov, Svidler, Polgar, Bareev, Adams, Short, Ponomariov and Ivanchuk as prospective participants. Articles to this effect appeared in the following Indian national media outlets:
- Indian Television (Sept 2nd, 6:30 p.m.)
- The Hindu (Sept 2nd, 8 p.m.)
- Times of India (Sept 3rd, 6:08 a.m.)
Naturally we too carried the news, presenting them as good Christmas tidings for the chess community. But then the phone calls and messages started coming in, from a number of the players listed above. Apparently most had first heard about this event from our ChessBase news story on Sept. 3rd. They also drew attention to the fact that in the time slot givenmost of the top players had other commitments, like the FIDE knockout world championship in November-December 2003 and Corus Wijk aan Zee in January 2004. We reported on their scepticism in a second report entitled Pie in the Sky?
Now the main organiser, the Venus Chess Academy, has contacted us with some comments. It's president, Ravindra Dongre, who is also the Chairman of the Maharashtra Chess Association, expressed surprise at the tone of our second article and wrote:
We would like to clarify.
1. We organised the press conference in Mumbai to announce the fact that Venus Chess Academy will be organising a Category 20 Invitation chess tournament in India. The press release issued clearly states that the proposed time-frame is December 2003.
2. We have successfully organised the Commonwealth 2003 Chess Championship in Mumbai earlier this year where over 25 Grand Masters took part.
3. We clearly announced at the press conference that we will be contacting the players to get their dates and we will announce the final schedule of the tournament only in October 2003.
4. We have also received permission from AICF to organize the Commonwealth Chess Championship in February 2004.
5. We once again reiterate that we are delighted to organize the Category 20 Invitation Chess Tournament in Mumbai, India. Such tournaments are held in Dortmund and Linares and we would like to hold one in India. The final schedule of the tournament will of course depend on the players availability and their acceptance of commercial terms.
The message was signed by Ravindra Dongre for the Venus Chess Academy and by Samir Kale, the president of SportzPR in Bombay.
Times of India follow-up
Yesterday night the Times of India posted a report entitled "Kasparov's Mumbai visit not certain". Excerpts:
Gary Kasparov could well be playing in India. But don't celebrate just yet.
"Dates are going to be a problem," accepted Maharashtra Chess Association president Ravindra Dongre. "But we are confident that the festival will go ahead. If not in December, early next year." Players are likely to give more importance to the Fide event than this invitation event. If the Fide event is scheduled in January, finding dates for the Mumbai event will not be easy. For, there are traditional Super GM events in Wijkaan Zee and Linares in the first half of the year.
Even the announcement of Kasparov's name is a bit of kite-flying. "He had shown interest playing in India," said Dongre. "There are encouraging signs from the sponsors too. The prize money will be in the region of Rs 30 lakh. The tournament budget could run beyond Rs 3 crore including appearance money for top players."
For your information: A "lakh" is an Indian unit denoting 100,000, so at the current exchange rate of 45.8521 Indian Rupees to the US Dollar the prize fund ammounts to about $65,400. A "crore" is ten million (yep, they don't skip the "million" in India), so the total budget is 30 million Rupees, which translates to about $655,000.
Naturally we support this momentous effort on the part of Venus and SportzPR and will do all in our power to facilitate the creation of a new and exciting Super-tournament in India. We urge all top players to cooperate with the organisers. Staging a tournament like this in a country with a billion chess fans can only be good for the game.
On the same day the Times of India posted another report entitled "Anand fires salvo at Fide, Kasparov", which addresses the cancellation of the FIDE world championship match between Ponomariov and Kasparov, and the announcement of a new cycle, starting with a classical 128-player knockout tournament in December. The winner of that tournament will be crowned official FIDE World Championship and will play Garry Kasparov next Spring. The winner of that match will will play the winner of the Kramnik-Leko classical chess world championship match (assuming that this is staged) in a final unification match some time in the coming year. [See ChessBase report for details]. The Times of India articl reports on Anand's reaction to this arrangement. Excerpts:
India's premier chess player Vishwanathan Anand has fired a salvo at the chess world governing body Fide and world No 1 Gary Kasparov. "It seems very unfair that Kasparov is getting seeded to the finals without playing the knockout or any qualification. It is funny how Kasparov once attacked Anatoly Karpov for the same," said Anand from his Madrid residence.
Will Anand play in the challenger tournament on such a short notice? What does he think of the latest mess? And can chess fans hope to find a new undisputed world champion? Anand: "We havent got any information other than the various versions available on the internet. As a professional, you plan your tournament calendar in such a way that you play at an optimum level. Having an event of this strength in December surely needs a lot of reworking schedules. The information available at the moment seems very vague. When there is some concrete information available to the players, I will give it due thought."