This international event could not have come at a better time in India. Anand has recently become the undisputed World Chess Champion and crossed the magical figure of 2800 to retain his position as the numero uno of the World Chess. However, the talk of a match early next year (which Kramnik is entitled to if FIDE sticks to its plans) has dampened the spirits here in India.. This so-called re-match, which FIDE appears to have formulated to garner the vote bank, has been ridiculed by Anand and the Indian Chess Fraternity as a whole.
Nigel Short, President of the Commonwealth Chess Association
Expectedly, the Indian media, which is still hung over after the win of the Indian Cricket team in the World T20 Championship at RSA, have failed to highlight this absurd FIDE rule and come out in support of the finest sportsman the country has ever produced. However; a 'wake-up' call has been given by none other than GM Nigel Short, who, as we say, has taken the "bull by the horns!" In a free-wheeling email interview with Indian Sports Correspondent Praful Zaveri, Nigel Short, President of the Commonwealth Chess Association, airs his views about Commonwealth Chess Championship, Anand's win at Mexico, the re-match, the performance of his protege GM Parimarjan and, as also his own. Time to set the things right!
Praful Zaveri: Before we come to the Commonwealth Chess Championship 2007, the triumph of Anand at Mexico – your views on his performance and what it means to the chess fraternity?
Nigel Short: I thought Anand played very well. He thoroughly deserved his victory. I am not sure though it has any major implications for the chess fraternity. Perhaps, observing the excellent performances of Anand and Gelfand, organisers might now be less ageist? That would be something to hope for. I also hope that Anand might use his position of immense influence to push for long overdue reforms.
Your views on the performance of Kramnik? He had nothing to lose, as he has a re-match on hand early next year.
Perhaps subconsciously that had an influence. There can only be one winner though, and in such a star-studded field Kramnik's slightly lacklustre result was not particularly striking.
The FIDE rules gives the benefit of re-match to Kramnik, which has been criticized by one an all. Your views?
Under the old system, a defending champion, with the benefit of a rematch, had a 75% chance of retaining his title. These were overwhelming odds which Mikhail Botvinnik, who in his later years was a shadow of his former force, ruthlessly exploited. The rigged system did not seem to trouble his conscience, if, indeed, he possessed one. With Kramnik it is slightly different . The current World Championship "system", if I may laughingly call it so, is a real dog's breakfast. Kramnik's advantage is not so obscene as Botvinnik's, and it is more difficult to blame him for taking his chances amidst the chaos. In general though, rematches, like feudalism, should be abolished.
If you think that re-match is not fair to Anand, why is FIDE not in tune with modern times? They have retained the same rules, which were prevelant 60 years ago, of giving an unfair advantage to the defending champion who fails to defend his title. Is it that they do not want to change, or they do not want any World Champion outside Russia and its other break-away countries?
I do not think that overt nationalism is behind the current debacle. FIDE simply possesses an extraordinary capacity for making bad decisions. Anand ought to use his enormous influence to try to do something about it, instead of adopting his usual passive, Mr Nice-Guy, fatalistic attitude.
If we look at the other world sports, say football, cricket, hockey or individual events like table tennis and badminton, they do not have such rules. Why in chess? Aren't the FIDE think-tank aware that this is hurting chess?
Either they don't know or they don't care. Or both, more likely.
What can be done to remove this malady?
They could start by removing some personnel: the head-butting, move-retracting, tournament-rigging, Zurab Azmaiparashvili for instance. He is a disgrace to the organisation. But never let it be said that he is a dunderhead.
What should be the ideal format of the world chess championship according to you?
I don't know.
Now to the Commonwealth: during the press conference of the Commonwealth Chess Championship 2006 at Mumbai you had declared that the next edition (2007) of this event would be held at South Africa. What is the reason for SA backing out and the event allotted again to India?
South Africa were awarded the 2007 Championships at the CCA meeting in Calvia 2004 – i.e. before my time in office. Unfortunately insufficient energy was put into securing sponsorship and a lot of time was initially wasted. Then Jackie Ngubeni was put in charge of the project, but his failure to produce any sort budget for Chess South Africa led them to terminate the relationship. His reputation is now under a dark cloud after the notorious Kogan affair.
Were any steps taken by the members of the Commonwealth Chess Association to help SA in hosting this event?
Not really. I was in regular contact by phone and e-mail with various people in RSA, but without a CCA budget or a federation to support me there is a limit to what I can do from such a distance.
Hosting the event at South Africa would have been great for chess as smaller commonwealth countries from Eastern Africa can take part. Will it affect their participation as the event is Delhi because the players from these countries do not have sponsorship or financial support?
RSA would have been an excellent venue. There are a large number of Commonwealth countries in Africa, most of whom, I believe, would have sent representatives to the competition. I would be surprised if more than a handful of African countries will be in Delhi though.
What is the financial condition of the CCA. Is their any co-ordination between the executive members to spread chess amongst the Commonwealth Countries?
The financial condition of the CCA is quite easy to describe: we have no money at all. Efforts to collect funds from federations in the past have failed. There have been just a handful of contributers. It would make sense to charge the host federation of the Commonwealth Championship some small fee for organising the event so that we can start a website among other things.
Would you be defending the title?
Probably not. It clashes with Khanty-Mansysk, although theoretically I can play if, as is likely, I get knocked out early enough.
If no, reasons?
In addition to the above, I understand that the AICF have also scheduled two games a day. One should no more play two games of chess a day than one should play two games of cricket or football. I am a serious chessplayer and I don't support any degradation of the game.
Are you happy with the venue of the event? It is the same event where the Commonwealth Games 2010 would be held.
Which country has been allotted the 2008 edition?
How is your protege Parimarjan Negi doing? Any reason for such a dismal performance at the Asian (41st place among 72 participants).
He is a young player and is still learning. During the course of our training I have gradually become more aware of his deficiencies. Instead of talking about them in a public forum, I would prefer to concentrate on helping him and trying to eliminate them. He is a good player and will go far. It is not very helpful to compare him with a genius like Anand though.
His future tournaments? Is he playing in the Commonwealth and Asian Junior?
I am not quite sure. I am supposed to see him before the end of the year. In fact I am awaiting an e-mail from his father on this subject now.
Before we conclude, how is your performance after Montreal?
My chess is ok, I think, although I have lost a huge number of rating points this year. Unusually I have been dogged by ill-health. I was informed by a doctor during Baku in May that I should not be playing in my condition. I was told the same thing by a different doctor in Sarajevo. I then had quite severe dental problems in Montreal (which are still being fixed, incidentally) and then suffered a spinal disc hernia in Spain. When I am in normal condition there is little reason to think my chess has deteriorated. I will be back!
Venue: Sirifort Sports Complex, Khel Gaon, New Delhi.
System of play: The tournament will be conducted as per FIDE Laws of Chess and FIDE Swiss System. 10 rounds will be played. In case of a tie, the latest FIDE Rules shall come in to effect. The cash prizes however will be shared.
Prizes: Total Cash Prizes: Rs. 800,000 (US $20,000 approx.)
Medals: Gold, Silver and Bronze medals will be awarded in Open, Seniors, Women, Under-20 (Boys and Girls), Under-18 (Boys and Girls), Under-16 (Boys and Girls), Under-14 (Boys and Girls), Under-12 (Boys and Girls) , Under-10 (Boys and Girls), Under-8 (Boys and Girls) categories. The medal winners will be referred to as Commonwealth Medallists.
Entry Fee: Official entries Rs 3,000 ($75), GMs/IMs / WGMs/ WIMs free. The last date of entry: 21st November, 2007, entries after that with late fee of Rs. 2,000 extra. Entries may be sent by DD (Delhi Cheques will also be accepted) favoring Delhi Chess Association, payable at No.1874, Outram lines. Phulwari block, Kingsway camp New Delhi-110009, India.
Entries: Each Commonwealth country is eligible to field one man, one woman, one junior girl (Under-20), one junior boy (Under-20) player and one boy and girl each in under-8, 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18 as official entrants. Their boarding and lodging will be provided free. Other entrants will have to pay for boarding and lodging (Rs. 2,500 = USD 60 per day.
Registration: All Foreign Participants and accompanying persons will have to pay registration 100 Euros per head. This will include their transportation from airport and back. The AICF registration fee for 2007 is compulsory for all Indian participants. The registration fee of Rs. 250/- will be accepted at the venue for the convenience of the players.
Accommodation: All foreign participants and accompanying persons are required to stay in official accommodation. The Indian players will be given lodging only in hotels in Central Delhi at Rs. 2,000 (for 10 days) on a triple sharing basis.
Weather: The weather in Delhi during December is expected to be between cool and pleasant. The minimum/maximum temperatures will be around 10°/25° Celsius.
Facilities Available: 12 tennis courts including 8 synthetic courts, tennis practice wall, indoor multipurpose stadium, badminton, glass back wall squash courts, table tennis, billiards/snooker, basketball, hockey, cricket, cricket practice pitches, football, jogging track, children park, skating, golf driving range, pitch and putt course, olympic size swimming pool, toddlers pool, air rifle/pistol shooting range, aerobics, yoga, taekwondo, fitness centre, naturopathy centre, health and nutrition centre, reiki, sports shop, snack bars. a multipurpose lndoorstadium has been recently added.
Contact: Delhi Chess Association, Room No.1874, Outram lines, Phulwari block, Kingsway camp, New Delhi-110009, India. Telefax: 91-11-24360035, Email: delhichess64 (at) yahoo.com or delhichess64 (at) gmail.com.