Press release: Kramnik vs Leko in jeopardy

5/26/2003 – The "Prague Unity Plan" for world chess requires that classical chess world champion Vladimir Kramnik play a match against challenger Peter Leko. The winner must play for the unified title against the winner of FIDE's Ponomariov-Kasparov match. The former now looks in danger of collapse, whereas the latter has just received firm confirmation. John Henderson reports.

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26th May, 2003: John Henderson of The Scotsman reports:

Last year's painstaking attempts to reconcile the chess world, summed up in the so-called Prague Agreement, looks set for another blow with a statement to be released today in London by Einstein TV.


Announcement of the Einstein Cycle in Dortmund 2002

Einstein, who own the rights to the World Classical Chess Championship, have confirmed that they have been unable to secure full sponsorship from the Hungarian government (or any government for that matter) to cover all the prize fund for the Vladimir Kramnik-Peter Leko title match, which had an expected purse of $1 million plus. A significant number of potential title sponsors are believed to have shown an interest in sponsoring the match, but, despite positive negotiations with the Einstein team, the amounts to be raised in the time scale proved impossible.

"Combined with underlying international economic anxieties, the Iraqi war effectively undermined global commercial confidence to the point that no potential sponsor was willing to commit sufficient funds towards this match for us to feel secure in proceeding," the statement says.

Despite the setback, which indirectly could release Kramnik from his contract with Einstein by the end of June should the world champion wish to do so, Einstein remain upbeat and have indicated that they are determined to deliver high-quality elite chess events. They are now believed to be in exploratory discussions with a leading consortium on a major new chess development that could lead to the match being played later in the year; or indeed under a new structure. The statement further adds, "Given the current global economic climate and its associated uncertainties, we [Einstein] believe that everyone involved in the world of chess should work towards a common goal of establishing firm and lasting foundations for a commercially viable series of world championship chess events."

However, it's not all bad news on the unification merry-go-round. Also expected this week is a statement from FIDE, announcing that they have now secured from Argentina the $1 million in bank guarantees required that will allow the Garry Kasparov - Ruslan Ponomariov to take place in Buenos Aires, though now with an expected mid November start rather than the expected June date.

The fear now is that FIDE, who now have what they want with Kasparov back in the fold, could take full advantage of Einstein's predicament by pulling out of the Prague Agreement, and ultimately the unification process.


In the meantime we have received the press release from London:

Statement on World Classical Chess Championship

26th May 2003

We have been unable to secure full sponsorship to cover the entire prize fund for the World Classical Chess Championship. A significant number of potential title sponsors have expressed considerable interest, but despite positive negotiations, the amounts to be raised in the time scale have proved impossible.

Our team had discussed this match with various locations, most recently with the Government of Hungary, which generously offered to pay for the organisation of the match. Clearly, the original venues with which we had been linked in the Middle East were not viable because of the impending conflict in Iraq.

Combined with underlying international economic anxieties, the Iraqi war effectively undermined global commercial confidence to the point that no potential sponsor was willing to commit sufficient funds towards this match for us to feel secure in proceeding. Such sponsorship as was committed was not sufficient to cover the agreed prize fund. We think it is important to note that all organisations are having major problems securing external sponsorship for a world championship match and sports sponsorship in general is going through a difficult phase..

While this is obviously very disappointing, we remain determined to deliver high quality world championship chess events. We are now in discussion with a group of parties who are all interested in participating in a significant new advance that would lead to the playing of the World Classical Chess Championship match later this year as well as other new events and matches in our cycle.

Given the current global economic climate and its associated uncertainties, we believe that everyone involved in the world of chess should work together towards a common goal of establishing firm and lasting foundations for a commercially viable series of world championship chess events.

This must involve commercial partners, chess organisations and most importantly, the players and their representatives.

We remain committed to the future of World Classical Championship Chess and look forward to helping establish a more secure base for everyone involved.

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