World Championship 2018 to be in London

by Macauley Peterson
11/29/2017 – Magnus Carlsen will defend his World Championship title in a 12-game match to be held in London from November 9th to 28th, 2018, World Chess confirmed today. He will play the winner of the Candidates tournament to be held in Berlin in March.

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Match in London for the first time since 2000

World Chess announced this evening that the British capital will host the 2018 World Championship match at a media event with World Champion Magnus Carlsen. The announcement came at a reception held at Kensington Roof Gardens and hosted by former UK politician, and avid chess fan, George Osborne, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer under Prime Minister David Cameron from 2010 to 2016, and is currently the editor of the London Evening Standard.

The choice of London was previously leaked to and reported by El Pais columnist and ChessBase contributor Leontxo Garcia on October 9th, and today's event serves as confirmation of the city.

Magnus Carlsen gave brief remarks to the gathered crowd, on the eve of the London Chess Classic:

The match will have a prize fund of € 1,000,000, the minimun required by FIDE. The official hashtag on twitter for the match should be #LondonPlaysChess. That continues the theme set for the Candidates tournament which is supposed to use #berlinplayschess, as seen, for instance in World Chess' most recent tweet confirming Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Alexander Grischuk as the final two participants:

A new minimalist logo for the match has been released in keeping with the style Agon / World Chess has adopted since its inception in 2012.

World Chess Championship 2018 logo

World Chess Championship banner | Source: World Chess on Facebook

Few new details

In keeping with the 2016 match and the Grand Prix, the sponsors noted in the press release remain the same, although the "official partner", PhosAgro, a Russian chemical holding company, has apparently signed a long-term contract with World Chess. Its duration and investment level is unmentioned.

The release quotes Andrey Guryev, CEO of PhosAgro:

Long-term sponsorship of the World Chess championships, which we signed today, is part of PhosAgro’s established corporate responsibility programme, which supports education, science, medicine and sports. We already sponsored the 2014 World Chess Championship match in Sochi and the 2016 World Chess Championship match in New York and are committed to continue. We are delighted with the choice of the city: London is where tradition and modern technology meet, and this is exactly our vision for the future of chess. Can’t wait to the chess fever to commence in London!

Other partners are back as well: Kaspersky Lab, also headquartered in Moscow, as "World Chess and FIDE Official Cybersecurity Partner"; S.T. Dupont as "Official Writing Instrument"; and Isklar ("ice clear" in Norwegian), which also sponsors Carlsen himself, as "Official Water".

Agon CEO, Ilya Merenzon, says:

Chess is now one of the world’s most popular computer games, but it has long-standing traditions, and we believe that London is the perfect setting for the next Championship Match. We are transforming the sport and making it modern and hip, but mindful of millennia-old traditions – and we hope to conduct this transformation as gracefully, as London does.

The press release promises a match "with every move avidly followed and analyzed by a global audience of hundreds of millions of chess fans" and then cites a total audience for the 2016 World Championship match "topping 1.5 billion people". A bit of hyperbole perhaps, as even with a generous reading of "audience", 1,500,000,000 people, or 1/5th the number of humans currently living is nigh impossible to fathom.

The market research firm YouGov is once again cited as the source of the spurious claim that "more people play chess regularly than golf and tennis combined". Chess does have a large audience, and can be presented in an exciting way that appeals to professionals, amateurs, and casual fans alike. In the long run it benefits no one to invoke this rigamarole statistic.

Also newsworthy is what was not mentioned, namely a venue. For the 2016 World Championship in New York, the venue was not revealed until just three months before the match began. Agon came under heavy criticism, including from the players, for the delay in finalization a location. Let's hope the match will be on firmer footing now that the city is known 345 days in advance.

Countdown clock

Less than a year to go. Getting excited?!

London2018.worldchess.com

The new subdomain of World Chess offers info about ticket sales, and teases a "Personal Bundle" and "Referral Programm" which are slated to be available over the next two months. The press release also notes:

World Chess will provide a free live broadcast of the moves of the Match exclusively on www.worldchess.com and media partner sites. The premium online broadcast will cost $15 for the Match or $25 for the full year and will include multi-camera video feed, behind-the-scenes access, studio show with expert commentary and special guests, as well as other subscriber-only benefits, such as limited edition merchandise, possibility to ask grandmasters questions during press conferences and more. 10% of all digital tickets will go towards increasing the prize fund for the Match.

London is no stranger to World Chess Championship matches, having previously hosted the 2000 match which saw Vladimir Kramnik, take the crown from Garry Kasparov. Ironically, Kramnik is again one of the Candidates 17 years later! The wild card announcement — made unusually early a month ago — surely pleased the Russian sponsors of the cycle.

The city also hosted the 1993 match between Kasparov and Nigel Short, and part of the 1986 match between Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov.

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Macauley served as the Editor in Chief of ChessBase News from July 2017 to March 2020. He is the producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.

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