'Too early to bury the unification'

2/17/2005 – With the reunification match between Kasparov and Kasimdzhanov on ice FIDE is on the offensive, with a press conference and an interview by the president. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who is also the President of the Republic of Kalmykia, describes the background of negotiations and his expectations for the future with the Russian newspaper Sport Express.

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It is too early to bury the unification

Interview of the FIDE President in Sport Express by Y. Vasiliev

We had not spoken to Mr. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, President of Kalmykia and FIDE for more than half a year. This period of time has seen many chess events and some shocking news, the latest being the sad letter from the permanent leader of the world rating, the 13th World Champion G. Kasparov. He informed the chess world that he is not going to wait any more for his match with the FIDE World Champion R. Kasimdzhanov to be organized. Many people considered this action of Kasparov as his goodbye to the unification process. Then, the Prague process had no real meaning…

What are FIDE and its President going to do in this situation? This is of interest for all of us now.

Mr. Ilyumzhinov, why did the match fail to take place in Dubai? It is hard to believe that such a rich country, as UAE could not find money for this prestigious event.


FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

Initially, everything was going okay; there was a letter from Sheikh Mohammed – to take the match under his patronage. Then some force majeure things happened. As you remember, the press conference, where we announced the match, took place last autumn. In a few days time after this, the UAE President passed away. The country, which was going to organize the match, had a mourning of two months. Only the Interior Ministry worked in a normal regime, all other ministries and bodies stopped working, all events were cancelled. The people who we were negotiating with were telling us, come back to us in December. Meanwhile, the announced dates (January 2005) were approaching, and it was clear that we will not make it. Then the Arab organizers suggested that we postponed the match to the second half of 2005, but it was not what we wished.

During the superfinal of the Russian Championship, in the mid November 2004, the UAE Organisers representative came to Moscow. He offered to both Kasparov and Kasimdzhanov to come to Dubai for the preliminary press conference, which was supposed to take place in the famous 7 star hotel. As far as I know, Kasparov refused. Could the match be saved at that stage?

As I have repeated several times, FIDE is the organizing structure, it looks for the sponsors. This is not so simple to do. We have requested all participants of the process to abstain from comments. The declarations like “anyway there is no money there”, of course, did not add to the success. In the situation at the time it was advisable to have made at least a small step towards the organizers. They wanted to see not only the FIDE President, but the great grandmasters. But, there were complications regarding such a simple thing...

One of the match sponsors was in fact the famous hotel Burj Aal Arab. Its owners did want to organize a press conference of Kasimdzhanov and Kasparov, to cover their airfare, hotel accommodation. Kasimdzhanov was ready to come to Dubai. But the American manager of Kasparov, Mr. O. Williams, suggested that first a certain financial guarantee was to be transferred to the account of the 13th World Champion. The Arabs refused to do so.

The manager of Kasparov was acting as one of the personalities in your favorite book. Of course, he has a great experience, he is a professional, this is his business. By the way, one well-known chess professional during the Wijk aan Zee tournament expressed the following assumption: the match Kasparov-Kasimdzhanov is easily predictable regarding its result, that is why it was difficult to find money for this match. If the match was worth less than a million, let’s say, US $300,000, then it had been much easier to organize it. Do you agree with this?

If we had lowered the level for the World Championship match, then it would eventually affect all chess players. It was out of the question. But I would not insist on saying that the match was so easily predictable. Nobody argues that Kasparov is a favourite, but in Tripoli Kasimdzhanov had not been one, but he beat all the super elite players – Ivanchuk, Grischuk, Topalov, Adams. Kasimdzhanov is a good fighter, he was preparing very well for the match against Kasparov, so the result of the match is not 100% predictable. So the match evaluation by your professional does not stand any criticism. Also, because the Turkish government was ready to organize this match and was ready to give one-and-a-half million USD for it.

Were the Turks really ready to give this money?

Yes, we have a letter from the Deputy Prime Minister of the Government of Turkey, where he declares that his country is ready to organize the match and gives the amount, afore-mentioned by me.

Why did this fail?

The Manager of Kasparov and in this case demanded a certain guaranteed amount. The top officials of Turkey replied to me about this: they organize a lot of sport events of the high level and never pay to the sportsmen before the start of the event. They do not want to make an exception to the chess players.

Please tell us, Mr. Ilyumzhinov, have you managed to maintain good relations with Kasparov even after his open letter?

I have not quarreled with Garry, and have not even had an argument with him. It is his position, what to do.

V. Kramnik told me in Wijk aan Zee that Kasparov personally withdrew from the unification process. He also expressed the opinion that Kasparov might change his attitude.

We sent an official letter to Kasparov, where we requested him to reply in writing to one question: what doesn’t he want – to play with Kasimdzhanov in this April, or to participate in the World Championship at all. So far Garry has not replied to this letter.

As far as I know, you usually communicated with Kasparov by mobile phones. You could have asked this directly on the phone.

Yes, we did talk a lot, sometimes, several times a day on the phone. But this is a special case. It was Kasparov who wrote an open letter to FIDE. Let him reply in writing.

In other words, FIDE has decided to leave for all of us some hope, that Garry might change his mind and agree to platy the match during other dates?

Please be careful: neither Turkish organizers, nor FIDE is in a hurry to make definite declarations. We want Garry to play.

That is maybe why Kasimdzhanov refused to make any comments when I called his house in January.

Of course. Kasimdzhanov knows that we have sent a letter to Kasparov. He is ready to play in any case, as it seems to me.

I confess I was under the impression that the Turkish Organisers raised the money only for the case that Kasparov would participate.

Kasparov of course is a cult figure in chess, but the Government of Turkey was giving money for the World Championship.

Is it true that there is a plan according to which Kasparov can be replaced in the match against Kasimdzhanov by somebody else, e.g. V. Anand?

This will be decided at the FIDE Presidential Board in Tbilisi, 26-27 February 2005. Please call me during these dates and you will know the latest news from the meeting room.

Thanks. I will be glad to be the first to inform my audience. But let’s move further. During the Wijk aan Zee tournament many chess players were expressing their opinion that the Prague Agreement had seen its end. From our discussion it is clear to me that it is too early to bury it.

Maybe it would be to somebody’s advantage to bury the Prague Agreement. However, we do not deny our signature under it. The chess world needs one World Champion. It is for all chess players, and then it will be easier to speak with sponsors, easier to find money for the matches and tournaments. I am looking into the future optimistically. And I see a united World Champion in this future.

What about the next FIDE World Championship? When and where will it take place?

As for the next World Cup (this is how it is now called), it is to take place in this year’s December. We have the consent of the Government of Vietnam to organize this tournament in Ho Chi Min. Besides, the leaders of another country (I am reluctant to name it so far) offered to host three knock-out tournaments and three Women’s World Championships. The representative of this country will present his official proposal during the PB meeting in Tbilisi. Then it will be up to the Board to agree or not.

I heard in Wijk aan Zee from one of the Grandmasters that FIDE is going to increase the number of participants twofold. He even gave an exact figure: 256. Is it true?

I hear this for the first time. We are not going to do anything of the kind.

And you are not going to decrease the prize fund (I was told this in Wijk aan Zee)?

The prize fund will remain intact. Generally, I would like to note that in the past when I used my personal funds and asked my friends in business to organize the Championships, FIDE has no financial problems. We have no debts, we are carrying out all our programs, we have a productive dialogue with various companies, which can promote chess with the help of high technologies. In March, for example, Runix Technologies together with the Russian Chess Federation will launch an inaugural Russian mobile chess championship with the prize fund of 500, 000 USD.

Any big events in the Elista City Chess?

We are thinking of organizing a tournament of young masters in Elista – similar to the Lausanne tournament, where stars of world chess such as E. Bacrot, R. Ponomariov, A. Kosteniuk were born. We also have another interesting idea: to organize a match between the famous Judit Polgar and our Elista Grandmaster E. Inarkiev.


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