Breaking news: Candidates 2012 to be held in London

by ChessBase
2/10/2012 – It had been buzzing around vigorously in the Twitter world, but FIDE would not confirm anything. Now Sport Express has published a first announcement: the next Candidates Tournament will be held from October 23 to November 13 in London, England. Part of the arrangement is apparently to transfer the rights to the world championship cycle to a new sponsor. Interesting development.

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FIDE Candidates Tournament 2012 in London

FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov told Sport Express that the next round of the Candidates will be held in London, from October 23 to November 13, and that it will be organised by the Agon, a company run by American businessman Andrew Paulson. FIDE has transferred the rights to the next World Championship Cycle for men to AGON. The participants in the Candidates in London are:

 Carlsen, Magnus
 Aronian, Levon
 Kramnik, Vladimir
 Radjabov, Teimour
 Ivanchuk, Vassily
 Grischuk, Alexander
 Svidler, Peter

They are joined by the loser of the World Championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Boris Gelfand, which will be held in Moscow in May this year.

The Candidates listed above all qualified by wins in the FIDE Grand Prix or the Chess World Cup. The world's number one Magnus Carlsen had opted out of the previous cycle, saying that the match format it did not represent a system that was sufficiently modern and fair. After FIDE accepted his demands and changed the format to an eight-player double round robin tournament, Magnus has now apparently agreed to play.

The nomination of Teimour Radjabov as the organiser's choice might surprise some – but there is no English player in sight who has an adequately high rating. Radjabov is number five on the January 1st FIDE list and so warrants the nomination. The Vice-President of the Azerbaijan Chess Federation, Mair Mammadov, confirmed Radjabov's participation.

The question on everybody's mind is of course: who is Andrew Paulson? There is an interesting article in Bloomberg and a summary of his interesting life in Wikipedia.

Andrew Paulson is an American entrepreneur working in Russia, born in 1958 in New Haven, Connecticut. During his early years he pursued oncology and neurophysiology research at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Yale University and at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

Paulson also founded The New Theater Company where he produced and directed numerous plays. He graduated with a BA in French Literature and Literary Criticism from Yale University in 1981, and attended the Yale School of Drama. From 1982-86 he lived in Berlin and Paris, writing; from 1987-93 he lived in Paris, London and Milan, shooting fashion and advertising photography. During this period he co-founded the Paris conceptual photography gallery ‘Urbi et Orbi’, and co-founded a graphic design studio, ‘Pourriture Noble’. From 1993 until 1998, he developed several publishing projects in Moscow.

Shortly after the Russian financial crisis of August, 1998, Paulson, together with Anton Kudryashov, founded Afisha, an entertainment and listings magazine, which became the cultural touchstone of Moscow and St. Petersburg and remains one of only a very few significant indigenous brands in any sector created in Russia since Perestroika. To this day Afisha Publishing House sets the high water mark for independent magazine publishing in Russia; it was sold to Russian media group, ProfMedia in 2005.

In 2006, Paulson, together with Alexander Mamut, founded an online media company SUP, which now consists of LiveJournal, the principal blogging platform/social network in Russia, reaching 1/3 of all Russian users every month, with 30m unique visitors/month worldwide; Championat, the largest sports site in Russia;Gazeta, the largest news site in Russia; an advertising agency Victory; and online sales house +SOL. SUP, which now has 300 employees in offices in Moscow and San Francisco, is currently developing LiveJournal in major markets outside of Russia, including the U.S., the U.K., India and Singapore. Paulson is Chairman of the Board of Directors of SUP.

The decision to hold the Candidates in London and transfer the rights to AGON was not taken easily. The question of the venue of the 2012 Candidates was discussed at the 1st quarter FIDE Presidential Board meeting in Al Ain, UAE, but the report only says "The bids for the Candidates Matches were discussed, with a final decision to be made before 29th February, 2012."

Ilya Levitov, President of the Russian Chess Federation Board, and a FIDE Vice President (standing sixth from left in the above picture), was not at all pleased with the decision. In an article on the pages of the Russian Chess Federation he writes:

At the PB meeting we discussed the proposal of Agon receiving the rights to the entire FIDE cycle – the Grand Prix, World Cup, the Candidates and the World Championship match. They guaranteed prize funds and the entire organization of the events. Agon was founded in January in an offshore location and has no connection at all with chess or sport generally. The agreement is very profitable for FIDE, but the complete lack of experience in organizing chess competitions raises concern. Mr. Paulson was at the Presidential Council, and his presentation was disappointing. No specifics, just general words on lifting of chess to a new level. It seems he is ready to invest huge amounts into chess, while the motivating force behind these investments remains unclear – he is not suspected of a love for chess.

The Presidential Council decided to sign a contract with him, if it turns out that this does not contradict the agreement already in place with CNC (it is identical as a whole). After the signing of the contract, all rights to the running of the event will pass to Agon, which will determine the time and venue. Of course, the whole situation is disturbing. I consider that Mr Paulson is under an obligation, in the near future, to make his ideas and plans concrete for the wider chess community.

There is also a question of how the new agreement plays in with the previous agreement FIDE has signed with the Chess Network Company (CNC), which bills itself as follows:

Chess Network Company (CNC) is the exclusive commercial FIDE partner since the FIDE Congress of October 2009. CNC’s main aim is to help FIDE broaden media interest for chess worldwide and to create a new more relevant image of chess. It will do so by developing new chess related brands and products, by implementing new quality standards of chess news distribution, and by using vast internet resources.

It will be interesting to see how all of this is untangled in the future. In the meantime we can rejoice over a Candidates tournament being held in one of our favourite towns, just over an hour's flight away from Hamburg.

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