Breaking news: World Championship in Sochi

6/11/2014 – In April FIDE announced that it had received no bids to stage the 2014 World Chess Championship in November. Today news broke that the city of Sochi, where recently the Olympic Winter Games were held, would host the event. It is assumed that the deal was hammered out between Russian President Vladimir Putin and FIDE chief Ilumzhinov during a children's chess tournament.

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Breaking news: World Championship in Sochi

On March 30 former World Champion won the Candidates Tournament in Khanty Mansiysk to become the next challenger of the current World Champion, Norwegian GM Magnus Carlsen, in November this year. The bidding process for this for all intents and purposes very attractive match, however, brought no bids, in spite of the fact that FIDE extended the by seven weeks. On April 30, 2014, at 13:05 (just five minutes after the deadline for bidding had elapsed) FIDE announced that it had still not received any bids. Chagrin followed and explanations were sought – we reported on the matter extensively at the time.

Well, today FIDE has announced that a venue and a sponsor has been found:

So Sochi it is, on the territory of the Olympic Village, in the period from 7th November to 28th November, with a budget of US $3,000,000. Of this "one to one and a half million" will go to the players as prizes.

Of course you will know that Sochi, a city in Krasnodar Krai, Russia, located on the Black Sea coast near the border between Georgia/Abkhazia and Russia, was the venue of the 2014 Winter Olympics in February this year. That was a pet project of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking at the Belaya Ladya children's chess tournament,
flanked by Russian Chess Federation President Andrey Filatov and FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

Clearly Putin is involved in the decision to stage the 2014 World Championship in Sochi. Earlier this month he visited the Belaya Ladya children's chess tournament, where he expressed interest in chess: "There was a time when chess lessons were held in every school at every district. It is great and pleasant that this tradition is being revived. Chess is the most intellectual sport, we always took the leading positions in all international ratings."

In the audience: GMs Ian Nepomniachtchi and Anatoly Karpov, Dmitry Peskov, Gennady
Timchenko, Alexander Zhukov, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation

At the event Karpov held a simul on 73 boards, and the FIDE President was asked to make the first move in one of the games. "Kirsan Nikolayevich, as a well-known chess player, will play e2-e4," Putin laughed.

According to Chess News RU, who supplied all the above images, "the president later had a talk with FIDE president behind closed doors." We cannot know for sure, but we are going to assume that that is where the deal to have Sochi host the 2014 World Chess Championship was made.

Addendum

The Norwegian portal VG is reporting that the President of the Norwegian Chess Federation Joran Aulin-Jansson has expressed doubts about the decision: "I am not sure about it, and as far as I know the negotiations with the players are still ongoing." Aulin-Jansson drew attention to the fact that the European Union has imposed sanctions against Russia [because of the Ukraine crisis] and noted that Carlsen may not be able to visit Russia for political reasons. "We are still unaware of how the situation with Ukraine develops, but it's clear that if EU applies sanctions, both the players and the federations of the EU will have to follow them."

Aulin-Jansson said that Sochi is a nice, modern city with good conditions for holding the Winter Olympic Games. However he hoped that the match would take place somewhere else, not in Russia.

Dagbladet Sports, on the other hand, spoke to Carlsen's manager Espen Agdestein, and published the following excerpts:

What is your first reaction?

It's good that it is movement in the World Championship match. But there are challenges if it should go to Russia.

What kind of challenges?

We have spoken to the Foreign Ministry, and the situation is tense in Russia. But currently there is no question of a sports boycott. We will keep talking to them.

Sochi is not the first choice for Magnus?

I don't want to go into specfics. Sochi could be a very nice venue, and there is nothing wrong with that. It Winter Olympics were held there.

What does Magnus think about Sochi?

Magnus is only concerned with the tournament in Stavanger. There will be an exciting finish there. He does not have time to think about anything else, nor does want to.