FIDE moves Candidates matches to Kazan, Russia

7/27/2010 – Just days after a request from the Russian Chess Federation to move the 2011 Candidates matches away from Baku, Azerbaijan, FIDE President Kirsan Illumzhinov has announced that the match will indeed now take place in Kazan. If Topalov refuses to play in Russia, as he has threatened, he will (brace yourself) be replaced by Alexander Grischuk. Sport Express report.

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FIDE moves Candidates matches to Kazan

Just days after a request from the Russian Chess Federation, FIDE President Kirsan Illumzhinov has announced that the 2011 Candidates matches, scheduled to be held in Azerbaijan, will now take place in Kazan, Russia. This is apparently despite the existence of a signed contract with the Azeri organisers, and the pre-payment by the latter of some $150,000 to FIDE's bank account.

Speaking whilst on a visit to Tromso, Norway (which has bid for the 2014 Olympiad), Illumzhinov announced the switch of the matches to the Russian city of Kazan. As reported on ChessBase just four days ago, the Russian Chess Federation, in the person of Vladimir Dvorkovich, wrote to FIDE and requested that the matches be moved to Kazan. This followed protests from world number five Levon Aronian, that it would not be safe for him, as an Armenian, to play in Azerbaijan, with whom his country is in a state of undeclared war over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabak. Veselin Topalov, another of the Candidates qualifiers, then himself issued an open letter, refusing to play in Russia.

The latest FIDE announcement confirms that the eight players who will take part in the event remain the same: Carlsen, Kramnik, Aronian, Topalov, Radjabov, Kamsky, Gelfand and Mamedyarov. The latter only gained his place by virtue of the host country's right to nominate  a wild card of their choice. With the matches being switched from Azerbaijan to Russia, one might have thought that Mamedyarov's place would be withdrawn in favour of a Russian nominee. But it appears that this has not been done.

As for Topalov, the FIDE President stated that he intends to write to the Bulgarian, urging him not to make any hasty decisions. However, in the event that he does refuse to play, his place will be taken by Alexander Grischuk of Russia, who took third place in the recently-concluded FIDE Grand Prix.

Even by FIDE standards this is a remarkable volte-face by the leadership. Cynics may wonder if the decision has anything to do with the events surrounding the Russian Chess Federation's recent support for Illumzhinov in the forthcoming FIDE elections. In The Week in Chess Mark Crowther writes:

"The full implications of this decision are hard to read. It isn't difficult to see this as part of a wider pattern which took in the desperation of the Russian Federation to nominate Ilyumzhinov and the upcoming contract with 'Chess Lane' that seems likely to pass all FIDE Commercial activities to a Russian Company funded by the shadowy figures of the brothers Ziyavudine and Mohammed Magomedov from Dagestan and represented by their frontman David Kaplan. (Background in Russian in this article on the APN website: A Revolution is coming in the Chess World)."

The pairings in the candidates matches are the following:

1 Veselin Topalov vs. Gata Kamsky
2 Magnus Carlsen vs. Teimour Radjabov
3 Vladimir Kramnik   vs. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
4 Levon Aronian vs. Boris Gelfand

Each match consists of four games plus possible tiebreaks. The second round, consisting of matches between the winners of the first round, start two days after the end of the first round. The winner of the first pairing plays against the winner of the fourth; the winner of the second against the winner of the third. Once again there are four games plus possible tiebreaks.

The third and final round of the candidates matches, which begins two days after the second round was completed, will be played over six games. The prize fund for the rescheduled Candidates matches is €420,000. The winner qualifies as Challenger for the World Championship match in 2011.


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