FIDE to move Candidates Matches, Topalov threatens boycott

by ChessBase
7/24/2010 – The Candidates Matches for the next FIDE World Championship cycle were scheduled to be played in Baku, Azerbaijan. Since one of the candidates, Levon Aronian, is Armenian, and the two countries are de facto at war, FIDE wants to move the matches to Kazan in Russia. To this another candidate, Veselin Topalov, has issued a very sharp protest and threat.

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Merci Baku

In two letters which Kommersant has in its possession the Russian Chess Federation (RCF), represented by the chairman of its supervisory board, presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich, has asked the President of the International Chess Federation (FIDE) Kirsan Ilyumzhinov to make significant adjustments to the rules of the current world champion cycle, both for men and women. It is with regard to moving the men's Candidate matches that were announced for Baku, Azerbaijan, to Kazan in Russia. This is due to the bad relations between Azerbaijan and Armenian, which make it impossible for Levon Aronian to play in Baku.

In addition it has requested that the Women's World Championship should be changed from a knockout to a match tournament. The winner of the World Cup, the Women's Grand Prix and top rated player should be joined by the reigning world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk in this event to determine the new world champion [if we have understood the Russian text correctly].

Note that the players involved in the Candidates Matches are the runner up of the last World Championship Veselin Topalov (he lost to Anand), the runner up to the last Candidates Matches Gata Kamsky (he lost to Topalov), the winner of the World Cup Boris Gelfand, the two top scorers of the FIDE Grand Prix series, Levon Aronian and Teimour Radjabov, top rated players Magnus Carlsen and Vladimir Kramnik, and a wildcard nominated by the local organiser. A complication is that Azeri GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has already been nominated for the Baku leg and in fact has a signed contract. A removal of the match to Russia would theoretically allow the organisers in Kazan to nominate their own candidate.

The pairings in the candidates matches are, as far as we know, the following:

Veselin Topalov vs Gata Kamsky
Magnus Carlsen vs Teimour Radjabov
Vladimir Kramnik  vs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
Levon Aronian vs Boris Gelfand

The prize fund for the rescheduled matches will be €420,000.

The Armenian news page Aysor is reporting that Azeri media circulated information that Levon Aronian refused to go play in the capital of Azerbaijan. However FIDE took this decision independently, given the existing relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the tension between the two countries. FIDE has offered the Armenian side that they will organize the tournament second quartet in Yerevan (Armenia).

Armenia Today denies the report that Aronian refused to go to Baku. The decision to divide the FIDE Candidates matches between two countries "has no relation to Aronian". ARMENIA Today and the Armenian Chess Federation has asked people to pay less attention to "misinformation spread by the Azeri media", specifically citing the site

This news service is reporting that the Vice-President of the Azerbaijan Chess Federation, Mahir Mammadov, has complained about the proposal to move one half of the Candidates Matches to Kazan. "We have a signed a contract with the International Chess Federation," he is quoted as saying, "to establish friendly relations and support the FIDE presidential bid of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. So why should FIDE take away our tournament?" He also complains about the pairings of the eight players, according to the January 1st 2010 ratings list. "Since the Candidates matches will start in March 2011, is it not more logical to pair the players according the the January 1st 2011 ratings?" Finally Mammadov is optimistic about the chances of the Azeris: "Our chess players have already proven that they can beat any opponent. Magnus Carlsen has never played in matches, so it is not clear how he will do in this new element."

The chess news page Chessdom has reported that proposal to move one part of the Candidate matches to Kazan has drawn a sharp reaction by Veselin Topalov, who sent an open letter to the Presidential Board in Tromso. Here is Topalov's open letter:

July 22th, Sofia, Bulgaria

Dear President of FIDE, Dear members of the PB,

I am writing an open letter to you regarding the next World Championship Cycle. After many promises and changes I learn that a new place for the Candidates matches is being discussed, the one of Kazan, Russia.

I believe that it is a strategic mistake to stage almost all the cycle in one country. Four events of the FIDE Grand Prix, the World Cup, and now possibly Candidates Matches are in Russia. This transmits the message that FIDE can't find sponsors and Organizers from other countries, which is very sad.

I would also like to state that for me the venue of Kazan, or any other venue in Russia, is totally unacceptable for another reason. Everybody still remembers the unpleasant situations which my team and I had to face during the WCC Match in Elista 2006.

Having in mind all this, I would like to declare that I would not participate in any stage of the cycle for the World Chess Title that takes place in Russia, in order to avoid problems and conflicts that already took place there.

The venue of Baku was rejected by Aronian and this looked natural for everyone. Before that, FIDE have changed their own rules and regulations to avoid the WCC rematch Topalov-Kramnik with Sofia as a venue. I believe it is logical to ask, if I play any matches in the future, (especially against Russian GMs), that they should be outside of Russia.

With respect,
Veselin Topalov

The "unpleasant situations" during the WCC Match in Elista 2006 are well known to the chess public.

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