Ilya Merenzon on the NY World Championship

by ChessBase
5/31/2016 – In six months there will be a World Championship match (between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin) in New York. Preparation for the mega-event in the news media center of the world is well under way. The CEO of the organising body, AGON, spoke about a new broadcasting system (and philosophy) which includes free and unlimited B-rolls for TV stations. Interview with Anastasiya Karlovich.

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Interview with Agon's CEO Ilya Merenzon

Thursday, 26 May 2016 13:00 – Ilya Merenzon, Agon's CEO, speaks on the 2016 World Championship Match and 2016-2017 Grand Prix Cycle.

Anastasiya Karlovich: It was announced earlier that the World Chess Championship Match will take place in New York. What can you say about the Match preparation?

Ilya Merenzon: There are two parts: the one is the preparation for the Match and the second one is the Match itself. We are really working hard, finalizing the venue and broadcast issues. We are busy preparing, we have six months and we realize that we don’t have a lot of time and we are working with both players and with their managers, New York city and FIDE to make sure it's going to be the best experience.

Have you finalized the contract with FIDE? When do you think the players are going to sign it?

The contract between FIDE and Agon is finalized and is being signed. The contract between the players and FIDE will be finalized in the next 2-3 weeks. Don't forget that we’ve only recently learnt who is going to be a challenger.

What is going to be special about this World Chess Championship Match?

We have to realize that there are many new attractive issues about this Match: it's the youngest championship ever as both players are 25 and another thing is that right now everyone in the world has a smart phone. Even two years ago the situation was not the case. Penetration of the smart phones was 50% and now it's over 70%. It's a majority of people, so we will definitely have something which allows people to use smart phones and not only to follow the Match but almost be there, so we will try to build a native smart phone experience.

We are also developing a new way of broadcasting and I don't really want to say too much as we really want to represent it in a good way. As soon as we know what exactly it is we will be able to announce it but we are working on exciting ways to show chess. It's going to be the first match transmitted almost entirely in the Internet.

Is there going to be a space for spectators, who would like to follow the Match in the playing hall?

It will be some sort of a mix. There will definitely be spectators in the room with the players but right now with the new anti-cheating measures and with new technologies we should find the ways to do it. We are actually designing and working on organizing it in a good way together with designers and chess people. We are also not doing it only for one championship but we are trying to decide it in a principle. We also have to keep in mind that 99.9% of audience is going to be online, so we need to make sure that their experience is almost as good as experience live.

How attractive is this Match for international and US media?

I think it's unprecedented for these times. The World Chess Championship is one of the few events in the World which makes it not only to the sports but also cultural and social news. So it's a global event and will be covered by all media in the world. It helps so much that it will be in New York, the global media hub and basically every major media has either a head office or a correspondence desk there. In Russia, when we held the Candidates, there were over 900 publications only in Russian media but what happens in New York has also global coverage, so it's clearly going to be one of the most covered championships in the history. We learn so much from our experience. So we are not expecting every TV channel in the world to show live broadcast because it's six hours per day but what we are doing for them we are going to issue free and unlimited B-rolls, so basically all news stations in the world will have access to highlights. Also we are producing 3-5 minute highlights of the day for TV stations and their comments are going to be on TV as well. I don’t speak about the actual game, even though it's going to be live in some countries like Russia, Norway and some nearby countries. You definitely will see a lot of Magnus and Sergey on TV.

The Match is the main event of 2016 but what is going on with the Grand Prix Cycle. Do you have news for players?

We finalized the dates, and setting up the list of players and we are working with sponsors and organizers right now, so I hope in two weeks we will be able to announce the venues, as well as other issues about the Grand Prix Cycle.

During the meeting in the FIDE office in Athens (above) the contract of the World Championship Match between FIDE and Agon was finalized. Second from left Ilya Merenzon, to his right FIDE Executive Director Nigel Freeman, Chief Executive Officer Geoffrey Borg, Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos, George Mastrokoukos and Sotiris Logothetis, both from Greece.

Interview with Ilya and Anastasiya during the FIDE Grand Prix in Baku in October 2014

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