Ilyumzhinov: 'Candidates Tournament in Spring 2010'

11/27/2008 – Our previous report describes the new FIDE Candidates cycle. In an interview conducted by Yuri Vasiliev FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov defends the decision to create a new format. "The knockout, the Candidates and the Grand Prix are all my children," Ilyumzhinov says, "and I love them all. But time does not stand still, FIDE must adapt to the requirements." Sport Express interview.

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Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: "The new Candidates Tournament will take place by Spring 2010"

Interview by Yuri Vasiliev in Dresden

FIDE President Kirsan Illumzhinov, with whom we spoke straight after the Olympiad in Dresden, immediately seized the initiative in our conversation: "The Dresden Olympiad broke all previous records. In the Open event there were teams from 146 countries, and in the Women’s 111. When we brought the rules for the men’s and women’s events into line, including having four boards in each, many people claimed that this would cause problems, and that there would be fewer women’s teams as a result. But, on the contrary, there were more! A second gratifying fact is that the standard of play is rising. Yesterday I spoke to Veselin Topalov, the world number one, and he said “There are no easy games nowadays. Everybody knows their theory.”

Vasiliev: Kirsan Nikolaevich, I would like to start with a question which especially worries chess fans. What will be the world championship system after the match which will take place in September 2009 between Anand and the winner of Kamsky-Topalov?

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: We have retained all the components of the old system – the World Cup, the Grand Priz, but we have also given the player who loses the match you refer to, the chance to take part in the cycle, via an eight-player double-round Candidates’ tournament.

Who can play in this tournament, and when will it take place?

The Candidates’ tournament should take place in the spring of 2010. The eight Candidates will include the winners of the World Cup and the Grand Prix, the loser of Topalov-Kamsky and the runner-up in the World Championship match. To them will be added the highest-rated players (out of those not otherwise qualified) and also a nominee of the host country, providing that his rating is not less than 2700. The host country must deposit with FIDE a one million Euro prize fund. At today’s General Assembly meeting, when someone complained that we have once again changed our established system, and started to recall the dear word “knockout”, I replied that the knockout, the Candidates and the Grand Prix are all my children. And I love them all. But time does not stand still, times change. And FIDE must adapt to the requirements of different times. We have retained all our democratic traditions in the qualifying system: 128 players from all countries may compete in the World Cup, the highest-rated players play in the Grand Prix, and the Candidates tournament adds those who are still outside the world championship system. For example, Vladimir Kramnik, if Russia decides to be the host country.

What caused the cancellation of the Grand Prix event that was to take place in December in Qatar?

Some sort of dispute has arisen, between the Olympic Committee, the Minister of Sport and the sponsors. So the tournament was cancelled. Yesterday I was asked why we have not imposed some punishment on Qatar. But Qatar has done a great deal for our sport, and imposing sanctions on them will just prevent people there from further promoting chess in the region.

You have switched the event to Elista, and it will take place on the same dates as it was supposed to in Doha. But how will you plug the gap, which has now arisen in the six-tournament series?

This morning we met with the Armenian President, Sergey Sargsian. His country is ready to host the August 2009 Grand Prix tournament.

And is everything in place with the remaining tournaments?

The Czech Federation President came to the Olympiad and confirmed that the tournament in Karlovy Vary will take place. They have until December to transfer the prize fund to FIDE’s account. Now we only listen to requests to run tournaments, once we have bank guarantees in place.

So you are returning to Ostap Bender’s system – the money in the morning, the chairs in the afternoon?

Yes, life reminds one of him. We can remember, for example, the business with Kamsky’s former manager, Alexander Chernenko. He was recommended to me by Alexander Sabancheev, a reputable businessman, who runs a firm in Switzerland, and whom I know well. And I know his uncle very well too! So these are not people from off the streets. How they begged me to trust them, and I did. I even saw with my own eyes the “payment” of 936 000 dollars. I saw the money in the Swiss bank account. The money is there, but it is “frozen” and cannot be touched.

And when will it be unfrozen and transferred to FIDE’s account?

After all these hassles, Chernenko said to me: "Kirsan Nikolaevich, you won’t close the door on me, will you?” I replied: “If the money reaches FIDE’s account, you can run a major tournament in Lvov, any tournament you like – the Candidates, for example. Just get hold of one million euros and transfer it”.

So you are saying that one should not dismiss this man as an adventurer, as some have done? Maybe Chernenko will still organise something good for chess?

I never “close the door” on anyone. You remember how many arguments and disputes we have had with the likes of Karpov and Kasparov. But we always seek a compromise. And after Doha fell through, we have had complaints and dismay from Global Chess boss Geoffrey Borg and FIDE vice-president Makropoulos. But in the end, we found a solution. Today Michael Adams came to me, and said that he and his wife will come to the tournament in Elista.

The crisis over the Kamsky-Topalov match has also been resolved favourably. But the president of the US chess federation wrote you a very hostile open letter, and it even looked as though matters would end up in court…

I would say to my critics – let’s see you do something yourselves. Just run even one tournament yourselves. Run an Olympiad. Run the World Championship. Anyone can criticise other people’s mistakes. The only people who never make mistakes are the people who never do anything. We are not standing still, we run a huge number of events. Kamsky, once he can got over his emotions and had to take a concrete decision, preferred to resolve things over the board, rather than getting mixed up with litigation. As Gata and his new manager [Emil] Sutovsky both admitted to me, in the discussions with FIDE, they found common sense and a desire to carry on a constructive dialogue. As a result, the contract has been signed, arbiters have been appointed, an appeals committee nominated, and the match will start on February 16. I will arrive on the 15th and spend three days in Bulgaria, before going to Baba Vang…

The FIDE Congress decided to open a FIDE office in Abu Dhabi. Why is that?

Chess is booming in this region. Abu Dhabi has agreed to host the women’s world championship, and a women’s Grand Prix tournament. Mr Suleiman al-Fakhim, the same man who recently bought Manchester City football club for £400 million, was elected several months ago as president of the UAE Chess Federation. I have appointed him as an executive director of the commercial department of FIDE. He will open the FIDE office in Abu Dhabi at his own expense. In a few months, the building of a chess palace, in the shape of a knight, will be completed, and our office will be there.

So the dream of building a chess city, shaped like a chess piece, has not died?

Certainly not! It is not only not dead, but is very healthy! And FIDE will soon make its own move to implement this idea, which to many people appeared ludicrously unrealistic.

At the recent Olympiad, there was a lot of talk about the new rule, whereby players are defaulted if they are even one minute late for the game. At a press conference, you said that this will be extended further, to all official FIDE events. Why such maximalism, Kirsan Nikolaevich?

But you remember the Olympiads at Calvia and Turin, when the hall was half-empty for the first few minutes? And to this day, I still remember with shame how during the world championship match in Luzerne, on 2 January 1989, I stood on stage with IOC President Juan Samaranch, waiting to start the clocks in the Karpov-Anand match. Anatoly Evgenievich turned up ten minutes late. And Samaranch said to me “You tell me chess is a sport? Can you imagine if a boxer turned up in the ring ten minutes late?” I did not know what to say! But at this latest Olympiad, the chief arbiter told me that, out of thousands of games, there were only three or four where anyone was late. So yes, I proposed that in all official FIDE events, the rule should be that a player who is not present when the clocks are started, loses immediately. It is claimed that chess disciplines a player’s thought processes – for that reason, we include it in many countries’ education programmes. It will be good, especially for children, if chess players behave in a disciplined way.



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