Ilyumzhinov: Kramnik will play in Mexico

12/19/2006 – We broke the news recently that Vladimir Kramnik would be playing in the next world championship in Mexico (September 2007). In a big interview with the newspaper Sport Express, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has confirmed that this is indeed the case, and has also revealed many details about this and future cycles. Must read.

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Kirsan Illumzhinov: “Kramnik will play in the Mexican tournament of Eight”

Interview with Yury Vasiliev of Sport Express

Kirsan Nikolayevich, could you tell our readers more about the essence of the latest innovations in the World Championship cycle?

Ilyunzhinov: As you will recall, when we returned from Elista after the reunification match between Kramnik and Topalov, I told you that FIDE was working on the plan for the next world championship, in which we hope to satisfy the interests of all parties – players, organisers and sponsors. We have tried to establish a system for playing he world championship which will be clearly defined and comprehensible to everyone, and which will include all chess professionals. Such a plan was prepared by the FIDE special commission, responsible for running the world championship. The basis of the system is simple: in the odd-numbered years, the World Cup will be run, the winner of which will earn the right to a match against the world champion. In the even-numbered years, the world championship match itself will take place.


The interview with Kirsan Ilyumzhinov on the front page of Sport Express

For the last ten years I have told you at every possible opportunity that it is hard to imagine a better way to decide the world championship than the good old one-on-one matches. The three K’s themselves – Kasparov, Karpov and Kramnik – never tire of saying the same thing. Garry Kasparov has quit professional sport, and Anatoly Karpov can no longer compete realistically for the highest title, but Vladimir Kramnik should be satisfied with the plan. In his recent pronouncements, he has repeatedly emphasised the importance of retaining the match format.

Ilyunzhinov: Yes, we have listened both to the voices of the world champion, and those of our regular critics, to the effect that the knockout formula involves too large an element of chance, the tie-breaks which so often occur, frequently ending in blitz games, are not serious enough, and that we have racked up a series of “lucky champions", and so on. But we are not prepared to abandon totally the most sporting system, that is the knockout system, and will use it in our other tournaments.

The World Cup is the Candidates Tournament

Won’t the World Cup be played as a knockout?

Ilyunzhinov: We are currently canvassing all of the top grandmasters and representatives of the 165 member federations. Previously, we have been accused of secrecy, for taking decisions without consulting with the professionals. We have listened to our critics, and I try to meet every week with representatives of federations and help with their local problems. I normally face between five and 15 such issues on every trip. So we have discussed the new world championship system very widely. Our experts have proposed running the World Cup as a Candidates tournament. All 128 participants will be divided into 16 groups of 8 players. Each group will play an all-play-all. The 16 winners will then be divided into two eight-player groups, and again each will play an all-play-all. The two winners will then play a match of four games to determine the challenger.

This will all take three weeks, as before?

Ilyunzhinov: The dates will be extended by three days, including opening and closing ceremonies. With such a system the weaker players, who have travelled halfway round to world to take part, will not be forced to return home after the first round, but will get to play seven games against strong players, thus gaining valuable experience. It is also good for both sponsors and organisers, who in the past had to say goodbye to half of the field after the first three days under the knockout system. Amongst the advantages of the new system is that the element of chance is reduced. Nobody can say that it is like roulette, or that the tournament has been won by a lucky “tourist”. The whole event will be played under one and the same time-limit, and the fate of encounters will not be decided by tie-breaks. The status of the World Cup will be enhanced, and the system of determining the challenger will be clear and simple. There will no excuse for top grandmasters not to play in this highly important event, and it will be easier for us to find sponsors for it.

When will this plan be formalised (or not) as the rules for the world chess championship?

After the FIDE Presidential committee meeting, which will take place from 26th to 29th January, in Turkey. There we will hear the views of all 165 member federations of FIDE and of the professionals.

How will you reconcile this plan with the current situation? With the double-round tournament of eight in Mexico, and the candidates matches in Elista?

Ilyunzhinov: This is very easy. From 26 May until 14 June in Elista, the candidates matches will take place. From 12th September to 1st October, the World Championship will take place in Mexico. It will be run on the same system as at San Luis: eight players, double round robin. In November-December, in Khanty-Mansysk, the World Cup will be played, which will find the challenger. Then in 2008, this challenger will play a match for the world championship (probably over 12 games) against the world champion, named on 1 October in Mexico.

And now the question which all chess fans are interested in – will the reigning world champion, Vladimir Kramnik, play in Mexico?

Ilyunzhinov: I don’t understand why this question arises. Vladimir has never once said that he will not play in the Tournament of Eight in Mexico. When I spoke to him in Bonn, during the opening ceremony of the match with the Machine, I understood that, as world champion, he is concerned about two things. That there should be a clear system for determining the world championship, and that at the end, the title should be decided in a match. And our reforms do both these things.


Vladimir Kramnik and Kirsan Ilyumzhinov at a gala dinner in Bonn

The man-machine battle is not over

Talking of the recent match in Bonn, what do you think about its outcome?

Ilyunzhinov: Of course, it is a pity that the human lost to the machine. Like everybody, I was on the side of the human. Computers are getting better, but humans are also not standing still. I seems to me that the competition between Man and Machine is not over yet. Vladimir simply could not recover in time, after the strenuous match in Elista. He will do better next time, I think.

This “next time” will depend a great deal on the outcome of the world championship in Mexico. Four of the players are already known: Kramnik, Anand, Svidler and Morozevich. All that remains is to determine the other four.

Ilyunzhinov: I can add that the entire prize fund has already been paid over to FIDE’s account by the Mexico organisers. The players will stay and play in one of the best hotels in Mexico City, the Sheraton. The people of Mexico are greatly looking forward to the world championship.

Neither in Elista nor in Mexico will we see the world number 1, Topalov. He has to start from “the bottom of the hill” in Khanty-Mansysk. During the match in Bonn, his manager Silvio Danailov put out a statement, saying that Sofia was ready to host a return match between Kramnik and Topalov, and that two million dollars is already in place for such a match. Is Kramnik obliged to accept this challenge from Topalov, if it comes, and assuming it fulfils all of FIDE’s financial conditions?

Ilyunzhinov: I am aware of the statement, but so far, FIDE has not received any official challenge from the Bulgarian side. And it seems to me that they are already rather late with such a challenge. The rules require that the interval between the end of such a match, and the start of the world championship in Mexico should be at least six months. [When this material was ready to go to print, the official Bulgarian challenge arrived in FIDE. However, without the bank guarantees. I was later told, by a member of the FIDE presidential apparatus, that they will follow the current rules.Y.V.]

Jamming is still needed

In May, the candidates matches will be played in Elista. Where will the 16 Grandmasters stay and play?

Ilyunzhinov: They will stay in cottages in City Chess, and play in the Kalmykian Government building, where the Kramnik-Topalov match took place. You have seen that the stage can easily hold eight tables. And the press centre will be where it was before. I can also add more information. The chief arbiter for the matches will be international arbiter Andzhey Filipowicz from Poland, and he will be assisted by the Greek international arbiter Panagiotis Nicopoulos. All of the organisational questions will be handled by the Russian Federation vice-president, and Minister of Trade and Industry, Valery Bovaev.

The FIDE website says that you are funding the prize fund personally. How much will it be?

Ilyunzhinov: It is more correct to say that 320,000 dollars will be put up by sponsors, and a further 160,000 by FIDE.

How will the 16 competitors be whittled down to the four to play in Mexico?

Ilyunzhinov: At first, the 16 players will take part in matches of six games. I remind you of the pairings: Aronian-Carlsen, Leko-Gurevich, Ponomariov-Rublevsky, Gelfand-Kazimzhanov, Bacrot-Kamsky, Grischuk-Malakhov, Polgar-Bareev and Shirov-Adams. Then a day is set aside for any necessary tie-breaks. Then the eight winners, after two rest days, will continue to play amongst themselves, after which there will be four, who will go to Mexico.

Will Elista employ anti-computer jamming measures, as were in place at the Kramnik-Topalov match?

Ilyunzhinov: Not only Elista. Similar measures will be used at all future official FIDE events, so as to prevent any signalling. Incidentally, the next FIDE Congress will work out detailed rules for the conduct of world championship matches, and all other competitions, organised under the auspices of FIDE. We have learnt a lot from the experience of “Toiletgate”.

Last Wednesday, you closed the Russian Women’s Championship in Gorodets, which was won by Ekaterina Korbut from St. Petersburg. And I understand that you even gave a simultaneous display there. Is this true?


Yuri Vasiliev, Sport Express journalist

Ilyunzhinov: Gorodets is a small town, only 32.000 inhabitants in all. But what traditions it has! Alexander Nevsky is buried there, it was the home town of Chkalov, and from there hail such great Russian dynasties as Ryabushinsky, Morozov, Tretyakov and Golitsyn. The idea of hosting a chess festival, followed by the Russian women’s championship, came from State Duma deputy Alexander Khinshtein, who was recently elected. The local authorities supported our initiative, refurbished the local chess club and gave it to the local chess community. During a meeting with the collective of local chess lovers, I had the idea to form an international association of chess clubs based there. Not those superclubs, who invite top-class GMs to play for them, but clubs where the players are those who live locally. And so I decided not to enlist grandmaster help, but myself to give a small simultaneous display at the local children’s club. The last simul I gave was as a soldier, against members of my unit, when I was in the army. The children knew their stuff, but I managed to win three games, and four were drawn. Next year, we plan to hold the Russia-China match here, on the banks of great Russian river, the Volga. Thus, a new place will be marked on the chess map of the world – Gorodets, in Nizhni-Gorodsky Oblast.


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