Karpov: 'Chess could disappear from the face of the earth'

by ChessBase
1/26/2006 – During the Wijk aan Zee tournament Anatoly Karpov turned up on a brief visit. In an interview with the Russian chess magazine "64" the former world champion revealed that in view of the grave dangers that chess is currently facing he was considering running for FIDE president – or to join forces with or support the other candidate Bessel Kok. Interview...

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Karpov: “Chess could disappear from the face of the earth”

One of the visitors to Wijk aan Zee earlier this week was Anatoly Karpov, who was here to discuss with Bessel Kok and others the forthcoming elections for FIDE President. Shortly before arriving in Wijk aan Zee, Karpov played in the Keres Memorial rapid tournament in Tallinn, where he shared 1-3rd places with Kazimzhanov and Ivanchuk. After the tournament, he shared his thoughts on the FIDE Presidency with Oleg Pervakov, correspondent of Russian magazine, “64”. Below we present a translation of their conversation.

Pervakov: Are you ready to run for FIDE President?

Karpov: It has been suggested, but I have not yet made a final decision...Discussions are still ongoing. I think everybody connected with chess understands that if we allow chess to continue for another four years in its presented terrible state, it will simply disappear from the face of the earth.

Tournaments are shrinking in size, and disappearing altogether from the calendar – this is a huge problem. Linares and Dortmund have significantly reduced the number of participants. Just consider, in the world’s five biggest tournaments (that is, the two above, plus Wijk aan Zee, the Poikovsky tournament that bears my name, and Sofia), there are a total of just 41 places! This only leaves open tournaments, which I, for example, would never play in. I am firmly convinced that, for a world class player, playing in open tournaments is a big mistake, because such tournaments destroy one’s style.

Pervakov: You presumably already have your own programme?

Karpov: What can one say? The problems are clear, and the diappearance of tournaments is one of them. And this itself is connected with another – the lack of a single world champion, a leader of the chess world, a name with which sponsors can identify.

There need to be changes, and serious ones. We need to restore the respect and image of top-flight chess. How can one talk of professional chess organisation, when even the players themselves, let alone others, cannot say who the world champion is? Ok, now they have invented this combined system, but one thing is absolutely clear – the knockout system is totally wrong. You have 128 players sitting down – non-chess publications cannot even publish all the results, or report them on TV or radio. So there is no reporting at all outside of specialist chess publications. We know all this from the experience of Tilburg – one of the main reasons for the disappearance of this tournament, which ran for 15 years, was the knockout system...

Pervakov: I noticed that in Tallinn, you were talking with Bessel Kok, who has already announced his candidature [for FIDE President]. Did you discuss these questions with him?

Karpov: Yes. Of course, he recognises the problems, because he was involved with the founding of the GMA and he is very familiar with professional chess life. In the past, he organised some of the very best tournaments ever in Brussels, events which made chess part of the cultural and sporting lige of Belgium.

Pervakov: And did he suggest joining forces?

Karpov: Of course, the idea has occurred to him. People who wish to bring about change should work together. At the end of the day, the post of FIDE President sounds great, but what does it actually give one? It gives one the opportunity to restore some order, to bring ideas to fruition. Some people may think it brings personal benefit, bit not to me, and not really to Bessel either – he is a successful businessman. It is just a case of a person who, from love of chess and care about chess players, wishes to do his best to improve the situation. In that respect, I agree with him totally and I support him.

Translation by Steve Giddins

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