Kasparov: no laughing matter!

by ChessBase
8/28/2003 – On Tuesday we reported that FIDE had given its world champions Ponomariov 48 hours to sign and fax an agreement for his title match against Garry Kasparov. Yesterday we heard that Ponomariov had agreed to sign the document. Today we learn that FIDE has not received anything. Apparently the young Ukrainan has allowed the deadline to pass.

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Here's a diary of the past 48 hours

Tuesday, August 26

FIDE gives its world champion Ruslan Ponomariov, Ukraine, a formal deadline: either sign and fax an agreement to the conditions for the FIDE title match against Garry Kasparov, scheduled for September 18th in the Ukrainian city of Yalta, or be disqualified. FIDE said it would make a declaration on the match on Thursday, Aug. 28 at noon, effectively extending an Aug. 25 deadline in order to come to an agreement with Ponomariov.

Wednesday, August 27

14:00h: The Russian news agency ITAR-TASS hosted a press conference in Moscow with Garry Kasparov, Slava Fetisov (ice hockey star, now Russian Sports Minister) and Alexander Zhukov, president of the Russian Chess Federation.

Garry Kasparov stated that he had found "numerous dubious points and inaccuracies" in the FIDE contract. He said he had listed them in five pages in a letter to FIDE before signing the contract. However, then he agreed to compromise in order to "avoid more complications in the complicated chess world". Kasparov said also that thanks to the Prague unity agreement Ponomariov had received extraordinary privilegies compared to other FIDE World Champions (Anand and Khalifman). He had gone directly to a final match with a $450,000 guaranteed prize fund, instead of $4,000 for the 1st round of a knock-out tournament with 128 players. Kasparov said that the present impasse was very unfortunate because the Yalta match was a vital step for the unification of world chess. “Ponomariov has already missed three deadlines from FIDE, and tomorrow is another deadline,” he said. Now, “we expect FIDE to act decisively because the situation is no longer a joke.”

Slava Fetisov said that Russian Sports authorities were anxious about the situation around Ponomariov-Kasparov match. The Organising Committee of the event, which must be a neutral entity, apparently took the Ukrainian GM's side. Fetisov promised to provide Kasparov with professional support.

Mr. Zhukov underlined that Ponomariov-Kasparov match was a vital step in unification process of the chess world. Four conditions of Ponomariov look really unsignificant and they don't match the importance of the match. If Ponomariov don't sign the contract before the last FIDE deadline, he can't be considered the world champion any more and should be disqualified.

FIDE said some of Ponomariov’s demands were acceptable but warned that it could replace him with another player if he fails to meet the deadline. Among the names being mooted are Ponomariov’s compatriot Vasily Ivanchuk, whom he beat in a best-of-eight final in Moscow to take the title last year, and India’s Viswanathan Anand.

Wednesday evening: The Russian newspaper ITAR TASS carried a report saying that Ruslan Ponomariov had agreed to sign the contract on conditions listed in the FIDE document (above). The source was "close to Ponomariov's team". A signed copy of the contract would be sent to FIDE before the established deadline.

Berik Balagbaev, assistant of FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, said he had just spoken with the FIDE office in Lausanne. They had not received any documents from Ruslan Ponomariov. Belagbaev: "Information spread by some information agencies doesn't represent the facts". The Ukraine Chess Federation reported at 17:00 (GMT +3) there is no decision had been taken by the Ponomariov team. (See Gazeta report in Russian)

Thursday, August 28

11:00h: Ruslan Ponomariov sent a letter to FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, still insisting on his four proposals and inviting representatives of FIDE, the Organising committee and G.Kasparov's team to meet in Kiev and "to obviate all the obstacles for Yalta match". The letter was signed by GM Silvio Danailov, Ponomariov's manager. There was no official reaction of FIDE.

Denis Bulinov of World Chess Ratings writes: "The attitude of Ponomariov's team looks really strange. "Four proposals" are irrelevant if compare to their previous demands (to keep the title in case of draw, financial claims etc) but Danailov & Co stand for them with astonishing inflexibility. Meanwhile Ponomariov didn't make any public appearance for several weeks and our source reports that FIDE people didn't have a chance even to talk to him by phone..."

Thursday evening: We have heard from different sources that Ruslan Ponomariov did not sign the FIDE contract before the deadline of 12:00 noon on Aug 28. No reaction from FIDE.

We will continue reporting on further developments.

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