New ACP emerges with lofty goals and new events

by ChessBase
3/17/2012 – The Association of Chess Professionals was founded in 2003 to protect chess professionals’ rights and promote their activities worldwide. After an optimistic start the ACP slowly seemed to run out of steam and display a lack of motivation or new ideas. That is set to change now, with a new board, initiatives and events – like an exciting new Women's World Championships in Rapid and Blitz.

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The ACP (Association of Chess Professionals) is a not-for-profit organisation that was founded in 2003 and registered in France in 2004. Its main purpose is the protection of chess professionals’ rights, and the promotion of chess worldwide. From the very beginning it had a fair amount of visibility thanks to its ACP Tour and Cup, which generally provided quite an interesting prize fund. But the ACP's activities are not limited to tournament chess, but also center around the protection and the improvement of professional chess worldwide, with many initiatives ranging from political to cultural.

In the past few years, however, the organization has seemed suffer some setbacks, possibly out of lack of motivation or lack of new ideas. But then we saw a press release that appeared to indicate that the ACP is back on track, and that quite a change is going on, with the new board headed by the Israeli GM Emil Sutovsky.

Last December, the new ACP President succeeded in winning all the nine available seats on the Board, which came into office on 1 January 2012. The ACP appointed Yuri Garrett (Italy) as Board Director, Bartlomiej Macieja (Poland) as Secretary General and Pavel Tregubov (Russia) as Treasurer. Special assignments have been entrusted to Olena Boytsun (Ukraine – Development Manager) and Evgeny Romanov (Russia – Representative for Russia). The remaining seats are held by Sergey Movsesian (Armenia), Evgeny Naer (Russia) and Maria Klinova (Israel). You can contact them individually here.

ACP President GM Emil Sutovsky (Israel)

ACP Board Director Yuri Garrett (Italy)

ACP Secretary General GM Bartlomiej Macieja (Poland)

ACP Treasurer GM Pavel Tregubov (Russia)

ACP Development Manager Olena Boytsun (Ukraine)

The mix is attractive, as particularly Olena and Yuri, both International Organizers, have professional skills which go well beyond the chessboard: they are experts in fields like publishing, managing, marketing, law and accounting. Also, most board members, apart from being respectable grandmasters, have strong educational backgrounds in other fields – an indication that the ACP is trying to capitalize on organizational and managerial as well as playing skills.

According to their first public statements, the ACP today is concerned not only with professional chess players, who nonetheless remain their main focus, but rather on the wider community of chess professionals that includes organizers, arbiters, trainers, managers, publishers, journalists. This is a new take on the concept of chess professionals, and indeed a modern one.

Already in its first press release the ACP announced a series of initiatives:

  1. The ACP Women's Cup Rapid, with a prize fund of US $40,000, which was very successfully staged in Tbilisi, Georgia, from February 17 to February 22 this year. It featured no fewer than three former Women's World Champions, the current European Champion and ten GMs, Special attention was given to a good relationship with mainstream media, and our newspage was able to carry some beautiful reports. The Women's Cup in Tbilisi was one of the ACP’s most ambitious efforts to date.

  2. The ACP World Rapid Cup (with a minimum prize fund of US $100,000) – dates and venue not yet finalized, as the official confirmation from the organizers has not yet been received. But the ACP is sure that it will be staged this year.

  3. An Internet ACP tournament – dates and modalities to be announced.

  4. Women's World Rapid and Blitz Championship 2012, which will be held in Batumi, Georgia in June:

Women's World Rapid and
Blitz Championship 2012

30 May – 06 June 2012
Batumi, Georgia

The event will consist of an eleven-round Swiss Rapid (25 minutes + 10 seconds) and a 15-round Blitz (4 minutes + 2 seconds), using the FIDE rules for Rapid and Blitz, except for the "zero tolerance rule", which will not be applied – the game is lost by the player who arrives at the chessboard after her flag has fallen.

The tournament is open to any female player rated over 2500 in an official FIDE rating lists, as well as all former World Champions and Olympic Champions. In addition, every national federation can nominate one player for participation in the Championship. Up to five more players can be nominated from the same federation, provided that they have Elo of 2300+ in one of the official FIDE rating lists in 2012. The Georgian Chess Federation will receive three additional wild cards as a host of the event.

The total prize fund is US $100,000, with the winner of the Rapid obtaining $12,000 and the winner of the Blitz $10,000. All the players who have an official right of participation will be provided with full board and accommodation in the Sheraton Hotel, Batumi. All other participants are free to choose from the variety of the hotels in Batumi. The organizers will offer a special price for the official hotels.

Regulations of the Women's World Rapid and Blitz Championship in Batumi (PDF)

Of course, this activity adds to the by now traditional ACP Tour, the only system in chess to standardize the yearly tournament performance of top chess players throughout the year – more or less like the ATP in tennis – ending in a final tournament known as the ACP Cup, where the best players of the year battle for the title of ACP Champion (and a rather substantial first prize). Also, we were told by Emil Sutovsky that negotiations for important sponsorship by one of the world's leading hi-tech companies are at an advanced stage. Good news for professional chess on the way?

The ACP has also finalized an agreement with the ECU, obtaining special conditions for ACP members at the forthcoming Individual European Chess Championships in Plovdiv (March 19 – April 1, 2012). All ACP members will be entitled to 5% discounts on accommodation and 50% on entry fees, subject to a minimum number of ACP players registering. The number, we are told, has been reached and therefore this agreement is now fully operational.

In a display of pro-activeness, FIDE did not take long to show an interest in cooperating with the rejuvenated association, which led to an agreement whereby close cooperation is announced. The main points of the agreement are:

  1. The ACP will be actively involved in the decision-making process within FIDE, with the ACP President invited to all FIDE Presidential Board meetings.

  2. The ACP will have a seat on World Championships and Olympiads, Modernization, Qualification and Rules Commissions, with a view to contributing to bringing the voice of chess professionals inside the World Chess Federation;

  3. In view of its direct knowledge of major events around the world, the ACP will draft the annual Calendar for FIDE official events, trying to avoid damaging overlaps;

  4. The ACP will be entitled to use the title "World" for three major events in 2012 (ACP World Rapid Cup, Women's World Rapid Championship and World Internet Championships/Cup);

  5. One of the FIDE President nominees for the 2013 World Cup will be the highest ranked player of the ACP Tour 2012 who has not qualified by any of the other results;

  6. FIDE agreed in principle and will discuss with its commercial agent the possibility that the winner of the ACP Tour in the year preceding the Candidates' Competition will be included as a participant to the Candidates' Competition for the next World Championship cycle (2013-2014);

  7. The ACP will present to FIDE a list of International Arbiters who are also members of the ACP, so that FIDE can select 10 of them for the forthcoming Olympiad;

  8. Lastly, FIDE will take into account the results of an imminent ACP survey on the introduction of the Elite-GM title.

    Deal. ACP and FIDE Presidents Emil Sutovsky and Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

Regarding this last point, the Board Director Yuri Garrett told us that the ACP is actually in the process of finalizing the survey and that it will be soon circulated among ACP members. The task is far from obvious, especially considering the fact that the GM title was introduced in 1950 and the last time FIDE introduced a new Master title was in 1978.

Chess professionals have reacted with, it would seem, some enthusiasm to the revived Association, and new members came in flocks during the first weeks of the year. Current figures stand at about 800 members from 75 countries, with Russia and Ukraine leading the pack, followed by a Western quintet of USA, Israel, Germany, France and Italy. Among these are a large number of top players – in fact, nearly all of them. In case you were wondering, the current World Champions Vishy Anand and Hou Yifan are members. All this was the result of the new affiliation policy devised by the ACP, which made joining the Association between January 1 and April 1, 2012 free of cost for one year. The ACP’s goal is to have over 1,000 members by 31 March.

The ACP is also in the process of finalizing a brochure in its two main languages (Russian and English) with a view to presenting the association to important partners and to assist in fundraising activities. In addition, the ACP website will undergo a major restructuring later this year.

You can follow the ACP via Facebook (ACP – Association of Chess Professionals), Twitter (@ACP_Chess) and, of course, also their official website. If you want to become a member, here is the ACP Registration Form.

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