The Topalov-Kramnik challenge match – will it happen?

1/25/2007 – The FIDE rules allow anyone with a 2700+ rating and enough money to challenge the reigning world champion. Veselin Topalov has done so, and provided a bank guarantee, and FIDE is deliberating. But the proposed match would run into scheduling problems, and it is unclear whether Kramnik would agree to play it in Bulgaria. Current status.

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The Challenge Match

On January 19, 2007 Silvio Danailov and sent FIDE a new bank guarantee (the first was not accepted by FIDE's financial partners) made out by the Bulbank UniCredit Group for a sum of two million dollars to cover a proposed challenge match between former FIDE world champion Veselin Topalov and the current unified world champion Vladimir Kramnik. FIDE has confirmed that this guarantee has been received and that all documents were in order.

A decision on the proposed challenge match will be taken on the 27th of January, during the FIDE Presidential Board meeting in Antalya, Turkey. FIDE has also briefed the Kramnik team about the current situation. On January 28 (Sunday), at the end of the Wijk aan Zee tournament, we expect Vladimir Kramnik to make a full public statement on the matter.

We are told that the exact wording of FIDE's letter to Topalov/Danailov, which has not yet been released publicly, is: "Your proposal will be discussed in Antalia on the 27th of January, and then we will decide when the match Kramnik-Topalov will take place.” In this connection it will be interesting to see how FIDE proposes to meet the deadlines specified in its own rules.

As we mentioned in a previous article the FIDE rules state that any player with a FIDE rating of 2700 and above can issue a challenge for a match of 12 games for the World Championship title against the incumbent World Champion. The challenger’s side must provide a sum of one million US$ as guaranteed prize money for the incumbent World Champion, as well as all organisational costs, including a 20% contribution fee to FIDE.

The exact rules for the challenge are to be found on the FIDE site. In the case of Topalov's challenge it would seem very difficult to meet the deadlines. On the one hand we find the following passage in the rules:

2.3 The match should be terminated at least six (6) months before the start of the World Championship Tournament, due to be held in September/October 2007.

2.4 The challenger’s side should present the bank guarantees, for the whole sums described in articles 2.1.a, 2.1.b and 2.2, at the same time as his proposal, after which FIDE shall organise the match within a 5-month period.

Rule 2.4 would appear to mean that FIDE undertakes to implement a valid proposal within a period of five months after it has been issued. That could be interpreted as being between zero and five months. However in a different passage we find the following:

3. 21. 1. 1 After the Presidential Board (or the FIDE President) has approved who shall be selected to organize the event, the challenger’s side shall deposit, not later than 45 days before the start of the match, in escrow, net and free of all taxes, with the FIDE bankers the full sums of money, as described in articles 2.1.a, 2.1.b and 2.2, and all costs related to FIDE as stipends, travel, full board and lodge and other administrative costs for communications etc in accordance with a budget agreed between FIDE and the Organizers.

Not later than 45 days before the start of the match, FIDE shall also be reimbursed for its direct expenses incurred in the organization of the match. This shall be a fixed sum of 35,000 USD towards the budget of the World Chess Championship Committee (WCCC) plus a fixed sum of 25,000 USD for the expenses of the live transmission of the games via the internet, as described below in article 3.21.1.4. The WCCC shall advise and help the Organiser(s) on protocol, budget, infrastructure, media, commentary, bulletin and other technical problems.

If this 45-day-period is taken into account, then the proposed world championship challenge by Topalov and Danailov runs into serious scheduling problems. There are less than eight months between the date of the bank guarantee being issued and the start for the 2007 World Championship in Mexico City (September 12th 2007). The match itself would last for at least 15 days, leaving less than the prescribed 45 days for the preparation and organisation of the match.

The tournament in Wijk aan Zee ends on January 28th, after which Veselin Topalov is scheduled to play in the Morelia/Linares tournament, which lasts from February 16 to March 2nd. But a world championship challenge would have to end before March 12th in order for the six-month period before the next world championship to elapse, as specified in section 2.3 of the rules quoted above. At the very least Topalov would have to cancel his participation in Morelia/Linares.

Danailov: Give us 48 hours!


Unflinching: Veselin Topalov's manager Silvio Danailov

In Wijk aan Zee we had an opportunity to discuss the situation with Topalov's manager Silvio Danailov. Even if, we said, by a very generous interpretation of the rules and a radical adjustment of schedules it was actually possible to hold a challenge match in February-March of this year, did he actually believe that, after the extremely hostile atmosphere of the 2006 world championship match in Elista, Vladimir Kramnik would actually agree to play a new match in Sofia, Bulgaria, where it is scheduled to be held? Danailov's reply: "Why not?" (long question, short answer). "After all that happened would Veselin for instance agree to play a match in Moscow?" we insisted. "Immediately," said Silvio. "Give us 48 hours and we will be there, ready to play."


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