The World of Chess from 2002 to 2007

by ChessBase
11/18/2002 – The Prague unity agreement has been signed and approved by all parties. Now comes the tough part – working out the details. American GM Yasser Seirawan, who has become the shuttle diplomat of chess, has worked out the new format for a united World Championship, including the next two cycles. Garry Kasparov helped us to understand it. Here are all the details of the new world championship format.

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Yasser's article is long and detailled, but definitely worth studying. All relevant documents are attached. Especially if you are a Grandmaster and even remotely affected by the rules of the new cycle it is expedient to take part in the ballots contained in the documents.

GM Yasser Seirawan

For the rest of us, here is a short summary of the new World Championship format as we have understood it. Actually we had some help, from Garry Kasparov, who scribbled the main points on a sheet of paper for us while waiting for a plane in Munich airport.

Garry Kasparov explains the details

  • In April/May next year classical chess world champion Vladimir Kramnik will defend his title against Peter Leko (who qualified in the Dortmund Candidates); while in May/June FIDE champion Ruslan Ponomariov will defend his title against Garry Kasparov.

  • In October 2003 the winners of both matches will play for the unified title of undisputed World Champion.

  • In 2003-2005 there will be a new cycle consisting of a double-knockout qualification with 128 players, then a series of classical candidates matches, with the world champion coming when the number of candidates is down to three. The final match will be held in May/June 2005.

  • In the next cycle there will once again be a 128-player double-knockout qualifier followed by candidates matches. The world champion will join the seven finalists to play for the title, which will be held in the first half of 2007.

  • FIDE, Garry Kasparov, Ruslan Ponomariov (who is insisting on draw odds in his match against Kasparov) and Peter Leko have apparently all agreed to the new format as defined by Yasser Seirawan. The final approval by Vladimir Kramnik is expected shortly.

  • Yasser Seirawan is expected to take over as president of FIDE Commerce, the marketing company responsible for organising the federation's FIDE events. His plans are ambitious. In addition to a $4 million world championship, he envisions a rapid world championship, for which Cannes, France, has submitted a bid, and a revived Grand Prix series.

The New World Championship Format

By Yasser Seirawan

The 35th Olympiad in Bled, Slovenia, was a historic occasion as the FIDE General Assembly met to ratify the May 6th, 2002 Prague Unity Agreement. I addressed the FIDE General Assembly explaining the agreement, given below, that had been reached for the 2003 cycle, the 2003-2005 cycle and the 2005-2007 cycle. Silvio Danailov, the agent and manager for FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov, followed with his presentation to the FIDE General Assembly. Mr. Danailov explained that Mr. Ponomariov would seek draw-odds for his match with Garry Kasparov; the same advantage that Classical Chess World Champion, Vladimir Kramnik, has for his match with Challenger Peter Leko. Also, that Mr. Ponomariov has a strong preference for the current FIDE time control: 90 minutes per player with a thirty second bonus for each move made. Thereafter, I answered questions from the FIDE Delegates. The FIDE General Assembly passed my presentation by acclimation.

Garry Kasparov, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Vladimir
Kramnik signing the Prague Unity Agreement

Mr. Kasparov then gave a rousing "I quit," speech. Referring to his fight with FIDE about ownership of the World Championship title, Mr. Kasparov explained that by signing the Prague Unity Agreement, both he and Vladimir Kramnik, recognize that FIDE, as the sports governing body, owns and controls the World Chess Championship title. That the players are bound by FIDE's rules and regulations and that he would play in FIDE's World Championship cycle according to the agreement that I had just presented. Mr. Kasparov's speech was gratefully received by the FIDE delegates.

The FIDE General Assembly approved a World Championship Committee of three persons, Georgios Makropoulos (Chairman), GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili and Israel Gelfer. They are empowered to sort out the precise format for the cycles, the time controls and the draw-odds issue. They will be meeting in the forthcoming weeks to issue their report.

In Bled, I had concentrated upon enacting a "Grandmaster Steering Committee," in accordance with the Prague Unity Agreement. Many grandmasters that I had approached to serve on the committee refused. Indeed, several grandmasters after initially agreeing to serve, later withdrew. A great deal of disillusionment exists amongst the games top players and I am therefore very grateful to my colleagues, Mikhail Gurevich (Belgium), Gilberto Milos (Brazil), Joël Lautier (France), Zurab Azmaiparashvili (Georgia), Artur Yusupov (Germany), Judit Polgár (Hungary), Adianto Utut (Indonesia), Alex Khalifman (Russia) and Yasser Seirawan (United States) for agreeing to serve at this crucial time.

Prior to the meeting of the Grandmaster Steering Committee, the list of the above nine grandmasters had been circulated along with the Statutes of the Grandmaster Steering Committee and a ballot regarding time controls.

At the Grandmaster Steering Committee meeting, the nine grandmasters standing for election were approved. Additionally, two more board members were elected during the meeting: GM Smbat Lputian (Armenia) and GM Mikhail Krasenkow (Poland) as they both agreed to serve on the committee. The Grandmaster Steering Committee Statues were ratified with one change: the voting members were expanded from the initial 100 top FIDE rated players to 200 top FIDE rated players. Due to this change, it was agreed that an Internet ballot for the time control amongst the top 200 players should take place with votes collected to keep grandmasters and interested persons informed."

World Championship format in detail

Following the Prague Agreement of May 6th, 2002, I’ve held a lot of discussions with the GM Steering Committee, the affected players, FIDE officials, sponsors and organizers.  Having exchanged views with so many of the concerned parties, the following format, so carefully crafted, is the one that I would recommend for approval for determining the FIDE World Champion for 2003 as well as for the 2003-2005 cycle. 

The following principles guided our discussions:

1) The Prague Unity Agreement for the First Cycle (2003) would have FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov and the Einstein TV Champion Vladimir Kramnik playing two matches in order to retain their current claim to the World Champion title.

  • Ruslan Ponomariov would defend his title against Garry Kasparov in a FIDE-sanctioned match scheduled for May/June 2003;

  • Vladimir Kramnik would defend his title against the winner of the Dortmund Tournament, in a match scheduled for April/May 2003;
    • Peter Leko is the winner of the Dortmund Tournament
    • Einstein TV is responsible for organizing this match
    • Einstein TV is responsible for the regulations of this match

  • The two match-winners would play against one another in October 2003.
    • This match would be sanctioned by FIDE and organized in accordance with its regulations;

  • The winner of this match would be the undisputed World Champion and FIDE would officially recognize him as such;

  • This new, undisputed FIDE World Champion would play in the Second Cycle and be subject to FIDE regulations for the Second Cycle and beyond;

  • All participants in the Prague Unity Agreement should contractually commit themselves to participating in the First Cycle and especially in the undisputed match.  They would also commit themselves to participating in the Second Cycle and would face stiff financial penalties for withdrawing from either the First or the Second Cycle.

2) The principle for the Second Cycle (2003-2005) is that the defending Champion would likewise have to win two matches to retain his title.  Thus the World Champion would be seeded into the Semi-Final stage of the Second Cycle.

3) The principle for the Third Cycle (2005-2007) is that the defending World Champion would have to win three matches to retain the title.  Thus the World Champion would be seeded into the Quarter-Final stage of the Third Cycle.  This would also be the case for the Fourth Cycle and beyond.

4) The Second Cycle of the FIDE World Championship should be as open and inclusive as possible.  For the Second Cycle and beyond, the following structure is envisaged:

  • A large double-knockout elimination qualification event;
  • Candidate elimination matches;
  • A World Championship Match;
  • A two-year cycle.

To accommodate the chess calendar, as well as the two-year cycle time frame, the qualification event, the Candidate Matches and the World Championship match would have to be shorter in duration than the lengthy traditional World Championship and Candidate Matches.

5) The time control for the World Championship Match, the Candidate Matches and for the double-knockout elimination qualification event should be: 40 moves in two hours, followed by 20 moves in one hour, and finally 15 minutes plus 30 seconds bonus for each move made in the third time control.  (40/2, 20/1, 15+30)  Please note that only in the third time control will the players receive a bonus of thirty seconds per move made.  The GM Steering Committee considered this lengthy time control as a, professional time control, or simply, “Professional Chess.”

These principles were uppermost in the minds of those who contributed to these discussions. 

The double-match elimination qualifier was strongly supported as the format to determine Candidate players who are not seeded in a particular cycle.  In the double-elimination qualification event, all matches would be of two games, played at the professional time-control.  Tiebreaks would be the same as those currently used.  The exception would be that for the Championship match-up (in round 7) between the two remaining undefeated players, a four-game match would be contested.  (Both players qualify for the Candidate Matches.)

The Quarter-Final Candidate Matches would be six-game matches, played at the professional time-control.  In case of a 3-3 result, tiebreaks would be used.  The tiebreaks for the Candidate Matches would be different from those used for the tiebreaks in the double-match elimination qualifier.  Candidate Match tiebreaks would be:

  • Four games of Rapid Chess, at 25 minutes + 10 seconds a move;
  • Two games of Blitz Chess, at five minutes per player, no bonus;
  • Sudden death Blitz Games; the players play blitz games until a game is won.  The players do not have a chance to even the score.

    (6 Professional games + tiebreaks)

The Semi-Final Candidate Matches would be eight-game matches.  In case of a 4-4 result, tiebreaks would be used.

(8 Professional games + tiebreaks)

The FIDE Championship Match would be of twelve games.  In case of a 6-6 result, tiebreaks would be used.

(12 Professional games + tiebreaks)

In no FIDE sanctioned Candidate Match or World Championship Match would any player have draw odds.

Second Cycle

As we know, unifying the World Championship has caused enormous disruption to the world’s top chess-players.  As the First Cycle involves four players competing for the ultimate title, it is reasonable that some allowance should be made to accommodate them for the Second Cycle.  The following format is proposed as the most inclusive one:

  • The two losers of the First Cycle Championship Matches are seeded into the Second Cycle of Candidate Matches.  This would give the following:
  • Eight qualifiers from the December 2003 double elimination qualification event;
  • The two losers of the First Cycle join the eight qualifiers;
  • These ten players play Quarter-Final Candidate Matches, in the first trimester of 2004, thereby eliminating five players;
  • The five successful players are joined by the loser of the undisputed match;
  • These six players play Quarter-Final Candidate Matches, in the second trimester of 2004, thereby eliminating three players;
  • The defending World Champion joins the three remaining players, and they play Semi-Final Candidate Matches, in the third trimester of 2004, thereby eliminating two players;
  • The two winners play a World Championship Match in May/June 2005;

In this plan, for one time only, during the second cycle, a new set of Candidate Matches is played (ten players).  In the third cycle, the Candidate Matches would feature Quarter-Final, Semi-Final and World Championship matches only. 

Third Cycle (2005-2007):
  • In the Third Cycle, seven players qualify from the double-elimination tournament, December 2005;
  • The defending World Champion joins the seven qualifiers, and Quarter-Final Matches are then played in the first half of 2006.
  • Semi-Final Matches are played in the second half of 2006;
  • The World Championship Match is played in the first half of 2007. This cycle becomes the established procedure from then on.

FIDE World Championship Match Schedule

The following World Championship Match Schedule is approved for a twelve game match.

Day 1: Thursday Venue Set Up
Day 2: Friday - Opening Ceremonies
Day 3: Saturday - Game 1
Day 4: Sunday - Game 2
Day 5: Monday - Game 3
Day 6: Tuesday - Rest Day
Day 7: Wednesday - Game 4
Day 8: Thursday - Game 5
Day 9: Friday - Game 6
Day 10: Saturday - Rest Day 
Day 11: Sunday - Game 7
Day 12: Monday - Game 8
Day 13: Tuesday - Game 9
Day 14: Wednesday - Rest Day
Day 15: Thursday - Game 10
Day 16: Friday- Game 11
Day 17: Saturday - Game 12 
Day 18: Sunday - Tiebreak and or Closing Ceremony 

Under this schedule, the event is 17 days long with a preliminary 18th day possibly required for venue set up. 

The benefits to the organizers under this schedule include:

  • Friday Opening Ceremonies are convenient for fans;
  • There are six weekend days of Saturdays and Sundays;
  • If the match goes its duration five playing days would be played on the weekend;
  • If daily costs were $50,000 a day (venue, workers, TV, hotel) a prudent reduction of rest days, saves money while maximizing the number of game days played on the weekend.  
  • From a media perspective, compressing a schedule to maximize attention and attendance is highly desirable. 
  • A 17/18 daylong World Championship match is of the same length as the Summer Olympics.

I hope that the players, FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomarov and FIDE Challenger Garry Kasparov as well as FIDE will approve both a twelve game World Championship Match and the above schedule.


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