Trouble brewing for World Championship 2014

8/27/2014 – The match between Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand is scheduled to start in a little more than ten weeks from today. The champion is unhappy with the venue and the financial arrangements and has requested a postponement – which FIDE has rejected. Now he has until Sunday to sign the contract, otherwise we may just see a title match between Anand and Karjakin.

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In case you do not speak Norwegian, the above NRK report headlines say "Magnus Carlsen must sign a contract to play World Cup in Sochi by Sunday. Otherwise he loses his World Championship title."

Last week the reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen requested a postponement of the match against challenger Viswanathan Anand. This match is scheduled to start on November 7, 2014, i.e. in a little more than ten weeks from now. He was on his way to Saint Louis to play in the Sinquefield Cup and did not want to be pressured to sign contracts in the middle of that event. Mainly Carlsen seems to be unhappy about the venue and the finances.

The venue for the World Championship is not too far from a very volatile political region

The venue of the match is the Olympic Village that hosted the Winter Games in Sochi. It appears
to be a bit of a ghost town, as this startling photo report by Alexander Valov would suggest.

The title match this year has a budget of US $3 million, with $1.5 million reserved for the prizes. This is one million dollars less than the funding of the 2013 match in Chennai. Further the money appears to be coming from Aleksander Tkachev, who is Governor of the Krasnodar Territory and one of the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. For this reason Tkachev has been blacklisted by the European Union, together with other key Russian officials from the region.

"Carlsen's magager: This is very unfortunate". In this NRK report from 21.8.2014 Espen Agdestein said that the tense political situation in Ukraine was one of the reasons wanted they wanted a postponemen. But that was not all. "There is much uncertainty about the actual event," he said, "uncertainty about the company that bought and will organise the World Championship match. Magnus Carlsen and his team know very little about this company." This probably refers to AGON, a company that still owns the commercial rights to events that are part of the world championship cycle. "FIDE will not even say who owns AGON," says Agdestein.

The response came quickly: on August 21 Itar Tass reported that FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov had rejected the request in a press conference, saying that a postponement was not possible. "I received a letter from Carlsen's manager," said Ilyumzhinov. "I want to emphasize that the issue raised is not about the venue, but simply the postponement of the date. So I do not believe this issue is a political one. However, FIDE has already issued an official response saying that the rescheduling was not possible. This match has been part of the official tournament calendar since last year, and a postponement could lead to problems with the current calendar."

Ilyumzhinov also said that if Magnus Carlsen would not play the match, he would be forfeited. In case this happened Anand would likely be playing Russian GM Sergey Karjakin, who finished in second place behind Anand at the 2014 Candidates Tournament.

"Carlsen require thinking time after threats of default", says the headline of this NRK report from August 25. "Just eleven weeks before the start of the World Championship match there is a serious conflict. And Carlsen has traveled to the United States – without signing any contract." On Sunday Magnus plays the world's number two Levon Aronian with black in Saint Louis. It is also the deadline to sign the contract and accept the original FIDE plan. It will be a very tense day for the World Champion.


We have learnt (on August 28, 2014) that FIDE has reset the deadline to Sunday, September 7th, 2014, which is the final playoff day of the Sinquefield Cup. This was apparently done after the Association of Chess Professionals sent a letter to FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov saying:

We all know, that it took a lot of time and effort to find a venue and funding for the World Championship Match. Finally it was announced that the Match will be staged in Sochi, Russia. In the absence of other bids, the prize fund was decreased almost by 50% , compared to the last World Championship Match, but, no less importantly, there are still quite a few uncertainties regarding the Match, that led to a deadlock - as a result, the contracts have not been signed so far. Unfortunately, I have to admit, that even being a member of the Commission for World Championships and Olympiads of FIDE (hereinafter referred as WCOC), yours truly is not updated with the real situation, and greatly concerned about the lack of transparency and the possible consequences.

Mr. President, I call you to make everything possible in order to resolve all the disagreements, and not to let the chess world divide, as it happened in the recent past.

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Akiva Rubinstein Akiva Rubinstein 8/28/2014 07:14

Please keep your dignity and value as a human; hence, for the good of chess and humankind in general, please refrain from endorsing criminals in the like of Putin, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, and Aleksander Tkachev. A so-called "title" is not worthy renouncing to your human qualities. On another note, this is what we get when corrupt chess leaders from Europe and even Canada vote to keep the most "gargantuan" mistake in chess history in power; that is, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov (aka: Putin's puppet). An Argentinian author stated once; "... man can lose many things in life, and yet get them back; however, once a man lost his "dignity" or capacity for shame, such man will never get it back." Those who voted for Kirsan Ilyumzhinov already and long time ago lost their "human dignity" or "capacity for shame and remorse;" hence, chess, once again, has entered the dark ages.
NJD NJD 8/28/2014 07:00
The Championship needs Carlsen more than he needs the championship. His concerns seem 'reasonable', he is no Bobby Fisher. So Mr. MC do what you feel you have to do.
firestorm firestorm 8/28/2014 06:45
The bizarre thing is, why play it in the Olympic village instead of a decent central city venue? It is almost as if they want to make it as unpleasant an experience as possible for all concerned. Is there any info on why the Olympic village was chosen?
RazorX RazorX 8/28/2014 03:33
a) Would similar things be brought up if it was scheduled in Moscow or St. Petersburg?

b) You guy realize that this is safer than Kiev.
Grokon Grokon 8/28/2014 03:19
Let's hope Magnus Carlsen stands firm. He is too great a player to get involved into the nasty game of the Russian government towards Ukraine.
Checkravuh Checkravuh 8/28/2014 02:04
Anand should not play Carlsen because of what Carlsen's people did in Ukraine in the 1940s..
balietis balietis 8/28/2014 01:44
@Bill Alg: so you agree he would be a perfect candidate? Crimea born ex-Ukrainian who has always felt 100% Russian. I just wonder who should replace V. Anand, maybe K. Lagno?
Bill Alg Bill Alg 8/28/2014 01:11
@balietis: Karjakin was born and raised in Simferopol, and therefore was always and has always felt 100% Russian. He was never going to ask you, or any other history-ignorant western fellow, what to do and whether to change country or not.
AncientRo AncientRo 8/28/2014 12:00
A title match without Carlsen would have no legitimacy. Carlsen has a history of standing up to Fide (he refused to participate in the Candidates when Gelfand won) so I hope he stands up to them this time and does not let himself be forced into doing things that he does not agree with.

There are many arguments to contest here, such as Russia invading another country, secrecy regarding the sponsorship money, the uncertainty that existed about this match happening, the short time left until the match is scheduled to start, etc.

I hope he does what he thinks is right and not let himself be forced into doing something he does not agree with.
Rootes 42 Rootes 42 8/28/2014 11:25
It's well known that corruption is rife in FIDE and that Putin was pulling the strings to get Ilyumzhinov re-elected, but having a world championship match funded by the leader of an armed uprising against his country's government is taking things to extremes even by their usual standards. If either Carlsen or Anand has any moral scruples at all, they would refuse to play in any match funded by Tkachev.

The suggest that Carlsen fears Anand (or anyone else for that matter) is ridiculous. He may have lost the occasional one-off game, but there's no player on the planet who could beat him in a full length match.
dysanfel dysanfel 8/28/2014 10:07
We have a saying where I am from, "A man likes to know who's buyin' their drinks." The lack of transparency with the prize fund is disgraceful. Any match without Carlsen will not be a championship match.
firestorm firestorm 8/28/2014 10:06
It is a great shame that this uncertainty over the world championship exists, and you can draw in whatever historical and political comparisons and threads you want, but there is one undisputed fact: on Monday we'll know whether Carlsen has signed or not. Whether the match goes ahead with Carlsen or not, though, it is pretty bad when as the official world organising body for chess, you're willing to exclude the strongest player and current world champion from your flagship event. Not exactly a great advert for getting sponsors.
balietis balietis 8/28/2014 08:09
Let Karjakin play. A guy who changed his citizenship from Ukrainian to Russian would be a perfect candidate to play for pro-russian terrorists money.
wowbagger wowbagger 8/28/2014 07:12
A power struggle we've seen before. A strong world champion with a strong media presence and commercial success is great for chess but not good for FIDE's kind of leadership.
Ilyumzhinov does not try to talk and resolve the issues. A weak Russian world champion might be much to Putin's liking, so Ilyumzhinov grabs the opportunity to play the power game.
I hope Carlsen will play the match, will not give in to the deadline and sign prematurely, and let his management do the ugly struggle with FIDE.
GrivasEfs GrivasEfs 8/28/2014 04:45
Kassy, then there is no need to play the game for the World Championship - lets use the ratings. The real meaning of a World Championship is that everybody would have a chance to go for it. Unless you love the situation of the early 19th century where the champ would choose his opponents. The players that you so easily discard, came, play and won over the board. Greek football team won the European Team Championship of 2004 - was probably the weaker but qualified, played and won. Keep in mind that the 2000 winner of the (out of FIDE) match Kramnik-Kasparov had lost the semi-final to Shirov but still played in the final - did this happened in any other sport in history? Are you proud that it happened in chess?
Zirie Zirie 8/28/2014 03:13
I think Magnus Carlsen should send Kirsan Ilyumzhinov packing and ask Garry Kasparov to organize a championship match against Levon Aronian.
kassy kassy 8/28/2014 02:24
GrivasEFs-seriously. People respect the FIDE line of champs?!?
The real line goes Kasparov-Kramnik-Anand-Carlsen.
Khalifman, Kashim, pono, and Topa were not world champ according to many(Topa has some weak claim)
JackCrabb JackCrabb 8/28/2014 12:57
Let's hope Carlsen and Agdestein remain stubborn, ans very soon this episode of the arrogant fjord toad on the chess throne will be history ! And much more sympathetic Vishy will come back !
GrivasEfs GrivasEfs 8/28/2014 12:52
May I remind to some youngsters here that the FIDE World Championship belongs to FIDE from the very far 1948. Nobody is obliged to participate but instead can create his own championship and claim the title if he feels so. But somehow everybody seem to respect only this title, especially after the 1993 break try, which failed. The main problem in my opinion is that the Norwegian government or sponsors doesn't give a penny for this match; nor any other 'Western' countries as well. And unfortunately you cannot press for your own points with others' money...
Nick B Nick B 8/28/2014 12:20
I have to say I agree with John Drake. Ilyumzhinov's insistence that "this is not about the venue" is troublesome, methinks he doth protest too much. As john drake points out, if Magnus doesn't play people will still rate him as the World Champion - if nothing else for the colossal rating difference between him and Anand/Karjakin. I have to say this whole issue is a real shame though; I was looking forward to a great match between him and Anand, and if this turns into a political problem that it could overshadow an event that should be only about chess, not politics. A match between Karjakin and Anand would be a total fraud, I would feel especially sorry for Anand who fought tooth and nail for the right to a rematch with Carlsen, not Karjakin.
Oblio Oblio 8/28/2014 12:01
What the FIDE cronies fail to understand (again) is that the World Championship title doesn't belong to them. It belongs to the best player on the planet and that is unquestionably Carlsen. The title is HIS unless someone wrestles it away from him in a match. If FIDE just hands it to someone else it will NEVER be seen as legitimate. We all know this to be true because it has happened before.
FIDE has no leverage unless it is willing to undermine its own legitimacy as a governing body (which of course it is because it is ruled by short sighted autocratic fools).
I hope he tells them where to stick it and then continues to dominate the ratings list for another 15 years.
plancton92260 plancton92260 8/27/2014 11:09
If Kasparov had been president it would not be so.
He wanted to postpone the WCC next year.
Bostonian Bostonian 8/27/2014 10:13
While I hope this is just rubbish and not the truth, this is plain and same old political BS. I can see Norway/EU, Kasparov and Company behind this. I have also further lost respect for Magnus Carlsen. I dont think he is prepared and in fact he seems fearful of loosing his crown. Not to mention he continues to be manipulated by his advisers. I can understand the power politics of the soviet bloc and EU but the world championship should not be a victim of this. I feel really sorry for Anand. The man deserves much better than this FIDE/political crap. He has already suffered in the past due to the FIDE-PCA and now this again!
LocutusDeBorg LocutusDeBorg 8/27/2014 09:17
Putin isn't playing the World Chess Championship, Captain. And that commercial plane decided to fly directly over a warzone; a warzone in which three other planes had been recently show down. You know how I can tell you're from America and not from France? Because, like the Israelis who control America's foreign policy, you're so vicious, self-righteous and hypocritical. You DO realize, to provide but one example, that the American-Israeli government killed one million Iraqis during its war there, don't you? Or that another one million Iraqi children were intentionally starved to death as a result of U.S. sanctions in the early 90s--that ring a bell? And yet Carlsen, who is so worried about his image, has no problem playing in the Sinquefield Cup. The hypocrisy of Carlsen, Nakamura and Weinstein truly knows no bounds. All decent folk should be rooting for Anand.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 8/27/2014 08:56
I would like to know what Anand has to say about this. Anybody knows what will happen if both refuse to play in Sochi? Karjakin world champion without playing? That would put him in a bit awkward position, or at least anybody playing him in that capacity when Karjakin accepts this, knowing the things he said in youthful enthousiasm about the Ukrain-Russia situation.
john drake john drake 8/27/2014 08:54
magnus will make his own choice,but i hope he doesn't play.this would be further proof kirsan is a bad fide president and putin runs him.a good fide president would find a way to accommodate our best player.also,having a chess world championship every year is a bad idea.if magnus doesn't play,most will still accept him as true world champion and best player.then anand and karjakin(or whoever) should refuse to play and force kirsan out.putin fooled some(not me) once in sochi,don't let him do it again.
Tactics67 Tactics67 8/27/2014 08:48
He'll sign! no way he's gonna for forfeit! not another Bobby Fischer.
Captain Picard Captain Picard 8/27/2014 08:31
A commercial plane was just shot down very close to this region. And if FIDE and AGON have nothing to hide then why all this secrecy? If Russia wants to wage war let it do so without the support of the chess community. That moron Putin would be lucky to play in the tic-tac-toe world championships!
Soelter Guillerm Soelter Guillerm 8/27/2014 08:11
The venue is too riskful! Only a ninja would play there under such sinister circumstances (with a full legion of mercenaries of the night)! Like the saying says “Better running away from here than dying here”! Selfpreservation comes first, money later!
joachimus joachimus 8/27/2014 07:46
Rubbish? Current situation on Ukraine and Russia' involvement in it, shady sponsor of the event-these are serious issues. It's not event about money, but about Chess World Champion and his image and playing WCC match in these particular circumstances might not only hurt players, but whole chess community.
VVI VVI 8/27/2014 06:55
What rubbish? Russia has a strong presence in Chess. What`s wrong in playing in Putin`s backyard? I see Magnus is making excuses; the venue was announced a while ago. Perhaps, Magnus fears Anand ( in current form). He has lost 4 games to much lower rated opponents this year. Anand will prevail.