19 October 2016

Hijab Hubris

In the previous post, Hijab Hubbub, I said, 'It's been exactly ten years since I saw as much interest in a chess story from the mainstream press'. What brought this about and is there a way to put a positive spin on it for the good of chess? The story started with the publication of the General Assembly 2016 Decisions (27 September 2016; fide.com):-
87th FIDE Congress; General Assembly; 11-13 September 2016; Baku, Azerbaijan [...] GA-2016/31. To award the organization of the Women’s World Chess Championship to Tehran, Iran, in February 2017.

It took only a few days for the mainstream press to spread the effect of the decision to the wider world: Female chess players forced to wear hijab as governing body awards world championship to Iran (29 September 2016; telegraph.co.uk):-

The world's top female chess players have reacted with horror after being told they must compete at next year's world championship wearing a hijab. Within hours of Iran being revealed as its host country, the prestigious event was plunged into crisis as it emerged players taking part face arrest if they don't cover up. [...] Fide's Commission for Women's Chess, meanwhile, called on participants to respect "cultural differences" and accept the regulations. [...]

Nigel Short, the British former world title contender, said: "There are people from all sorts of backgrounds going to this, there will be atheists, Christians, all sorts of people." [...] Susan Polgar, the Hungarian-born American Grandmaster and chair of Fide's Commission for Women's Chess, responded by defending the federation and saying women should respect "cultural differences".

The story spread to other mainstream news sources. Susan Polgar, who is in fact listed as co-chair for the Women's Commission, responded almost immediately on her blog: My response to CNN regarding the upcoming Women's World Championship (29 September 2016; chessdailynews.com):-

I was contacted by CNN regarding the upcoming Women’s World Championship. Here is my response: Q: Is it true female players have been told they must wear a hijab to compete at the above event? A: I have not been informed about this so far. I do not know if all women have to comply or if exceptions can be made. I will ask FIDE about this. [...]

It appears from this and from her further responses ('I was simply addressing if "I" have a problem wearing a hijab during this chess event, and personally, I do not.') that she did not realize that she was initially contacted because of her role as co-chair for the Women's Commission. She went on to say,

[The Women's Commission] does not decide where the event should be held. We are not and have never been directly involved with any negotiation. We are not even being informed as of who the bidders are until after the winning bid is announced. We simply discuss various issues among our committee members, and female players around the world, and we send our findings / recommendations to FIDE. This is why it is important for women players to communicate with us and let us know about any issue.

Two days later GM Polgar, in Media made up narratives (1 October 2016), added,

No one from FIDE Commission for Women’s Chess, including me, has made ANY comment to endorse the venue or the regime. In fact, I specifically said, "If any player has a problem with it, she can and should voice her opinion to the Commission for Women’s Chess or FIDE and we can address it in our next meeting."

A day later, in Response to inquiry from Telegraph UK regarding Women’s World Championship in Iran (2 October 2016), it was more of the same:-

The Commission for Women's Chess (WOM) has not taken any official position. We are actively talking to female players who qualified for the upcoming Women’s World Championship for their feedback. WOM was NOT involved in the bidding process, nor were we involved in the process to award the bid. We had no vote. I personally found out about it after the fact. The delegates from 159 countries were in Baku at the General Assembly. They were told of this bid, and it was their place to voice their objections or concerns. None of the 159 delegates representing their countries, including the United States, objected. Therefore, everyone who questions the decision to award the Women’s World Championship to the Iranian Chess Federation should direct their inquiries to these delegates, including the US which represents Nazi Paikidze who demanded for a boycott.

A day later the blog issued Official Statement From FIDE About The Women's World Championship in Iran (2 October 2016), a statement which does not appear on FIDE's own site:-

During the FIDE General Assembly in Baku 2016 the chess Federation of Iran was awarded the organization of the Women’s World Chess Championship in Tehran in February 2017. Iran was the only country which made a proposal to host the event and since there were no objections from any of the delegates (representatives of 159 national federations), the General Assembly accepted the proposal. [...]

At this point in time, there have been no official complaints to FIDE, from any player who is eligible to participate in the Women’s World Championship 2017. It is not a FIDE regulation or requirement to wear a hijab during the event. I would kindly refer you to local laws or regulations such as wearing the hijab, if you kindly check the UK foreign office website for more information you will find there "You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend" [...]

Anastasiya Karlovich, FIDE Press Officer

Case closed? Probably. FIDE has a long tradition of -- officially -- passing the buck. Another of the 'General Assembly 2016 Decisions' regarding the Women's World Championship said,

GA-2016/34. To ratify the recommendation of the Executive Board to authorize Presidential Board to take a final decision on the proposal by the Chinese Chess Association for the modification of the Women’s World Championship cycle.

Removing the references to FIDE organizations leaves, 'To ratify the recommendation to authorize to take a final decision on the proposal'. It's meaningless and it's mind boggling.

12 October 2016

Hijab Hubbub

It's been exactly ten years since I saw as much interest in a chess story from the mainstream press. Back then it was the Kramnik - Topalov unification match: Kramnik's carry on over his own convenience (theguardian.com; Leonard Barden; 30 September 2006; 'They are calling it Toiletgate.'). This time it's the Women's World Championship. The same story showed up in my Yahoo news feed at least three times.

2016-10-01: Checkmate? U.S. Women's Chess Champ Says She Won't Don Hijab in Iran • 'Sports competitors are often asked to conform to the rules of the countries they visit. That might mean eating local cuisine or simply driving on the opposite side of the road. For one elite chess player, embracing one country's religious customs isn't an option. And she may not be alone.'

2016-10-02: US Chess Champion: I'd Rather Sacrifice My Career Than Be Forced To Wear A Hijab • 'The best-ranked female chess player in the United States has said she would rather sacrifice her career than submit to demands to wear a hijab at the next world championship. Nazi Paikidze, the reigning US Women's Chess Champion, swore to boycott the 2017 contest, which is being held in Iran.'

2016-10-07: ‘I will NOT wear a hijab’: U.S. chess star refuses to attend world championships in Iran • 'As one of the most successful women to ever play the male-dominated game of chess, Nazi Paikidze is used to having her moves watched closely. Her latest has drawn international attention: Paikidze announced last week that she will boycott February’s Women's World Chess Championship in Iran because the players will have to wear hijabs.'

All three of those yahoo.com stories directed to articles on other sites -- pjmedia.com, foxnews.com, and washingtonpost.com -- and you can see from the Yahoo summaries that there were even more mainstream articles. In a future post I'll go deeper into this.

05 October 2016

Buying a Title Match 2006

Observers of the World Chess Championship with long memories might recall that the events overviewed in Buying a Title Match 2016 echoed the past. The circumstances were connected to 2005 San Luis (Topalov 1st; IX-X 2005), and the 2006 Kramnik - Topalov Unification Match (Elista, Kalmykia; IX-X, 2006).

Here is a chronology according to Chessbase.com:-

  • 2005-10-18: San Luis: The prize-giving ceremony

  • 2005-12-06: FIDE to charge $1 million for a presidential bid • 'Another dramatic development is that FIDE will permit anyone to challenge the current World Chess Champion Veselin Topalov, provided he or she is rated 2700 or higher and is able to put up the prize fund – including a 20% fee for FIDE. Apparently the regular world championship cycle is unaffected by this rule. If Topalov should lose his title in this kind of free challenge he will simply be replaced by the new champion in the 2007 eight-player world championship.'

  • 2006-04-16: Kirsan reveals details of Topalov-Kramnik match • 'FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has revealed further details on the reunification match planned for Elista in September. All contracts have been signed, the prize fund of one million dollars will be split, whatever the outcome of the match, and the loser will have to start in the next cycle from scratch. Sport Express report.' • 'Topalov-Kramnik match to take place in Elista, "Tournament of Eight" in Mexico'

  • 2006-05-16: Topalov to play Radjabov for the world title • 'Last December we reported that the FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov had proposed that any grandmaster with an Elo rating of over 2700 could challenge the FIDE world champion Veselin Topalov – if he could put up at least $1 million in prize money. Azerbaijani talent Teimour Radjabov can, the match is on.'

  • 2006-10-14: Elista Tiebreak: Vladimir Kramnik wins unified title!

  • 2006-12-15: Danailov, Topalov challenge Kramnik • 'There is a FIDE regulation that states that any player with a rating of 2700 or higher can issue a challenge for a match of 12 games for the World Championship title against the incumbent World Champion. Condition: the challenger's side has to provide the prize fund of one million dollars. Now Silvio Danailov, the manager of former FIDE world champion Veselin Topalov has issued the challenge.'

I found the FIDE regulations on Archive.org: Rules & regulations for a World Chess Championship Match within the cycle 2005-2007.

1. Organisation

1.1 A World Chess Championship Match between the World Champion and a challenger who was either an ex-World champion or has a minimum FIDE rating of 2700, can be organized under specific conditions as described in articles 2.1, 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4 of these regulations. This World Chess Championship match shall be organised in 2006/07 and represent an integral part of the World Chess Championship regulations for the cycle 2005-2007.

1.2 Governing Body: the World Chess Federation (FIDE). For the purpose of creating the regulations, communicating with the players and negotiating with the organisers, the FIDE President has nominated a committee, hereby called the World Chess Championship Committee (WCCC).

1.3 FIDE retains all commercial and media rights of the World Chess Championship match, including internet rights. These rights can be granted by FIDE to the organizer(s) of the event.

2. Qualification for the World Chess Championship Match

2.1 A player with a current FIDE rating of 2700 and above, as well as an ex-World Champion, can issue a challenge for a match of 12 games for the World Championship title against the incumbent World Champion on the following conditions:

a. The challenger’s side shall provide an amount of 1,000,000 (one million) USD as guaranteed prize money for the incumbent World Champion, net and not subject to any further deductions such as tax. The challenger’s side should also provide the exact total prize fund of the event (World Champion and challenger), net and not subject to any further deductions such as tax.

b. At the same time, the challenger’s side shall guarantee the organisational budget of the match, including a contribution fee to FIDE in the amount of 20% above and over of the total prize fund, net and not subject to any further deductions such as tax.

c. If the challenger wins the World Championship Match and becomes the new World Champion, then his previous status in the World Championship Cycle 2005-2007 (World Cup or Candidates or World Championship Tournament qualifier, etc.) passes to the loser of the World Championship Match. This would not be a replacement but a switch of status between the challenger and the World Champion. The winner of the World Championship Match shall be obliged to defend his title in the World Chess Championship Tournament 2007.

d. Should the above-mentioned provisions be fulfilled, the World Champion is obliged to play the match.

2.2 In case the challenger’s side provides, as guaranteed prize money for the incumbent World Champion, an amount less than 1,000,000 (one million) USD but more than 500,000 (five hundred thousand) USD, the World Champion has the right to negotiate the proposal with the challenger and FIDE in order to decide whether to accept the challenge or refuse it. If the World Champion agrees to play the match, the challenger’s side shall be responsible for covering the organisational costs as well as a contribution fee to FIDE in the amount of 20% above and over of the total prize fund.

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.

The tournament mentioned in section 2.3 would eventually be 2007 Mexico City (Anand 1st; IX-X 2007). Neither the Topalov - Radjabov match nor the Kramnik - Topalov rematch ever took place.

28 September 2016

Buying a Title Match 2016

Buried among the 63 annexes for the recent FIDE Congress was a stunner:-

The text of Annex 44 read...

4 July 2016
To: Chairman of FIDE Commission for World Championships & Olympiads (WCO)

Dear Mr. Makropoulos,
Russian Chess Federation asks the Commission to consider and (if needed) improve and approve the below mentioned amendments to the current system of determining the World Chess Champion at the 87th FIDE Congress (04-14.09.2016, Baku, Azerbaijan). RCF suggests adding an article to the rules governing World Chess Championship matches stating that the World Chess Champion can accept the challenge of any player who can contribute to the prize fund and the costs of holding of the match. Herewith a number of basic conditions should be fulfilled:
• The FIDE President would have the power to veto any proposed match. Any proposed World Championship match would be carried out under the auspices of FIDE and according FIDE rules.
• 50% of the prize fund will go to FIDE.
• The match must be held before the end of the current FIDE qualifying round, that is, before a challenger has been determined by the Candidates Tournament.

FIDE Vice President, President of the Russian Chess Federation
Andrey Filatov

I suspect that the motivation for the proposal was that '50% of the prize fund will go to FIDE'. Whatever the reason, it brought a quick reaction:-

The Filatov/RCF proposal was eventually rejected:-

It's curious that the ACP's announcement 'RCF proposal not approved', predated the General Assembly, but I suppose someone changed the title of the original post after the GA was held.

21 September 2016

World Chess Championship Buzz

The buzz around the upcoming 2016 Carlsen - Karjakin World Championship match is starting to pick up. Since the last report, Chess in Manhattan (August 2016), we had

Agreed, that was more of a snoring sound than a buzz, but it got better.

World Chess by Agon presenting new sponsor of World Championship Match in New York (33:41) • 'Published on Sep 12, 2016'

That press conference was held during the recent 2016 Baku Olympiad. For details, see:-

In addition to the usual FIDE/Agon hyperbole -- 'truly historic event', 'the championship last year [2014 Sochi?] attracted more than one billion viewers around the world', 'roughly 600 million people in the world who actively play chess' -- the EG/VR introduction had one glaring inaccuracy:-

We recall that the last time the World Chess Championship played in New York, it was in 1990. (1:55 into the clip)
The 1995 Kasparov - Anand PCA Title Match (New York, IX-X, 1995), is considered by most (all?) experts to have been a far more important World Chess Championship than any of the subsequent FIDE Knockout events, perhaps even more important than all of the knockouts taken together. It coincided with The Start of the Scholastic Boom (chessforallages.blogspot.com; July 2014), a period of U.S. chess growth eclipsed only by the Fischer boom in the 1970s. As for the the broadcasting gimmicks, does anyone remember:-

Headset or not, I'm looking forward to the big show. Game one is scheduled for 11 November. That's a public holiday in many countries.

14 September 2016

The Best Psychological Chance

Garry Kasparov as chess commentator is always as interesting and as entertaining as he was during his heyday as a chess player. Here he is with Jennifer Shahade and Yasser Seirawan during the last round of the recent Sinquefield Cup.

Garry Kasparov, Commentator - 2016 Sinquefield Cup - Grand Chess Tour Round 9 (52:59) • 'Source : Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis - YouTube'

At one point [around 30:20 into the video clip] GM Seirawan asks about Kasparov's fourth World Championship match against Karpov.

YS: Thought process: One of the hardest things in chess is to win on demand. For me, one of your greatest achievements was Seville [1987] game 24. You're trailing in the match 12-11. You have one and one result only : you have to win with White. [GK: And I was playing Karpov!] And you accomplished it. How do you play for a win on demand? In your game with Karpov, you wanted to play a long, slow game and just let his nerves... • GK: Yes, I thought it would be a game of nerves and I thought the best psychological chance...

Kasparov goes on to explain.

GK: In a last round game, the last game of the match -- a long, marathon match, ten weeks -- you don't play a game of beauty. It's all about creating psychological discomfort for your opponent. I thought that if we had a slow game, Karpov would be under pressure to simplify the position, even by making little concessions, concession after concession, because he wanted to finish the game, he wanted to reach a position where he would be out of danger. But by trying to force it, without contemplating the potential consequences, he could give me some chances. And it worked out nicely. He was gradually making his position worse and worse, he gave me a big chance and blundered in time trouble. We entered the adjournment with me having an extra Pawn and Karpov couldn't survive under the pressure.

For more about the match, see 1987 Kasparov - Karpov Title Match; Seville, X-XII, 1987. Kasparov could have been describing a typical Magnus Carlsen game.

07 September 2016

ICCF 25th to 27th World Championships

I updated my page for the World Chess Championship : Correspondence Chess to add the ICCF's 25th, 26th and 27th final events. As I decided earlier this year in Correspondence Chess 2016 and Stats for Index Pages (both May 2016), the latest events have only a ZIP file that contains both the crosstable and PGN game scores.

The previous update of the Correspondence Chess page was documented in ICCF 20th to 24th World Championships and WCCC Finals PGN (both November 2012). Given the slow pace of correspondence games, I imagine the next update will be in another four years or so.