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Chess Candidates Matches Need to Change!

The 2011 Chess Candidates Matches in Kazan, Russia saw far too many draws. The Chess was of a high quality, however from an entertainment perspective it was extremely low. This article details a few recommendations from top players across the world

 
PRLog - Jun. 8, 2011 - The 2011 World Championship Candidates Match Tournament in Kazan, Russia was interesting - as it was the most boring sporting event I’ve ever heard of.  There were a total of 3 victories in the classical time control (1 by Kamsky, and 2 by eventual winner Gelfand).  Grischuk made it to the finals by employing an interesting strategy, based on drawing out of the classical games to make it to the rapid and blitz tiebreakers - where Grischuk apparently felt he was stronger.  It’s impossible to blame him, as he was simply trying to make the most of the current format that encourages strong blitz players to play to their strengths.  Many top players have expressed disgust with the current WC Candidates system, with world #2 Magnus Carlsen even going so far as to boycott the event entirely.  Vladimir Kramnik was not that extreme, however he is certainly not impressed by FIDE’s implementation of the current format.

   In a recent interview with Chessbase, Kramnik stated “But if it is a classical chess Candidates tournament I think we should be playing mainly classical chess. Of course in case of a tie it is unavoidable from time to time to have a rapid match to find the winner. But it should be the exceptional case and not happen all the time.... So this is a serious problem: I think there must be much more classical chess in a new format, and that can be done with a round robin tournament. If two players share first place they can play a rapid match to decide who is the winner. But that would be just four rapid games vs very many more classical games. For example, In the Kazan tournament I personally played more rapid or blitz games than classical, which is kind of strange.”

   I entirely agree with Kramnik on all points.  The World Championship is the most prestigious event in chess, and this year’s Candidates tournament was decided primarily by rapid chess.  That would make sense... if it were the Rapid WC, not the real thing.  I like Kramnik’s suggestion of a round robin tournament.  Every participant would equally play each other, so there is no nonsense about avoiding opposition (Topalov said he would boycott the event in place of playing a Russian in Russia - a funny thing to say as Topalov has played many important matches in his native Bulgaria....)  Also in this proposed round robin format, spectators would witness much more exciting chess as players would be forced to fight it out until the very end - an advantage this format boasts over the tournament system used in San Luis in 2005, where Topalov built an insurmountable lead in the first half of the tournament and was able to coast to the finish with diminishing interest.

   Speaking of Topalov, his manager and current European Chess Union (ECU) President - Silvio Danailov - issued an abrasive statement on May 25th stating “Conclusion: The WCOC who is responsible for this system failed, and should resign immediately.”  Personally I’ve never been a fan of pointing fingers, and prefer leaders to suggest solutions.  Good one by Danailov - placing manipulation, self-preservation and political aspirations above the common good (once again).  By sheer coincidence, Danailov recently publicized his next attempted career move.

   FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos responded publicly 2 days later ““A couple of weeks ago Mr. Danailov also announced his intention to run for FIDE President in 2014. Seeing the opportunity to promote his own political agenda, Mr Danailov abused his position as ECU President and FIDE's desire for feedback from its top players, to attack through his reply whom he views as "political opponents", instead of participating constructively in the on-going dialogue for the future World Championship cycles. Mr. Danailov has not understood yet that he has been elected to the position of ECU President, with a monthly salary accompanying it, in order to serve all European chess players and not only his future political ambitions in FIDE”

   Interesting stuff, however none of this nonsense resolves the current issue at hand - How can FIDE fix the Candidates format with respect to the best interests of the players and spectators?  GM Emil Sutovsky, WCOC Member (World Championship and Olympiads Committee) sent out a questionnaire to the world’s top twenty rated players, asking their opinions on the current WC cycle and how they would like to change it.  The WCOC is meeting this month, so hopefully this complicated topic will be addressed and an attempt at a balanced resolution will be made.

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