index 2004
Letter #25 -  2004

Sub:    World Championship confusion
Date:   11/6/2004 6:53:39 PM MDT
From:  Mark Pinkston


I am confused by your site. Please help me understand your thinking. You have a section on world champions that lists the 3 FIDE tourney winners right after Kasparov. These 3 won a tournament, but that is not how the world championship is normally passed.

A challenger has to beat the champion in a match to become the new champion. These 3 are world champions in FIDE's imagination only. But there is a world champion who won the title from the previous champion in a match.

How can you not list Kramnik as the 14th world champion following Kasparov? If you want to add the 3 FIDE tourney winners in a side note, that could be appropriate, but to include them in the main list and exclude Kramnik makes a mockery of the title "World Champion".

Am I wrong?

Mark Pinkston

Dear viewer,

We found the following:

“Not long after Kasparov became champion, the Soviet Union collapsed, freeing Kasparov from the grip of the Soviet state. This set the stage for a more lasting set-back to FIDE's system when in 1993, Kasparov and challenger Nigel Short complained of corruption and a lack of professionalism within FIDE and split from FIDE to set up the Professional Chess Association (PCA), under whose auspices they held their match.

The event was orchestrated largely by Raymond Keene, who has been at the centre of much off-the-board chess activity for a long time now. Keene brought the event to London (FIDE had planned it for Manchester), and Britain was whipped up into something of a chess fever: Channel Four broadcast some 81 programmes on the match, the BBC also had coverage, and Short appeared in television beer commercials.

However, Short lost by five points, and the interest in chess in the UK soon died down. At the same time, FIDE held a championship match between Karpov (who had been champion before Kasparov) and Jan Timman (who had been defeated by Short in the Candidates final) in the Netherlands and Jakarta. Karpov emerged victorious. Ever since that time there have been two simultaneous World Champions and World Championships.

Kasparov went on to defend his PCA title against Viswanathan Anand, who had qualified through a series of events similar to those in the old FIDE system. It seemed his next challenger would be Alexei Shirov, who won a match against Vladimir Kramnik to apparently secure his place. However, plans for a match with Shirov never materialised, and he was subsequently omitted from negotiations, much to his disgust. Instead, Anand was lined up to play Kasparov once more, but here too, plans fell through (in somewhat disputed circumstances).

Instead, Vladimir Kramnik was given the chance to play Kasparov in 2000. Against all expectations, Kramnik won. FIDE, meanwhile, after one more traditional championship cycle which resulted in Karpov successfully defending his title against Gata Kamsky in 1996, largely scrapped the old system, instead having a large knock-out event in which a large number of players contested short matches against each other over just a few weeks.

In the first of these events, champion Karpov was seeded straight into the final (as in previous championships), but subsequently the champion had to qualify like other players. Karpov defended his title in the first of these championships in 1998, but resigned his title in anger at the new rules in 1999. Alexander Khalifman took the title in 1999, Anand in 2000 and Ruslan Ponomariov in 2002.

This left a Chess world with two distinct championships: one extending the Steinitzian lineage in which the current champion plays a challenger in match format (a series of many games); the other following FIDE's new format of a tennis-style elimination--or "Knockout"--tournament with dozens of players competing.

In May 2002, under the terms of the so-called "Prague Agreement" masterminded by Yasser Seirawan, several leaders in the chess world met in Prague and signed a unity agreement which intended to ensure the crowning of an undisputed world champion before the end of 2003, and restore the traditional cycle of qualifying matches by 2005.

The semifinalists for the 2003 championship were to be Ruslan Ponomariov vs. Gary Kasparov, and Vladimir Kramnik vs. Peter Leko. The former match, organised by FIDE, had been scheduled to take place in Yalta beginning on September 18, 2003, but was called off on August 29 after Ponomariov refused to sign his contract for it.

There is a proposal that Kasparov will instead play a match in 2004 or 2005 against Rustam Kasimdzhanov, who won the FIDE World Chess Championship, 2004, in Tripoli, the capital of Libya, an event which ran from June 18 to July 13, 2004, and which was sponsored by Libyan leader Moammar al-Qadhafi.

This choice of venue was extremely controversial: no Israeli players took part in the championships, several other prominent players withdrew and groups including the Association of Chess Professionals and the Anti-Defamation League have criticised FIDE's choice. FIDE announced that the Kasparov-Kasimdzhanov would be held in the United Arab Emirates in January 2005, although a press release from Kasparov makes this seem highly unlikely.

The Kramnik-Leko match was originally to be held in Budapest, but funding collapsed and it was called off. The match was rescheduled as a fourteen game match to be held in Brissago, Switzerland from September 25 to October 18, 2004 and billed as the Classic World Chess Championship sponsored by the cigar company Dannemann.

The match was drawn (and was surprisingly exciting, leading to a final game which Kramnik needed to win and did), which meant that Kramnik retained the title. Afterwards, Kramnik cast doubt on the reunification process, suggesting that rather than a Kasparov-Kasimdzhnov match to determine who would play him for the unified title, there should be a match tournament involving Kasparov, Kasimdzhanov, Ponomariov and Anand.”


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