The first FIDE Men's Grand Prix of the 2012/13 cycle was due to be held in Chelyabinsk, Russia from 19th September – 3rd October this year. Instead it now looks as though the event will take place in London, after the Russian Chess Federation refused to sanction the tournament unless Russian players were nominated for the series.
Even by the standards of chess politics the current dispute looks particularly murky. The first clear suggestion something was up came on Saturday in a tweet from IM Malcolm Pein, the London Chess Classic organiser:
It seems the “word on the street” came “straight from the horse’s mouth”, as Chessdom quote Andrew Paulson, whose company AGON holds the rights to organise the FIDE Grand Prix:
The formal reason a new venue was required is that the Russian Chess Federation (RCF) refused to sanction the event being held in Russia.
Andrew Paulson | photo: Ester Dyson
Chessdom provide further quotes on the issue, and it’s curious to note that FIDE suggest Agon were trying to resolve the issue, while Agon suggest it was FIDE taking the lead:
Of course the missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle was the motivation of the Russian Chess Federation. Their President Ilya Levitov today commented for Chess-News (where you can listen in Russian, or read a loose transcription of his words).
He said the local chess authorities in Chelyabinsk had no knowledge of the Grand Prix and the RCF had indeed written to point out that the event couldn’t be held there without their approval. A reply was received asking for permission, to which the RCF responded that if Agon wanted they could even hold all the stages in Russia, but three Russian players should be invited.
No explanation was provided for the number three (if Chess-News asked they clearly received no response), but in general it seems the RCF is unhappy that Agon and Andrew Paulson have been given the right to determine six players for the Grand Prix series. Levitov says the issue of who has the right to play for the World Championship should be decided on the chessboard.
It’s perhaps worth glancing at the FIDE regulations for the Grand Prix series:
In the past the nominees would usually be from countries where individual event were being held. If that policy was followed this time round it’s relevant that the “former World Chess Champion” clause would allow Rustam Kasimdzhanov to play in the Tashkent Grand Prix although he’s rated under 2700, Arkadij Naiditsch had 2702 on the relevant list (a Grand Prix is planned for Berlin) and if a Grand Prix is held in Lisbon, Portugal no player would be eligible. However, as AGON rather than local organisers hold the rights they could choose to nominate six 2700+ rated players based on any criteria – and perhaps on the basis of financial support regardless of where the event is held. A precedent is the 2013 Candidates Tournament, also to be held in London, where Teimour Radjabov is the nominated player due to sponsorship coming from Azerbaijan.
In short, it seems Ilya Levitov and the Russian Chess Federation are unhappy at a lack of influence over decisions that could significantly affect Russian players’ chances of claiming the World Championship title. He says:
Chess-News asked Andrew Paulson for a response to Levitov’s comments, but apart from a quip about failing to meet Arkady Dvorkovich for lunch he simply describes the whole situation as a “mystery”.
Kramnik at the possible new venue, Simpson's in the Strand, after winning the 2011 London Chess Classic | photo Ray Morris-Hill
In any case, the decision to move to London appears to be a fait accompli, even if the details are yet to be fleshed out. Chessdom quote Paulson:
Malcolm Pein noted at Twitter that there are some clear advantages to holding the event in one of London’s oldest and best-known restaurants (not to mention one with a long chess tradition):
Grand Prix moved from Chelyabinsk to London