SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
One million dollar prize fund for Campomanes Memorial set up
Campomanes and Ilyumzhinov had great respect for each other
Late last week FIDE president Ilyumzhinov announced a 1,000,000 prize fund –from his own personal fortune–was being established in memory of the late Florencio Campomanes (who passed away in May). The timing could not have come at a better time for the Kalmyki superstar–right in the middle of a controversial and very mediatic re-election campaign.
KARPOV’S LONG AWAITED ELECTION PLATFORM
Bowing to growing pressure about the conspicuous absence of a Karpov platform, this past week a detailed platform was presented on the campaign web site: http://www.karpov2010.org/karpov2010-platform/
I suggest the interested reader to take a quick look at it. While most of it is colourless banter and 1-dollar platitudes (democracy, transparency, responsibility,sponsorship), Karpov actually took a stand on a number of controversial topics.
On the ‘zero-tolerance’ rule:
An example of an arbitrary and damaging rule is the so-called “zero-tolerance” rule FIDE implemented last year that forfeits a player if he is not seated at the board when the clock is started. This has resulted in several high-profile embarrassments, including one in which the result of the Chinese national championship was affected when a participant was forfeited while present but unseated. We support high professional standards of behavior for players. But the players, and the game, must also be treated with respect.
I think that most grandmasters support this stance. The zero-tolerance rule has no place in a federation that takes pride in Gens Una Sumus (we are one family). And this is one example where FIDE did not even poll its membership before introducing such a radical rule. Most sane organizers–and virtually 100% of the players–are horrified by this rule.
On fast time controls:
Excellence and credibility matter. The quality of the games should not be reduced nor chess results randomized by the drastic shortening of time controls or by the use of formats in championship events that cheapen the title. Chess cannot survive in a viable commercial form if it is trivialized to a simple pastime, governed by confusing or degrading rules, or made to appear as if the luckiest player is the victor. The perception of chess as a thinking person’s game, as a crucible of the human mind, is an asset not a liability. For the world to take chess seriously as a sport, it must be taken seriously by us, the organizers and players.
Classical chess should maintain its preeminence at the professional level. Rapid and blitz formats will no doubt retain a degree of popularity with organizers and the public. They have their place as popular and entertaining forms of the game and FIDE should exploit these opportunities fully on a commercial level. But the struggle for excellence and the rigorous nature of the classical chess contest should remain the hallmark of the game.
I am personally pleased to see Karpov’s stance on time controls. The faster time controls have destroyed much of the legacy of modern chess: 50 years from now people will look back at the quality of games played today and make the same squeamish grimaces that you and I make when we look over some of Morphy’s games against the amateurs of his time.
Quite simply, FIDE has destroyed the endgame of our noble game! No one can play well with 30 second increments, and the artistry that is usually associated with the endgame has gone the way of the dinosaur. Hopefully Karpov will bring it back , if elected.
One word that has been thrown around quite freely in this election campaign–by both camps–is democracy. Both sides claim to be its champion! Ofcourse, the word has little meaning and value unless you are able to back it up with concrete proposals and show why your vision of democracy is better than the other guys…
The Ilyumzhinov camp defines FIDE democracy in terms of a markedly de-centralized organization:
” FIDE has protected the rights of all Federations and has not allowed any group of Federations, irrespective of their size, to control our World Chess Federation. FIDE is an open, transparent, democratic institution with one vote for each Federation…..De-centralization of FIDE will continue with major activities and development programs in all Continents. This results in clear autonomy for the Continents. There has also been a large increase in the number of tournaments and participation in FIDE and all around the world.” (http://www.onefide.com/)
The Karpov camp, in contrast, sees Kirsan’s FIDE in a different light:
”Many of the problems faced by FIDE today originate with the over-centralization of authority to the Presidential Board and the President. FIDE has lost touch with its membership and lost the essential input of the Federations, the organizers, and the players FIDE is supposed to serve.”
While there is no doubt the Presidential Board and the President have full run of FIDE between congresses, the truth is that there are plenty of congresses at which to have your say! What Karpov really longs for is a return to the pre-Campomanes era of FIDE leadership: ”Return FIDE to Its Federalist Origins”, one where Europe was the centre of the chess world and european priorities dominated the FIDE agenda.
Karpov and Kasparov openly promoting Europe’s interests in FIDE and a return to its origins
Karpov , however, does not come out and say this directly: he instead masks his intentions by talking of enhanced regional empowerment:
” Our policy will be one of enhanced regional empowerment, based on the philosophy that those closest to the situation are best aware of the challenges and opportunities they face. Regional leaders should be provided with greater autonomy and resources.”
And it is at precisely this difference in vision of FIDE democracy in the role of the development of chess in the world that will decide the winner of the next election. Ilyumzhinov does not want to see Europe have more weight in the FIDE agenda. Karpov wants precisely the contrary. The reality is that the 3rd world carries much more electoral weight than europe…
There is no doubt that Ilymzhinov has failed with regards to corporate sponsorship. When he was elected for the first time in Paris in 1995, he promised to attract sponsorship to chess. In the time since, while he has set up a number of ambitious initiatives (for example, FIDE Commerce and Global Chess ), the truth is that sponsorship is becoming more and more scarce! Most of the monies brought to chess since 1995 have come from Ilyumzhinov’s deep pockets, and that is the truth.
Some say that Kirsan has given up to 50 million dollars of his own money to FIDE projects
But reading Karpov’s thoughts on what he would do differently to attact sponsorship , I find his arguments not very convincing. First, he over simplifies the complex question of sponsorship by laying the fault at Ilyumzhinov’s feet:
”Corporations become sponsors because they wish to be associated with chess. For years FIDE has been led by a person about whom much has been written and broadcast, almost all of which has damaged the image of the game. It is not surprising that sponsors have stayed away.”
And then Karpov proceeds to show he knows nothing on the subject of sponsorShip by quoting chapter and verse, titles and cheap slogans stolen from any second hand book on the subject!
A short selection:
”FIDE must forge partnerships with vendors and service providers to leverage economies of scale and the FIDE brand to the advantage of member Federations.”, …. ”Image matters”,…. ”Win-win for chess and for sponsors”,…. ”Revive the chess brand”,…. ”Create programs worthy of support”, ….”Market chess, and chessplayers, as a desirable segment.”…. ”Develop joint ventures”
Infact, everything–without exception–that Karpov recommends has been tried (and said!) by Kirsan and his ‘experts’ at some point during the past 15 years. And it hasn’t worked!
Although I certainly do not consider myself any thing near to an expert on the subject of sponsorship (as opposed to Mr. Karpov) on this blog over the past year and a half I have written about several professional studies done on the subject of sports sponsorship, and time and time again the REAL experts point out that sponsorship has evolved in the past 10 years. Sponsorship is more selective. That the rules of the game have changed! That unless you can generate interest on TV, that unless your sport has visibility and prestige, then you can’t compete for sponsorship dollars.
Late last year there was a sponsorship conference held in India and chess was excluded! Infact, even though Anand was (and is) the world champion, there was not one single sponsor interested in sponsoring the Indian Championship!
The reality is that neither Karpov nor Ilyumzhinov know what to do to bring corporate sponsorship back to chess. Maybe it is impossible: the 21st century is not the same world that Karpov remembers when he was world champion. Chess is disappearing in the non-chess media! The Anand vs Topalov match was virtually ignored by the world non-chess media. The internet has proven that there are not hundreds of millions of chess fans out there. Hundreds of chess columns have disappeared, etc, etc.
So, clearly I am not impressed with Karpov’s sponsorship spiel.
So the unofficial election count as of the end of last week:
Ilyumzhinov: 70 votes and 1,000,000 dollars sponsorship
Karpov: 30 votes and 0 dollars sponsorship
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS