I don’t consider myself a big football fan, though neither does my wife Aida and yet she loves watching her favourite team play everytime! I limit myself to only watching key championship games, such as last night’s thrilling matchup between Inter Milan and defending European Champions Barcelona. At stake is qualification for the finals and Barcelona lost 3-1 in the first leg of this encounter between two of Europe’s best teams.
Because of the chaos created by the volcanic eruption in Iceland , Barcelona had to travel by bus to Milan, a journey of 1000 kms that was covered in two stages (a night stop over in Cannes). Certainly Barcelona was inconvenienced by this strenuous trip, but no more so than 7 million other people who have been trapped in airports for days and are forced to find other means to get on with their lives.
After the loss , during a press conference, Guardiola was asked whether his team’s loss was due to the long trip. Guardiola responded, looking ahead to the second leg of the matchup this weekend: “I’m not a doctor so I can’t say how much the journey affected us.” Said like a true champion!
1. The art or practice of using tactical maneuvers to further one’s aims or better one’s position;
2. The use in a sport or game of aggressive, often dubious tactics, such as psychological intimidation or disruption of concentration, to gain an advantage over one’s opponent
Everyone suspected many months ago, long before the vulcano erupted in Iceland , that this match was not going to be easy to manage from an organizational point of view. But no one really expected it to be from Anand’s team that the first salvo got fired!
Even before Anand went from Madrid (where the Indian superstar has lived for more than a decade) to Frankfurt last Thursday, there were rumours that the European authorities were considering to impose a ban on flying in European air space. Tens of thousands of travellers were already making alternative plans to get to their destinations, quickly selling out all scheduled train and bus routes for the following days. When Anand landed in Frankfurt, however, instead of anticipating the problem (and heading to Sofia immediately) he decided to stay over night and to leisurely fly out the next morning. This turned out to be a serious mistake, as by that time a ban on all flights was in effect.
At this stage the Anand team probably decided to use the crisis to their own advantage and try to destabilize the Topalov camp. Anand immediately sent word that he wanted ‘atleast’ a 3 to 4 day delay in the match starting! This despite Sofia being approximately 800 miles from Frankfurt, a journey that even under the worse of conditions (by car), and including a stop-over to rest and sleep, would allow the Anand team to arrive comfortably 4 or 5 days before the first game.
Furthermore, the Anand team’s communication with the Sofia organizers was less than appropriate. The press was given a copy of this communication even before the Bulgarians were aware of the request for a postponement! This provoked indignation in Sofia.
The Anand communication, while trying to maintain a sincere face, could not hide the real reason for the delay: ”Further to play immediately would be unfair and unjust due to the fatigue given that the opponent has arrived a few weeks back. Under these circumstances the contest would not be equal and fair.” The actions were clearly aimed to disrupt the plans of the Topalov team! Neither Topalov nor the Bulgarian organizers were responsible for Anand’s unfortunate travel arrangements…
As a leading Indian newspaper wrote today :Anand is not used to travelling such distances on road and not giving a three day postponement could give challenger Topalov a significant advantage.
There has been considerable reference in the media to the match regulations and the signed contract (with the players and the Bulgarian organizers) with respect to Anand not being able to become acclimatized for one week before the start of play, and that since Anand is not able to do this now, that therefore Anand has some legal justification for asking for a delay. This is very debatable.
Anand lives in Madrid, which requires very little (if any) acclimatization once in Sofia. But more importantly, the quoted one week period in Sofia is optional: the only thing that is stipulated in the contract is that the organizers are obliged to pay the expenses of Anand starting one week before the match begins! Whether the Indian is in Sofia one month, one week, one day or one hour before the start of the match is Anand’s personal decision: in all circumstances he is obliged to start play on the 23rd.
The vulcano has disrupted the lives of millions of people and yet common sense has managed to prevail. Hardships have been accepted, if reluctantly. Not one person has died… In our little, often egoistic and self-important chess universe, reality is only relative, however: Anand and his team arrived safely in Sofia yesterday morning after taking a scenic 40 hour route, full of hopes of being the only people in Europe to be fully compensated for the volcano erupting!
This despite the Bulgarian organization having steadfastly refused to consider any changes to the match schedule. Anand originally threatened not to attend the press conference, while maintaining that he would attend the opening ceremony…there is the usual mixture of stubbornness and cat and mouse play associated with high level chess matches!
Today FIDE decided to compromise and allow a one day postponement of the start of the first game. Below is a copy of the FIDE decision, made without prior discussion with the Bulgarian organizers! It rests to be seen if the Bulgarians will be offended with this unilateral action, or will have the maturity to realize that they are simply dealing with a very unprofessional FIDE and have to make the best that they can from a bad situation…gamesmanship included!
Hon. Prime Minister Boyko Borisov Chairman of Organising Committee of FIDE World Championship Match 2010 Sofia Bulgaria
Sofia, 21 April 2010
Dear Hon. Prime Minister,
In my capacity as FIDE Supervisor for the World Championship Match 2010, I have consulted with all the parties to try and resolve the “force majeure” situation which has arisen these last few days. It is clear that we have reached an impasse in the discussions and a decision must be made. I also requested a meeting with you, but I was informed, that unfortunately this was not possible.
After reviewing the World Champion’s request for a three day postponement, I understand that this would create enormous difficulties for the Organisers. Similarly, starting the match on Friday 23rd would cause enormous difficulties for the World Champion. I appreciate that whilst the one day postponement may cause some problems, it is justified by the circumstances that the whole world faced last week and ensures a fair play situation for both players.
Therefore, in accordance with chapter 7.4 of the match regulations as well as article 2.4 of our 2010 World Chess Championship Agreement, I would like to inform you that the 1st game of the match will be postponed by 1 (one) day to start on Saturday, 24th April 2010, for the following reasons:
a) As a result of the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland which caused the cancellation of thousands of flights from most European airports, including Sofia, we faced serious problems, not only with the late arrival of World Champion Vishy Anand in Sofia but also with the late arrival of FIDE officials and principals of the match. It is obvious that this is an “Event of Force Majeure” [pages 2 and 12 (article 11) of our 2010 World Chess Championship Agreement] which has resulted in an unfair position for World Champion Vishy Anand as he has not taken full benefit of the seven-days period (article 8.2 of our 2010 World Chess Championship Agreement) in order for him to acclimatize to the conditions and ensure that all his team will be organised to support him logistically and technically in the match.
b) According to the 2010 World Chess Championship Agreement, the final inspection of the match was to be held on the 18th April 2010, five (5) days before the 1st game (article 3.9). This deadline was not followed due to the Organiser’s delay and it has been agreed by all parties that the final inspection will be held on the morning of the 21st April 2010. Therefore a postponement is also needed in order to secure that all organisational requirements will be met in the remaining three days before the start of the match in lieu of the five days originally envisaged for such compliance.
The opening ceremony will not be postponed and will be held on 21st April 2010 as originally planned.
The whole world will undoubtedly appreciate the efforts that Bulgaria has made not only to organize such a prestigious match, but also to find a fair and equitable solution to this problem.
I would like to thank you for your understanding and all your commitment for this match to be organized at the highest level possible.
Yours sincerely,Georgios Makropoulos
FIDE Deputy President
FIDE Supervisor for the World Championship Match 2010
The press conference today has already been held, and both Anand and Topalov showed up! I doubt if the organization will refuse to accept the FIDE decision, or to legally appeal it before the courts, but I would not be surprised if the FIDE fee of 20% of the prizefund is with held for some time….
The history of World Championship matches is as colourful and controversial as it is long. One (or both) of the players trying to disturb the concentration of the other, of creating scandal in the media, or of simply being difficult is the rule. Anand has played his first move. The question is whether Topalov will do the same, or simply prove over the board who the best player in the world is.
STAY TUNED FOR MORE SILLINESS IN SOFIA!
Here are two videos from Sophia today. The first is from the press conference, followed by the video from the official opening ceremony
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS