Will Carlsen bring back RESPECT and INTEGRITY to chess?
Carlsen’s open letter has met with mixed reactions so far ( for example, check out http://www.chessvibes.com/) and it is still too early (or am I being optimistic?) to expect the FIDE leadership to comment. I only hope that Carlsen is as serious as he indicates and that he will not be convinced to change his mind should Kirsan Ilyumzhinov open his wallet in search of a ”compromise”.
The history of modern chess–since the times of Morphy,Steinitz , Zukertort et al–has struggled unsatisfactorily with two controversial topics: A. What to do about draws? and B.How to decide the World Champion in the fairest manner?
Here we are in 2010 and the draw topic has not found a solution that everyone can agree with. About the title of World Champion the world is even more divided…
Without recounting the colourful history that we all know only too well, the chess world seems to have evolved from thinking of the title of World Champion as the personal property of its holder to where now FIDE owns the title and decides unilaterally what to do with it. This might not be such a bad situation were it not for the incredible incompetence of FIDE politicians in tinkering with the qualification process!
During the Cold War politics determined a biased qualification system that kept Soviet players happy. Only Bobby Fischer’s repeated criticisms of Soviet cheating and constant withdrawals from official qualification events seemed to have gotten FIDE politicians to make changes to the rules–if only temporarily.
Once Bobby won the title and demanded more changes to the rules , however, FIDE refused further compromise and Fischer gave up the struggle in disgust and frustration, never to take part in any official qualification system again.
Fast forwarding to today, the generation(s) of World Champions that came afterwards have all had to give in to FIDE’s stubbornness and whims and feckleness in changing the rules. Only Kasparov tried to make any waves, and his epic failure in trying to control the title rules for his own personal profit (as did Alekhine) has been one of the reasons why World Champions are today even less respected than at any time in the history of modern chess. Sponsorship–or more precisely, the lack of sponsorship–has relegated the title of World Champion to something less marketable than otherwise unemployable champion surfers and idle skateboarders…
In particular, it has been the complete lack of political opposition , open criticism and solidarity amongst the world’s top grandmasters (Anand, Kramnik, Topalov, Shirov, etc) in the face of such undemocratic–often random– and unfair decision making by FIDE’s leadership that is most distasteful to me and players of my generation. It is one thing to moan and groan in private, but unless you have the integrity to speak out and take an unpopular stand in public –and back it up with personal committment–you will never achieve anything.
Kudos, therefore, to 20 year old Carlsen who has shamed the generation of players that came before him by taking a public stand and working towards changing a chaotic and unfair system that FIDE insists upon.
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS