Hangin's take on Kirsan's Interviews from the 2004 FIDE Knockout Tournament


KIRSAN ILYUMZHINOV - full interview- FIDE President - interview and other information about the 2004 FIDE KO can be found at  wcclibya2004.com

Kirsan excerpts :

I met Samaranch, the former President of the International Olympic Committee and he said that we had a unique approach to our world championship - it was completely undemocratic. He could not recall any sport where the world champion /s started with a 50 metre advantage in a 100 metre sprint !

It was very clear to me and I decided that we had to push for an open championship. Existing champions had to start on an equal footing. I saw it as a real chance for talented chess players to play for the crown. We have given over $5 million in the championships we have organized so far and many chess players have earned sums of money which apart from giving them a reasonable standard of living, were also the highest prizes they had ever earned in their lives.

Hangin's take :

     Democracy in sports?  Democracy in the Chess World Championship?  I donít buy it.  With democracy each person is equal, each has one vote. But with sports thatís not the case. Athleteís talents differ greatly, both physically and mentally. The process should not be democratic, it should be just and fair. It must allow for the best to prove their strength in battle. It must produce a title match between the two strongest.  I think chess needs to be more like the animal kingdom. Only the strongest should rule. The Olympics have their rich traditions, but so does Chess. Both traditions are worthy of being respected and maintained.  Look at the lion kingdom. The king of the pride is the strongest male. He became the king by fighting off other male lions of a pride. He maintains his rule by fighting off other stray young lions that try to claim his pride. Is it a democracy? NO, is it fair, YES.  All male lions can challenge the leader, but they can only take over the pride if they can beat the leader. Does the leader of the pride have any advantages other than strength? NO. The Chess World Championship is over 120 years old, for the most part the title changed hands when the champion lost a match of significant duration. When the challenger won the match, he became the champion. Thatís fair. Itís a good way for the title to change hand. Chess like Boxing has a rich tradition of the man who beat the man who beat the man. Each champion makes contributions to the chess world, they lay down their inches. These inches form feet and eventually yard sticks. This yardstick measures each succeeding champion. In fact the championship yardstick can measure all players. The question for all players vying for the chess crown is: how do you measure up against the champions? The early system was not entirely just, because the champion could decide whom to play. Moreover the challenger had to raise enough money to have the match. FIDE fixed this process, so that all talented players could earn the right to challenge for the title. But only the best could challenge the champion. The champion was the leader of the pride. The challenger had to prove his superiority over his contemporaries. The challenger has to prove he is the best of the rest. FIDE perfected the process of finding worthy challengers for the champion in 1966. Since the number of talented players was growing, FIDE made use of zonal tournaments, where top players from each chess zone would earn the right to player other top players from different zones. They would face off against each other in an interzonal tournament. The interzonals were round robin tournaments, where each player played each other. The top finishes went on to play candidate matches against other top finishers and players seeded from the last world championship process, namely the losers of the last candidate final and world championship match. The winner of the last candidate match, the candidate final, challenged the champion. This method proved to be very effective in getting the strongest challenger. Like the lion kingdom, only the strongest challenger can dethrone the king of the pride. The system FIDE perfected in 1966 thru to 1993 was a fair, just system. The best got to challenge for the title. The system was fair and just. The champion had to gain his title the same way each challenger did. As far as the champion having a 50 meter head start in the 100 meter race. This simply was no longer the case in 1972. The champion had to run the same race as the challenger, only the champion ran it in a previous cycle. The cycle was a three-year cycle. Even though the challengers played a lot of chess, they had time to recover and recharge for the title match. The champion did not know whom he would face until the very end, but he knew he would face the strongest player. He would face the best of the rest. Whereas each challenger has 3 years to prepare for the champion. To determine the justness of the process, see whom the champions were. The best FIDE system produced Spassky, Fischer, Karpov, and Kasparov. Each one of these great players was a challenger, who became a champion. Each, with the exception of Karpov, had to beat his predecessor. Each had to go through the same tough candidate process. This makes it fair and just. In the lion kingdom only the leader of the pride gets to mate and propagate the species. This is the best way for the species to survive. So it is with chess. In order for chess to survive, it must strive to produce the best champion. It is the best that will help propagate this game to the masses.  Look at the effect that Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky had on chess during the 1972 world championship match; they brought big money and many new fans into the game. Kasparov and Karpov also had great effect on the world of chess. The FIDE President has created a near democracy in the FIDE KO championship; where the top 30 seeded players have a shot at winning. I think this is an unjust system, because it hurts the strongest players. The title is decided in a lot of cases in the rapid/blitz portions of the match ups. If youíre a top player you can be eliminated by a single loss. In this last KO, several top players were eliminated in the rapid/blitz portion of the match. Even the title match was decided by a rapid game. This is not chess at its best. This KO system is interesting, but it has been proven not to produce the strongest champion. Spassky, Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov have done more for the game of chess, in terms of bring new fans into the game, than Khalifman, Anand, Ponomariov, and Kasimdzhanov ever will. In order for chess to survive as a sport, it must produce the strongest of champions. The system does not have to be democratic, but it needs to be fair and just.  Fans respect true world champions because we know they are the best of their kind. Fans donít want to see democracy in sports, we want the see the best challenge the best.  The FIDE KO is too democratic; any one in the 30 top seeds can be a champion. The KO rapid/blitz games have reduced the strength of many of the top players. Why should ex World Champion Garry Kasparov or current World Champion Vladimir Kramnik have to start from the beginning? They have already proven their strength. Why should they play in a process that sometimes forces them to play below full strength? Thatís what is unfair about the FIDE KO, the top players forced to play below their strength in blitz and rapid games.  Thatís why a democratic FIDE KO is unfair and unjust.



 Kirsan excerpts:  

In a nutshell, we must get closer to each Federation. We have to strengthen our school activities, improve our technical and financial programs for less developed countries, draft marketing and advertising programs to attract sponsors. We must also look at training more trainers so that chess is made more accessible and available in all parts of the world.

We have some ideas of restructuring the World Chess Championships to include more Federations by increasing the number to 256 players; one player from each Federation and the balance from Continental championships or zonals. The publicity factor of this will be huge and global, and at the same time the additional 128 players will signify a very minor expense for the organizers given the huge investment made at the outset.

We will continue to work on these proposals to make some formal presentation at the General Assembly in Calvia later on this year. We have to have a formal strategic plan for the next five years which encompasses all the important aspects of FIDE and the expected developments in the coming years.

I am very confident that if we all work together in true íGens una sumusí spirit we will achieve our objectives.


Hangin's take:

   Adding another 128 players to the KO will not improve the events.  Sometimes more is less. I think that only dilutes the match ups. Players play a lot of games already. IF we are going to do anything lets make the quarterfinals, semifinals, and final matches longer. I donít see the huge and global publicity of the event. This last event got little publicity. I saw nothing about it in the local daily papers. I saw nothing in chess life regarding the FIDE KO. I recall that the local papers used to cover the chess world championships, when the match was between the best in the world. In fact ESPN showed the Kasparov vs. Deep Junior game during the KO. Also all forms of media covered Bobby Fischerís arrest in Japan.  When you create an event that your major talent doesnít play in for various reasons, you will not get the huge publicity.  The world championship used to be an event where fringe chess fans and news medias sat up and took notice. Even in Britain, Nigel Short said most Brits did not even know the event was in progress and only tuned in for the final between Michael Adams and Rustam Kasimdzhanov. World Championship events used to bring new fans into the game. I donít see that happening any longer.  If we are going to work in true "Gen Una Summus", we need to schedule events in countries where all people are welcome.

      Well on 2nd thought,  why don't we expand the process to include any player who wants to play. So I can play for the title also. We can hold the event in Cuba. You know have a giant knockout.