Hangin's take on Ponomariov's Open letter to ACP 
4/8/2004

  Ruslan Ponomariov is realizing that no one misses him. I tried to tell him that in my letter last January. FIDEís decision to cancel the match was completely justified. Ruslan, you simply refused to play the match against Garry Kasparov. If FIDE can default Bobby Fischer, they certainly can default Ruslan Ponomariov. Ponomariov is realizing that FIDE Knockout Champions are easily replaced and forgotten. You can easily get a new FIDE Champion by holding another grab bag, blitz crazed FIDE Knockout Tournament. True World Champions are neither easily forgotten nor easily replaced. Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov are cases in point. 

   As I recall events:

1)      Kasparov signed the contract, Ponomariov did not

2)      Ponomariov held up the reunification process over unreasonable demands
  a) Ponomariov wanted draw odds
  b) Ponomariov did not want to use standard time controls, 40moves in 2 hours. He wanted 90 minutes and 30 second increments per move.

  3)      If Ponomariov wants to defend his title under similar conditions, then he should play in the next FIDE Knockout Tournament. That's where he won it.

4)      Ponomariov passed up a great opportunity to play the strongest player in the world for a nice sum of money. Ponomariov would have been seeded in the next few future world championships. Ponomariov passed up a no lose situation.

   Ponomariov took unreasonable stances on basic issues. The first being time control. He did not want to play using standard time controls.  True World Championship matches have been played using standard time controls, 40 moves in 2 hours.   The sixth World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik stated, ď World Championship matches are of competitive and creative importanceĒ. So why not use the slower standard time controls and allow these matches to be decided by the strongest player playing the strongest chess. This issue should not have been a showstopper. Ponomariov should have agreed to play using standard time controls.  

    Ponomariov other unreasonable demand was that he wanted draw odds, just like Kramnik has with his match against Peter Leko.  Chess fans wanted to see a decisive result in this match up between Kasparov and Ponomariov.   In order to answer this draw odds question, we must compare the two titles. Kramnik Brain game title was gained by beating the man who beat the man who beat the man. In 2000, Kramnik defeated then World Champion Garry Kasparov, greatest World Champion ever, in a match by a score of 2 wins, 13 draws, and zero losses. This was truly a great accomplishment. Kramnik had summited the Chess Olympus. Ponomariovís title was won in the last FIDE Knockout tournament, which is a grab bag, blitz-crazed process.  The tournament was missing two of best players in the world, namely Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik.  Simple analysis tells us that Kramnikís title is the real one, the one that holds value and canít be easily replaced or forgotten. Kramnikís title follows rich tradition. It would be unconscionable to give Ponomariov draw adds against the player who dominated chess for 20 years and who defended his title for 15 years in numerous matches.  Kasparov is only one match removed from his title, still at the top of the chess world. Ponomariov is a talented player, but his chess resume falls well short of Kasparovís resume.  This issue should not have been a showstopper. 

    Ponomariov failed to realize that a victory over Garry Kasparov would have given some legitimacy to the FIDE Knockout Championship.  It would have catapulted Ponomariov to chess stardom. It would have increased his marketability for big dollar matches. It would have placed Ponomariov one step from chess immortality. If Ponomariov wants to defend his title under the same conditions he won it, then he should play in the upcoming FIDE Knockout Tournament in Libya later  this year.

     Ponomariov wonders why the FIDE knockout tournament's prize funds are shrinking. This can easily be explained. How can FIDE hold championships when the top players donít play in them? Ex Champion and number one player in the world, Garry Kasparov and current World Champion Vladimir Kramnik will not play in the FIDE Knockout Championship.  The FIDE process is not worthy of world championship selection. The other reason for poor sponsorship is players like Ponomariov, who make unreasonable demands and cause postponements of chess events.  Sponsors need to know who will play and when these events will take place.  Sponsors donít want to put up big money for events if top players donít play or hold up events needlessly. I have a simple formula for great sponsorship and big dollars.

  Great Sponsorship (big dollars)  = (Players Reliability) * (Players Ability) * (Players desire to win).

    Advice to young talented players:

     1)      Never pass up a match against a great player for good money.

     2)      Should you win or lose such a match, donít retreat from the chess world. Follow the examples of Karpov and Kasparov. Be active, play in a lot of tournaments, and try to win these tournaments. Play to win from both sides of the board.

3)      Keep working hard on your game. 

      Do these things and you will increase your marketability. All is not lost for Ponomariov,  he is still a young and talented player. He could become a true World Champion some day.

 

    

 This letter was sent to Alex Baburin - Chess Today and Joel Lautier President ACP