Saturday, 30 August 2014

First they take Crimea; now they eye the world...

...chess title that is.

Tomorrow is deadline day for the signing of the contract for the rematch of the FIDE World Chess Championship. The match is scheduled from 7th November and should be a contest between the previous World Champion Viswanathan Anand and the current world champion and highest rated player of all time Magnus Carlsen.

However, while Vishy has signed up Magnus is in the middle of the Sinquefield Cup in USA and is scheduled to take on World number 2, Armenia's Levon Aronian tomorrow as the deadline for signing the contract comes to pass. He has said that he has issues with the venue and little knowledge of the principle sponsor of the rematch. Having failed to get financial backing or a location it was determined to hold it in Sochi, Russia, which also sources close to Carlsen say causes a problem due to the unrest in Ukraine. Magnus had asked for a postponement in the tournament, but when FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov turned him down he asked for an extension of the signing deadline, which is also not acceptable to FIDE.

In the last 100 years there have only been 23 years that the World Champion (or at least one of them from 1993-2006) has not been from the former Soviet Union. The result should Carlsen fail to sign would mean that the runner up to Anand in the Candidates tournament would be elevated to step in. The reticence of the Russian FIDE President, who had fixed it for Sochi to step in to host the Tournament, to accommodate the current world champion may be in part due to that runner up being Sergey Karjakin of Russia. What is of added significance may be that Karjakin is a ethnic Russian from the recently annexed Crimea.

A home challenger to the greatest crown in Chess would be advantageous to the principle sponsor and organisers, but would be bad for Chess if the strongest player were to be defaulted on a technicality. It may well result in a second split in the recognised World Champion in recent memory when Garry Kasparov, who recently lost out to Ilyumzhinov for the FIDE presidency in the vote in Carlsen's native Norway, set up the PCA to take on a world title match against Nigel Short in 2013.

There could well be a split again brought about to have a Crimean take on the title for Russia. Is the refusal to allow the first Western world champion since Bobby Fischer to defend the title in a place or time he feels safe, with sponsorship he is happy with a political football?

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