Columns | May 21, 2009 21:39

Logos and cigarettes

Ilyumzhinov & ReschThis week ChessBase published translations of two interesting interviews, with FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and with UEP President Joseph Resch, about the 2008 Anand-Kramnik match, the 2010-2011 World Championship cycle and the failed negotiations between FIDE and UEP. I found myself agreeing with the FIDE President for the first time in my life...

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov (l.) & Joseph Resch (r.)

...but when I thought about it some more, I began to have doubts. But first things first. Last Tuesday Chessbase published a translation of a Sports Express interview with UEP President Joseph Resch, and on the same day another translated Sports Express interview, with FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, followed. (Interestingly, according to ChessBase "the President of the World Chess Federation reacted immediately with his own somewhat different take on the matter" while it was in fact Resch reacting to the Ilyumzhinov interview, which was conducted earlier.)

The background of the two interviews is the breakdown of negotiations between FIDE and UEP, the organisation that also organized the Anand-Kramnik match in Bonn last year. I'll spare you the political details, but Joseph Resch states that he wants to continue the negotiations, but that he can't because FIDE is now vetoing their list of sponsors and the selection of the playing venue. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov said he has problems with the fact that the UEP doesn't display the FIDE logo sufficiently clearly and that some of their sponsors are not in conformity with the Olympic Charter.

DannemannConcerning the sponsors argument - Ilyumzhinov has a point, doesn't he? I had forgotten that the 2004 match between Kramnik and Leko was sponsored by a tobacco company (Dannemann), but there's no reason to disbelieve Ilyumzhinov when he says that IOC Honorary President Juan Antonio Samarach 'was not happy at all' with it. An interesting detail is that back in 2003, Dannemann organized a match between Alexandra Kosteniuk (then 18 years old) and Sergey Karjakin (who was just 13 in 2003) - but if you wanted to follow the live games, you had to be 21 years or older!

It's a pity, of course, that neither Ilyumzhinov nor Resch names any of the new sponsors involved in this, but let's assume there are no hidden agendas somewhere - don't we have to credit the FIDE President for taking such a firm stand against the tobacco industry or indeed any company that promotes such unhealthy products? After all, even if we don't care whether we call chess a sport or not, smoking is prohibited during all official chess events.

But is this really the President's point of view, or is he merely trying to please the IOC? Is Ilyumzhinov simply -and opportunistically - following a trend (recall that since last year, Marlboro is no longer the sponsor of the Formula 1 Grand Prix series) or is it really his conviction that tobacco advertising is bad for the image of chess? Perhaps there is a financial motive in all this after all.

Kramnik, Resch, Anand

Vladimir Kramnik, Joseph Resch and Viswanathan Anand at the opening press conference of the World Championship match in October 2008 in Bonn, Germany. The FIDE logo is there, but small indeed.

As for the logo business - well, let's give Ilyumzhinov a bit of credit here. He claims that during the Bonn match, the FIDE logo wasn't displayed at first at all, and that it was only put up during press conferences after his personal interference. Indeed, if you look at some of the pictures of the press conferences and the playing hall, the logo is very marginally displayed indeed.

ATP logoBy comparison, during tennis tournaments, the ATP and WTA logos or at least the abbreviations are often clearly present, as can be seen here, here and here.

Ilyumzhinov argues that we don't want yet another discussion about whether the World Championship is FIDE-organized or not, and his argument that a FIDE logo, however small, should at least be clearly present at all times, sounds perfectly sane. But here, too, things may be less black and white that it seems.

Firstly, we should note that it's rather strange, not to say amateuristic, that FIDE doesn't seem to have a style guide for the use of their logo, like any serious sports body does. At the same time, it's equally strange that UEP on their turn apparently didn't ask whether such a guide line exists!

An example is the section Branding (PDF) in the Rulebook of the ATP World Tour which mentions strict application rules of the ATP World Tour Official Tournament Stamps: "The ATP World Tour Official Tournament Stamp must be the same visual size (cover the same surface area) as the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour logo. (...) When the ATP World Tour Official Tournament Stamp is used in conjunction with the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour logo, the Official Stamp must be at a minimum equal size to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour logo or 30% of the surface area of the tournament logo, whichever is greater. This is subject to the minimum size rules for Official Stamps below."

(In the same area lies the choice of sponsors. Why can't there be a simple note in the contract between UEP and FIDE that says: sponsors should be in conformity with the Olympic Charter? Which, naturally, can also be downloaded in PDF from the official website of the Olympic Games.)

Secondly, why did FIDE agree with the absence of logos in Bonn at first? As Hesch points out, the problem is not one of principle, but of incompetence. Whether Resch is right in accusing Ilyumzhinov's inferiors is impossible to judge, but it's striking that Ilyumzhinov is completely silent about it. I guess it's hard to blame Resch for taking the point of view he is taking, given FIDE's past track record of negligence and disinterest. Let's hope the negotiations will be resumed at some point - and let's not make a fuss of logos or dubious sponsors. The first should simply be there, visible for all to see. The latter we can do without.

Arne Moll's picture
Author: Arne Moll


Obamar's picture

I hope UEP doesn't get it. I don't want to see the WCC matches always held in Germany / or only one country

Arne Moll's picture

A fair wish, Obamar, but don't forget that from 1948-1969, all WCC matches were held in one country, even one city: Moscow.

test's picture

FIDE objecting to dubious sponsors: lol

Thomas's picture

(I am [originally] German and maybe biased, but ...) What are the alternatives at present?? Russia again (Elista, Khanty-Mansysk, ...)? Bulgaria? Internet rumors circulate that they might hold the Anand-Topalov match - I would prefer neutral ground ... .
On dubious sponsors: Tobacco companies are nowadays considered dubious. What about beer breweries? Coca-Cola? Banks (given the performance of some of them during the financial crisis)? Where should one start, and where should one stop being politically correct?
In any case ... : @Arne: Of course chess politics is always newsworthy, but I feel sorry that this stuff distracts you/takes time away from your promised opening article :) .

iLane's picture

I was in Bonn watching Kramnik-Anand and I was not satisfied with the organisation at all! The entrance fee was high and I got nothing for my money! Not even a seat, because UEP sold much more tickets then seats available. The commentary was uninteresting (noname commentators with stupid magnetic boards) and only in German language. A bookseller guy had his on PC in the corner running Fritz, everyone wanted to see what's going on but only 3-4 people could watch the screen and shouting to the others what is the analysis. There were no other events organized around the Wch match. No simoultaneous games or anything promoting chess and making fun. Spectators were completly neglected. I hope they never organise anything serious, they way they did last time is not the way forward to promote chess to the public.

CAL|Daniel's picture


It alarms me to hear that. I know two people that traveled all the way there and we're pleased. It makes me wonder if organizers even know what spectators want. I know I was disappointed by the spectating conditions of the US 2009 Championship (though everything else about that tournament was spectacular).

I would have to say the number issue is actually being able to SEE the boards of ALL players. It seems a second thought or maybe not even a thought at all that occurs to organizers. They seem to think as long as there is a commentary room that will once in a while switch to the game you are interested in... then they can put up a 30 foot barrier and it doesn't matter you can't see the game live.

Number two issue for me is side events! Simuls, book signings, mini tournaments that don't detract from the main event but give us another reason for being there.

Third, for me is being able to meet the players, get their photos and signatures.

Junican's picture

It is a pity that the anti-tobacco lobby have found their way into the world of chess. OK, smoking is not allowed during play or in the hall. One can understand that cigarette smoke can be distracting to all concerned. But why should political correctness rear its ugly head? What has it got to do with Samara ch? He's only president of the IOC, not ruler of the world. I would rather not be in the olympic movement than be dictated to by the likes of him.

HJVFan's picture

Anti-tobacco lobby? Is there any such thing?

Perhaps there's also an anti-rifle association and anti-weapons of mass destruction lobby we can blame for being 'politically correct' (whatever it means)?

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