Reports | January 10, 2009 22:21

Shirov on the world championship cycle

Alexei ShirovAs far as can be judged from the comments, most of our readers agreed with my critical "review" of Chessbase's interview with Vladimir Kramnik. However, as Alexei Shirov yesterday pointed out in a comment, we've been missing a few details, which he later explained a bit more in an email.

In my column of last Wednesday I commented on both Henrik/Magnus Carlsen's statement about FIDE and the world champioship cycle, and some of Vladimir Kramnik's statements about the same issue, from an interview with Chessbase. Basically, I praised the Carlsen's for stressing the importance of the notions transparency, predictability and fairness, and I criticised Kramnik for lacking these notions as far as his recent remarks on chess politics were concerned.

Most of our readers seemed to agree with the conclusions in the column. However, yesterday Alexei Shirov left a comment under the article, adding some important details to the story:

Hello everybody,

I believe there is still one thing Mr. Hans Arild Runde [who also left a comment under my column - PD] and Mr. Henrik Carlsen miss - the way the cycle 2008-2011 was presented lacked fairness as well. It meant the match between winner of the World Cup and the winner of Grand Prix, fine. Then the winner of their match against the World Champion, fine. But what about the loser of the World Championship match?
As it was more or less clear that the World Championship match would not happen before 2010, the only chance for both contenders to be in the next cycle would be to play in the World Cup 2009. But then what if none of two players even qualifies for the final? What sense it makes their WC match then and the subsequent match of the new World Champ with the winner of the cycle?
It’s really very difficult to find a perfectly fair and transparent system, therefore an attempt to create the Candidate’s torunament wasn’t so bad itself in my opinion. As long as there are no further intrigues such as Topalov/Kamsky’s privileges and obscure potential privileges to Kramnik.
For Kramnik’s privileges there is one more thing to add. At the moment it seems that the only potential offer for the Candidate’s tournament is Bonn and they would want to include Kramnik. So sad is the reality of chess that unfortunately the most players would still prefer to play the tournament rather than play nothing at all. And here it comes - the Bonn tournament was possibly already in Ilyumzhinov’s mind when he offered the privileges to Topalov and Kamsky. A typical one move calculation honestly believing that the move would make everybody happy. But he forgot that the organizers’ nominee (which normally shouldn’t exist but that’s a different matter) CAN NOT be confused with the sporting part of the system that shoul be fair otherwise. In tennis local nominees exist too, of course.
Still, I’d like to remind the chess world that when Carlsen joined the Grand Prix, Henrik didn’t seem unhappy about the local nominees (which, I for example strongly opposed to, in my opinion they could play one but not four events) neither the President nominees nor the general stupidity of the system. Therefore, I still can’t fully understand the decision to withdraw from Elista.

As for me, I didn’t play in Grand Prix from the beginning but I should admit I also had personal reasons for that, the issue of local nominees was only one of them.

Sincerely

Alexei Shirov, Riga 09.01.2009

Also yesterday, in an email which we were allowed to publish as well, Shirov made clear that some of Kramnik's ideas do make sense:

Alexei ShirovI feel extremely strange defending Kramnik in a way but I also see that when he was considered World Champion everybody forgave him everything. They also put a lot of dirt on me for 'refusing to play Kasparov in 1998' and now all the dirt goes on Kramnik. That means that only number 1 and 2 (and for the public it is in a way Anand and Carlsen nowadays) are always right and the rest of the people are always wrong.

But in fact now Kramnik is only partly wrong suggesting that he should be in the Candidates Tournament if Topalov/Kamsky are there as well. If you look at his message from a different side, that he would be ready to play in the World Cup unless the loser of Topalov-Kamsky is directly seeded, then everything makes sense and this is what I am aiming for since my communication in early December. And Carlsen could accept such a situation as well, in my opinion, so there is not that much contradiction.

It's always good to have a perspective from a top player on the situation, and to get some more background information at the same time. Indeed, it seems that not enough thought has been given to what will happen to the loser of the world championship match. And indeed, if we agree on the fact that we simply haven't yet reached the ideal situation in which there are no priviliges anymore, it's not that strange to see Kramnik, as the loser of a World Championship match, entering the new cycle at the same stage as the loser of a semifinal match, whether it's the Candidates Tournament or the World Cup.


Update January 12, 11:14: later Shirov added another comment:

I get the impression that I have been totally misunderstood, probably my English is responsible for that. Of course, having both Kramnik and the loser of Topalov/Kamsky in the Candidates would be outrageus, what I was trying to say is that Kramnik’s opinion partly coincides with mine concerning Topalov/Kamsky’s privileges in the next cycle. Only partly, of course, I am not going to change my opinion about Danailov-Sutovsky-FIDE closed door meeting in Dresden in November.
On the other hand my messages were influenced by the fact that in my opinion Henrik Carlsen and Hans Arild Runde stressed too much on something that in the current situation had less importance - the change of the system which is much less a negative change than the most of FIDE changes in last 10 years as this time the change was influenced by the objective reasons which are clear system’s faults. At the same time if other players would act more clearly against Topalov/Kamsky’s (and thus also Kramnik’s) privileges, there would be a chance to change something in that direction. Now I don’t see such a chance any longer - too much air has been shaken for nothing.

PS Peter, I don’t know how to explain my general disgust with this kind of always-looking-for-sensations journalism. You could take some innocent phrase from my messages and it would be more to the point for the title of your article.

At first, this article had the headline 'Shirov: "I feel extremely strange defending Kramnik".' Indeed, this was only partly covering the contents of the post (by the way something that often happens with headlines). Normally we don't make big changes to articles after they have been posted (we'd like to work with updates or correctional additions only) but for an esteemed grandmaster who feels disturbed about it, we make an exception.

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of ChessVibes.com, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.

Chess.com

Comments

Jan's picture

Remember the old days...the rules were clear...zonal, interzonal, candidates, and then the WC match. Why not return to that system?

Felix's picture

I think Alexei makes a good point- the head line doesn't summarize what is in the article and it would be better if you know what expects you when you read the head line.

GuidedByVoices's picture

Well, Carlsen and/or Ivanchuk then. Sorry I did not make any serious stats before coming up with Ivanchuk. I like them both, so I am happy with frogbert comment...

viva_shirov's picture

Shirov has been the greatest player the same way that Tal was the greatest in his days. As far as I know, after defeating Kramnik and never loosing his right to play for a World Championship, Shirov should be the only privileged and get a free ticket to play Anand. I presume that the great Anand would follow the pahts of Botvinick and we would have a second Letonian champ.

Alexei, I think i represent many fans of chess which will always be infinitely thankful to you.

Peter Doggers's picture

@ Alexei Shirov
Perhaps it was a bit too much, to choose that sentence as the headline. However, it's not really out of context since you are defending him, but indeed it's not covering the most important points you want to make clear.

I wouldn't agree with you that it's enough to consider it "always-looking-for-sensations journalism" - I think from the way I built up the article itself, it's clear that sensation was not what I was looking for.

RajeshV's picture

It is always nice to hear from top GMs about their opinion on the cycle, changes etc. Even nicer is to see them responding once in a while to fan feedback. Kind'a makes you -- an average chess fan -- one in the crowd -- feel good that your opinions are read by some of these top guys in the business.

I agree with the spirit of the original article that commended Carlsen's stance and criticizing Kramnik's stance. Of course Kramnik's stance about being in the same spot as the loser of Topalov/Kamsky was perfectly valid. But Carlsen/Aronian etc getting mad about the changes is obviously understandable.

Hey, I was reading this nice wikipedia item on WC Chess history:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Chess_Championship

May be a good solution is to go the old route. :)))
The Champion should choose who he will defend his title against AND demand ridiculous amount of money for him to participate in the match. Come on Vishy, look at Capablanca for inspiration :-)

btw, when will FIDE publish the entire content of the Dec 27 conference - if ever they do?

RajeshV's picture

btw, the article headline wasn't as sensational as Mr. Shirov considers it to be. Of course he is entitled to his opinion. But personally, when I looked at the topic -- what Shirov defending Kramnik?????? But after reading it, I didn't get the impression that the author has twisted facts/put extra words etc. to create sensation. Not an unjust title IMHO.

Alexei Shirov's picture

If I were Peter, I would change the headline at least now because it has created an absolutely unnecessary mess. My point was definitely not to defend the guy but try to give a balanced view on the current situation and be as least personal as possible. Therefore I feel truly disturbed by the headline that brings attention to what it shouldn't.

Peter Doggers's picture

OK - added an update at the end of the post.

Thomas's picture

Excellent - "Shirov on the world championship cycle" is a nice summary of the contents. And implicitly, it is clear that the full article is likely to be more relevant than a hypothetical "Jansen on the world championship cycle" [of course I just put a rather common (Dutch) name, not meaning any particular person].

GM Shirov deserves credit for putting (well-founded) personal emotions aside, and maybe even more for insisting that this is not worthwhile stressing too much - it is still clear from reading the entire post, that's sufficient.

Steven's picture

I fully agree whith "guidedbyvoices" .

pete's picture

guys how do you know it is really Alexei Shirov writing those posts? It can be everybody afaik.

Thomas's picture

If I was Peter Doggers (or Mig Greengard for chessninja.com), I would verify that "Alexei Shirov" is really GM Shirov - and I am pretty sure they did !

Sutton's picture

In Chess, as opposed to some other sports, it is highly unlikely for any player outside the top 10 in the world to become No1 in just a few years. We know full well that Anand could, possibly, lose a title match to any player in the top 10. Possibly. Beyond that and no chance. Therefore we need to stop booing about participation for all. What was ever the point of having zonal qualification? All this did was allow top players to occasionally fail, and lesser players to advance to interzonals where they lost. The root of all these problems lie in complexity. Top 12 other than the champion - play some event, tournament or candidate matches whatever...The winner plays the champion. 16 games. I know that the 13th ranked player might kick up a fuss but would Michael Adams beat Anand? No! So what makes even weaker players think that they might?

Thomas's picture

"In Chess, as opposed to some other sports, it is highly unlikely for any player outside the top 10 in the world to become No1 in just a few years. "

What about Carlsen (#89 three years ago, #24 two years ago)? Wang Yue and maybe even Movsesian are potential other examples that 'the highly unlikely is not altogether impossible'.
BTW, Wang Yue is presently #13 (Adams is #24) - I don't say he would have a chance against Anand in a match played tomorrow or next month, but I am not THAT sure two or three years from now (if he continues imrpoving as in the recent past).

Castro's picture

Its amazing what one reads about the WCC past!

@GuidedByVoices
"From a historical point of view", for instances, Steinitz didn't "hide" from no one. Lasker did some hiding but eventualy played the best, over and over (Rubinstein and Maroczy were simply victims of the Capablanca phenomenon). Capablanca did hide for a while from Alekhine, and Alekhine simply made Capa pay back. Bogolyubov and Euwe were all the strong that it takes for a WCC match at those times, but many people love to say different. Keres (as Bronstein and some others) could also have been champions, but Botvinik would have his time, anyway.

@me
"The rules were bend multiple times in history too. Fischer, for example, would never become a world champion if Euwe (FIDE president at that time) wouldn’t bend all possible rules for him."

What?? After bending lots against him, maybe! He would be champion much younger, you could say. Oh Lord forgive them...

test's picture

This thread in general reminded me of the following:

A few tips for anybody making public statements, on the internet or elsewhere, interviews included.

If what you say contains only the smallest bit of ambiguity: at least 50% of anybody reading it will misunderstand it or use it to twist your words around and give it unintended meanings.

Before making a statement one should try to think of all the ways people could twist it around and use it against you; so try making the statement in such a way that this is impossible.
Be as clear as humanly possible. Don't try to use clever wording. NO IRONY (it will be misunderstood), NO SARCASM (it will be misunderstood). Use simple sentences and stick to the point. Do not bother with anything but the main point. SPELL OUT your point, even if it seems blatently obvious (or it will be misunderstood)...

You get the idea. ;)

(Unless you have an agenda to hide, then you should probably do the opposite. ;))

me's picture

@castro

Which rule was bended against him? Tell me.

On the other hand, he refused to participate in US championship which also served as a zonal tournament. Then they payed off Benko to give his spot to Fischer. The only problem was that Benko couldn't just "give" his spot to anyone. You see, when one of the qualified players declines, then the next one in line (in this case the 4th placed from the US championship) gets the ticket. If he/she also declines it goes to the 5th placed, etc. So in reality Benko couldn't GIVE his spot to anybody. USCF and FIDE bent all possible rules to allow Fischer to participate.
Also didn't FIDE change the Candidates system when Fischer cried how the Soviets are all against him. And the best thing was, that when they did change it the way Fischer wanted, he refused to participate anyway.
Also, when becoming the World Champion he just simply said that the format needs to be changed or he won't play. Excuse me, but who the hell is he to dictate the rules just like that, when majority saw no need to change anything - just look how many people want to revert back to the "good old times". And again, when they eventually did accept all of his reasonable (and some unreasonable) demands, he refused to play by demanding one more crazy thing - the 9-9 clause. So FIDE finnally came to his sences and draw the line.
So you see, your hero was the most privileged player of all time. NOBODY received so much from FIDE than him.

frogbert's picture

"Ivanchuck’s amazing pace. He seems to be the only player with a high rating and high number of games a year at the same time…"

for someone attending school, carlsen has always played a heck of a lot games. the relatively few games in 4th quarter 2008 were due to doha being cancelled. ivanchuk has played slightly more games than carlsen in the last couple of years, but it's a full time chess player versus a part time chess player - carlsen is actually supposed to study (several things other than chess) between his tournaments.

check fischl's stats for 2006, 2007 etc.

Richard DeCredico's picture

Someone should tell all these crybabies that life ain't fair either.

GuidedByVoices's picture

The more I read about this issue, the more I get convinced that FIDE is missing the point here...

We do not need zonals, knockouts, candidate tourneys, privileges administration by FIDE and finally Wch matches. Why do not we just forget about struggling for sponsorship and the impossible task to make about 30 super-GMs happy?

From a historical point of view, I do not give much importance to Wch matches. From Steinitz to Alekhine, being world champion consisted of hidding from strong opponents and picking weak ones... Well done Euwe!!! Poor Euwe, world champion during a few months only!!! ... Botvinnik won the 1948 World match-tournament after winning so many times against Keres, who was probably much stronger than him... Botvinnik was World champion for so many years only because of the return matches... Petrosian was world champion for 6 years but he did not win many tournaments by that time, did he?... I think Larsen, Tal, Fischer and Spassky won nearly all the tournaments that Petrosian could not! ... Childish Fischer quitted when he had a 2780 ELO or something like that... Karpov became World champion after winning a candidates match... Someone betrays Korchnoi in Baguio, who plays a new move against Karpov when they are tied 5-5 and poor Viktor lost out of the opening as a child... Campomanes and who knows who else stopped the clash Karpov-Kasparov after 48 games "because the players were exhausted" (rubbish!!! - give them 2 weeks rest and then keep fighting)... Kasparov and Short played a private match only caring abot their pokets... Timman (who classified by losing to Short!) lost a World championship match to Karpov (who was not world champion by then!) ... Kasparov closed the door to Shirov's legitimate right to play for the World championship... Kramnik won the World champion title after playing a match which was stolen to Shirov... Leko played a World championship match against his friend Kramnik after qualifiying in an irregular way (a tournament held in Germany, where only a few of the elite players took part)... How about Topalov and his never-ending privileges? Anand looks pretty decent, but unfortunately his title belongs to Iluminov, Makropolous and Azmaip... & Co...

Is this misserable and shameful tradition worth fighting for? I would say only this: stop adscribing any value to this indecent title.

I propose the following:
1) Follow the example of Tenis and name the highest FIDE ELO No1 player in the World.Period.
2) Introduce a formula to force the No1 player to show up at the board a minimum number of games over a given time window.
Point 2 is essential to avoid Topalov winning 2 more tournaments and never play again as to keep the No1 spot forever (!) and at the same time, to encourage super-GMs to follow Ivanchuck's amazing pace. He seems to be the only player with a high rating and high number of games a year at the same time...
3) BTW. Please someone tell Ivanchuk the he might lose his world champion title by running away from drug testing!!!

What do you think?

Manu's picture

No privileges to anyone , this cannot be negotiated in a clean way.
What good ever came from privileges ?
Want real sponsors ? MAKE THIS CLEAN damn it!
Use the ELO system to find the challenger , and everything will be much more transparent.

Alexei Shirov's picture

Pasting my message from www.chenninja.com for any case:

I get the impression that I have been totally misunderstood, probably my English is responsible for that. Of course, having both Kramnik and the loser of Topalov/Kamsky in the Candidates would be outrageus, what I was trying to say is that Kramnik's opinion partly coincides with mine concerning Topalov/Kamsky's privileges in the next cycle. Only partly, of course, I am not going to change my opinion about Danailov-Sutovsky-FIDE closed door meeting in Dresden in November.
On the other hand my messages were influenced by the fact that in my opinion Henrik Carlsen and Hans Arild Runde stressed too much on something that in the current situation had less importance - the change of the system which is much less a negative change than the most of FIDE changes in last 10 years as this time the change was influenced by the objective reasons which are clear system's faults. At the same time if other players would act more clearly against Topalov/Kamsky's (and thus also Kramnik's) privileges, there would be a chance to change something in that direction. Now I don't see such a chance any longer - too much air has been shaken for nothing.

PS Peter, I don't know how to explain my general disgust with this kind of always-looking-for-sensations journalism. You could take some innocent phrase from my messages and it would be more to the point for the title of your article.

me's picture

Yes, they deserve the same treatment - no privileges.

As I mentioned earlier, FIDE is trying to integrate those players into the cycle which refused to participate in it earlier.
The way things are standing now both, Topalov and Kamsky are guaranteed a place in Candidates. It is speculated that Kramnik is going to be the host nominee, Morozevich is going to qualify by rating, and Shirov will be left out - as usual.

Aronian, Carlsen, Adams and all others are justly disgusted by this. They should all boycott and let those privileged few to have their own championship.

pete's picture

I am a big fan of Topalov and at the same time Kramnik is a person/player I dislike. However, Shirov as well as Kramnik (partially) make a point. If the loser of the Topalov-Kamsky match will qualify, then the loser of Anand-Kramnik match deserves the same treatment.

Declan's picture

I like a lot when Shirov speaks his mind, not sharing completely his view on this one, but cool article! btw, Chessvibes has to be now the most interesting and dinamic website concerning good articles and interviews, congrats guys, I love your site, people has a way to read and comment on chess issues.

R.Mutt's picture

I agree with Shirov. Imagine that Topalov loses his match (maybe not the most likely outcome, but certainly possible). Then Topalov would qualify for the candidates tournament by losing two matches in a row, first against Kramnik, then against Kamsky. Certainly in that case Kramnik, who lost only one match, deserves a place as well.

Jan's picture

Fully agree. And apart from the rules, Kramnik deserves to be in the cycle just because he is such a great player.

chessfan's picture

Kramnik was privileged in Mexico. Imagine - Kramnik is eight in Mexico but no mater. He play versus Anand.
On the other hand Bidding procedure for Kamsky-Topalov 2008. Now match will be playing in 2009. According to rules of FIDE for world championship in 2009 must be played and match for title world champion. Kamsky or Topalov must play two matches in one year !

me's picture

P.S.: You are all forgeting that Anand, Topalov, Kramnik, Morozevich and Shirov declined to participate in the current 2008-2010/11 cycle (or at least in Grand Prix). It's because of this that GP is not what it should be, which eventually led to this mess. And now FIDE creates privileges for those same players.

Double wrong.

me's picture

Wrong!

NOBODY deserves to be in a cycle without qualifying for it.

me's picture

The rules were bend multiple times in history too. Fischer, for example, would never become a world champion if Euwe (FIDE president at that time) wouldn't bend all possible rules for him.

guitarspider's picture

I think the article makes Mr. Shirov's standpoint clear and after all people who are interested in the headline il read the article and find out. The headline isn't even that bad.

I also want to say Mr.Shirov's participation in discussions like these is admirable.

val's picture

Concerning the current WCC cycle situation: the patient is as well as can be expected under the circumstances.

Castro's picture

Peter, I think Alexey have some more reason in his critic then that you are conceding. Myself I also wrote my opinion on that, in your "founding fathers" article. By the way and however, the balance of your work is undoubtly positive!

Juan's picture

Alexei Shirov For President!

Alexei Shirov's picture

It's impossible because I am too a resposible guy, so the risks would be too high for me. :)

Ron's picture

Mr Alexei Shirov - what a pleasure to meet you here. Author of the immortal game Topalov-Shirov, Linares 1998: 47...Lh3!!!
It seems you take calculated risks, so welcome in our presidency! :)

Declan's picture

But I hope not enough responsible to not ignite the board from time to time Alexei Shirov!

Castro's picture

I didn't say he hasn't been treated with privileges on his way to championship. I say:
1. It's not a question of being "my hero". That's simple nonsense.
2. He indeed was a overwelming chess strengh (like no one, ever), and he would reach it anyway.
3. Everybody felt that kid shoud be put fighting for world champion as soon as posible, otherwise everybody was just missing life.
4. In spite of that, many errors were done, and many people (FIDE included) not only bent rules and assumed responsabilities, but also mislead and betryed him. (Sousse interzonal is just an example).
4. That's why In strict terms your first sentence is right: Rules are being bent, but ALL THE TIME. With Kasparov, with Karpov,... Remember the Olympiads. I like Ivanchuck and Ukraine, but we know what happens when these names and chesses are replaced by, say, Press and Papua New Guinea. The final classification would IMEDIATELY been changed (Hungary would have a medal, AND THAT VERY DAY)
5. For Fischer at that time, not having some kind of priveleges -- Which he realy fight and claim for and that put every future GM in benefit even out of previleges! -- that would be a ridiculous exception, GIVEN WHAT FISCHER (your monster) WAS, in chess.
6. That's why your first original and lucid sentence is followed by an hillarious and science fiction other.

xtra's picture

I would like to just point out to this discussion, if it isnt too late, that there are actually two questions being discussed. One is about the current WC cycle, privileges, fairness and stuff like that. The other is about how FIDE goes about making decisions. The later one is, I think, actually where the Carlsens were making their largest objections, which I think maybe some have missed or misunderstood. For example, it is a problem that FIDE gives some players advantage and creates unfair systems, but in a sense it is an even larger problem that they dont provide reasons for their decisions, nor to how they think and reasons or which conditions they are taking into account.

(if FIDE actually had to provide reasons for what they do, much of it couldnt be done, because they cant give good reasons. Like the president getting to nominate players...why in the world does he get to do that? Dumbest thing ever...)

Your comment

By posting a comment you are agreeing to abide our Terms & Conditions