Reports | February 27, 2012 17:36

Official request from Bilbao organizers to FIDE to change Candidates dates

Official request from Bilbao organizers to FIDE to change Candidates dates

The organizers of the Grand Slam Masters Final have sent an official request to FIDE to reconsider the dates for the Candidates Tournament. The letter, which is addressed to FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, is backed by both Magnus Carlsen and Vladimir Kramnik.

The FIDE Candidates Tournament, a qualifier for the 2013 World Championship Match, is scheduled for 23 October-13 November, 2012, while the Grand Slam Masters Final will be held 24 September-13 October, 2012. As we reported earlier, the Bilbao organizers are not happy with FIDE's choice of dates. The Candidates Tournament will start just ten days after the Masters Final finishes, making it virtually impossible for players to participate in both events. They wouldn't be top fit, and prepared well enough, to play the Candidates, a tournament that could be the most important of their career.

Andoni Madariaga, General Secretary of the Grand Slam Masters Final, told us twelve days ago: 

We are reluctant to come with a statement right now, because the whole thing is not a hundred percent official yet. However, it's clear that we're not happy with these dates. There is just too little time between the end of our tournament and the start of the Candidates.

Madariaga also told us that the Grand Slam Chess Association sent a letter to FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov already in January, in which they mentioned the calendar for this year's Grand Slam tournaments and asked FIDE to avoid clashes. 

Now that the dates for the Candidates Tournament have been confirmed, the Bilbao organizers decided to send another letter to FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. We received a press release with a copy of the letter.


  • The Bilbao Grand Slam Masters Final has sent a letter to the President of the FIDE, Kirsán Ilyumzhínov, to ask him to change the dates for the Candidates Tournament, the prelude to the World Championship. The current dates selected for the Candidates Tournament will harm many other tournaments, including the Bilbao Final.
  • The proposal launched by the Grand Slam Masters Final has the support of two of the biggest figures of International Chess: the Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, world number one and winner of the last Grand Slam, and Vladímir Krámnik who has been world champion and winner of the 2010 Final Masters.

Bilbao, 27 February, 2012. The Director of the Chess Grand Slam Masters Final, Juan Carlos Fernández, has asked Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the FIDE (The World Chess Federation), to reconsider the dates selected for the next Candidates Tournament, the prelude to the World Championship. According to various media sources, it will take place from 23 October to 13 November in London.

The Chess Grand Slam Masters Final organisation announced at the end of 2011 that this year’s edition would take place between 24 September and 13 October in Bilbao. At the moment Magnus Carlsen, world number one and winner of the last Grand Slam, Vladímir Krámnik, who has been world champion and winner of the 2010 Final and Levon Aronián, the current world number two, have all been officially invited to participate in the Grand Slam Final. The three great international masters would also have confirmed their presence at the FIDE Candidates Tournament. If the reported dates are adhered to, only ten days would separate the two maximum level competitions which would seriously harm the Bilbao competition, among others.

In order to avoid this possible clash of dates and thinking about the search for synergies and the common good of the sport, the Chess Grand Slam Masters Final organisation has suggested to the World Chess Federation “that the Candidates Tournament be disputed during the first six months of 2013 as it has a lot more of tournament-free weeks than the second half of 2012.” This proposal has the support of “the elite amongst players and organisations”, amongst others, Magnus Carlsen and Vladímir Krámnik.

The Masters Final organizers also propose in the same letter the celebration of a “a meeting of the FIDE with the organizers of the most important tournaments so that, in the best spirit of cooperation, certain dates can be reserved for the top class competitions of the FIDE and for private tournaments.” In this way, it is intended that the dates of the different professional tournaments are “the same (or very similar) each year, unless a change of date was applied for with more than one year’s notice and with legitimate reason.”

Reproduced below is the letter sent to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the FIDE (The World Chess Federation). The organisation of the Chess Grand Slam Masters Final has sent a copy to the World Champion Viswanathan Anand, Magnus  Carlsen, Levon Aronian and Vladímir Kramnik.

To The President His Excellency Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
FIDE World Chess Federation

Dear Sir,

Common sense suggests that the FIDE and the organizers of the biggest private tournaments should work together in harmony to avoid the possibility of a clash of dates. This kind of collaboration is something that takes place habitually with the most important professional sports.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen in the world of chess. Since the Grand Slam was created five years ago, the associated tournament organizers have approached the FIDE various times with solid proposals and always with a spirit of cooperation in mind. However, our feeling is that the FIDE sees us as enemies, not as allies.

Although you visited us personally during the 2010 Masters Final, what is more typical is that the FIDE does not even reply to our proposals.  An example of this was a letter respectfully sent to you by the Secretary General of the Grand Slam three weeks ago after the meeting in Wijk aan Zee. In that letter, apart from referring to the Grand Slam Tournament calendar and the dates for the Final, we explained to you the inconvenience of the dates unofficially announced by you for the Candidates Tournament. These dates will seriously harm various big tournaments in general, but our Masters Final in particular.

So, we appeal again to common sense to ask you to consider the following proposals:

1)     As many top class players and organizers have recently expressed, we suggest that the Candidates Tournament be disputed during the first six months of 2013. This period has a lot more tournament-free weeks than the second half of 2013.

2)     We propose a meeting of the FIDE with the organizers of the most important tournaments so that, in the best spirit of cooperation, certain dates can be reserved for the top class competitions of the FIDE and for private tournaments. These dates would be the same (or very similar) each year, unless a change of date was applied for with more than one year’s notice and with legitimate reason.  All the attendees at the meeting would make a commitment to respect this agreement every year.With the hope that we can finally reach a reasonable agreement, I look forward very much to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully

Juan Carlos Fernández
Tournament Director
Grand Slam Masters Final

In the press release, the Basque organizers only mention "Bilbao" as the location for this year's Masters Final. In previous years, the tournament was divided over two cities: Shanghai & Bilbao in 2010 and Sao Paulo & Bilbao in 2011. Mr Madariaga clarified to us that they're still negotiating with another city but that at the moment they cannot confirm anything yet.

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, 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.


arkan's picture

So why aren't 10 days enough? This is a bit ridiculous

Arnie's picture

Do you believe Aronian, Kramnik and Carlsen will play each other in a double round robin ten days before the candidates?

anonymous's picture

Bilbao should change THEIR dates if necessary. Candidates take precedence.

Anonymous's picture

I disagree. Just because the Candidates is more prestigious that does not mean that FIDE is entitled to walk all over everyone else.

The schedule for Bilbao was announced last year. Since that time undoubtedly a lot of planning for that tournament has taken place, contracts have been signed, and deposits have been paid. To reschedule now would probably mean a financial hit for the tournament.

It is not as though the other tournaments can wait until FIDE gets around to setting their dates because then they would be waiting forever. FIDE has proven itself to be so unprofessional in this regard, I just don't understand how they think they are profiting by refusing to cooperate with the other tournaments.

Bastian's picture

The date for Bilbao was announced long before the candidates matches. Also its obvious that there are not much top level events in the first half of the year. So why can Fide not just move their candidates match to the first half of 2013, since there would be enough time and no interference with other tournaments?
Sorry, in my opinion the organizers of tournaments like Bilbao, London, Dortmund etc. do much more for chess than Fide does, and their reward is that people from Fide just do what they want. To me that leaves the feeling that there is a lack of common sense...

Harish Srinivasan's picture

Bilbao would be a 6 player double round robin, thats 10 days with sofia-rule games. with each game averaging 4 hrs or longer it is tough to expect the players to be fully ready (both in preparation chess wise and physically) for another 14 high pressure games only 10 days later. Specially when certain players for the candidates will not have played in Bilbao it might be an unfair advantage to them. I don't think the public fully understands the physical energy needed for chess and hence many feel 10 days is enough. Most feel chess is just a coffee house board game. That is part of the problem that people don't consider chess as a physical sport. I am sure nobody will agree to have say wimbledon and u.s. open (or for the matter any other sport with two high key events) within 10 day of each other. Why should chess be an exception.

Ganesh's picture

As you have compared with Tennis, let me point out that masters 1000 tournaments are often held in consecutive weeks and if you want high profile events then Wimbledon starts just 2 weeks after the French open ... The tennis season is 11 months and tennis players play a minimum of 100-150 days a year... how many days do chess players play in a year...i doubt it crosses 50 ..Preparation wise, why does the preparation need to be done in the 10 days between the tourneys..Cant it be done between now and bilbao..

Arnie's picture

FIDE has still not officially announced the dates for the candidates. They have kept the organizers and players in a stalemate. It's a good chance that FIDE, by this, has ruined the future of the wonderful fall program of top tournaments ( Bilbao Grand slam Final, Tal Memorial London Classic). In a fragile financial situation it can take years to recover from this.

nathan's picture

Fide actually has some semblance of dates for the Candidates, which is a relief. Who knows when it will happen it gets rescheduled ?
If the Masters Finals moves one month before to start in August, the players would have 40 days, which should be sufficient.

noyb's picture

As long as there is FIDE, there will be troubles.

bragi64's picture

They are professionals, they make a lot of money out of these tournaments. 10 days are more than enough, and actually they can be prepared in advance for both events. They should put down their ass and play.

Harish Srinivasan's picture

They are professionals. That is precisely why 10 days is not enough. If an amateur was playing in a local tournament even 3 tournaments can be played in 10 days. Playing such high profile event within 10 days only makes chess less professional.

redivivo's picture

There's not much point discussing this subject with some people, it's too much of "Kirsan is great, the spoilt useless players should jump whenever he says!" and too little understanding of what it means to be a top organiser or top player.

Yetispotter's picture

Boycot FIDE!

Parkov's picture

Ridiculous. If players of other professional sports can play 3 matches in a 10 day period and show few ill effects, surely 10 days is enough recuperation time for our precious chess players. No wonder most sponsors wouldn't touch chess with a barge pole, far too much player power.

Tony's picture

They would be playing 14 matches before the 10 day break. Including travel time and time changes I think that 21 days is fairer amount. 10 days would be unfair especially to the older players.

redivivo's picture

"Far too much player power" is the reason "most sponsors wouldn't touch chess with a barge pole"?! The problem is that "most sponsors" have to suffer the fact that there's no player power at all. No player would support placing the Candidates at the same time as Tal Memorial and Bilbao, the problem for the sponsors is that there's no player power. Remember the last cycle? How fun was it for the Grand Prix organisers and players to have FIDE change the rules midway so the tournaments became pointless? When FIDE suddenly decided to change the rules and hold a knockout that even could be won by a player like Gelfand, instead of the longer Candidates match of their own rules, the only options the players have is to play or refuse to play. Some player power could only make things better.

Anonymous 's picture

All valid except for "a player like Gelfand". You have no idea what you are talking about sir, no idea what it takes to have a shot at a title. All you see is a fist full of rating points.

redivivo's picture

I have a good idea about what it takes to have a shot at the title, i.e. winning a knockout. That's also why Gelfand is the weakest challenger since Bogo, and Bogo at least won top tournaments ahead of Lasker and Capablanca while Gelfand has a tough time avoiding last place each time, and I don't believe much in the theory that knockouts measure player strength better than the rating list. Khalif and Kasim also had a bit left to the top but in a knockout they too could finish ahead of much stronger players.

wostok1's picture

People who state 10 days is enough don't know enough about elite chess.
They think it's mainly about physical-mental recreation or exhaustion respectively, but that's wrong.
It's about "mental-creative" exhaustion (so to say) - in contrast to tennis for example.
(That doesn't mean chess isn't a physical sport, but 10 days are indeed enough to recover mere "physically".)
And it's about opening preparation - which is probably even more important!
It's not in the slightest possible to prepare for two such elite tournaments in a row equally good (beforehand).
So some opponents would have advantages.

And since even the young Carlsen (who has excellent endurance and who's opening preparation isn't his main strength at the same time) protests,
even the last should start to understand.

Leigh's picture

Elite chess player can't prepare well in 10 days??????

Anonymous's picture

Depends on what "well" means for you. First place?

RealityCheck's picture

If I had to choose between playing Bilbao (which I think has turned into a joke anyway) or playing in the Candidates match I"d choose the serious tournament; he tournament that would allow, shd I win it, me to compete for the world championship title.

redivivo's picture

Of course, that's why this isn't good for Bilbao and the players that qualified for that tournament. It's a question of skipping it or playing lots of non-games.

Anonymous's picture

Will Fide change the dates? Of course not.

Will Bilbao change their dates? Possibly.

justin's picture

Move the masters one week earlier, and the candidates one week later. Now there is 24 days gap, and everyone is happy :)
Also London would still have around 3 weeks after the candidates.

Bobby Fiske's picture

FIDE sold the Candidates to a sponsor. Normally it would be in the interest of the sponsor if all qualifiers joined the tournament in optimal shape and spirit. A sponsor paying millions $$$ wants good press and a succesfull arrangement, right?

However, Kirsan didnt sell the Candidates to a regular sponsor. He stroke a deal with a straw man fronting the Azerbajian Chess Federation which only purpose was to buy Azerbajani player Radjabov a free (wildcard) ticket into the Candidates.

Now here comes the fun part: The worse it gets, the better it gets for the sponsor, Squeezing the Candidates into a bussy fall season, causing fatigue - and even forfait within the 8 man group - will only be beneficiary for the sponsors player, Mr Radjabov...

Well done Mr Kirsan! How much was it in the briefcase?

Anonymous's picture

You are so right, man!
And the WCh loser (Gelfand for example) will have to play the candidates tournament in the same year. Has something like that ever happened before?
The WCh was in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012.
Why does it have to be in 2013 now???

hansie's picture

The six players for the Bilbao Grand Slam:


Anonymous's picture

Bilbao? Ha Ha. How can anyone take these people seriously? They stage exhibition tournaments using soccer score cards, glass cages, intercontinental stages etc etc. No one in the know takes them seriously; only those feeding their egos on these threads do.

The Bilbao organizers should move their chess circus date to mid 2013.

Latest articles