Reports | January 24, 2013 16:56

6th Masters Final announced, but will FIDE cooperate?

Logo Bilbao Grand Slam Masters Final

The 6th edition of the annual Grand Slam Masters Final in Bilbao was announced yesterday in a press release. Specific dates are not mentioned, and it's also not clear whether the first half of the tournament will again be hosted by a different host city (like Sao Paulo in 2011 and 2012). The organizers are urging FIDE "to hold discussions in order to establish a negotiated, reasonable and balanced calendar where interests are represented and safeguarded, not only those of the FIDE but also the ones of the top level tournaments, players and fans".

The sixth edition of the Masters Final was confirmed yesterday in Wijk aan Zee, where a number of representatives from Bilbao have their traditional visit to the first Grand Slam tournament of the calendar, the Tata Steel Chess Tournament.

The press release doesn't mention specific dates or a second host city (like Sao Paulo or Shanghai in previous years). It does state that Viswanathan Anand, Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian

have also shown their willingness to participate in the Final, as they have done in previous editions.

However, this doesn't mean that they have signed their contracts yet. This is hardly possible as the Bilbao organizers are quite unhappy with how the World Chess Federation (FIDE) is dealing with the tournament calendar. Here's the relevant part from the press release:

The Organizing Committee of the Bilbao’s tournament have indicated their intention of maintaining the same dates for the edition of 2013 –between mid-September and mid- October- the same dates as in the previous editions and which have allowed Bilbao to gain a place in the international chess calendar.

However, the organizers of the Grand Slam Chess Masters Final urge the Chess International Federation (FIDE) to hold discussions in order to establish a negotiated, reasonable and balanced calendar where interests are represented and safeguarded, not only those of the FIDE but also the ones of the top level tournaments, players and fans. The current calendar, unilateral and vague, in the opinion of the Bilbao’s Final Organization could lead to the disappearance of some of the most important tournaments due to the clash of dates of some of them, and this is negative for the viability and dissemination of a millennial sport as chess, specially at difficult times of severe economic recession such as now, they have stated.

The Bilbao organizers are referring to the Paris Grand Prix which is supposed to take place 18 September-2 October, so just before the Masters Final, and the World Championship match (between Vishy Anand and the winner of the London Candidates tournament), scheduled to start on November 6th. Some participants in Paris who receive an invitation for Bilbao might decide not to play two strong tournaments in a row, and probably Anand and his challenger cannot play either because they will be in the middle of their preparation.

Andoni Madariaga, Director of the Masters Final, told us that

(...) the players, and ourselves, we have serious doubts that this timetable is met, so [Anand, Aronian and Carlsen] told us that they support us to urge FIDE to seek alternatives or move their dates.

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.


mike magnan's picture

Why does FIDE make everything so difficult?

born's picture


Thomas Oliver's picture

I do not quite understand the tone of the article, what should FIDE do? IMO the WCh match should always get highest priority, and any organizer can hold a pretty strong event without these two players (even London could show some flexibility rather than always inviting the same world-top players). The Paris Grand Prix is another story - particularly as this one has a strong field (Radjabov, Karjakin, Nakamura, Caruana and Ivanchuk). But should FIDE refrain from holding the GP series because an event might collide with a private invitational event? No matter whom FIDE would ask (Tal Memorial, Bilbao, London), everyone will say "not during, two weeks before or two weeks after our tournament" ... .

It's a bit strange from the Bilbao organizers to start 'negotiations' with FIDE by more or less fixing the date of their event, thereby asking FIDE to move their event. If Bilbao will again become Sao Paulo-Bilbao (or another co-organizer on a different continent in a different time zone), that's an inconvenience for the participants which isn't FIDE's fault. Last year they first got Kramnik's support to move the candidates event, and then announced that Bilbao will again be co-hosted by Sao Paulo. Kramnik declined the invitation as he doesn't like intercontinental events ... .

FlatEarth's picture

Agreed. FIDE should squash like a bug these private well-funded and well-produced chess events that are not FIDE-sponsored. Nothing good could come of major chess events being held without the full imprimatur of FIDE’s peerless reputational capital and organization skill. Bilbao has existed this way for some time but new rogue events, like the London Classic, are popping up that for some unfathomable reason want no affiliation with FIDE at all. Why top professional players choose to play in these upstart events is a mystery to me and nothing short of a display of disloyalty to Ilyumzhinov. Don’t they know who butters their bread?

Anonymous's picture

Well said. Pro chess should be organized like pro tennis, where in chess the world championship is treated like a Grand Slam tournament. BTW, what happens to FIDE sponsored pro tourneys when the Godfather passes on?

guncha's picture

What should FIDE do then? Move Grand Prix to other dates? WCH cycle events are by far more important.

Barone (Italy)'s picture

In the article I read: "The Bilbao organizers are referring to the Paris Grand Prix which is supposed to take place 18 September-2 October".
To me it seems Bilbao organizers are just asking to move Paris' GP date, probably anticipating the event of the couple of weeks needed by those top GMs who are taking part in the GP to partecipate also in the prestigious and rich Masters Final tournament.
What should FIDE do then?
FIDE should anticipate Paris' date of the GP cycle of a couple of weeks, imho.

Anonymous's picture

The Grand Prix is more important, and has been scheduled for far too long already to start crying about it now.

At Bilbao there is never a good disparity between contestants, except for the local player whom the others beat up. It's the reason Paco decided to call it quits - the Bilbao organizers should follow his lead and take a hike.

RealityCheck's picture

Agreed. I'll take the Grand Prix over Grand Slam any day of the week!

Mainly because it is about Chess, not Tennis, not Foosball, not Boxing. No exhibition. Its a dead serious chess tournament. A tournament for chess connoisseurs.

Neo-Classical time control; enough time to think, to calculate, and to remember...

Traditional score card 1-1/2-0. No 3 pointers, no foul shots, no penalty kicks.

Professional playing venue, no glass cages, no roody-poot stages, no tents, no artificial turf.

Only seasoned, battle hardend players are invited. No full time mom's, no full time students, no stock brokers, no bottom fish to feed on.

Ultimately, the Crown is at stake; not money, not Elo Rating points. not an inflated ego. This is the only road that leads to the World Chess Championship. The only game in town.

Why should Gran Prix take a back seat to Grand Slam?

Septimus's picture

"two tournaments strong in a row,"

I think you meant "two strong tournaments in a row."

ChessFan's picture

How about, "strong are the tournaments, two in a row."

So poetic!

Saji's picture

Haaa Very good I could not control my laugh.

Saji's picture

Haaa Very good I could not control my laugh.

Peter Doggers's picture

Merci, changed to something not very poetic.

Bartleby's picture

What should FIDE do? - Talk with the organizers.

The problem is that the big tournaments have to prepare in advance, and would like to have a spot in the calendar which is protected from FIDE top events. At least they want FIDE to talk to them before a FIDE Grand Prix is scheduled on the same date on which a regular top tournament was scheduled last year.

Anonymous's picture

Yes, major tournaments need to be planned over a year in advance.

Thomas Oliver's picture

Yes, but I also understand FIDE's situation: They hold a number of events: GP series, candidates event, World Cup, possibly a WCh match - this date may be tentative as they can only really start organizing things once Anand's challenger is known. They want to spread these events roughly evenly over the year. If any date occupied by a strong private event (plus two weeks before and two weeks after) is out of question, there are few spots left. This would either mean that the GP series cannot take place, or that it will be pretty dragged out - as happened last time "due to circumstances" (financial crisis).

Bilbao seems to claim special priority treatment - I am not so sure they deserve it given all the changes to the format and how far away they drifted from the initial concept: winners of four qualifying events plus two strong wildcards.

Some players are actually willing to play several strong events in a row, see the coming weeks: Anand and Caruana will play Baden-Baden and Zurich almost immediately after Wijk aan Zee, Kramnik and Gelfand will play Zurich shortly before the candidates event. So Bilbao should be able to find participants - just not exactly the ones they have in mind, and maybe they "have to" invite some players whose schedule is less busy (but who would also deserve invitations).

Theo's picture

The only thing the chessworld wants to see is a match between Carlsen and Anand

GiorgioNimrod's picture

In my opinion, it just makes no sense to hold a World Championship match, and cycle, every year! A two-year cycle will do, or better a three-year cycle as in the old golden times.

RealityCheck's picture

@ GiorgiNimrod This is the final phase of the "clean up". It's taken a long time; many years of hard work and dedication. These guys (Anand, Leko, Gelfand, Kramnik, Topalov, Kamsky, Aronian, Grischuk, Svidler, Polgar, Adams just to name a few players and FIDE) have worked their tails off cleaning up the organisational mess they'd inherited from our great predecessor Garri Kasparov and his Klan.

Who would have thought, with the big "Sponsorship Crisis" in full swing--the major punch-line >>hype<< from Kasparov's camp predicting the fall of chess after he'd quit, that we'd have more events than the Judeo-Christian calendar can hold?

Chess fans, be patient.

GiorgioNimrod's picture

If you hold the complete WC cycle in a year, evey year, you will definitely fill the top chess calendar for that year. In addtion, events such as Candidates and Wc Match require a thorough preparation, so the involved players will in any case not be available for other competitions.
And what we have as compensation for sacrificing top events other than FIDE's or creating problems to them? A WC match every year. Really does this speak for the prestige of the World Champion title?
For me, a three-year WC cycle is the right pace. A one-year one is the reason for all the troubles.

Thomas Oliver's picture

This cycle (the one which includes the Paris GP event) actually takes two years according to the FIDE calendar: Grand Prix events September 2012 - September 2013, World Cup in August 2013, candidates event in March 2014, WCh match in November 2014. The problem might be that it overlaps with the current cycle (two events remaining: candidates and WCh match). This may have been done to give AGON a head start rather than having to wait longer before they can organize events - the next cycle seems to start in May 2014, with the candidates event in March 2016 and a WCh match later in 2016.

There will always be competition and scheduling conflicts with private events. But the GP series provides opportunities to strong players who, for whichever reason, don't get many private invitations. And private events are mostly affected if they insist on getting exactly the players they want, rather than inviting also some not-as-obvious names?

The somewhat faster pace of WCh cycles may also be because new names pop up more quickly than some 20 years ago. What if, for example, Rapport becomes a top10 player within two years? How much longer would he have to wait to play a role in the WCh cycle with a slower system?

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