Reports | February 15, 2011 16:23

Mainz Chess Classic: the end of an era

Mainz Chess Classic: the end of an era"We would have loved to send you a positive email, announcing the dates for another great Chess Classic tournament in 2011, but unfortunately a decade full of passion and dedication for international rapid chess has come to an end in Mainz," writes press chief Eric van Reem. He sent us a statement by the chairman of the Chess Tigers e.V., Hans-Walter Schmitt, who announces the end of a chess era.

A decade full of dedication and passion for international rapid chess has come to an end in Mainz. A splendid decade from 2001 to 2010 with ground-breaking innovations in tournament organization for world class players and amateurs alike and the “Mainz System” Chess960, based on the ideas of the American World Champion Robert James “Bobby” Fischer, made the distinction between the Chess Classic and other classical tournaments.
Mainz Chess Classic: the end of an era

The prize giving in 2001 with Kramnik and Anand

Speed and entertainment, service and amenities for the spectators and participants were the ingredients of a unique merger that took place once a year between the 2000-year old royal game and the ancient city of Mainz. The main goal of the organizers back in 1994 was to connect the small world of chess with everyday society. Explaining the complex game of chess to a bigger audience, for chess amateurs and laymen with the use of modern technology was the next step, which was thoroughly and systematically implemented in the event.

This yearly meeting place for chess players was highly appreciated by professionals and amateurs and the Chess Classic became a nationally and internationally renowned event, without a doubt one of the highlights on the international chess calendar. The clarity and reliability of the annual world championships in rapid chess and Chess960 and the clear qualification rules in the open tournaments was appreciated by everyone - over the years the organizers had created their own brand. The Chess Classic atmosphere with the spacious Rheingoldhalle, Congress Centre and Hilton Mainz, on the banks of the river Rhine, but still in the centre of the city Mainz was perfect and unparalleled for a top-class and mass sports event.

Mainz Chess Classic: the end of an era

The poster of the 2009 edition

If all the conditions in Mainz are perfect: why on earth will there be no next tournament, numerous friends of the Chess Classic are bound to ask? And it is a justified question. Maybe the answer of Vladimir Kramnik back in 2001, who was chess world champion at that time after his heroic win over Gary Kasparov, comes closest to the truth. During the Champions Dinner, one of the main sponsors of the event asked him: “How important is this first and unique match with the Fide world champion Viswanathan Anand from India, here in Mainz?” The answer was: “Not so important, this is just a rapid chess match”.

The city of Mainz, its Lord Mayor Jens Beutel and the Chess Tigers e.V. with its chairman Hans-Walter Schmitt would like to thank the long-time sponsors, players and spectators, the international journalists and many volunteers in this seventeen breathtakingly years that rushed past. We have shaped and organized the event seven years in Frankfurt, followed up by ten years in Mainz with inspiration and expertise. We have put our heart and passion into the Chess Classic. There is a quote by the Austrian dramatist and novelist Arthur Schnitzler, which says it all: "Am Ende gilt doch nur, was wir getan und gelebt – und nicht, was wir ersehnt haben." ("In the End, all that matters is what we have done and lived – not what we have longed for.")

Mainz Chess Classic: the end of an era

Group photo with the whole team that made the tournament a big success

We would like to apologize to our Chess960 world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk, Chess960 world champion Hikaru Nakamura and his challenger Alexander Grishuk, the current GrenkeLeasing world champion Gata Kamsky, the 11-time winner Viswanathan Anand and the numerous friends of the Chess Classic, because there will be no title matches in 2011. However, should a “white knight” show up, who wants to grant the Chess Classic a secure financial future, the Chess Tigers are ready to go!

Chess Tigers e.V.

Chairman Hans-Walter Schmitt

Results Chess Classic Mainz

Chess Classic Championship

Year Winner Players/ Mode Result Cat. Elo Ø
1996 Alexei Shirov 4 round robin/final 6½ / 8 18 2681
1997 Viswanathan Anand 4 round robin/final 7½ / 10 19 2705
1998 Viswanathan Anand 4 round robin/final 5½ / 10 s 22 2781
1999 Garry Kasparov 4 round robin 7½ / 12 21 2764
2000 Viswanathan Anand 6 round robin 7½ / 10 21 2767
2001 Viswanathan Anand 2 ten rounds/match 5 / 10 s 22 2796
2002 Viswanathan Anand 2 eight rounds/match 4½ / 8 20 2748
2003 Viswanathan Anand 2 eight rounds/match 5 / 8 20 2746
2004 Viswanathan Anand 2 eight rounds/match 5 / 8 21 2750
2005 Viswanathan Anand 2 eight rounds/match 5 / 8 21 2754
2006 Viswanathan Anand 2 eight rounds/match 5 / 8 21 2751
2007 Viswanathan Anand 4 round robin/final 6½ / 10 20 2730
2008 Viswanathan Anand 4 round robin/final 7 / 10 21 2768
2009 Levon Aronian 4 round robin/final 7½ / 10 19 2721
2010 Gata Kamsky 701 11 rounds open 10 / 11 19 2727

Rapid Chess Open

Year Winner Result Players Elo Ø / Top 10
1994 Alexander Chernin 8½ / 11 183 2569
1995 Bogdan Lalic 9½ / 11 158 2580
1996 Eric Lobron 10 / 11 263 2618
1997 Waleri Beim 9 / 11 277 2608
1998 Fritz on Primergy 9½ / 11 319 2642
1999 Loek van Wely 9½ / 11 432 2663
2000 Sergei Rublevski 12½ / 15 292 2657
2001 Michael Adams 9½ / 11 484 2667
2002 Viktor Bologan 9 / 11 498 2654
2003 Alexander Grischuk 9½ / 11 500 2675
2004 Alexander Grischuk 9½ / 11 542 2686
2005 Teimour Radjabov 9½ / 11 546 2705
2006 Rustam Kasimdzhanov 9½ / 11 632 2699
2007 David Navara 9½ / 11 762 2714
2008 Ian Nepomniachtchi 9½ / 11 693 2686
2009 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 10 / 11 694 2717
2010 Gata Kamsky 10 / 11 701 2727

Simuls (40 players)

Date Player Elo Clr. Result % Time
08.07.94 Viswanathan Anand 2725 W +34/=5/-1 91,25% (4:22h)
09.07.94 Viswanathan Anand 2725 W +36/=4/-0 95,00% (3:02h)
30.06.95 Vladimir Kramnik 2730 W +32/=8/-0 90,00% (4:58h)
17.11.95 Viswanathan Anand 2725 S +33/=7/-0 91,25% (3:19h)
29.06.96 Vladimir Kramnik 2775 S +24/=14/-2 77,50% (5:05h)
28.06.97 Veselin Topalov 2725 W +31/=7/-2 86,25% (4:27h)
20.06.98 Peter Leko 2670 W +33/=6/-1 90,00% (3:35h)
04.07.99 Judit Polgar 2677 W +32/=6/-2 87,50% (2:58h)
19.06.00 Garry Kasparov 2851 W +35/=5/-0 93,75% (4:20h)
20.06.00 Vassily Iwanchuk 2709 W/S +31/=5/-4 83,75% (4:46h)
21.06.01 Viswanathan Anand 2794 W +36/=2/-2 92,50% (3:19h)
22.06.01 Vladimir Kramnik 2797 W +33/=7/-0 91,25% (4:58h)
14.08.02 Ruslan Ponomariov 2743 W +30/=8/-2 85,00% (4:09h)
04.08.04 Alexei Shirov 2725 W/S +25/=11/-4 76,25% (5:05h)
10.08.05 Alexander Grischuk 2720 W +29/=8/-3 82,50% (2:45h)
15.08.06 Viswanathan Anand 2779 W +31/=8/-1 87,50% (4:02h)
13.08.07 Vassily Iwanchuk 2762 W +35/=4/-1 92,50% (4:52h)
28.07.08 Viswanathan Anand 2798 W +38/=2/-0 97,50% (4:31h)
27.07.09 Levon Aronian 2768 W +34/=6/-0 92,50% (3:52h)
06.08.10 Viswanathan Anand 2800 W/S +34/=4/-2 90,00% (4:23h)

Simul (25 players)

Date Player Elo Clr. Result % Time
14.08.02 Alexandra Kosteniuk 2459 W +15 /=3/-6 70:00% (5:29h)

Matches man vs. machine

Year Player-machine Result
1998 Viswanathan Anand - Fritz on Primergy 1½ : ½
1999 Viswanathan Anand - Fritz on Primergy 2½ : 1½
2000 Vladimir Kramnik - Fritz on Primergy 1½ : ½
2000 Fritz on Primergy - Viswanathan Anand 1½: ½
2000 Peter Leko - Fritz on Primergy 1½ : ½
2000 Fritz on Primergy - Alexander Morosevich 1½ : ½
2000 Alexei Shirov - Fritz on Primergy 1 : 1

Chess960 Rapid Chess World Championship

Year Winner Players/Mode Result Cat. IPS Ø
2001 Peter Leko 2 eight rounds/match 4½ / 8 20 2741
2003 Peter Svidler 2 eight rounds/match 4½ / 8 20 2745
2004 Peter Svidler 2 eight rounds/match 4½ / 8 19 2723
2005 Peter Svidler 2 eight rounds/match 5 / 8 19 2716
2006 Levon Aronian 2 eight rounds/match 5 / 8 21 2754
2007 Levon Aronian 4 round robin/final 6½ / 10 20 2747
2009 Hikaru Nakamura 4 round robin/final 7½ / 10 21 2763

Chess960 Rapid Chess World Championship Women

Year Winner Players/Mode Result Cat. IPS Ø
2006 Alexandra Kosteniuk 2 eight rounds/match 5½ / 8 8 2453
2008 Alexandra Kosteniuk 4 round robin/final 8 / 10 10 2504

Chess960 Senior Rapid Chess World Championship

Year Winner Players/Mode Result Cat. IPS Ø
2006 Vlastimil Hort 2 eight rounds/match 4 / 8s 12 2539

Chess960 Junior Rapid Chess World Championship

Year Winner Players/Mode Result Cat. IPS Ø
2006 Pentala Harikrishna 2 eight rounds/match 4½ / 8 15 2624

Open Chess960

Year Winner Result Players IPS Ø / Top 10
2002 Peter Svidler 9 / 11 131 2653
2003 Levon Aronian 9½ / 11 179 2675
2004 Zoltan Almasi 9½ / 11 207 2688
2005 Levon Aronian 9½ / 11 207 2696
2006 Etienne Bacrot 9½ / 11 248 2696
2007 Victor Bologan 9½ / 11 280 2717
2008 Hikaru Nakamura 9 / 11 236 2687
2009 Alexander Grischuk 9½ / 11 263 2727

Chess960 Simuls (20 Players)

Date Player IPS Clr. Result % Time
13.08.03 Peter Leko 2746 W +15 /=5/-0 87,50% (3:18h)
13.08.03 Peter Svidler 2744 W +15 /=5/-0 87,50% (2:46h)
04.08.04 Peter Svidler 2755 W +15 /=4/-1 85,00% (2:46h)
16.08.06 Levon Aronian 2752 W +16 /=3/-1 87,50% (2:29h)
06.08.10 Alexandra Kosteniuk 2504 W +16 /=4/-0 90,00% (3:13h)

Chess960 Matches Man vs. Machine

Year Player-Computer Result
2000 Fritz on Primergy - Artur Jussupow 2 : 0
2004 Levon Aronian - The Baron 1 : 1
2005 Shredder - Zoltan Almasi 2 : 0
2005 Peter Svidler - The Baron 1½ : ½
2006 Spike - Peter Svidler 1½ : ½
2006 Shredder - Teimour Radjabov 2 : 0

Chess960 Computer World Championship

Year Winner Player/Mode Result
2005 Spike / Boehm/Schaefer 19 Swiss System 5½ / 7
2006 Shredder / Mayer-Kahlen 20 Swiss System 7½ / 9
2007 Rybka / Rajlich 4 round robin/final 6½ / 9
2008 Rybka / Rajlich 4 round robin/final 11½ / 16
2009 Rybka / Rajlich 4 round robin/final 14½ / 16

Editors's picture
Author: Editors


Serdal's picture

Linares, Melody, NH, Mainz

And then there were none...

Slayer's picture

What Kirsan Ilyumzhinov thinks about it?

ebutaljib's picture

Yeah, traditional high profile chess tournaments really seem to be on decline now.

Whats with M-Tel Masters in Sofia? Will there be another edition this year or is this story finished also? And what about the King's tournament in Bazna?

john's picture

London Chess Classic is some new blood at least. I agree we are losing too many tournaments however.

Delinquncy's picture

"Just a rapid chess match" sums up my feeling as well.

Thomas's picture

Actually Topalov once said something similar about Amber - when asked about his relatively bad result, he answered (paraphrasing) "it doesn't really matter, the event isn't rated". In both cases - and completely loose from the fact that I personally like one player or person more than the other - it was just their genuine opinion. Another story is whether it's nice and wise to say so in public.

But the Kramnik quote from 2001 can't be the reason for the demise of the event 10 years later, also taking into account that other top players (e.g. Anand?) were more enthusiastic about the event. So I consider this ("it's Kramnik's fault ...") a cheapo from the organizers.

Yet this may have been the reason why Kramnik apparently wasn't invited again in Mainz? Then (if he cares) he hurt himself more than he did hurt the event ... .

Anthony's picture

There should have been a rapid rating a long time ago, that surely would have increased the status of these events. Easy to implement. Another missed chance by FIDE.

Be that as it may: it's probably the Great Depression 2.0 that is the main driver in these events.

ablos's picture

hard to accept defeat, many excuses for krrrrramnik.

Remco G's picture

Yes, but when you're a highly paid top player talking to the event's main sponsor, it's rather disingenous. I don't think Kasparov would have given that answer.

Guillaume's picture

I agree with Thomas. They are implicitly putting the blame on Kramnik, and that's pretty lame given that Kramnik's informal answer was given nearly 10 years ago.

My experience with Russians is that they can be very direct. If you ask a question, you should always expect a very straightforward answer, even (or perhaps especially) if it's dismissive.

mishanp's picture

Agreed as well. It's out of keeping with the rest of the statement and dilutes the natural sympathy most people will feel for the organisers.

Why bring up a factual response to a question from 10 years ago? Perhaps Kramnik could have been more diplomatic, but then again he presumably wasn't speaking in his own language and there's no way we can judge it now without seeing e.g. his body language, whether he was smiling etc. Also, of course, it was a loaded question - would it have been better if Kramnik had also gone into an explanation of why he didn't recognise the FIDE title at all back then? It wasn't just that it was "only" rapid chess, after all. Actually I wonder if he had an issue with the organisers perhaps (pure speculation!) giving equal terms to Anand as the "other" World Champion.

Felix's picture

Oh no... It was so nice to have the top engine programmers and the elite chess players at one tournament. I'm studying in Mainz and went to school there, it's very close to the place I live. That was like a dream for me, especially in the last years when Rybka was playing and Vas was there. I also participated in the tournament a few times and know the organizers a bit, it's really sad.

Thorn's picture

I think you misunderstood the organizers: They simply quoted Kramnik to illustrate why it is hard to find a sponsor ("not serious enough"), not in order to put blame on him.

I'd like to think that it's a normal course of events that some tournaments die (Chessbase reports that next year's Aeroflot Open is not yet secured) and new ones are born (like Pearl Spring). But it seems that an awful lot of dying is going on recently...

Thomas's picture

I don't think I misunderstood the organizers: What you wrote may well be true, but then it's still odd to come up with a quote from 2001 and single out one player.

BTW, sponsors are always right but "did the sponsor ask the right question?" Given the context including close friendship between the organizers and Anand, Kramnik may have interpreted the question as "OK you beat Kasparov, but I will only recognize your WCh title if you also win your rapid match against Vishy!".

What would have been a proper answer from Kramnik?
"For me, it's the most important event of the year!" - a chess-ignorant sponsor may be very pleased, but if the sponsor has some chess background (say, he's also a hobby player with Elo 2000-2400) he might think that Vlad is poking fun at him ... .
"It's a fun event" - would that be good enough?

Finally, if it's just a matter of rapid chess being half-serious and unrated: Would there be better chances to organize a classical supertournament (actually I don't think Germany "needs" and can sustain a second one besides Dortmund) or a major Open comparable to Gibraltar or Aeroflot (this would be an addition to the German chess calendar - many Swisses already but none even nearly as strong)?

Comparisons between chess and football are always questionable, but consider a match Germany-Netherlands with players from either side saying "it's just a friendly match" - would anyone get mad at them?

ed's picture

Everytime something like this happens someone points a finger towards Fide. One of these days chess players will blame Fide for global warming... Chess was, is and will continue to be a niche sport, and as such securing a long term sponsor for chess events will continue to be a real strugle for chess organizer. Why would any big company put money into an event that has no appeal to the masses? I am an optimist, for the last 25 years that I have been involved with chess things in general have become much better: more tournaments, more and beter access to chess information, rapid growth in scholastic chess etc etc. Chess is alive and well in sp[ite of the negative comments of the Cassandras of the chess world.

Gilgamesh's picture

Good luck for FIDE to find the solutions!!! All them who voted in is now with their head in Fire... GO KASPAROV GO!!!!! for FIDE President!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

RuralRob's picture

2011 is shaping up to be the 9/11 of top tournaments.

pomonado's picture

I don't want to sound nostalgic but if Kasparov was still here, we would be playing round 3 of Linares right now and Shirov would still try to have his first win against Gazza.
I'm sure the economic atmosphere has a lot to do with the super-tournaments being cancelled but you can't deny that Kasparov secured money and sponsors in big tournaments. Anyone [except Houdini] willing to sac a pawn and take the initiative?
As for rapid chess events, they come and go.

Reality check's picture

Kramnik's quip, "It's not so important, this is just a rapid match", was typical coming from the so called "Classical line of World Champions" at the time.

Winning a tournament, Classic round robin, FIDE knock-out, or Rapid match was considered unimportant; childs play compared to winning a real 12 to 24 game classical match.

Kramnik probably used the jibe to put himself above Anand, the FIDE World Champion at the time because of the split title.

Well, we all know how the story ended. Anand >>rapidly<< dethroned Kramnik in Bonn 2008. 


CAL|Daniel's picture

another news article to be posted... Hikaru Nakamura won't play US Championship!

"Two-time U.S. Champion GM Hikaru Nakamura, currently ranked number one in the U.S. by rating, declined his invitation to play in this year’s championship, citing a desire to focus on working toward his ultimate goal of one day winning the World Championship."

gg's picture

It's Carlsen's fault!

Vince's picture

Amber and Mainz were 2 nice tournaments because you could see top players playing variants of chess (blind and 960) and it will probably never happen again, unless some millionnaire is a chess fan.

But I went in Nice to watch Amber a few times and there were like 10 or 20 people attending the games between the top players in the world in a small room ! (not counting this tall and thin guy who always come in the last 5 minutes to shoot video and he sits on the first rank so that everybody has to move to see the boards. I hate him, he must be working for some obscure chess site but anyway...). 10 or 20 people to watch Anand, Carlsen, Kramnik, Aronian.... playing rapids when it's free to attend! No wonder this kind of tournament can't survive.

There is still a rapid in Corsica though (won by Naka vs Chucky last year) and I hope they will go on. And there are few others when some regions or towns decide to invest, but they basically lose money.

As for "big" tournaments, WAZ seems ok for now thanks to Tata but the others like Linares, Dortmund or Sofia should imho emphasize on live comments from Gms and interviews and analyse of players. The last tournament in London was great for that. It was free on the internet but I think I would have payed a few euros to get the live analysis by GMs and the analysis post-mortem of the players. Add a few webcams to make sure you can watch every board and I'm convinced some people would pay to watch it.

So in both cases (classical or rapids/blind/960) the tournaments have to find someting else to offer than a pgn and a poor webcam where you can't see anything but the color of the hair of the players and if he did 0-0 or 0-0-0.

Basically few people come to watch the games so they have to make the internet broadcast much more "sexy" than it is now and offer webcams, analyse, interviews, reports... I don't think it's so expensive.

Solomon's picture

If I were a professional chess player I would be looking into online poker...:(

Unless a charismatic player like a Kasparov or Fischer comes on the chess scene, we will continue to see this decline.

Pedro Pinto's picture


Fischer would be the star if this movie was directed by Ed Wood!

Bela Lugosi is dead....

blueofnoon's picture

It seems possible we won't see Aeroflot next year either...

Not a good sign for professional chess IMO.

ozan's picture

very sad!
it was great to follow these games on-line.
so entertaining, not boring!..

Rob Brown's picture

Football, ice hockey, baseball, and basketball all have non stop colour commentary, detailed expert analysis during intervals in the action, and post game synopses along with analysis when the games are done. The tiresome, strategically limited game of poker has been made appealing to the masses (and by extension, sponsors) through the use of camera angles that have enabled continuing commentary, In all of this marketing, pace is everything. To all but the cognoscenti, chess played at classic time limits is as exciting as watching paint peel. If getting the attention of the modern day Medici, the multi national corporations, is the objective, then it follows that tempo is all. Thus, bullet, blitz, and possibly, rapid chess are the the most amenable to the coverage and marketing used for the BIG sports. These events would have to be rated, of course. Even someone who doesn't know a pawn from a taxi cab, is fascinated by the action in a blitz game. With encouragement that fascination could lead to a desire to understand what's going on. Now that computers can outplay the best mortals even on their off days, attention should shift to the most exciting human chess, replete with errors. Where do you find this. In blitz.

sERJ's picture

What does it matter what Kramnik said 10 years ago? Clearly, no! It's just an awkward excuse organizers.
The question is why investors moved away from the fast chess, which comes to many people and many more watching on the internet?
Confusing ... ought to reduce the cost of the top three prizes, probably.

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