Reports | June 28, 2011 20:04

Moscow bids for Anand-Gelfand match (updated)

Moscow bids for Anand-Gelfand matchIlya Levitov, President of the Russian Chess Federation Board, broke two pieces of news Monday. The crucial one was that despite the dark musings of many, and above all the FIDE President himself, we now have at least one bid for the Anand-Gelfand match. The other concerned a unique twist for the Botvinnik Memorial this September.

By Colin McGourty

Levitov, President of the Russian Chess Federation Board, revealed the news about the World Championship match on the ChessPro forum, in a thread that bears his name. His message was short and sweet:

The RCF is planning to hold the Anand-Gelfand match in Moscow. A major sponsor has been found who’s ready to do that. Moreover, the bid has already been sent to FIDE. And you’re the first to hear about it :)

The bid might not be chosen, of course, but simply the existence of a viable proposal is likely to come as a relief to all concerned, given the acrimonious withdrawal of the London bid and apparent difficulties finding organisers in India or Israel. Moskovskie Novosti quotes Kirsan Ilyumzhinov’s assistant, Berik Balgabaev, as confirming the receipt of the Moscow bid. He says he has no right to reveal details of any other bids at this stage, but notes “great interest in holding the match from India and Israel”.

The news is also well-timed after heated debate (at least in Russian chess circles) about FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov’s recent interview with WhyChess. Ilyumzhinov spoke about introducing blitz and rapid ratings and also World Championship matches, to be followed by a match between the winners to decide the “Absolute World Champion”. Where would that leave classical chess? Without friends in high places, it appeared (this text is translated from the Russian version of the interview):

Crowded scene as WhyChess editors interview Ilyumzhinov | photo: FIDE

Since we’re subject to market conditions, two championships will be offered up for the public’s verdict: the so-called Classical World Chess Championship and the Absolute World Championship. And let’s see where the sponsors put their money. From the financial support we might see, for example, that if the “absolute” champion attracts a million dollars, and the “classical” only ten thousand, then that’s all his crown is worth. Let the market decide, without any state regulation.

To tell the truth, as FIDE President I’m already tired of finding money for champions…

Against such a backdrop, the Moscow bid seems like manna from heaven. And Ilyumzhinov will be free to pursue other projects, such as revisiting Muammar Gaddafi in Libya in the coming days (a desire Ilyumzhinov repeated today, while lamenting the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for Gaddafi).

And now for something completely different…

The other piece of news was altogether more unusual. Ilya Levitov was talking to a RIA Novosti sports correspondent, and gave details of the Botvinnik Memorial event planned for 1-5 September in Moscow: 

For this tournament marking the centenary of the birth of Mikhail Moiseyevich Botvinnik (1911-1995) we’ve invited the world’s best chess players – Vladimir Kramnik, Levon Aronian, Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carslen. Also appearing in the parallel women’s event will be the best female chess players in the world – the Russian Tatiana Kosintseva, the Indian Humpy Koneru, the Armenian Elina Danielian, and the European Champion, Viktorija Cmilyte from Lithuania.

So far, apart perhaps from the names of the female participants, this is old news. We also know (for instance, from Elina Danielian’s website) that the format is going to be a double round-robin with a 25 min + 10 sec time control. But here’s where Levitov surprised us, revealing that the highlight of the event is going to be that in the middle of the games…

…the clocks will be stopped. And each player will spend about a minute and a half telling the spectators about the opening played and the evaluation of the position. During that time his opponent will listen to music on headphones before also giving his opinion.

Perhaps the idea’s inspired by the BBC’s Master Game, which has recently been revived on the internet. Some late-70s technical wizardry made it seem as though you could hear the thoughts of top players as they contemplated their moves – though the crucial difference was that the game was played normally before the thoughts were added. It’s safe to assume Botvinnik wouldn’t have approved of stopping a game of chess for a quick chat with the audience, though he also wouldn’t have approved of rapid chess in the first place.

Vishy Anand recently gave a video interview for Chess-News, where he was asked about whether it was a problem for the Botvinnik Memorial that Botvinnik was against rapid chess (Evgeny Surov’s question starts at around 14:40): 

Vishy Anand answering questions from readers

Not at all. I mean, we’re remembering Botvinnik, and it’s a chance for chess players to get together and remember him. But should we really play a 16-round tournament just because he would have liked it that way? It was not practical. I think the aim was just to highlight what a great figure in chess he was and that’s it. But I agree, yes, he was not very fond of blitz. I always remember the story – I think Genna [Sosonko] asked him if he ever played blitz, if I remember correctly, and he said something like, “Yes, once in the train in 1931", or something like this. I always thought that was very funny.

Levitov also revealed that on the 4th September the 8 players will take part in a simultaneous display against 80 talented children from all around Russian, with each grandmaster playing 10 games.

Whatever Botvinnik might have thought of his memorial, it should definitely be something for the rest of us to look forward to!

Update 16:04 CET:

The Russian Chess Federation as posted a "press release" about the Botvinnik Memorial. They have one new detail: "After the rapid there will be games played in pairs: Kramnik and Kosintseva, Anand and Koneru, Aronian and Danielian and Carlsen and Cmilyte will compete to find the strongest "mixed" pair."

Update 22:27 CET:

The other new information concerned the Russian bid for the Anand-Gelfand match. Levitov gave a short interview to Yury Vasiliev of Sport Express, in which he revealed the anonymous “major sponsor who really loves chess” wasn’t proposing the bare minimum prize fund of 1 million euros, but instead 2 million dollars. That would be around 1.4 million euros, in comparison to the 2 million euros prize fund in Sofia (it’s possible, however, that there was some confusion over euros and dollars in the interview).

The sponsor would take on all the organisational fees and taxes, and Levitov revealed that they’d already considered the possibility of holding the match in one of Moscow’s world famous museums: the State Tretyakov Gallery, or the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.

Boris Gelfand has apparently already given a response. He’s quoted as telling Kirill Zangalis of Sovietsky Sport:

I’m very glad overall that the match will take place. I won’t say that playing in Moscow will be like playing at home. I think Anand will also feel comfortable in the Russian capital. I know he has a lot of fans there. But I hope people will also be rooting for me in Moscow.

Update June 29, 02:02 CET:

Andrei Filatov | photo: Forbes

The anonymity of the mysterious sponsor didn’t last long! The Russian business newspaper Kommersant reports that several sources have told them it’s Andrei Filatov, a self-made billionaire with a net worth of 1.1 billion dollars (according to Forbes). The Ukrainian-born Moscow-based businessman is co-owner of a transport infrastructure company, but is also, as Levitov said, a genuine chess fan.

He studied chess at the Belarus Sports Academy where, perhaps crucially, he met and became friends with Boris Gelfand. He says he lost interest in chess when he traveled to his first international tournament (in Katowice, Poland), only to find out when he got there that it had been cancelled. That, and the fact that he was starting to make more money buying and selling small items than he’d be able to playing chess, led to his choosing business. He’s since funded chess tournaments and also the restoration of the Alexander Alekhine memorial in Paris. (Many of the details above come from an interview conducted in 2009 by the editor of the Russian chess magazine, “64".) 

Kommersant also quotes another response by Boris Gelfand to the news of a possible match. Gelfand called Moscow “the world’s most chess city” and said that holding the match there “might be the best option”. He says that so far he has no knowledge of any specific steps being taken towards holding the match in Israel.

This article was cross-posted with permission from Chess in Translation.

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Anonymous's picture
Author: Anonymous


adam's picture

To tell the truth, as a chess fan I’m already tired of the FIDE President…

kaboom's picture

With his good connections from outer space in mind, the Fide President might arrange a tournament with our top 4 players and 4 alien players.
No problem at all getting bids, sponsors and interest...

Drag Queen's picture

Interesting.Nice to see people are thinking about new format,new rating lists,new ways of playing the game.I like the classical time control but I still like these ideas.
I hope it is not just words.

TimS's picture

"Whatever Botvinnik might have thought of his memorial, it should definitely be something for the rest of us to look forward to!"

It would be if it wern't in rapid format

Peter Doggers's picture

The Russian Chess Federation as posted a "press release" about the Botvinnik Memorial. They have one new detail: "After the rapid there will be games played in pairs: Kramnik and Kosintseva, Anand and Koneru, Aronian and Danielian and Carlsen and Cmilyte will compete to find the strongest "mixed" pair."

bhabatosh's picture

that's quiete exciting !

Bob's picture

I don't really see the point of this chess-wise, though it is a nice idea for a new twist. But what are the ladies going to add when they are out-rated by about 200 elo? No offence, just wondered how this would work. Say you happened to have 2 candidate moves, do they take a line each and trust each others' analysis?

Coco Loco's picture

Great news about the match, and a cool idea for the Botvinnik memorial!
However, both news stories sound a little too good to be true. Is this Levitov fellow a trustworthy individual? His smiley face in the "Levitov" thread message on Chess Pro makes me suspicious :)

VladimirOo's picture

Why? Because he is russian? Would you feel more confortable if he was norge or american?

monte44's picture


Coco Loco's picture

No, VladimirOo, not because he's Russian, but because he's part of the political establishment in Russia. Very different sets of people.

mishanp's picture

Before emerging from obscurity during the FIDE Elections to head the Russian Chess Federation he worked on PR for a law firm with ties to the Russian government, so of course he's trustworthy :) Seriously, though, he's the best man you'll find for knowing exactly what's going on in Russian chess, and Russia is almost the only consistent sponsor chess has at the moment. Oh, and Levitov also co-authored "From London to Elista" with Bareev, so he does have some chess pedigree.

bayde's picture

Doesn't Levitov have some official position in Putin's government now? Not sure, but I thought he does.

"Fartcatcher" comes to mind...

bayde's picture

Ah yes, I had confused him with Arkady Dvorkovich who *is* one of Putin's fartcatchers. During the last FIDE election Dvorkovich was prominent while Levitov was still something of a mystery man. Now it's reversed, and Levitov is front and center while Dvorkovich seems to have faded out of the public eye. Doesn't mean he still doesn't control any levers.

This is one step away from Cold War Kremlinology, I tell you.

realitycheck's picture

As regards the Botvinnik Memorial:

Botvinnik was dead serious about chess and nothing less than a dead serious event undermines what he stood for.

Hard work. Long games. Period.

Although I think he"d tolerate (appreciate?) a dead serious Rapid (no increments, no commercial interruptions) Match in light of all the opening theory which affords the top players the luxury to start thinking at or around move 13, 15,....

realitycheck's picture

As regards the Anand vs Gelfand match:

We'll see at least 2,5 million €uro for the match. Moscow just reset the stage got the ball rolling!!

mishanp's picture

That's an interesting point, actually. If you want to win with a bid then surely the last thing you'd do is reveal the amount while the bidding process is still open!

Thomas's picture

Didn't the Bulgarians do the same before the Anand-Topalov match: revealing how much money they can offer (a lot ...) while the bidding procedure was still open? It could also scare away anyone working on a competing bid.

The other point might be if Filatov absolutely wants to win with his bid. Maybe he just wants the match to happen, but wouldn't be all unhappy if it takes place elsewhere, with someone else's money?

sab's picture

"The best female chess players in the world : the Russian Tatiana Kosintseva, the Indian Humpy Koneru, the Armenian Elina Danielian, and the European Champion, Viktorija Cmilyte from Lithuania."

And what about Judit Polgar, "by far the strongest female chess player in history" ?

And Hou Yifan, the current Women's World Chess Champion ?

ebutaljib's picture

Well, Judit probably wouldn't want to play as a woman part of the mixed team, and Hou Yifan probably has some other plans in calendar.

jussu's picture

Judit Polgar never plays in female tournaments. Which technically falsifies the claim of the "best female players" playing in that memorial, but then again, this phrase has long meant "the female players 2-n".

Chess Fan's picture

Please give a serious answer: Do you think Judit Polgar can currently beat World Champion You Hifan in a serious chess match? I am a fan of both and not taking sides. I am talking about currently not 10 or 15 years back with Judit at her best.

Coco Loco's picture

Polgar would be a big favorite. Look up Hou Yifan's most recent tournament to see how she fared against some solid 2600's.

Michel83's picture

It's a bit unfair to take Hou Yifan's most recent tournaments as example, because we witnessed a total collapse of her there. Before that she already had beaten quite a few 2600s and went up to 2615 herself.
If by "solid" you mean players 2650+ then I'd rather agree.

In any way she has lots of talent, but to have a chance against Polgar she still needs a few years and more specific training. We'd probably see some nice games as both are agressive players, but Polgar would clearly win. It's also but not only the experience; Polgar might be a bit "rusted" since she played little, but she is still a potential 2700-player, if not more. And additionally for such a match there would be preparation...
It's bit like asking how she would do against Morzevich (who also didn't play for quite some time). ;)

Septimus's picture

If Judith put time into training and preparing like the other top men's players, she would be taking part in the candidates cycle. I'm quite certain that she would utterly crush any current female player.

Bert de Bruut's picture

Coming third at the European Championship recently and maintaining a 2700 rating versus general opposition, is a far greater achievement than becoming Female World Champion and gaining a 2600 rating against mostly other female players. So yes Chess Fan, the present Judit Polgar would be the very big favourite in a match against any other female, and it has to be feared that will remain so for a long time to come.

newchessfan's picture

judith will CRUSH her

jussu's picture

For the next five years or so, Judit would crush any woman. Looking for anyone to stand a remote chance, I would first think about Humpy Koneru.

Septimus's picture

Excellent idea by the RCF to make the game more accessible and informative for us normal spectators. Kudos for trying to make this an educational experience!

I'm not sure what FIDE are trying to do with multiple chess champions, but I think mixing things up is not a good idea. I mean Blitz v Classical champion match is kinda unworkable. What will the time control be? Just does not make any sense to me.

Joe Fiasco's picture

Well, Ilyumzhinov might want ot organize it in Libya at his friend's convenience...

Fireworks chess guaranteed! ;)

Oh, but wait, Gaddafi the antisemite won't even let Gelfand enter the country... Hw inconvenient!

greatshooter's picture

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