Zug Grand Prix: less AGON, more FIDE
Today the third FIDE Grand Prix in the 2012-2013 series will be officially opened in Zug, Switzerland. The participants are Teimour Radjabov, Sergey Karjakin, Fabiano Caruana, Veselin Topalov, Hikaru Nakamura, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Alexander Morozevich, Peter Leko, Gata Kamsky, Ruslan Ponomariov, Anish Giri and Rustam Kasimdzhanov. Most of the organization will be done by FIDE, and not AGON.
When the cooperation between Andrew Paulson's AGON and FIDE took off about a year ago, it started with an optimistic message: no more privately funded tournaments in the Caucasus, but sponsored events in Western European cities. And indeed the very first Grand Prix was held in London (back in September) but this was the result of a conflict with the Russian Chess Federation – initially the tournament was planned for Chelyabinsk.
The second Grand Prix was held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and this was to be the last event in the World Championship cycle with little or no participation of AGON. Back then AGON's plan was to start with a blast with the Candidates' Tournament in London: that would be AGON's great big first event, and from that moment the tournaments in the cycle would be better organized, backed by sponsors and held in great cities: Lisbon, Madrid, Berlin and Paris.
London is now behind us, and it was not a bad start for AGON. It was simply a great tournament in many ways! However, the sponsor was the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR), not arranged by AGON but by FIDE. So far AGON hasn't yet managed to sign sponsorship deals. But they're trying hard! Right now Andrew Paulson, the head of AGON, is in California where he is speaking with a lot of big companies.
Today the third FIDE Grand Prix will be officially opened in Zug, Switzerland – originally it was supposed to take place in Lisbon, Portugal. For the next Grand Prix, scheduled 22 May-5 June, a host city and sponsor haven't been announced yet.
During the Candidates' Tournament we published Hikaru Nakamura's open letter in which the American grandmaster hinted that he might be pulling out of the GP. He urged AGON and FIDE to "guarantee dates and locations for the entire Grand Prix series, and to provide the participants in the next leg of the Grand Prix with details on accommodation as well as other pertinent information no later than March 26th, 2013." In our interview, Andrew Paulson reacted:
I don't understand quite why Nakamura didn’t call me, or call FIDE. I don’t understand why he publishes an open letter.
By now Nakamura's deadline of March 26th has passed by three weeks, and he is still on the Grand Prix participants list (see below). His manager, Alexander Ferdkoff, told us:
The letter did its job. The conversation came into a public forum and within days announcements were made.
FIDE announced a new sponsor for Zug, and, in private communication with Ferdkoff about the next GPs they apparently convinced Nakamura to continue playing.
The current situation is that while Paulson is focusing on finding serious corporate sponsorship in the USA, it is FIDE who are mostly responsible for the third Grand Prix, which starts today in Zug, Switzerland. AGON's part will be limited: its employee GM Robert Fontaine will be giving commentary. Executive director of FIDE Nigel Freeman gave us the following statement:
The sponsorship in Zug was found by FIDE rather than by AGON. Because their main job is to find sponsorship, then obviously they're not so much involved.
What about AGON's ChessCasting software? Last month Andrew Paulson told us:
The next Grand Prix begins in four weeks and it will be absolutely ready by then.
However, according to Nigel Freeman, ChessCasting won't be used in Zug. It was more or less still in a beta phase when it was used during the Candidates, and it's unclear whether developers have worked on it since.
Another issue is the deposit of 500,000 Euros which AGON still hasn't paid to FIDE. The contract between AGON and FIDE states:
Agon will pay a cash deposit to FIDE of $500,000 (US Dollars 500,000) within 60 days of the signing of this Agreement. Such deposit will be forfeited should Agon not be able to provide sufficient guarantees (...).
Back in December Freeman, who is also FIDE's Treasurer, told us that it would be discussed at the Presidential Board meeting on 18 and 19 January in Armenia. Now, the same subject is on the agenda for the next Presidential Board meeting, 4-7 May in Baku, Azerbaijan.
We have an agreement with AGON and if we wish to break it we'll break it and if we won't wish to break it we won't break it. If they don't perform we have a right to break it. All will be discussed at the next Presidential Board.
The sponsor in Zug is Renova Group, a large Russian conglomerate with interests in aluminium, oil, energy, telecoms and a variety of other sectors. The main owner and president is 56-year-old Viktor Vekselberg, #52 in Forbes' list of wealthiest people in the world. Often considered to be one of the remaining Russian oligarchs, Vekselberg happens to be the single largest owner of Fabergé eggs in the world.
The following twelve players will be playing in Zug:
The time control is 120 minutes for the ﬁrst forty moves, 60 minutes for the next twenty moves and then each player will be allotted 15 minutes after the second time control and an increment of 30 seconds per move will be allowed from move 61 onwards. Draw offers are only allowed through the arbiter.
The FIDE Grand Prix 2012-2013 is a series of six tournaments as part of the World Championship cycle for 2012/2014. A total of 18 players participate and each individual player plays 4 of these 6 tournaments. Thus, each tournament has 12 participants and is played as a single round robin. For each player the three best results will be counted for the ﬁnal ranking.
GP prizes & points
|Placing||Prize (Euros)||GP Ranking Points|
The winner and second placed player of the GP Series will qualify for the Candidates Tournament, currently scheduled for March 2014.
Grand Prix 2012-2013 | Participants & standings
|Name||Fed||Critria||London 2012||Tashkent 2012||Zug 2013||? 2013||(Berlin 2013)||(Paris 2013)||Best 3 total|
As you can see from the table above, Vugar Gashimov of Azerbaijan has now been definitely removed from the list of participants. He was replaced by Gata Kamsky for the rest of the cycle. Over the past few weeks we have tried to reach Vugar's manager (and brother) Sarkhan Gashimov, but to no avail. What's clear is that Vugar is still not in good health, but the exact situation is unclear.
During the first Grand Prix tournament of the series, in September 2012 in London, Michael Adams replaced Peter Svidler. In Zug there's another replacement: Rustam Kasimdzhanov is playing instead of Wang Hao, who couldn't travel to Switzerland due to visa issues.
Today at 18:30 CET at the SwissEver Hotel in Zug the opening ceremony will begin, and tomorrow, Thursday, April 18th at 14:00 CET the first round will be played. The official website is zug2013.fide.com. Let's not forget the good news: yet another wonderfully strong tournament is about to start!
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