The four tournaments of the new FIDE Grand Prix series will be held in Baku (Azerbaijan), Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Tehran (Iran) and Moscow (Russia). Earlier today the World Chess Federation (FIDE) published the full schedule, with dates and host cities, on its Web site.
It looks like FIDE hasn't been as successful as before in finding host cities (or sponsors), because after two series consisting of six events, this time only four tournaments will be held. No western cities are involved: the players will go to Baku, Tashkent, Tehran and Moscow. The full schedule:
- October 1-15, 2014: Baku, Azerbaijan
- October 20-November 3, 2014: Tashkent, Uzbekistan
- February 14-28, 2015: Tehran, Iran
- May 13-27, 2015:
Moscow changed to Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia
The winner and second-place player overall of the Grand Prix Series will qualify for the Candidates Tournament to be held in the last quarter of 2015 or the first half of 2016.
FIDE intends to work with a total of 16 participants: 11 qualifiers, 4 nominees from the organizers (to be announced) and 1 nominee of the FIDE President (to be announced). According to the regulations, the following 11 players have qualified automatically.
- Carlsen, Magnus (World Champion)
- Anand, Wiswanathan (World Ch. match 2013)
- Kramnik, Vladimir (World Cup winner 2013)
- Andreikin, Dmitry (World Cup runner-up 2013)
- Tomashevsky, Evgeny (World Cup semi-finalist 2013)
- Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime (World Cup semi-finalist 2013)
- Aronian, Levon (Average Rating List 5/2013 to 4/2014)
- Caruana, Fabiano (Average Rating List 5/2013 to 4/2014)
- Grischuk, Alexander (Average Rating List 5/2013 to 4/2014)
- Nakamura, Hikaru (Average Rating List 5/2013 to 4/2014)
- Topalov, Veselin (Average Rating List 5/2013 to 4/2014)
These players need to confirm their participation by August 27, 2014. Players like Magnus Carlsen, Vishy Anand, Vladimir Kramnik and Levon Aronian did not play in the previous series, and it is unlikely that they will play this time.
The first reserves are:
- Karjakin, Sergey (Average Rating List 5/2013 to 4/2014)
- Gelfand, Boris (Average Rating List 5/2013 to 4/2014)
- Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar (Average Rating List 5/2013 to 4/2014)
Each player agrees to play in three of the four tournaments. In each tournament, 12 of the 16 players play.
The players will have the opportunity to communicate their preference of tournaments to FIDE, who are not obliged, but “will endeavour to respect the players' preferences, and will balance the player allocation to a host city according to objective criteria such as average tournament rating, and continental representation,” as is mentioned in the participation contract.
The big difference with the previous two Grand Prix series is of course the number of events: there will be only four instead of six, and each player plays only three instead of four. This means that a player cannot afford one bad tournament anymore; whereas the worst result used to be filtered from the final score, this time all three events count.
There are more differences: the total participants went from 18 to 16, and the prize fund for each event went from €170,000 to €120,000.
This is especially disappointing taking into account the big plans that were announced by FIDE two and a half years ago. Of all host cities announced back then, three would eventually never see a Grand Prix: Lisbon, Madrid and Berlin. The first two of the original six Grand Prix that were planned for 2014 and 2015 (May 14–May 28, 2014 and July 2–July 16, 2014) were quietly removed from the FIDE Calendar.
Those big plans were related to the company AGON, which obtained the commercial rights to organize events in the world championship cycle. However, after the 2013 Candidates tournament in London, AGON hasn't been involved in FIDE events anymore.
However, FIDE still hasn't terminated its contract with AGON. On the contrary: AGON is mentioned several times in the participation contract and the regulations of the upcoming Grand Prix. For instance, the participation contract starts with the following paragraph:
“The World Chess Federation (FIDE) is the governing body of the FIDE Grand Prix 2014-2015 (hereinafter referred to as the GP 2014-2015). The Administrator of the GP 2014-2015 is FIDE, in collaboration with AGON Ltd.”
The financial conditions include:
“5.1 Each tournament of the Grand Prix will have a prize fund of 120,000 euros, in accordance with the official regulations, provided by FIDE through its marketing partner AGON Ltd.”
The regulations state that
“The prize money which will be paid by AGON for each tournament is 120,000 Euros.”
“Four players may be nominated by AGON on behalf of the local organisers (4 players).”
Last but not least, for each of the four tournaments travel expenses, full board and lodging costs need to be provided for two AGON representatives, and four times AGON will receive a 15,000 Euro fee for “management and support."
So what is the situation with AGON? Who owns the company? Where does the prize money come from? Who are the two representatives? What will it be doing with the management and support fees?
Andrew Paulson, who has claimed to be AGON's only shareholder (which was claimed by FIDE as well), told Chess.com: “I have not done anything with AGON in the last 1.5 years. It's out of my hands.”
FIDE could not comment on the AGON situation either, due to “confidentiality clauses.” A spokesperson wrote the following in an e-mail:
“Agon will issue a statement regarding Grand-Prix series till Friday. We are not prepared to speak on ownership now as the issue is still being finalized.”