Anand has arrived in Sofia (UPDATE)

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Vishy AnandViswanathan Anand has arrived in Sofia. In the last days he and his team travelled for 40 hours by bus, from Frankfurt to the Bulgarian capital. "You can imagine he's very tired, so at the moment he's sleeping," delegation leader Hans-Walter Schmitt told us. In the meantime FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos has spoken out. Update: the organizing committee sticks to their initial response, and refused postponement in a new statement.

Photo: Christian Bossert

After a long and tough travel, which took 40 hours, Anand and his team have reached Sofia, delegation leader Hans-Walter Schmitt told us by phone. Schmit had arrived in Sofia last Thursday, taking one of the last flights possible from Germany to Sofia, before the volanic ash closed almost all of Europe's airports.

Hans-Walter Schmitt"Going through Austria and Hungary went smoothly," Schmitt says. "However, after that the team encountered some problems with visas. And the roads in Romania are very bad, I can tell you." The World Champion's team had arranged a bus to make the long trip, for which the theoretical 18.5 hours of travelling time given by Google Maps proved much too optimistic, especially when the whole of Europe is travelling by train or car. "The organizers said it was easy to reach Sofia, but I can tell you that it was not, under these circumstances," Schmitt added.

The Bulgarian organizers were surprised that they were informed only on Sunday about the travel problems of the Anand team. "But you have to realize that on Friday and Saturday it was completely unclear what the volcano was going to do," says Schmitt. "At first we decided to wait, but then on Sunday morning we decided to go over land. Then we immediately informed them and FIDE."

Schmitt added that he couldn't say too much yet, because Aruna Anand was preparing an official statement which would be published on the All Indian Chess Federation's website later today. This has been published by now:

World champion Viswanathan Anand has reached Sofia, the Bulgarian capital after a 40-hour road journey from Germany as flights were cancelled due to the volcanic ash floating across European airspace resulting in cancellation of flights.

The 40-year old world champion and his wife are obviously very tired after such a long journey by road and hoped the organisers would accept their reasonable request of postponement of the game by three days. Anand is not used to travelling such distances on road and not giving a three day postponement could give challenger Veselin Topalov a significant advantage.

Anand had planned to reach the venue on April 16 which is one week before the first game on April 23. Now he arrived four days behind due to factors beyond his control and has wanted a three day postponement.The road route selected to reach Sofia was done after a look into the visas they had on their passport.

Anand might miss the press conference but will attend the opening ceremony according to his wife Aruna Anand. Not rescheduling the games will mean Topalov could have the same advantage which Anatoly Karpov enjoyed in the World Title match at Lausanne in 1998.

"The news from us is that we reached here safely," said Aruna Anand on the phone.

Had Alexander Alekhine been in Anand's place, he would have sought a postponement of atleast a week as world champions ruled and challengers were at the mercy of champions. Such natural calamities had not occurred during world championships.

Sometimes a handicap is a better way to start a match and Anand can turn the disadvantage into a driving force in the 12-game series.

Yesterday FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos spoke to Chessdom about the recent developments. On Anand's travelling problems, and request for a postponement, Makropoulos said:

Of course, we understand that this creates big problems for his preparation because in such matches you need to be there several days before the start. You cannot just go the day before and start playing. You come with your people, you start to adjust to the conditions, and you try to be organized in order to play the match. I understand this very well, he needs several days, therefore in the contract it says that he can come 7 days before (last Friday). And he was preparing to come last Friday via Madrid - Frankfurt - Sofia flight. He could not get the connection from Frankfurt because it was cancelled.

I believe we have very good understanding, with all sides helping resolve the situation. Sergiev is very cooperative, Danailov as well, Aruna and Anand too. Everybody understands and cooperates. They see the problems of the other side. The one of Anand is obvious, this is force majeure. But on the other side, to postpone the match for three days will create very big problems for the organizers because they already have their contracts with TV, people that are involved with the organization, hotels, transportation agencies and they have already published the brochures and posters, the original schedule is everywhere. The politicians and everyone who want to attend the opening ceremony or will come for the first move of the first round, knows the schedule, they have arranged their time, so everybody will be forced to make radical changes if we go for postponement. All of us understand very well what is going on and we have good communication.

Having “good communication” is something, but what really becomes clear is that FIDE is reluctant to take a decision on the postponement at this point. We’ll have to await further developments.

Update 17:19 CET: the organizing committee sticks to their initial response, and refused postponement in a new statement:

Communication from the Organizing Committee

The Organizing Committee responsible for the organization of the FIDE World Chess Championship Match in Sofia got acquainted with the arising situation regarding the beginning of the match, because the world champion Mr. Anand arrived late in the city.

During the official FIDE congress in Kallithea (Greece) in November 2009, the World Championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Veselin Topalov was scheduled for 5th of April 2010. At the instance of Mr. Anand the starting date was changed to 21st of April 2010.

This chess event has exceptional meaning not only for the chess community all over the world but also for Bulgaria as a country. Therefore the whole organization of this event is under the direct leadership of the Bulgarian Prime Minister - Mr. Boyko Borisov who is also the Chairman of the Organizing Committee.

All official guests and sponsors of the event have made their travel arrangements and plans so they can participate at the official Opening Ceremony on April 21st, 2010 and also at the first game on April 23rd, 2010. Possible change of these dates would deprive them of this opportunity.

For those reasons, is unacceptable to us to make any postponement of the match and change the program for its implementation.

20 April 2010 Organizing Committee Sofia

In the mean time we'll embed an interview Anand gave last year to Al-Jazeera's Riz Khan, in the April 10, 2009 show One on one.

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