Carlsen withdraws from FIDE Grand Prix

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Carlsen withdraws from Grand PrixWhat started as a promising series of tournaments has rapidly turned into a sinking ship: the FIDE Grand Prix series. After Doha was cancelled, and Montreux is also out, now top seed Magnus Carlsen decided to withdraw.

Last week FIDE suddenly changed the current world championship cycle by inventing a Candidates Tournament (bidding procedure now posted here). They were heavily critized by Alexei Shirov amonst many others. The top seed of the Grand Prix was also clearly not happy about the situation and after communicating with FIDE, a bit after midnight on Friday his father Henrik wrote on his blog that Magnus withdraws from the Series:

We have just informed FIDE by e-mail that Magnus withdraws from the Grand Prix series due to the dramatic change to these regulations approved by the General Assembly. (According to the regulations the final decision on changes to the regulations is the responsibility of the FPB - and not the General Assembly - but we have been informed by several FIDE executives that the Presidential Board will endorse the GA decision shortly if necessary.)

Magnus is simply not motivated to continue the GP series with the dramatically changed conditions approved in Dresden, and the uncertainty related to any future changes that may be decided by FIDE.

On November 27th we sent the following e-mail letter to the FIDE office;

"Dear Sirs, The purpose of this e-mail is to comment upon the recent news about FIDE changing the Regulations for the 2008 -2009 Grand Prix cycle and to request your comments to our questions pertaining to this change. Chess as a sport, chess as an attraction to sponsors, the situation of top chess players in general and the Chess World Championship cycle, are in our opinion best and only served by a system which is transparent, fair and predictable. Despite a less than impressive FIDE track record over the past 15 years, the implementation of the Grand Prix 2008 - 2009 did seem to offer such a system. To our surprise and disbelief we have been informed that the FIDE General Assembly has supported a proposed change of the Regulations of the ongoing cycle to the detriment of the Grand Prix players. The planned match of the winner of the Grand Prix and World Cup winners will be replaced with two spots available from each event into an 8-player world championship qualification tournament or 8-player candidate match cycle, and that this will be decided on the next Presidential Board meeting. We are currently considering alternative measures in response to this highly significant change, which includes legal action and the withdrawal from the cycle.

Below please find some questions which you will hopefully respond to in order to shed some light on the current and future rights of players taking part in FIDE events. Is it your understanding, that ?Ç¬ß 1.4 in the "Regulations for the 2008 - 2009 Grand Prix", in the middle of the cycle, gives the FIDE Presidential Board the right to change the regulations in a way clearly detrimental to the players as represented by the stipulations described in ?Ç¬ß 2 in these same regulations and also in the "Players Undertaking"? - If the answer is no, how do you explain the planned change, and how do you justify the harm inherent to the Grand Prix winner? - If the answer is yes, do you agree that the agreement in effect between the players and FIDE is highly biased with regard to rights, in the sense that the players have no real rights whatsoever (that cannot be set aside by the FIDE Presidential Board) while having to stick to the conditions agreed to in the Players Undertaking and also additional adjustments made by the FIDE Presidential Board? And if so, do you consider this a viable policy for future agreements between FIDE and world championship cycle participants? Lastly we would like to mention that our criticism of the latest change of regulations is not directed at the change itself. Long term this may be a viable alternative to the current match planned between the Grand Prix and World Cup winners. But changing the rules dramatically in the middle of a cycle is simply unacceptable, and this is something that should be rather obvious to anyone involved in business or high level sports competitions.

We look forward to your urgent response to these questions."

The following response was received this morning;

"Dear Mr Carlsen, Thank you once again for your letter. The main point of the changes is that instead of qualifying one player from the Grand-Prix for the next stage (semi-final match against the winner of the World Cup), now two players (possibly three in case there is no player to be qualified by rating) will qualify for an 8-player semi-final tournament. This change has been based on article 17.3 of the regulations and it is necessary as sponsors from Qatar and Montreaux have withdrew from organising two legs of the Grand-Prix (an unforeseen situation), which puts in danger the system if it leaves the Grand Prix with less than 6 legs and no clear winner. Because of this uncertain situation, and by giving more qualification spots, FIDE is trying to solve this problem and in the meanwhile is searching to secure, if possible, alternative sponsorship for the remaining GP legs and cycle. As the Grand-Prix has just started this year with two events completed out of six, no player has yet a clear advantage for first place and we feel that all players are benefited as now two or three places (instead of one) are giving qualification.

Kindly also note that the agreements between the players and FIDE are of course not biased at all. The player's undertaking refers to the Regulations for the 2008-2009 FIDE Grand Prix which can be amended according to its wording (Art. 1.4). In addition as already said, there are clearly objective and important reasons to amend these regulations in order to save the whole cycle.

We are really expecting your understanding and we are looking forward to even more exciting chess by Magnus.

Best regards, George Mastrokoukos FIDE - World Chess Federation "
We do find the response highly unsatisfactory. To mention one thing, it is hard to understand how diminishing the value of the Grand Prix series can be interpreted as a way of saving the ongoing cycle.

Having withdrawn from the Grand Prix series Magnus does not have to spend more time and energy on the uncertainty involved, and may fortunately now concentrate on playing several well organised and interesting top level events elsewhere. In the first half of 2009 he has agreed to play some Grand Slam events as well as some great rapid events, starting with a rapid tournament in Gj?ɬ?vik, Norway January 2nd - 5th and the Corus A from January 16th onwards.

Henrik Carlsen, Lommedalen, December 4th, 2008

After the third Grand Prix tournament in Doha was cancelled and hastily moved to Elista, Carlsen's withdrawal is another heavy blow for FIDE/Global Chess. By quoting the email by Mastrokoukos, Henrik Carlsen also confirmed the rumours that the Montreux Grand Prix tournament, scheduled for April-May 2009, would be cancelled. Some magic is needed to save the FIDE Grand Prix Series.
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