Grand Swiss, Grand Prix, Women's Candidates: Recapping Recent FIDE News

Grand Swiss, Grand Prix, Women's Candidates: Recapping Recent FIDE News

| 44 | Chess Event Coverage

The World Chess Federation limited its cooperation with Agon/World Chess, announced the new Grand Prix series and provided details on the new Women's Candidates' tournament. Here's a round-up of recent FIDE news.

Since Arkady Dvorkovich was elected as the new FIDE president on October 3, 2018 in Batumi, a lot has changed inside the organization. Many key figures in the presidential board and in the commissions were replaced, new commissions were launched and changes in especially the world championship cycles have been announced.

Let's start by having a look at the changes for the upcoming chess events.

FIDE Grand Swiss and Grand Prix

On January 10, FIDE announced a new type of tournament in the world championship cycle: the FIDE Grand Swiss, an 11-round event to be held in the second half of 2019 for a minimum prize fund of $400,000 (more in a PDF here). The winner will qualify for the 2020 Candidates' tournament, for which now only one player will qualify based on rating instead of two.

On January 25, another big news item appeared on the FIDE website that mentioned a "new format of cooperation" with World Chess. That's a diplomatic way of saying that the new FIDE leadership has taken full control of its flagship events. 

FIDE and World Chess will continue to organize the Grand Prix together in 2019 and 2021, but the Candidates' tournament and world championship matches will be fully under FIDE's responsibility from now on. (For completeness, the same goes for the Olympiad and the World Cup, but World Chess wasn't involved in those before.)

FIDE director general Emil Sutovsky broke the news in an interview for the recent Gibraltar Chess Festival. | Video: GibChess.

Like before, two GP winners will qualify for the Candidates'. The total prize for each event will be 130,000 euro and in addition, 280,000 euro will be awarded based on the best cumulative score in the entire series.

The dates for this year's GP events have been announced. [Update February 7: the cities were announced shortly after we published this article, and more details were provided as far as the format is concerned, which is now a knockout with classical, rapid and blitz.]

  • First leg May 16–30 in Moscow, Russia.
  • Second leg July 11–25 in Jurmala/Riga, Latvia.
  • Third leg November 4–18 in Hamburg, Germany.
  • Fourth leg December 10-24 in Tel-Aviv, Israel.

Efforts have been made to avoid conflicts with e.g. the Grand Chess Tour, but with a tournament calendar that seems to be the fullest in the history of the game, that wasn't entirely possible.

See's full tournament calendar of 2019

Women's world championship cycle

Big changes were made for the women's world championship cycle, and it was necessary. For starters, kind of a stalemate situation had appeared: the 2019 world championship match was supposed to be held between the winner of the 2018 knockout (won by Ju Wenjun in November) and the winner of the 2017-2018 GP series, but the latter was never held.

Ju Wenjun
In November Ju Wenjun retained her title by winning the knockout world championship in Khanty-Mansiysk. | Photo: UgraChess.

Secondly, women's chess had lost its strongest competitor. Hou Yifan decided to step out as she didn't like the way the women's world championship cycle was structured.

The new plan, which is similar to the general "open" cycle, should appeal more to the Chinese world number-one: in May 2019 a Women's Candidates' tournament (without wild cards, by the way) will be held in Kazan, Russia and the winner will now play against reigning world champion Ju. 

It should also be mentioned that the prize fund for the women's world championship match has been increased from 200,000 euros to 500,000 euros. 

On top of that, the bidding procedure for the 2019-2020 Women's Grand Prix series has been opened. Note that both the "open" and women's GPs will have a significantly higher prize fund than previously.

New FIDE officials

A lot has changed inside FIDE as well. First, here's a list of the most important new FIDE officials.

  • GM Victor Bologan of Moldova was elected for the position of FIDE executive director. He deals with a variety of issues, mostly related to the internal functioning of FIDE and its relationship with the national and continental federations.
  • GM Emil Sutovsky of Israel is now the FIDE director general. He is in charge of everything related to world championships, World Cups and Olympiads, the relationship with sponsors, partners and organizers for top events, and serves as a chairperson of the new global strategy commission.
  • GM Mohd Al-Mudahka (formerly known as Mohamed Al-Modiahki) of Qatar, husband of FIDE's new treasurer GM Zhu Chen, is now the FIDE international director.
  • Willy Iclicki of Liechtenstein is now the FIDE chief operating officer and a legal representative.

New FIDE structure

The structure of the FIDE leadership has changed as well, with the appearance of a FIDE management board. This board is now "the coordinating and governing body that assists the FIDE president in his day-to-day management of FIDE activities and implements specific mandates given by the FIDE president," as stated in its statutes (here in PDF).

The FIDE management board is not an official FIDE organ and its powers are derived from the powers of the FIDE president, so in essence it can be seen as a way for Dvorkovich to delegate tasks over several people while keeping similar power over the decisions.

Members of this new management board include the aforementioned officials, and besides Dvorkovich himself also Igor Kogan, the 2018 electoral campaign manager, GM Zhu Chen, the treasurer, Berik Balgabaev, who is still the advisor to the FIDE president, and Vadim Tsypin, the assistant to the FIDE president.

Arkady Dvorkovich Tata Steel Chess 2019
Arkady Dvorkovich (middle) at the Tata Steel Chess tournament talking to Dutch FIDE delegate Herman Hamers, with Willy Iclicki in between. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

With Dvorkovich, the power of the FIDE president is stronger than before. For instance, the president now has the right to reallocate budget expenses by joint decisions with the treasurer, he can now sign any documents which financially engage FIDE for any amount of under 50,000 euros, he now has an absolute authority to hire and dismiss FIDE employees who are not FIDE officials, members of FIDE commissions can now be appointed only upon an approval by the FIDE president and he now has the authority to dismiss commission members.

It seems that things are improving in terms of transparency, although some recent developments suggest that there's still room for improvement. For instance, at the November presidential board meeting a non-disclosure agreement for presidential board members, executive directors and other FIDE staff has been introduced. It remains to be seen what this will come down to in practice; expects to continue its excellent media contact with the World Chess Federation.

Another example is the agreement made between FIDE and World Chess; for changing the terms of their agreement a financial deal was made of which the details remained confidential. It remains to be seen to what extent the general assembly will be informed.

Here's a small list of other recent FIDE-related developments, to keep you fully posted:

  • FIDE's budget has been significantly increased and restructured, with the intention to support federations and continents more. While expenses are planned at around 5.5 million, the income is set at about 6.5 million euros, almost three times as before. The money will be coming from "attracting commercial sponsors," of which FIDE hasn't published any news yet.
  • FIDE finally has a new bank account. Exactly one year ago UBS in Switzerland announced that it would terminate its account with the organization because of former FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov's presence on a U.S. sanctions list, and a few months later it did so. It took more than nine months, but now FIDE has an account at Caixa Bank, one of the largest banks in Spain.
  • Speaking of Ilyumzhinov, the former leader has signed a settlement agreement with the new FIDE leadership which has been approved by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). This was about Ilyumzhinov having been excluded from office by the FIDE ethics commission last July, and his appeal at CAS in August. On November 27, 2018, the two parties "reached an amicable settlement of their dispute."
  • FIDE is working on moving its Athens office to Lausanne, Switzerland where it will be closer to i.e. the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The new office is planned to be opened somewhere in the first quarter of 2019.
  • Judit Polgar has been appointed as honorary FIDE vice president. The world's strongest-ever female chess player retired in the summer of 2014 and has been actively involved in chess educational and promotional projects. At FIDE, she will "focus her efforts on chess development all over the world, including promoting chess in schools, popularization of the game and improving the level of tournament organization."
  • Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik have joined the FIDE team as well, in the role of advisors to Dvorkovich on Asia and Europe respectively.
  • Ken Rogoff, the famous Harvard economics professor and grandmaster, has joined the global strategy commission and has already contributed a lot to the work of this new commission.
  • More details have appeared about the first, major FIDE event on the calendar: the World Team Championship. This will be held in Astana, Kazakstan March 4-15 among Russia, China, U.S, Egypt, Ukraine, Georgia, Hungary, Armenia, Kazakhstan and India.

On a final, personal note, this author is pleased to have learned about FIDE's plans to take serious effort to improve its website and its social media channels. Since this is a topic of my interest and expertise, I have recently agreed to function as a counselor to the new FIDE online commission, in a purely advisory role.

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