One week to go: Kamsky-Topalov

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Kamsky-TopalovIn one week from now the first game of the Challenger's Match between Gata Kamsky (USA) and Veselin Topalov (BUL) is scheduled. The match, officially called "World Chess Challenge Sofia 2009", has a prize find of US $250,000 which will be shared equally by the players. In only eight games it will be decided who will challenge world champion Viswanathan Anand later this year.

From February 16th to 28th the match between Kamsky and Topalov match will take place in the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria. The Challenger’s Match will consist of 8 games and possible tie-breaks. The winner qualifies for the World Championship Match 2009. The web address of the official website is


Time control and colors The time control for each game shall be: 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game plus an additional 30 seconds per move starting from move 61. The draw for colors will be conducted during the opening ceremony. The colors shall be reversed after game 4. (The player getting the white color in game 1 shall play game 5 with the black color).

Tiebreak If the scores are level after the regular 8 games, after a new drawing of colors, 4 tie-break games shall be played, with 25 minutes on the clock for each player with an addition of 10 seconds after each move. If needed, two more blitz games will follow and a possible decisive sudden death game.

The match supervisor is Hal Bond. Arbiters are Ignatius Leong and Ashot Vardapetian; the appeals committee is formed by Nigel Freeman (chairman), Boris Kutin and Vanik Zakarian.

Previous encounters It's quite remarkable that Kamsky and Topalov, who will play an 8-game match, have played a total of 8 games against each other. The first and the last two ended in a draw, while Topalov won all four decisive games:


Topalov should be considered clear favorite: he's the current world's number one with a rating of 2796 (and even 2809 in the live ratings), while Kamsy is 17th at 2725 (2723 in the live ratings). Last month the American finished on a 50% score (6.5/13) in Grandmaster Group A of the Corus Chess Tournament (rating performance 2715). Topalov won the last tournament he played in: the 1st Super Tournament in Nanjing, China, December 2008.

But Kamsky will surely have his chances. His immense talent has been known since the early nineties and he possesses tremendous fighting spirit which he showed at the World Cup in Khanty Mansisyk (December 2007), where he defeated Alexei Shirov in the final, to qualify for this match. If he succeeds in sidestepping Topalov's deep opening preparation and still get decent positions, the American will be a very tough opponent for the Bulgarian.



History It took one and a half years and many open letters and broken promises before the contracts of this match were finally signed on November 20th, 2008. Hosted by Susan Polgar, that day two separate press conferences were held in Dresden: first with Silvio Danailov, manager of Veselin Topalov, and then with Emil Sutovsky, the new manager of Gata Kamsky. Both confirmed that the contracts have been signed, and they answered several questions about the not-so-neutral venue, the prize money, Topalov not playing in Linares, et cetera. You can watch it all in the video below:

One more time we'll give the chronological list of events that led to the match that will start in one week:

  • June 25, 2007: at the Presidential Board meeting in Tallinn, FIDE gives Topalov the right to play an eight-game challenger match against the winner of the 2007 World Cup as part of the new world championship cycle. It accepts a 150,000 USD bid by the Bulgarian Chess Federation to organize a this match, to be held in Bulgaria in the second half of 2008.
  • November 2007: FIDE confirms the accepted bid by the Bulgarians at the 78th FIDE congress in Antalya.
  • December 2007: Gata Kamsky wins the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, and with it the right to play a match against Topalov.
  • January 2008: Kamsky states that he isn't going to play the match in Bulgaria but prefers neutral grounds.
  • February 12, 2008: despite the Bulgarian bid that already stands, FIDE extends the bidding period for the organization of the Kamsky-Topalov until April 11, 2008, "in order to try to improve the financial terms and conditions for both players".
  • April 10, 2008: FIDE extends the deadline for receiving bids once more, until April 23, 2008, as was asked for by the Kamsky team. The Bulgarian Chess Federation publishes a protest, urging FIDE "to follow the decisions of its governing body - the Congress."
  • April 11, 2008: Gata Kamsky's manager Alexander Chernenko tells Yuri Vasiliev, journalist for Sports Express, that "the match will be held in Lviv, Ukraine for a prize fund of US$ 750,000."
  • May 15, 2008: Russian chess website Chesspro publishes an interview with Chernenko and chess media report the Lviv bid as "confirmed".
  • May 18, 2008: Macauley Peterson, in a piece for Chess Life Online, makes clear that both Chernenko and FIDE rebut Vasiliev's account that "the financial guarantees have now been received by FIDE, at their Swiss bank account." Things remain highly unclear.
  • May 29, 2008: Alexei Shirov, who lost the World Cup final in December 2007 to Kamsky, loses his patience and publishes an open letter, stating that by now he should be the one to play Topalov.
  • May 30, 2008: The Kamsky team responds, also in an open letter, and obviously not amused.
  • June 1, 2008: after discussing the Kamsky-Topalov match at a Presidential Board Meeting, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov personally guarantees the prize fund of US$ 750,000 for the match Topalov-Kamsky.
  • September 26, 2008: Stefan Sergiev, President of the Bulgarian Chess Federation, protests once more against FIDE's actions - or non-actions, this time.
  • November 3, 2008: Ilyumzhinov receives a letter by Chernenko that states that the payment of 935,000 USD will be effected on November 5, 2008. FIDE accepts this date as the last ultimatum.
  • November 6, 2008: instead of keeping up to his promise of guaranteeing a US$ 750,000 prize fund, Ilyumzhinov gives the Bulgarian Chess Federation another chance, and a prize fund of 250,000 USD plus 50,000 USD as contribution to FIDE is enough.
  • November 7, 2008: an open letter Roustam Kamsky, protesting.
  • November 7, 2008: open letters by several USCF board members, quibbling over the best way to support Gata Kamsky, who himself asks the board members to unite.
  • November 12, 2008: open letter by the President of the Bulgarian Chess Federation, accepting Ilyumzhinov's offer and promising the 250,000 USD prize fund.
  • November 14, 2008: open letter by Chernenko, "explaining" why FIDE didn't receive the money yet: "The main reason is that FIDE did not present the necessary contracts beforehand." Chernenko still hopes to find a solution.
  • November 18, 2008: in a meeting in Dresden during the Olympiad, all parties agree on the match to take place in Sofia in February 2009.
  • November 19, 2008: FIDE publishes a press release confirming the agreement, but contracts are not signed yet.
  • November 20, 2008: in two separate press conferences, the managers of the players confirm that the contracts have been signed. The match will be played in Sofia, 16-28 February 2009. Hopefully this ends an ongoing soap opera.

Relevant posts:

More from PeterDoggers
Gender Bias Research Shows Parents, Mentors Shortchange Girls’ Chess Potential

Gender Bias Research Shows Parents, Mentors Shortchange Girls’ Chess Potential

Nepomniachtchi Repeats Levitov Chess Week Victory

Nepomniachtchi Repeats Levitov Chess Week Victory