Shirov on the world championship cycle

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Alexei ShirovAs far as can be judged from the comments, most of our readers agreed with my critical "review" of Chessbase's interview with Vladimir Kramnik. However, as Alexei Shirov yesterday pointed out in a comment, we've been missing a few details, which he later explained a bit more in an email.

In my column of last Wednesday I commented on both Henrik/Magnus Carlsen's statement about FIDE and the world champioship cycle, and some of Vladimir Kramnik's statements about the same issue, from an interview with Chessbase. Basically, I praised the Carlsen's for stressing the importance of the notions transparency, predictability and fairness, and I criticised Kramnik for lacking these notions as far as his recent remarks on chess politics were concerned.

Most of our readers seemed to agree with the conclusions in the column. However, yesterday Alexei Shirov left a comment under the article, adding some important details to the story:

Hello everybody,

I believe there is still one thing Mr. Hans Arild Runde [who also left a comment under my column - PD] and Mr. Henrik Carlsen miss - the way the cycle 2008-2011 was presented lacked fairness as well. It meant the match between winner of the World Cup and the winner of Grand Prix, fine. Then the winner of their match against the World Champion, fine. But what about the loser of the World Championship match? As it was more or less clear that the World Championship match would not happen before 2010, the only chance for both contenders to be in the next cycle would be to play in the World Cup 2009. But then what if none of two players even qualifies for the final? What sense it makes their WC match then and the subsequent match of the new World Champ with the winner of the cycle? It’s really very difficult to find a perfectly fair and transparent system, therefore an attempt to create the Candidate’s torunament wasn’t so bad itself in my opinion. As long as there are no further intrigues such as Topalov/Kamsky’s privileges and obscure potential privileges to Kramnik. For Kramnik’s privileges there is one more thing to add. At the moment it seems that the only potential offer for the Candidate’s tournament is Bonn and they would want to include Kramnik. So sad is the reality of chess that unfortunately the most players would still prefer to play the tournament rather than play nothing at all. And here it comes - the Bonn tournament was possibly already in Ilyumzhinov’s mind when he offered the privileges to Topalov and Kamsky. A typical one move calculation honestly believing that the move would make everybody happy. But he forgot that the organizers’ nominee (which normally shouldn’t exist but that’s a different matter) CAN NOT be confused with the sporting part of the system that shoul be fair otherwise. In tennis local nominees exist too, of course. Still, I’d like to remind the chess world that when Carlsen joined the Grand Prix, Henrik didn’t seem unhappy about the local nominees (which, I for example strongly opposed to, in my opinion they could play one but not four events) neither the President nominees nor the general stupidity of the system. Therefore, I still can’t fully understand the decision to withdraw from Elista.

As for me, I didn’t play in Grand Prix from the beginning but I should admit I also had personal reasons for that, the issue of local nominees was only one of them.


Alexei Shirov, Riga 09.01.2009

Also yesterday, in an email which we were allowed to publish as well, Shirov made clear that some of Kramnik's ideas do make sense:

Alexei ShirovI feel extremely strange defending Kramnik in a way but I also see that when he was considered World Champion everybody forgave him everything. They also put a lot of dirt on me for 'refusing to play Kasparov in 1998' and now all the dirt goes on Kramnik. That means that only number 1 and 2 (and for the public it is in a way Anand and Carlsen nowadays) are always right and the rest of the people are always wrong.

But in fact now Kramnik is only partly wrong suggesting that he should be in the Candidates Tournament if Topalov/Kamsky are there as well. If you look at his message from a different side, that he would be ready to play in the World Cup unless the loser of Topalov-Kamsky is directly seeded, then everything makes sense and this is what I am aiming for since my communication in early December. And Carlsen could accept such a situation as well, in my opinion, so there is not that much contradiction.

It's always good to have a perspective from a top player on the situation, and to get some more background information at the same time. Indeed, it seems that not enough thought has been given to what will happen to the loser of the world championship match. And indeed, if we agree on the fact that we simply haven't yet reached the ideal situation in which there are no priviliges anymore, it's not that strange to see Kramnik, as the loser of a World Championship match, entering the new cycle at the same stage as the loser of a semifinal match, whether it's the Candidates Tournament or the World Cup.

Update January 12, 11:14: later Shirov added another comment:

I get the impression that I have been totally misunderstood, probably my English is responsible for that. Of course, having both Kramnik and the loser of Topalov/Kamsky in the Candidates would be outrageus, what I was trying to say is that Kramnik’s opinion partly coincides with mine concerning Topalov/Kamsky’s privileges in the next cycle. Only partly, of course, I am not going to change my opinion about Danailov-Sutovsky-FIDE closed door meeting in Dresden in November. On the other hand my messages were influenced by the fact that in my opinion Henrik Carlsen and Hans Arild Runde stressed too much on something that in the current situation had less importance - the change of the system which is much less a negative change than the most of FIDE changes in last 10 years as this time the change was influenced by the objective reasons which are clear system’s faults. At the same time if other players would act more clearly against Topalov/Kamsky’s (and thus also Kramnik’s) privileges, there would be a chance to change something in that direction. Now I don’t see such a chance any longer - too much air has been shaken for nothing.

PS Peter, I don’t know how to explain my general disgust with this kind of always-looking-for-sensations journalism. You could take some innocent phrase from my messages and it would be more to the point for the title of your article.

At first, this article had the headline 'Shirov: "I feel extremely strange defending Kramnik".' Indeed, this was only partly covering the contents of the post (by the way something that often happens with headlines). Normally we don't make big changes to articles after they have been posted (we'd like to work with updates or correctional additions only) but for an esteemed grandmaster who feels disturbed about it, we make an exception.
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