Interview with FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos

multiple topics including the Anand – Topalov match situation

Makropoulos square

For a week the journalists are in Sofia reporting on all events around the championship. After the initial sparkles with the volcano situation, all seems to be coming back to normal. The latest details and the position of the World Chess Federation were given by the FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos.

Good afternoon Mr. Makropoulos, Anand is still not in Sofia. We have an official statement from the Bulgarian Chess Federation and the organizers, some news from Anand and the AICF, a few words from Aruna for the Indian media, what is the position of FIDE?

What happened is known to everybody. The volcano in Iceland erupted, a lot of airports are having problems, a lot of flights are cancelled. Sofia is also one of those airports that partly has problem. We have late arrivals not only with Anand, but also of officials of FIDE for the Presidential board and for the match – the second arbiter is not here, the members of the appeals committee are not here as well, we do not know yet exactly when they are going to arrive. We are giving instructions and helping everyone with how to move and what transportation to take if airports are closed. For example, to fly to either Thessaloniki or Istanbul and drive from there. We are not sure if the FIDE President himself will arrive.

Two days ago we received a letter from Viswanathan Anand, asking a postponement of 3 days because he cannot arrive on time. Now, it is clear that here we’re facing a force majeure situation. Of course, based on the agreement we have signed, all sides should do their best here to solve this problem, FIDE, the organizers, Anand should also try to come up with other transportation. He is actually on his way by car, as far as I know.

Is this information confirmed?

From what I know they have already left to Sofia, so we are expecting them probably Tuesday early in the morning or in the afternoon. He has the responsibility to be here. 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.

What is important for me is that the Chairman of the OC, The Prime Minister Mr. Boiko Borisov, should be informed about the situation. He was not here today, he’s coming later tonight. I already asked for a meeting with Mr. Borisov, if possible, to explain the situation at hand and the official position of FIDE. I am really very optimistic that we will solve the problems in a way that everybody will be satisfied.

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How do you see the organization itself, the venue, and the details around the World Chess Championship 2010?

I can see that there is a great effort of the Organizing Committee to organize a championship of a very high level. I have seen the preparation for months now, I was before here for another inspection. I came here many days ago to follow the preparation and the last details. I believe that we are not going to face any problem and that everything will be ready for the first game. Both sides and the players will be satisfied, as will be the public.

So in general you give a positive grade and you say that Sofia is ready for the WCC as a host?

Yes, I believe it is ready, of course I can say that the final inspection was supposed to be on the 18th of April (the day before). Yesterday the playing hall was not ready and people were still working in the rooms. But I am not worried, I know about such events and I believe that at the end everything will be ready on time.

We already saw that now the logo of the competition is inside the playing hall, there is also the FIDE flag. How do you see the FIDE branding of the playing hall, are the World Chess Federation logos big enough?

FIDE flag, flag of India, and the Bulgarian flag are there… Especially for FIDE branding there were two solutions. One was to be FIDE logo, a big fide logo, and the second to be in the title, “FIDE World Championship”, which is the case here. So there is the FIDE name in the title.

MC inspection 7

MC inspection 5

All World Chess Championships are considered a quality jump for chess, and this one has the highest prize fund. Do you expect it to have higher effect on chess in general?

You know, the fact that we had such a generous offer from Bulgaria is already good for chess. The next organizer of the World Chess Championship 2012 has to meet the same financial standards. So, as you probably know, FIDE has already awarded an option to London to host the next World Championship Match, we have even got the financial guarantee. They feel secure that the money can be guaranteed for London 2012 for the prize fund and the other conditions. I believe that by the end of May, beginning of June we will sign the contract for the next match with the same financial standards. Which means that the offer from Bulgaria is pushing the current financial level of the WCC matches on a very high standard.

This championship, if it happens in London, will coincide with the Olympics.

This is the main idea, to connect the championship with the parallel events that will be organized in London for the Olympic Games. This is very important for chess.

To be continued…

Stay tuned for the second part of the interview with the FIDE Deputy President Georgious Makropoulos as well as information, interviews, and photos from the venue. The only thing that we will not be provided is interviews with Anand team, as Mr. Hans-Walter Schmitt (who is representing the team from India), is politely declining interviews and statements. We respect Anand’s wish to maintain privacy before the match start.

Fide logo

Topalov about the World Chess Championship with Anand

Interview with Topalov before WCC 2010


The big match in chess came closer – next week Veselin Topalov will challenge the title of the World Champion Vishwanathan Anand (India). The 12 games will be played at the Military Club in Sofia.

The winner gets 1.2 million euro, the loser – 800 000. Topalov is already in sofia, taking about the match, the opponent and something more…

Topalov and Anand have very different styles. While Anand has hidden from media in order to concentrate, Topalov is not declining interviews. Here is the latest one for Trud daily cited by Topsport.

- Once again you are in the big game for the title. What is you sixth sense?

- Before such a match I always have the feeling, that I am well prepared. However, whether this is true or not will be found out at the game. Maybe for the previous match in Elista I was a bit better physically, but this hardly matters any more.

- Appart from the location and the opponent, what is different from that battle with Kramnik?

- After all Anand is a true champion, he is balanced and is a games wining machine in all types of chess – blind, blitz, classic… He is not a genius, but rather a natural talent, born for chess. He manages to play fast and without mistakes, while I play slow and well.

- In which component of the game do you expect the battle to be resolved? Or is it a matter of playing on the nerves between two equal opponents?

- One cannot say that we are equal, we are different. He is a complex player and has only slightly noticeable weaknesses, which show depending on the situation. Sometimes also he makes mistakes.

- Are you now smarter after the scandalous match in Elista?

- That was my first long duel and I had the problem of trying too hard. This is exactly what I am trying to avoid right now. During the last few days I have been training on a light regime because the battle will be really on the nerves and I have to conserve energy.

- You surprised by taking a Czech person in the team. Do you expect Anand to pull something out of his back pocket?

- I do not know his squad, but the winning team should not be changed. I suppose that the people who helped him win Kramnik for the title in Bonn are probably going to be here.

- Do you expect any caprices on his side?

- I do not think so. The organization is at such a high level, there will be no ground. But if someone is looking to provoke, he will manage to find something to do so with.

- Can it be said that this is your biggest battle in chess?

- In 2004 of the world championship in Lyberia I reached the semifinal, played very well but lost. And I said to myself – I lost the battle of my life, everything is over. But, as I can see it, I have another chance to become a champion.

- Not too long ago Anatoly Karpov said that it is time for someone to put an end to the chaos in chess, to the fact that the names of the current champions are not known and that the money has become less. Is he right?

- I suppose he has in mind the constant changes done by FIDE. This way the players cannot make plans and to some extent creates chaos. However, on the other side the number of tournaments has augmented and so have the prize funds. And it is as if there is no logic, only chaos, but it does not affect chess in a bad manner. The situation is a little peculiar, but life became dynamic, and there are changes in other sports as well. 20 years ago only two people won a lot of money – Gary Kasparov and Karpov. Now more players have the chance to earn well from chess and even to become quite wealthy.

- Are you a wealthy man?

- It depends on who do you compare we with. If it is with Abramovich, I am not. But I have enough not to be worried about my retirement. And I do not need the money from the game, which is not little, to buy something and they are not going to change my life. I do not need a Lamborgini and yachts, I do not need unnecessary luxury.

- Is there something you would throw a lot of money on, just like that, for fun and enjoyment?

- I have to remember (long pause)… No, there is not. I afford myself some luxuries, but I know how to control myself. I said about the Lamborghini. I can, for example, buy really expensive cars, but I do not do it. I do not see the point. I am happy with my life.

- And how do you see yourself in life after chess?

- (againg pause). Frankly speaking, I do not have an answer to this question. Apart from chess, I do not have another specialty . I know languages, but this alone does not give work.

- Maybe the “Topalov Academy” for young talent, why not?

- I doublt it. Now with computers the chess changed so much that one coach, whoever he/she might be, can give little advice. Many of the young talents work alone with computer software programs. The most current example is the break up between the leader in rank Magnus Carlsen with Kasparov. Therefore, I will not be teaching kids how to play. I can give advice.

- And do you see yourself in the shoes of Viktor Korchnoy, who is 79 and still plays?

- Also not. I deeply respect Korchnoy, he really loves chess and plays for pleasure. Just like I do. But I would not do as he does.

- If you win the title, would you bet it again, as with Kramnik?

- Absolutely. Together with my manager , Silvio Danailov, we believe that the champion should have only economic advantage, by winning more funds. And everything should be proven on the chessboard, where should be not advantage.

- Danailov is going on another battle – to become chief of the European chess…

- Silvio and I started 20 years ago by playing on tournaments in Spain and look at us now. As a private person he has done a whole lot – matches for the world title, the Mtel Masters tournament, he created the grand slam… and this was done by him alone. Imagine if he is backed by an organization as the European Chess Union. With his ideas he changed chess a lot, but I would say that he made chess better.

Interview with GM Ivan Sokolov

Tournament director of the 2010 Bosna Open

Bosna Open

The 40th International Chess Tournament “Bosna 2010″ will be held under the patronage of Canton of Sarajevo and Government of Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina from May 5 until May 14, 2010, in the organisation of the Chess Club “Bosna” Sarajevo.

The Tournament will be based on Swiss system in accordance of The FIDE Laws of Chess, rate of play is 90 min for 40 moves + 30 min for the rest of the moves with 30 sec additional time for each move from the move one. Scoring will be, as follows: win = 3 points, draw = 1 point, loss = 0 point.

The Chessdom editor had the pleasure to speak with GM Ivan Sokolov, the tournament director. Sokolov is a top Grandmaster, who had won many important tournaments and has victories against Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik under the belt. It seemed improbable that an active top player will dive into the organizational waters.

Naturally, the first questions was why would he give up playing in the tournament. “Since the Bosna tournament’s revival in 1998, I have played every year, except maybe one. This time, we decided to change the format and allow more players in.” – says Ivan Sokolov, – “I was helping in tournament’s preparation and promotion. I think we did a good job”.

Bosna 2010 official website

Chessdom: Why would you suddenly change the playing format from round-robin to Swiss open?

Ivan Sokolov: For quite some years we had six-player double round robin. This format becomes increasingly popular, but we have noted some drawbacks. The most important is that that kind of format makes the event somewhat boring for the observers. There are only three games per round and simply too many draws. And even if the players are really fighting, trying hard, draws are very probable in such a small pool of players, with close ratings and strength.

Chessdom: Have you thought about expanding the field while keeping the round robin structure?

Ivan Sokolov: Certainly, but what would be an ideal round robin which is also interesting for the audience? Perhaps 14 players like in Wijk aan Zee, but that simply costs too much. So we decided to make a huge open tournament and allow more players to get in and take a shot at the big prizes.

Ivan Sokolov

GM Ivan Sokolov

Chessdom: Can you say what are the ambitions of the organizers?

Ivan Sokolov: We want to try something new and at the same time make a big open, which will be in the rank of Aeroflot or Philadelphia Open. The prize fund is very rich, total of EUR 109.800, with 20.000 reserved for the first place. There are also big prizes for the lower rating groups, two times 5.000 EUR for best result in the respective sections (16.800 total in each), in addition to big U2200, women and junior prizes. But we did not split the groups physically, everyone will play in one big tournament. From the bigger pool, there are better chances for winning norms, and the lower-rated players and amateurs will have the usual chance to match against a titled player at least in the first round.

Our other main ambition is to make the tournament more interesting for the players and followers alike. That is why we have introduced a different, football-like scoring system (3-1-0 for win, draw, loss). There are many possibilities to prevent quick and boring draws, like Sofia rules or some related setting, but we have opted to alter the scoring, which of course, is also not new to the chess world.

The idea is to avoid several typical scenarios. For example, a strong player has a crushing start and wins first five games. Then he quickly draws next four and with seven points perhaps even shares a first place. With this scoring system, such plan for the top placement will not really work, and the player will be encouraged to fight for three points in each game until the end. Another example is when a strong player arrives tired from the long travel, or other tournament, or starts with a loss for any other reason. In the usual environment, the race would be pretty much over for him as it is very difficult to recover and catch up. But with 3-1-0, there will be an incentive to push for a few wins and reach the top again.

Of course, all this is still a brave innovation and we will see how it works in practice.

Chessdom: As you are now not only a player, but can also speak from the organizational point of view, how did the global crisis affect the chess world?

Ivan Sokolov: Last week I read on your website that the Mtel Masters is canceled. I don’t know if this is the consequence of the crisis or the new management has different plans. Chess is probably affected, but I wouldn’t say it’s too much, because chess is very cheap compared to other sports. I would say that chess events run into problems because of two reasons – inexperienced or amateur organizers and poor marketing. Chess can be a very attractive game but only if we make it that way. By “we” I count both organizers and players.

The players choose safety, to preserve ratings which would provide invitations and steady income, and nobody can blame them for that. The change should come from the other end, the organizers should encourage players to play sharper and be more attractive for the public and the sponsors. We have included some changes and we believe it will work well.

We have also tackled the other problem – marketing. We do everything possible to please the players and prepare a fantastic stay in Sarajevo. It started with an online qualifier on the Internet Chess Club, with a chance for players from all over the world to win the prizes. 1500 people played in various stages and finally after elimination GM Mikhail Panarin won the first prize, worth U.S. $350, direct registration to 40th International chess tournament “Bosna 2010″ with the paid entry fee, accommodation costs and flight ticket.

Then we have reached an agreement with the organizers of Corus supertournament in Wijk aan Zee to provide an invitation for the winner of the 40th International Chess Tournament “Bosna 2010″. People from Corus reserve the right to choose in which group they will seed our winner.

The players will be able to ask for a “bye” (with certain restrictions), take one point (like for a draw) and use the rest day for sightseeing or other activities in Sarajevo.

Finally, and perhaps most important, we have various actions with discounts for the interested players. There were two special discounts on entry fee an accommodation costs, first on 14-18th March and then again for Easter on 2-10th April. Currently active is the great promotion for groups of three chess players that will together apply to participate at the tournament. Discount consists in the fact that group of 3 chess players pays 2 entry fees by the principle “3 for 2″.

Read more on the official website