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