Kasparov-Ponomariov Match in the Unification Cycle of the World Championship
Thursday, 16 January 2003 00:00
We reproduce below copy of the letter dated 12 January 2003 from World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov addressed to the FIDE President H.E. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and FIDE’s reaction to this open letter...
Lausanne, 16 January 2003
To All National Federations
To All Members of Executive Board
To Members of the Press
We reproduce below copy of the letter dated 12 January 2003 from World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov addressed to the FIDE President H.E. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and FIDE`s reaction to this open letter, which follows:
English translation of the fax from World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov to the FIDE President dated 12 January 2003.
Wijk aan Zee, 12 January 2003
Dear Mr. President,
I write to inform you that in Wijk aan Zee, Holland, 11-12 January 2003, there had been my meeting with FIDE Deputy President G. Makropoulos and Vice President Z. Azmaiparashvili. Unfortunately, despite the requests of myself and the Ukrainian Chess Federation to provide us with the official minutes of the decisions of the FIDE General Assembly in Bled (November 2002), in respect of the Unification cycle of the World Championships and the Prague Agreement, these documents were not received by me and the Ukrainian Chess Federation. In my opinion, it is necessary to work out a bilateral agreement between myself in my capacity as World Champion and FIDE, regarding the participation in the match Ponomariov-Kasparov of the unification cycle of the world championship. I demand that the standard international legal norms are strictly followed as I share with FIDE the large responsibility for the process of the unification of the chess world.
Unfortunately, a number of previous projects by FIDE has been unrealised. The official FIDE Grand Prix 2002 was interrupted after 2 stages instead of 5 as was supposed to be. The match between FIDE World Champion and World Champion among computer programs has not been organised. There is no clarity regarding the next World Championship cycle. So far there is a draft of the World Championship cycle 2003-2005, which has not been approved.
Unfortunately, I was not consulted in my capacity as World Champion, during the discussions and signing of the Prague Agreement. The Wijk aan Zee meeting was supposed to promote further progress on the way to the realization of the unification process. However, I would like to draw the attention of Mr. President that in the future I would appreciate very much if we could avoid such negotiations during the period of my participation in the tournaments.
From my side, I once again confirm my dedication to the Prague agreements and my readiness to meet in the match with the FIDE official challenger Mr. Garry Kasparov.
It is clear from the last paragraph of this letter of 12 January 2003, a letter which is full of contradictions, that World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov has again confirmed his acceptance of the Prague Agreement and his readiness to play the World Championship match with his challenger Grandmaster Garry Kasparov. While the World Champion by this statement would want to give the impression of his willingness to cooperate with FIDE in accepting the Prague Agreement and playing the consequent World Championship match with Kasparov, his actions are in our view, clearly contrary to this statement.
In the first paragraph of his letter, the World Champion states that he met with FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos and Vice President Zurab Azmaiparashvili. Continuing in this first paragraph, the World Champion claims that the Ukrainian Chess Federation and himself were not provided with the official Minutes of the FIDE General Assembly in Bled in respect of the unification cycle of the World Championships and the Prague Agreement. Nothing can be further from the truth. In an earlier letter dated 5 January 2003 to the President of FIDE, the World Champion stated that he was prepared to confirm the declaration by his representative at the FIDE General Assembly in Bled, Mr. Silvio Danailov, that "I fully support the Prague Agreement and that I am prepared to participate in the unification cycle of the FIDE World Championship". He continued by stating that "neither me nor the Ukrainian Chess Federation received the written decisions of the FIDE General Assembly in Bled, although we received its Agenda". It is necessary to stress at this juncture that the Agenda of the FIDE General Assembly clearly contained the full legal text of the Prague Agreement. It also contained as Annexes, the Minutes of the GM Steering Committee meetings and the proposals of Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan, who held consultations with various interests to the Prague Agreement.
In spite of the fact that GM Ponomariov was represented at the Bled General Assembly by his Manager and in spite of the fact that the outcome of the meeting regarding these issues is well-known to those who attended the meeting, FIDE by its letter of 7 January 2003 made available the extract of the Minutes of the General Assembly, which dealt with the specific issue of the Prague Agreement as well as the future cycles of the World Championships under and by virtue of the said agreement. This document was sent by fax to the Ukrainian Chess Federation and by email to Mr. Ponomariov and his manager Mr. Danailov. Mr. Ponomariov`s fax was not functioning at the time the documents were transmitted to the Ukraine and FIDE took the further step of calling Mr. Danailov, to inform him that the documents in question had been faxed to the Ukrainian Chess Federation. In this letter of 7th January 2003, FIDE took one more conciliatory step by arranging a meeting, to enable Mr. Ponomariov clarify any questions in respect of the Ponomariov-Kasparov World Championship Match regulations, which have since been approved by the FIDE Presidential Board in accordance with the decision of the FIDE General Assembly in Bled.
In our letter of 29 December 2002 and in previous discussions between the World Chess Championship Committee represented by FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos and Vice President Zurab Azmaiparashvili with Ponomariov`s manager in Bled during the General Assembly and subsequently, it was clear that there were the following principles of the Prague Agreement:
1. a World Championship match to be held between World Champion R. Ponomariov and the highest rated player (GM Garry Kasparov).
2. a match for the unified World Championship between the winner of the Kramnik-Leko match and the winner of the Ponomariov-Kasparov match under 1 above.
3. a subsequent cycle for the World Championship.
It was always clear from the action of the members of the World Championship Committee and FIDE that in implementing the principles of the Prague agreement they were always prepared to welcome at every stage of the matches, the input of the potential and actual candidates without compromising the very principles of the agreement and the clear goals established by the FIDE General Assembly in Bled and in previous meetings.
During the meeting over dinner between Mr. Ponomariov and FIDE officials in Wijk aan Zee on 11th January 2003, it was obvious that he had received a copy of the originals of the Minutes of the FIDE General Assembly. In discussions with FIDE officials he was informed that they had the original copies of the Minutes as certified by the Executive Director. At an earlier meeting scheduled for the evening of the 10th January 2003 World Champion Ponomariov refused to show up and refused to take phone calls that were made to his room some five minutes after the reception at the Hotel confirmed that Mr. Ponomariov had just arrived at the hotel and was on his way to his room.
It is therefore unfortunate that the World Champion has put in writing that he never got copies of the Minutes, when in fact he had received copies of the originals in Wijk aan Zee, even if the argument could be accepted that he never bothered to look at his email or that the Ukrainian Chess Federation, which is now supporting the behaviour of its player, had in fact failed to communicate to their player the contents of an important fax sent from FIDE with the extract of the Minutes of the FIDE General Assembly. It is also on record that the Ukrainian Chess Federation did not express any reservations about the Prague Agreement and the decisions taken thereon by the General Assembly in Bled. We can indeed confirm from a telephone conversation on 14 January with the Ukrainian Chess Federation that a copy of this fax, which contained inter alia, copy of the extracts of the minutes of the FIDE General Assembly in question, was actually handed over to Mr. Ponomariov before he left Kiev for Wijk aan Zee.
In the second paragraph of his letter of 12th January 2003, the World Champion is claiming that there is no clarity regarding the next World Championship cycle. What the World Champion has failed to state, is that he has deliberately refused all efforts by the Deputy President of FIDE and the members of the World Chess Championship Committee to meet with him both before the General Assembly in Bled and after the Assembly. For 2 months Mr. Makropoulos and members of his Committee have tried several times to meet with Mr. Ponomariov to no avail. During the Olympiad, when the players are known not to play every round, they tried to meet with Mr. Ponomariov and he refused to meet with them. Even during the meeting of the General Assembly Mr. Makropoulos had asked Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan if he had discussed his proposals on the Prague Agreement with Mr. Ponomariov and he was informed that this had not been done. It was precisely for this reason that Deputy President G. Makropoulos with the approval of the FIDE President offered to meet with World Champion Ponomariov. It is now clear from his recent actions that the World Champion was deliberately avoiding a meeting to discuss the details of the Prague Agreement and the future of the World Championship. Even after the decision of the General Assembly and in spite of meetings with his manager in Bled, Deputy President Makropoulos offered to travel to the Ukraine to meet with the World Champion and all such offers were rebuffed. However, following several discussions with Mr. Silvio Danailov it became clear that World Champion Ponomariov was making four demands:
1. The postponement of the match from May till after the 15th of June 2003.
2. Splitting of the prize fund on a 50-50 basis.
3. That his World Championship match with G. Kasparov should be played with the new FIDE time control.
4. That he should be allowed to retain the title in the event of a draw.
FIDE`s reaction to these requests :
1. The President, in consultation with the World Championship Committee, approved Mr. Ponomariov`s request for the dates to be postponed until after 15 June 2003.
2. On the idea to split the prize money 50-50, a compromise was found to further reduce the 60-40 ratio in the regulations to 55-45 between winner and loser, while still maintaining the sporting principles that the winner should earn more for his efforts.
3. In consultations with the manager of the World Champion, members of the World Championship Committee had asked if the issue of time control was of utmost importance and were informed that Ponomariov`s camp would prefer the new FIDE time control. While preferring the new time control, for which it had received criticisms in the media and from many leading Grandmasters and Federations, FIDE nevertheless decided to support the request for the old classical time control because this was one of the main points of discussion in the Prague Agreement.
4. It has always been clear since the introduction of the new World Championship Regulations including the regulations under which Mr. Ponomariov became World Champion that FIDE has always insisted as a matter of principle, that the World Champion should not enjoy any special sporting privileges. Indeed, he was required as a rule, to play with other top players from the early rounds and there was no provision whatsoever for him to retain his title in the event of a tie, hence the introduction of the tiebreak system.
Through the years, our position of principle has always been that the World Championship title belonged to FIDE. As a further step towards this, the FIDE General Assembly since its 1997 meeting in Kishinev established the principle that no special advantages should be reserved for the World Champion. The one singular achievement of the Prague Agreement, a fact which was openly acknowledged by World No 1 player Grandmaster Garry Kasparov at the FIDE General Assembly in Bled, is the fact that the top players have now accepted the fact that the World Championship title belonged to FIDE. It is also clear from our statutes that although a change in the existing cycle of a World Championship is not to be encouraged, our General Assembly has powers to do so if a two- thirds majority vote is in support of such a decision. In Bled we had unanimity (with no objection or abstention) from the General Assembly to support the Prague Agreement with the consequential changes to the World Championship cycle. We again repeat that the Chess Federation of the Ukraine did not protest or raise any objection when the General Assembly took the decision to support the Prague agreement as well as the consequential changes to the World Championship cycle.
Let there be no doubt in anyone`s mind that FIDE did not make any efforts to contact its World Champion. Deputy President Makropoulos` efforts during the Olympiad, to meet with World Champion Ponomariov were rejected by the World Champion before the meeting of the General Assembly in Bled. After two meetings in Bled with Mr. Ponomariov`s manager, efforts were still made to meet with Mr. Ponomariov in the Ukraine. At the same time, the proposed regulations for the World Championship match between Ponomariov and Kasparov were communicated to the players and their managers as far back as 26 November 2002 for their input. While no formal communication was received from the World Champion, in various discussions with his Manager it became obvious that he was making four demands which we again repeat below for purposes of clarity; namely, the deferment of the date for the match from the earlier schedule of May 2003 to a date after 15 June 2003, the splitting of the prize fund on a 50-50 basis, that the match should be played under the new FIDE time control and that he should be allowed to retain the title in the event of a 6-6 tie. In all these discussions, the World Champion either failed or refused to agree to meet with FIDE officials, where any outstanding questions could have been clarified, especially during the 2 months since Bled, when he was not continuosly engaged in playing chess tournaments.
We note from the letter of the World Champion that he states that he would not like to hold such discussions as the issue of the unification matches under the Prague agreement when he is involved in events such as the Corus tournament but based on the consistent refusals of the World Champion to meet with Mr. Makropoulos and members of his committee in the past 2 months, we are at a loss as to when the World Champion is prepared to meet with FIDE officials. Indeed in one of his interviews on the Corus tournament World Champion Ponomariov tried to give the impression that his loss to Evgeny Bareev in the first round on the 11th of January was due to the undue pressure from FIDE officials. What Ponomariov failed to mention was that he actually met with the two FIDE officials over dinner after his loss to Bareev and that it was only after this meeting that he went on to beat Kramnik the next day!
As FIDE could no longer continue to wait indefinitely for Mr. Ponomariov`s formal input to the proposed regulations for his match with Kasparov or a meeting with its Deputy President before the end of the year, a formal letter of 29 December 2002 was written to the World Champion informing him and Grandmaster Garry Kasparov them of the approval given by the FIDE President for the Regulations to be amended with the following terms:
1. The match shall be held after 15 June 2003 at a venue and date to be approved by FIDE.
2. The prize fund for the match is USD 1,000,000 and it is to be distributed as follows: 55% to the winner and 45% to the loser. In the event of a 6-6 tie, the prize fund shall be distributed on a 50-50 basis, irrespective of the outcome of the tiebreaks.
3. The time control for the match shall be 40 moves in two hours followed by 20 moves in one hour and 15 minutes plus additional 30 seconds per move till the end of the game.
4. A schedule incorporating a rest day after every 2 rounds of play to replace the previous schedule.
Both players were required to sign the declaration that they will play the match and fax this declaration to reach the FIDE Secretariat before midnight of 31 December 2002. Grandmaster Kasparov signalled his intention to play the match by signing his letter and faxing it back to FIDE as requested. Mr. Ponomariov on the other hand, through his manager informed FIDE that he did not receive the declaration. The Secretariat faxed back a copy of the letter and the attached declaration to the World Champion and gave the World Champion until midnight of 4th of January 2003 as requested by his manager, to fax it back FIDE. It is also necessary to mention the intervention of the FIDE President in his email message to the World Champion of 29th December 2002 and the effort made before the deadline on 31st December 2002, by the FIDE Executive Director who was convalescing in Cairo after his illness, when in a close to 30 minute telephone conversation with the Manager of the World Champion, he tried in vain to convince Grandmaster Ponomariov to sign the declaration.
In all these incidents effort was made to explain to the World Champion of the need for him to sign the declaration as a clear sign of his intention to play this match. It was also made clear to Mr. Ponomariov`s camp that as was the case in 1975 and 1993, FIDE has well-established rules for replacing a World Champion who refuses to defend his title. In spite of all these, the World Champion was given the last opportunity by FIDE`s letter of 7 January 2003 to formally accept to play the match by signing the declaration on or before midnight 10th January 2003. Even when Mr. Ponomariov failed to meet with the FIDE officials on 10th January 2003, Deputy President Makropoulos with the approval of the FIDE President obtained more time until his departure from Wijk aan Zee on 13 January 2003, all to no avail.
Even at the risk of sounding repetitious, we would like to draw attention to the fact that FIDE did not just wake up to issue these ultimatums to the World Champion. Effort was made to persuade him to submit his formal acceptance of the regulations for the match by 30 December 2002 as announced by the FIDE President. In our letter of 29 December 2002 FIDE gave both players a deadline until 31 December 2002. GM G. Kasparov complied by signing the declaration. In an email dated 3 January 2003, the World Champion`s manager asked for the documents to be resent to Mr. Ponomariov ostensibly on the grounds that he had problems with his server. FIDE complied with this request as well as their plea for an extension of time until midnight 4 January 2003. On the 5th of January 2003 the World Champion wrote to the President asking for the Minutes of the FIDE General Assembly in Bled in relation to the Prague Agreement and the World Championship cycle. In our letter of 7 January 2003 FIDE provided Mr. Ponomariov with the said minutes and made available the certified original copies to FIDE Vice President Z. Azmaiparashvili in Wijk aan Zee. Meanwhile, the World Champion was requested to sign the declaration to be faxed back to the FIDE Secretariat on or before midnight 10 January 2003. Deputy President G. Makropoulos obtained more time from the FIDE President to try to convince the World Champion before his departure from Wijk aan Zee on 13 January 2003 without any result.
In between these deadlines, what we kept hearing from the World Champion`s camp include statements that the Minutes of the General Assembly are not formal enough and that faxes and emails from FIDE are not to be considered as authentic legal documents. FIDE did not hear this argument when Mr. Ponomariov took the first step to compete for the World Championship he eventually won last year in Moscow. As if this legalistic pursuit was not enough, the World Champion on various occasions failed or refused to meet to hold any meaningful discussion with FIDE officials.
It must be further stressed that as a non profit making organisation, FIDE can at best continue to rely on the goodwill of sponsors to support its programmes, therefore, the unfortunate attempt by the World Champion to connect his failure to sign the declaration that he will play the World Championship match with the fact that two out of five tournaments were organised under the Grand Prix or that a match between the World Champion and the computer has not been organised can only be seen as a great disservice or ingratitude to an organisation, which has nurtured him as World Champion. In spite of the indisputable personal efforts of the FIDE President in sponsoring FIDE and the World Championships to the tune of millions of dollars, experience has shown that chess is after all dependable on market forces and the realities of the global economy, for its sponsorships.
FIDE cannot continue to wait indefinitely for a World Champion, who on the one hand, claims that he is prepared to accept the principles of the Prague Agreement, and that he is ready to defend his title against GM G. Kasparov, and on the other hand, fails to meet with its officials or even sign the declaration that he will play the match. In order not to be held hostage any more and in order to avoid any misunderstandings, the President of FIDE is holding consultations with members of the Presidential Board and shall announce the Board`s decision in due course.
Gens una sumus