Let's start with the Candidates Tournament. You opened it in the middle of March, exactly on the day the Ministry of Sport of the Russian Federation issued an order imposing severe restrictions on sports events in the country. Do you have any regrets about your decision to run this event? After all, you had to put in on hold halfway through.
Arkady Dvorkovich: I have no regrets. It was a conscious decision. I personally weighed all the factors that had to be taken into consideration before the event. First and foremost, it was about chess fans all around the world as so many people were looking forward to watching this competition. I was 100% sure that we would provide the health security of all the participants and people involved in the organization of this tournament. It was a critical factor. Besides, it was very important not to disrupt the World Championship cycle and to do our best to keep to the schedule. Another key factor was providing equal rights and conditions for all the participants. For example, Ding Liren arrived in Russia in advance on March 1, to get the required 14-day quarantine. Had we failed to ensure his participation in the Candidates Tournament (the decision was being made at the end of February) the entire event would have been in question.
The final line-up was formed 10 days before the event. All the participants reaffirmed their willingness to contend for the chess crown. We did not have sound reasons to postpone the tournament.
Some participants, for example, Alexander Grischuk complained about the atmosphere and the problems with concentration during the games. Were you aware of that?
A.D.: First of all, there were no official complaints. We quickly reacted to all requests, made many concessions, took into considerations even tiny details to create a comfortable psychological atmosphere. Don’t forget, that all the players are real professionals.
Allow me to remind you about the order by the Ministry of Sport of the Russian Federation. Essentially, this order canceled all the sports competitions in Russia, didn't it?
A.D.: The Candidates Tournament is not a mass sport event as there were only eight players participating. It was not affected by these restrictions. We were in constant contact with regional authorities, the Ministry of Sports of the Russian Federation and Rospotrebnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare) regarding the event and got the green light.
I understand that it is very hard to make projections right now. Do you have any scenarios regarding the completion of the event – plan A, plan B, and plan C?
A.D.: We do. Plan A – the optimistic scenario – is to hold the second part of the event in August or September. Many experts believe that this is a realistic timeframe bearing in mind how the situation with the COVID-19 has been evolving. We might return to normal life by the middle or the end of the summer. In this case, the winner of the Candidates Tournament will have enough time for thorough preparation for the World Championship match – approximately 3 months. But again, this is an optimistic scenario, under which the title match will be held in December of 2020 as planned.
Are there less optimistic scenarios?
A.D.: A less optimistic plan is to move the entire cycle a few months later. However, this is an undesirable alternative for us. We believe that the first, optimistic scenario can materialize.
Let me clarify just in case. Will the second part of the Candidates be held in Yekaterinburg?
A.D.: It will. I see no obstacles. We have the confirmation from our key partners, SIMA Land company and the regional authorities. They expressed their willingness to hold the second part of the event in Yekaterinburg. Naturally, if some other location wants to host it, we will consider such a request. At present, Yekaterinburg remains our priority.
Let’s return to the World Championship match. Will it be held in Dubai in December as you mentioned before?
A.D.: We hope it will take place in December in Dubai. In the case of force-majeure, we will be considering the alternatives. Presently, our partners are still willing to hold this match.
If there is any contract?
A.D.: We agreed on the terms. It remains just to sign the contract.
At the beginning of the year, FIDE published the terms and conditions of bidding for the right to hold the World Championship match. One of the key conditions was a guaranteed prize fund of at least €2,000,000. Is this condition met?
Why Dubai, exactly?
A.D.: The idea came about several months ago in connection with EXPO-2020 that will be held in this city. The World Expo will provide maximum interest to the venue. Plus, its theme – The Global Mind – is consonant with chess. We entered into the negotiations and reached a mutual understanding. Dubai was not the only bidder. We considered several options but Dubai looks the most attractive one.
I am a little concerned that you are going to hold the title match as part of EXPO. Do you think it might downgrade the event, make it some sort of a side order to the main course?
A.D.: Of course not. This match is not a part of EXPO, we will just use its platform. It will be one of the central events of this period, which is going to attract the maximum audience.
In other words, you are confident that this symbiosis will increase the exposure of the match.
You already mentioned that in the best-case scenario there would be three months between the completion of the Candidates tournament and the start of the World Championship match. Indeed, it is enough for the participants to prepare for the competition, but is it a sufficient period to promote and advertise the match? Previously this process took twice as long.
A.D.: We will start to promote the match as soon as the contract is signed, plain and simple. If it happens shortly, we will have enough time. On the other hand, our partners might postpone the match, but even in this case, we will also have plenty of time. We have no concerns about it.
Are you in contract with the titleholder Magnus Carlsen, the central figure of the World Championship match? What does he think about the whole situation? It sounds like he is not much worried about it.
A.D.: We keep in touch with Magnus and his father. He reacted positively to our decision to hold the Candidates Tournament as an effort to preserve chess life in this complicated period and supported our initiative. As for the dates of the World Championship match, we held consultations with Magnus in advance. He had no objections.