General Aug 26, 2014 | 3:36 PMby Tarjei Svensen

Carlsen refuses to rush World Championship decision

Magnus Carlsen with his manager Espen Agdestein before the Norway Chess tournament earlier this year | photo: Ole Kristian Strøm, VG

“Carlsen may lose World Championship title” was the shocking headline in some Norwegian papers on Monday. After the day's developments, we are getting closer to a match for the World Championship title without the current champion.

by Tarjei J. Svensen

Last week chess24 reported that Magnus Carlsen had requested a postponement of the World Championship match in Sochi against challenger Viswanathan Anand. The match is scheduled to start on November 7, just over two months from now. FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov immediately rejected the request at a press conference, stating that “a postponement is not possible”.

Agdestein: "We are still in dialogue with FIDE"

On Monday NRK broke the news that the World Champion's manager, Espen Agdestein, has informed FIDE that Carlsen will not make a decision on whether to sign the World Championship contract until after September 7th. That date is the last day of the Sinquefield Cup, exactly two months before the match is supposed to begin.

Agdestein explained Team Carlsen’s standpoint to chess24:

We have been, and still are, in a dialogue with FIDE, but now Magnus needs to put all his focus on the tournament in St. Louis.

A concern may not only be the preparation of the players, but for the press and TV stations that may get limited time to prepare their coverage properly. Norwegian TV has already expressed interest in broadcasting the World Championship matches for the next ten years and some of the main newspapers want to have their own studio for the event. 

Team Carlsen and his manager have always considered media coverage to be of great importance in order to promote chess. For the match in Chennai last year everything was ready and announced two months before the match and Carlsen even had time to inspect the venue in advance. 

Agdestein commented to NRK:

We think it's unfortunate to force a decision, because there have been many uncertainties around Sochi and the match.

One major concern is the political situation in Russia, since the country is in the middle of an international conflict.

Carlsen left Oslo for St. Louis on Sunday. The World Champion will take part in what is arguably the strongest tournament in history, the Sinquefield Cup, which starts on Wednesday.

In our previous story, Agdestein was quoted as saying that they “would like the prize fund to be as high as for the last match”. It was also reported that Team Carlsen was asking for a cut of the TV rights. However, Carlsen’s manager told chess24 that neither the reduced prize fund nor a cut of the TV rights have had much influence on their decision to ask for a postponement.

FIDE themselves are yet to give any details about the prize fund and who the sponsor is, but according to Agdestein the amount is said to be around 8.5 million NOK (1.04 million euros). More information about the still mysterious AGON company, which holds the rights to the World Championship cycle, has yet to be released. 

FIDE to replace Carlsen with Karjakin?

FIDE has not publicly announced a deadline for when the signed player contracts must be returned. However, according to the World Championship regulations, FIDE can replace Carlsen for the match if the Norwegian fails to sign the contract by their deadline.

Sergey Karjakin during the last round of this year's Chess Olympiad | photo: David Llada

Sergey Karjakin, who finished second in the Candidates, is first in line and may be given the opportunity to face Anand in a match for the World Championship title on his home soil in Russia. That might mean a chance for Ilyumzhinov’s wish before the opening ceremony of this year’s Candidates Tournament to come true after all:

Let’s pray that the chess crown returns to Russia.

Karjakin himself told RBK Sport that although he thought the scenario was unlikely he would play the World Championship match if the opportunity arose:

To be honest I don't really believe in such a turn of events. I can't imagine that Magnus would refuse to play a match only because it takes place in Russia. After all, Carlsen has played a lot of tournaments in our country. But if we assume that happens then of course I'd prepare for a match against Anand.

Another curiosity is that if Sergey Karjakin was unable or unwilling to play Anand's opponent would be determined by the January 2014 rating list, meaning world no. 2 Levon Aronian would be the next in line.

ACP President fears a new split of the chess world

In a new open letter from Emil Sutovsky to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the Association of Chess Professionals President raises the spectre of the chess world becoming divided again, as it did when Nigel Short and Garry Kasparov refused to play a match under the auspices of FIDE in 1993. Before sharing concerns about the FIDE Grand Prix series and the Women's World Championship he has the following to say about the upcoming World Championship match:

We all know, that it took a lot of time and effort to find a venue and funding for the World Championship Match. Finally it was announced that the Match will be staged in Sochi, Russia. In the absence of other bids, the prize fund was decreased almost by 50% , compared to the last World Championship Match, but, no less importantly, there are still quite a few uncertainties regarding the Match, that led to a deadlock - as a result, the contracts have not been signed so far. Unfortunately, I have to admit, that even being a member of the Commission for World Championships and Olympiads of FIDE (hereinafter referred as WCOC), yours truly is not updated with the real situation, and greatly concerned about the lack of transparency and the possible consequences.

Mr. President, I call you to make everything possible in order to resolve all the disagreements, and not to let the chess world divide, as it happened in the recent past.


UPDATE: FIDE responds and confirms deadline

In an interview with NRK on Wednesday, FIDE Vice President Israel Gelfer confirmed that Carlsen will lose his title if he doesn't sign the contract before the end of the week.

Espen has sent me a letter asking for a postponement. He has received a reply from me and the FIDE president that it's not possible. It's impossible to give them more time. It's only two months until the match starts. With all due respect to the World Champion, we can't wait several weeks.

Gelfer argues that the sponsor may withdraw if the contracts aren't signed on time, and also mentions problems with FIDE's calendar.

It can put the match in danger. We hope they will understand this. Hopefully they will sign the contract. There is no logical reason to postpone this decision.

Gelfer also confirmed that Karjakin is next in line should Carlsen not sign the contract.

I hope that won't happen. But if he doesn't sign, the rules state that Sergey Karjakin will replace him. I am just reading the rules for you and I hope that won't happen. Agdestein and Carlsen are reasonable people. I hope they understand this.

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