With just two and a half months before Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand are supposed to begin their World Championship match in Sochi, several unanswered questions remain. Where in Sochi will the match take place? How much is the prize fund? Which mysterious company has bought the rights for the match and who owns it?
by Tarjei J. Svensen
In several Norwegian news reports Team Carlsen has made it clear that the match is running into time trouble and that they would like to get more information from FIDE.
As chess24 reported on June 13th, Carlsen’s manager Espen Agdestein said he heard news about Sochi through media reports. At the moment, the only official information from FIDE on its website dates from June 11th.
During the Chess Olympiad in Tromsø, however, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov made it clear that the match will take place in the Russian Olympic city and start on November 7th as planned. He told the Norwegian paper Dagbladet:
We have already sent the contracts to Carlsen and Anand. They have checked them and will now send their representatives to Sochi to choose hotels. Only technical details remain.
Today the Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported that FIDE had been contacted by Carlsen’s team about the match. At a press conference in Moscow, Ilyumzhinov commented:
I received a letter from Carlsen’s manager asking to postpone the match. I want to stress that the issue raised is not about the venue, but simply a request to postpone the match. However, FIDE has already officially responded that a postponement is not possible.
Ilyumzhinov says that the match is already scheduled for November 7th and that a postponement will cause a clash with other events on FIDE's calendar.
It was perhaps not a surprise that FIDE came up with a Russian city after receiving no proposals before the bidding deadline expired on April 30th. However, Team Carlsen made it clear that the city that hosted the Winter Olympics earlier this year is not their favourite choice as a World Championship venue.
When Garry Kasparov appeared on the official live broadcast of the Chess Olympiad he claimed that if he won the election and became the new FIDE president he would find a "proper" new venue and prize fund within 45 days. He also said he would move the match to spring 2015 (after 2:35 minutes):
Carlsen himself was openly supporting the 13th World Champion and hoped the match would be moved to a new location. He told Dagbladet:
I think Ilyumzhinov has been president for too long.
Now that Ilyumzhinov has won the election it remains to be seen if Carlsen will still be able to move the match.
Carlsen’s manager Espen Agdestein confirmed for NRK today that he sent a request to FIDE to postpone the match. The situation in Ukraine was one of the reasons, though not the only one, for sending the letter.
There are several reasons for wanting a postponement. There is a lot of uncertainty around the match and it’s not a good solution to play in Sochi in November.
According to Agdestein, a mysterious company has bought the rights to the match.
FIDE doesn’t even want to tell us who owns the company
[UPDATE: As pointed out by chess.com, it's likely that Agdestein is referring to Agon, the company that bought the commercial rights to events in the World Championship cycle. -TJS]
The question on everyone's lips now is: Will Magnus Carlsen sign the contract?
We haven’t decided yet. We want to take a closer look at this so we can discuss it and find a solution. It’s very unfortunate to have such an uncertain situation. Predictability is essential.
Team Carlsen refuses to set a final deadline, but say they will discuss their next move on Friday.
The difficult situation in Russia, and the newly imposed EU sanctions against banks and high-profile individuals, are clearly contributing factors in the Carlsen team's reluctance to play the match in Sochi on schedule. Although FIDE and Russia no doubt have ways to get around it, the fact that the proposed match sponsor, Krasnodar Governor Alexandar Tkachyov, is on the EU’s latest sanction list is cause for concern in the Carlsen camp.
Last week VG reported that the Norwegian Chess Federation had encouraged FIDE to move the match away from Sochi. Jøran Aulin-Jansson commented:
We want predictability - that the match will be hosted in a safe place. The relationship between the EU and Russia is liable to worsen.
Team Carlsen has been in contact with Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the political situation in the area. Agdestein told Dagbladet:
Magnus can't get into a situation where the match is in danger because of a sports boycott or anything like that.
When Sochi was announced as a venue FIDE only announced the total match budget of $3 million. According to Agdestein, the prize fund in Sochi is 8.5 million NOK (1.04 million euros), roughly half the sum at stake in Chennai last year. 60 percent goes to the winner and 40 percent to the loser. Agdestein commented:
The amount is much lower than it has been for several matches. We would like it to be as high as for the last match.
Team Carlsen is also concerned that despite receiving contracts, they have still yet to receive any guarantees from FIDE. Agdestein told Dagbladet:
There are many things that need to fall into place quickly. What is important for us is to find out whether it’s 100 percent certain that the World Championship match will take place in Sochi. FIDE claims it is, but we don’t know. For example, we need a confirmation that the organiser has paid the deposit.
Agdestein also revealed to Dagbladet that one of the issues being discussed is a cut from the TV rights for the match. FIDE previously owned the rights, but Team Carlsen fears that the rights will now be sold too easily to Russia’s state broadcaster without getting what could be a substantial amount. They will now try to secure their cut.
It will become much more relevant if there's a significant income from it. Even if the interest is very good, we don’t know that yet. It’s up to FIDE to commercialise this.
FIDE own the marketing rights. Normally the TV rights would be a matter between them and the organisers. I know there is great interest from TV stations, but we won’t get a cut if we don't try to negotiate a deal.
Last year India’s Doordarshan won the rights for the match in Chennai, then sold rights to Norway's state broadcaster NRK. The interest in Norway was massive and NRK had similar success when broadcasting 60 hours from the Chess Olympiad in Tromsø.
chess24 has learned that NRK has expressed interest in securing the TV rights not just for this World Championship match but for the next ten years.
What about the challenger Anand? The five-time World Champion generally likes to keep a low profile and has not yet made any comments on the re-election of Ilyumzhinov.
But Anand did speak to several Indian newspapers two days before the election. Even though Anand has yet to sign a contact, it seems to be just a matter of time before he does. He told NDTV Sports:
The only thing pending is the result of the election. At the moment everything seems set. We do have a firm offer from Sochi and the contract is there, everything is there.
Anand also revealed his playing schedule to Pune Mirror.
I am happy that I am on a short break and I will train again a bit. I would play in Bilbao in September and then will play some Rapids (in Geneva) in October. I hope to be ready for the World Championship after playing in Bilbao and Rapids.
chess24 will monitor the situation and bring you the latest news on the World Championship match.
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