General Aug 30, 2014 | 10:45 AMby Tarjei Svensen

Renewed hope for Carlsen-Anand rematch?

Magnus Carlsen and his father Henrik in St. Louis for the Sinquefield Cup | photo: Macauley Peterson

After days of confusion in the chess world, on Friday FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov personally granted Magnus Carlsen an extension to the deadline for signing his World Championship contract until September 7th, the day of a potential playoff in the Sinquefield Cup. Is there now light at the end of the tunnel?

by Tarjei J. Svensen

Last week chess24 reported on Carlsen's request to postpone the World Championship match in Sochi and his subsequent request to delay a decision on signing the contract. 

Ilyumzhinov was quoted as saying "a postponement is not possible" and denied Team Carlsen's request to have until after the Sinquefield Cup to make a decision. That meant the very real possibility that Carlsen would be replaced by Russia's Sergey Karjakin for the World Championship match.

However, on Friday there was some positive news in what looked set to become the biggest crisis the chess world has seen in the last 20 years. 

Sutovsky makes two important phone calls

The President of the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP), GM Emil Sutovsky, is active on his Facebook page and expressed deep concern about the situation. He posted to say he'd been on the phone with Carlsen's manager Espen Agdestein to get some more information about the situation:

I have to admit that their position is pretty constructive. I feel that the communication between FIDE and Carlsen's Team was very bad. I also don't understand where from this Aug 29 deadline has popped up. There was no official deadline set and it was not stipulated in the contract. Sometimes the banal lack of communication and lack of order can have a devastating effect. Let's hope it won't happen now. But if it happens, I do know whom to blame...

Sutovsky then announced some breaking news after having "a constructive and fruitful conversation" with Ilyumzhinov:

FIDE President has accepted my proposal to approve Carlsen's request, and agreed to extend the deadline for signing the contract till September 7. Gens una sumus again?

Although Carlsen is not a member of the ACP, Sutovsky, who is also on the Commission for World Chess Championships and Olympiads (WCOC), said he had repeatedly tried to get in touch with FIDE about the situation.

Well, I spent hours and hours last week trying to discuss matters with the WCOC members. Most of them were in a no-response mode and those who bothered to answer failed to address the issues I have raised. 

Shortly after Sutovsky's announcement, Carlsen's manager confirmed to NRK that he had indeed received the documents from Ilyumzhinov. 

Five different deadlines

There has been quite some confusion about the actual deadline. In the Norwegian media, Agdestein was initially quoted as saying the deadline was Friday August 29th, the final working day of August. FIDE Vice President Israel Gelfer commented, however, that the "official" deadline was August 31st. 

He told Norwegian TV that FIDE "can't give in to [Carlsen's] demands" and that "it's impossible to give them more time because it can put the match in danger", adding:

We have been criticized for not sticking to deadlines before, and rightly so. So now we are trying to stick to the deadlines.

But Gelfer had a different story for Peter Doggers, explaining that Carlsen would have more time:

The deadline is 31 August 2014. A signature on September 1st or 2nd is tolerable, but we cannot wait longer.

The Norwegian media was quick to pick up on that particular remark, leading to headlines such as, "FIDE grants Carlsen extension". 

Then earlier on Friday, NRK was also confused and decided to speak with FIDE Executive Director Nigel Freeman, who seemed to indicate there was another deadline.

What is the deadline?

According to the contract the first pre-payment to the players takes place on September 3rd. If a player has not signed the contract before that, the payment cannot be made.

So September 3rd is the final deadline?

We obviously can't pay someone who has not signed the contract.

What happens if Carlsen does not sign by September 3rd?

The World Championship Match Committee will follow its procedures. Anand obviously needs to know who he is playing against as soon as possible so he can prepare for the match.

Agdestein: "This is not very helpful"

Carlsen has a lot to think about in St. Louis, both on and off the chessboard | photo: Macauley Peterson

The crucial question, however, is whether a few extra days to resolve the issues will make any difference. Agdestein doesn't seem to think so. He commented to VG that this is "not very helpful" and revealed that the extension is less than they actually asked for. The deadline they requested was September 17th, in order to get ten days after the Sinquefield Cup to think about the matter.

This just means that he has to think about this the whole tournament, so I don't see it as a particularly good improvement. 

Agdestein said that they are still in negotiations with FIDE and are trying to get answers on practical details surrounding the match. But they have so far been unsuccessful:

FIDE doesn't seem to be very interested in discussion.

Numerous uncertainties about the match are unlikely to be cleared up in the coming week, while the conflict in Ukraine seems to be worsening by the day and might still make the southern Russian city of Sochi an impossible venue for a chess match. EU leaders are about to meet to consider fresh sanctions against Russia after more Russian troops were suspected of involvement in fighting in Ukraine. Krasnodar Region Governor Alexander Tkachev, the man Ilyumzhinov originally announced as providing the budget for the match, has already been hit by EU sanctions.

Anand and Karjakin await developments

Former World Champion Viswanathan Anand has already signed his contract for the rematch against Carlsen, with his wife and manager Aruna telling The Times of India:

It's not for us to fret over Carlsen's problems. It has to be sorted out between him and Fide. As far as Anand is concerned, he has no misgivings with regard to the venue or schedule. He has always been treated well in Russia and has full faith in the organizers. No doubt it's a reduced prize purse this time, but we don't want to dwell on those aspects. The contract has been signed and Anand is ready to play.

Sergey Karjakin finished second to Anand in the 2014 Candidates Tournament and would therefore be Magnus Carlsen's replacement in the match if the World Champion refused to play. 

Carlsen has a 3:1 lead in classical wins over Karjakin, although the young Russian did win both Norway Chess tournaments | photo: No Logo Norway Chess

In an interview with his manager connected to the opening of a Karjakin Chess School at Moscow State University, Sergey rejects any suggestion of political instability in Sochi but says he'd seize the chance to play a match:

You wouldn't turn down such a gift of fate?

I repeat that I don't believe in such a sequence of events, but if I get such a unique possibility then I don't think I have the right to act differently. It's not even up for discussion.

Carlsen has said he'll give a final response in the first ten days of September.

That's something I'm not even going to think about. I have my schedule and follow it closely. I'm sure those close to me will be more concerned, as will my sponsor - the financial company "Alpari" - which set me the goal of returning the crown to Russia. After all, if an Anand-Karjakin match nevertheless takes place that will be a high point for my sponsors.

Aren't you afraid that if you suddenly become World Champion in that manner people will then say that you didn't deserve such a match?

Then the great grandmaster Anatoly Karpov would have had to reject the crown after Robert Fischer failed to appear for the match against him in 1975. Do you think that's how Anatoly Yevgenyevich should have behaved?

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