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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Confession about the world championship

The match between Anand and Topalov offers a prize fund of 2 million euros (about $2.7 million), of which the winner will receive 60%. But, as a recent Los Angeles times article points out, even more is at stake.

Anand, champion since 2007, has stood in the shadow of Garry Kasparov during his prime years and a victory would confirm his status as the leader of the post-Kasparov era. That would include 19-year old Magnus Carlsen and if Anand wants to be remembered as a dominant figure in chess history, he would have to win that match.

Topalov held the top spot in the world rankings until recently being surpassed by Carlsen. He lost the 2006 world championship match to Vladimir Kramnik, and he must wonder if he will get another chance if he loses this one too.

For the World Chess Federation (FIDE), this match represents an opportunity for favorable publicity that might rehabilitate its reputation. Since Kirsan Ilyumzhinov became FIDE president in 1995, the organization has followed the policy of trying to promote itself rather than the players. FIDE conducted a decade-long battle with Kasparov and offered less than lukewarm support to his successors, Kramnik and Anand. FIDE has already alienated Carlsen.

It’s always been tough at the top and the FIDE hasn’t had a really good reputation with top players since it’s very beginnings. Fine bemoaned their policies since after WW2 and it pretty much was the reason he dropped out of chess. Reshevsky complained, but kept on playing. I could go on and on, but that’s not the point.

Personally I don’t care who wins. I don’t care about playing conditions, corporate support or how much money top players make. I don’t care about the FIDE. You see I play chess because I enjoy it and if Anand, Topalov, Kramnik, Carlsen…all of them…quit chess today and the FIDE went out of business, I’d still enjoy he game.

I remember when chess was a game almost nobody played and players, even masters traveled several hours, stayed in cheap hotels, ate fast food gulped down between rounds and played in venues with poor lighting, stupefying heat in cramped, smoke filled rooms for a trophy and maybe $100 first prize.

Organizers. They organized things for the love of it. Making a few dollars was secondary. I know a few organizers who continued to do it even when some of the cost was coming out of their own pocket! Then about 45 years ago Bill Goichberg started the Continental Chess Association when he realized he could actually make money running tournaments. And great tournaments they were. Excellent playing conditions and lots of money…not just for the top three finishers but even 1200’s could win big bucks. Of course there was a hefty entry fee, too. One national TD actually called me a name and castigated me for suggesting small weekend events with nominal EF’s and prize funds. His reason…there’s no money in it for him.

Grandmasters rarely played in anything but round robin international tournaments or major opens (which were unrated by the FIDE).

Nobody complained and they did it for enjoyment. Then came Booby Fischer who wanted money and perfect conditions. Not that all that was bad mind you, but it changed the nature of things. Now it’s all about the money. Even 1200’s don’t want to play if there’s no chance for them to win anything.

I’m not interested in winning any money. Before I retired I had a job that paid the bills and now I have retirement that pays them and I realized a long time ago I’m never going to be rich and learned to become content with such as I had and enjoy the small things in life.

Playing chess is one of the small pleasures and I don’t care about winning money. And you know what else? I don’t care if Anand or Topalov win any money. I don’t care if they never become media stars. If they don’t like it they can do what I did. Me and Fine and Reshevsky and hundreds of others. Get jobs and play chess because they enjoy it or else quit the game. That’s what a generation of prima donna wanna be’s in US chess did. Back when there was an invasion of Soviet players immigrating to the US a few crybabies got mad because the Soviets were better and were sucking up all the prize money in the major events. Smaller events weren’t worth playing in so they got real jobs and dropped out of chess.

Personally, I don’t care if they all quit. Oh, about the world championship? I think Anand is a nice guy and Topalov is a weasel but it really doesn’t matter to me who wins.

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