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The Year 2002 in Review
The World Championship

January saw the crowning of the youngest world champion of all time when Ruslan Ponomariov beat Vassily Ivanchuk by the score of +2-0=5 to win the FIDE title in Moscow. Both finalists hail from the Ukraine.

At almost the same time, rights to the other title, held by Kramnik, passed from Brain Games Network to the Einstein Group. These rights included the planned Brains in Bahrain man vs. machine match, the Dortmund qualifier to produce a challenger, and the match against Kramnik to be played in 2003. Einstein, a multimedia group with a satellite channel, had been founded in 1999, and listed on the London Stock Exchange's AIM in March 2000.

In March, American GM Yasser Seirawan put forward a number of concrete proposals to end the schism in the chess world. Fresh Start would be accomplished by creating a new World Championship cycle.

In May, his proposals were agreed in Prague. A unified championship under the supervision of FIDE would produce a single undisputed champion by end-2003. This would be done by having the winner of a Ponomariov - Kasparov match meet the winner of Kramnik vs. the Dortmund challenger.

The Einstein Group and Madame Nahed Ojjeh, the wealthy sponsor of the French newcomer NAO Chess, announced their support for the agreement. At the same time, Ojjeh announced that she would provide an increased prize fund for the Dortmund qualifier.

Eight players competed for the right to challenge Kramnik at the Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting in July. In the absence of Kasparov, who refused to participate, Leko emerged as the challenger for Kramnik's title. After crushing Shirov in the semifinal, Leko beat Topalov +2-1=1 in the final. Topalov had beaten Bareev after a playoff in the other semifinal.

The Prague agreement, which had been marred by criticism that it favored Kasparov to the detriment of other top players, ran into more trouble in December. FIDE Champion Ponomariov announced that he would insist on draw odds against Kasparov, just as Kramnik had against Leko, and that he wanted the match played using the same control used in the title match against Ivanchuk.

FIDE is no stranger to controversy. In June, the French Chess Federation called for a change in FIDE Leadership, saying 'The functioning of FIDE today is unworthy of an International Sporting Federation. The President visibly has his mind on other things than Chess and decisions are taken by a small court, more interested in its privileges than the smooth running of FIDE.'

FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who is accustomed to running unopposed both within FIDE and within the autonomous Russian republic of Kalmykia, where he serves as President, faced re-election at the annual FIDE Congress. In August, Ignatius Leong announced that he would challenge Ilyumzhinov for the FIDE presidency, but withdrew his challenge the following month. Ilymuzhinov was reconfirmed in November. At almost the same time, he was re-elected in Kalmykia to a second seven-year term with 57% of the vote in a rare contested election.

Other controversies that dogged FIDE throughout the year were the issues of drug testing and increasingly faster time controls. The drug testing was related to FIDE's affiliation to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Obliged to implement a drug code, neither FIDE nor anyone else has ever proven that any substance improves performance in chess.

Next : International Events 2002

 More of this Feature
• The Best Players
• World Championship
• International Events
• National Championships
• Opens
• Computers
• Passages