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The Year 2005 in Review
The World Championship

The year 2005 started on a dismal note for the World Chess Championship. The Kasparov - Kasimdzhanov match, FIDE's attempt to keep its side of the Prague unification agreement, had been announced in October 2004 to be played January 2005 in Dubai, but negotiations collapsed in December. Shortly after the cancellation was announced, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov said, "A new contest has been announced for the match and Turkey has said it wants to host it. I am flying to Turkey to meet senior government officials and discuss the matter."

Kasparov bows out

By mid-January, former World Champion and still ranked world no.1 Garry Kasparov had had enough. He issued a press release explaining,

Over the past two and a half years, unification matches have been scheduled four times and each time the deadlines have come and gone while the financial guarantees were ignored. Four times I have put my life on hold to schedule three months for preparation, play, and recuperation. The loss of earnings is easy to understand, but the hidden damage is psychological. These postponed and cancelled events have been deeply unsettling to me both professionally and personally. Our global chess federation has rarely thought enough to even keep me informed, let alone compensate me financially or even apologize for these repeated frustrations.

I called a halt to negotiations last night, but resentment at my treatment by FIDE has been building for the past three months. My life has been totally disrupted for two and a half years thanks to this on-again, off-again match and I must go on without this constant interference. Perhaps the last straw was watching the Corus tournament in Wijk aan Zee currently underway in the Netherlands. I was forced to give up my invitation to play in this event when FIDE insisted that the match would take place in Dubai on conflicting dates.

and finishing,
In 2002 I dreamed of a legitimate chance to revive – and reclaim – the real world championship title. That no longer seems to be possible. Even if by some miracle the match is held and I win, I would bear a great deal of responsibility and still have no opportunity to unify the title. FIDE has proven itself incapable of the task while others are unwilling. As for unification, I cannot see an avenue to contribute further. For those who saw me as an obstacle, I will be one no longer. I am not giving up on chess. I will compete as well and as long as I am able to play my brand of chess. I will continue to serve chess and those who love our game. I have now held the #1 ranking for 20 years and I will defend my position against any opponent. My only retreat is from the battlefield of chess championship politics.

The FIDE response was, 'FIDE regrets Kasparov’s decision to withdraw from playing against Kasimdzhanov in April and pledges to continue its efforts for solutions concerning World Championship funding' and blamed Kasparov for the collapse of the match.

It has to be clear to everyone that it is impossible to secure such high prize funds from legitimate sponsors, acceptable to FIDE and the IOC, without providing the candidate organizers with the necessary time to complete their efforts, especially when the government of a country is the guarantor for the organization of the match. It is even more difficult to secure these prize funds when the participants demand excessive financial guarantees before committing themselves in writing.

The Association of Chess Professionals (ACP) responded, 'Given the circumstances surrounding the organization of this event, Mr Kasparov's decision is understandable. This officially marks the end of the Prague Agreement signed in May 2002.' The Prague Agreement and the unification of the World Chess Championship title were dead.

In February, Ilyumzhinov granted a pair of interviews to Yuri Vasiliev [aka Vassiliev] of Sport Express. He insisted that unification was still possible and spoke of FIDE plans to hold an eight player double round robin tournament with Kasparov, Kasimdzanov, non-FIDE World Champion Kramnik, and other world top-10 grandmasters as participants. The tournament was not immediately confirmed by a formal FIDE announcement, and much of the chess world dismissed Ilyumzhinov's idea as more dreaming by the man who had promised so much and delivered so little in the recent past.

Kasparov's other shoe dropped in March. After winning the prestigious Linares tournament he announced his retirement from professional chess. He had initially decided to make the announcement at the closing ceremony, but changed his mind after a last round loss to Topalov. At a press conference after the game he said, 'Before this tournament I made a conscious decision that Linares 2005 will be my last professional tournament, and today I played my last professional game.' In response to questions from journalists, he elaborated, 'I am a man of big goals. I have to achieve something, I have to prove something, I have to be determined. But I no longer see any real goal in the world of chess,' and, 'I [will] devote a certain amount of time to Russian politics, as every decent person should do, who opposes the dictator Vladimir Putin'. The man who had been most responsible for creating the schism in the World Championship had finally been undone by its unfolding.

FIDE World Championship 2005-2007

In April, FIDE announced that 'the World Chess Championship Tournament 2005 will take place 27 September - 16 October in the city of San Luis, Argentina under the aegis of the Province of San Luis.' The players to be invited were Adams, Anand, Kasimdzhanov, Kasparov, Kramnik, Leko, Morozevich, and Topalov. As most observers expected, Kasparov and Kramnik declined to participate. In May, FIDE confirmed the event and announced that Peter Svidler and Judith Polgar would take the places of the two Ks.

Just before the San Luis event, FIDE clarified the structure of its FIDE World Championship 2005-2007, announcing that qualified players from around the globe would compete in a World Cup. The top finishers at the World Cup would join qualifiers from a later Last Chance Super Tournament, plus top finishers from San Luis, in a series of Candidates Matches. The 2005 World Cup would held in December at Khanty-Mansiysk, a Russian autonomous region in Western Siberia.

FIDE World Champion Topalov

Veselin Topalov became the new FIDE World Champion by winning the World Championship at San Luis. He finished the first half of the event with six wins and a draw and then coasted in the second half with seven draws. Anand and Svidler tied for 2nd/3rd, while Morozevich finished fourth.

FIDE was so pleased with the success of the event that they changed the format of their 'World Championship 2005-2007'. The idea for the 'Last Chance Super Tournament' was scrapped. The top finishers at the World Cup would join other top players in a series of Candidate Matches. The four survivors of those matches would join the top finishers from San Luis in another double round robin tournament and the winner of that event would become FIDE World Champion.

Between the San Luis World Championship and the Khanty-Mansiysk World Cup, Kramnik challenged Topalov to a match. The offer was made public in a press release by a 'newly founded German event agency Universal Event Promotion (UEP)' under the title 'Kramnik vs. Topalov: Proposal declined '.

UEP submitted a written offer to FIDE World Champion Veselin Topalov as well as to the Classical World Chess Champion Vladimir Kramnik. This offer guaranteed a fee of US $500,000 (net) for each of the two players – together US $1,000,000 (net). In addition, both players were to participate in specified sponsoring revenue. The match was to be organised from 25 November to 17 December 2006 under the title "World Chess Match of the Champions". There were to be 14 classical games. With regard to a possible reunion of both titles the draft contract contained a clause that would have made the unification under the umbrella of the FIDE after conclusion of the contract possible.

There was much speculation and finger pointing about the reasons for Topalov's declining the proposal, but one result was clear : FIDE was in the driver's seat for organizing the World Championship and their man Topalov was toeing the line. Kramnik, who had been in the driver's seat a year earlier after his match against Leko, was now odd man out.

FIDE World Cup

The 128-player FIDE World Cup at Khanty-Mansiysk took place in November and December. Although similar to the knockout tournaments that had determined the four previous FIDE World Champions, the World Cup had two significant differences. The first was that the event was only a qualifier in the World Championship cycle. The second was that the 16 players who survived the first three rounds stayed in the tournament for the last four rounds. This allowed FIDE to assign qualifying spots 1 to 16 to individual players.

In the final match between the last two match survivors, Levon Aronian of Armenia beat Ruslan Ponomariov of the Ukraine to win the event. Etienne Bacrot of France beat Alexander Grischuk of Russia settle third and fourth places. The next event in the FIDE World Championship would be the Candidate Matches tentatively scheduled for end-2006.

Next : International Events 2005

 More of this Feature
• The Best Players
• World Championship
• International Events
• National Championships
• Opens
• Computers
• Passages
 Related Resources
• World Championship 2004
  Glossary (offsite)
  ChessChrono (offsite)
• Kasparov - Kasimdzhanov
• FIDE WCC, San Luis
• FIDE Cup, Khanty-Mansiysk