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2002-03 Unification


Kramnik on the Prague Agreement: 'I made the most concessions'
By Ilya Gorodetsky

"I spoke a lot to the players here in Prague, and understood that my mission at this meeting is to defend the interests of chess players. "

After signing the agreement, neither you nor Kasparov looked happy. How would you explain that?

We were simply very tired. We didn't get much sleep, had to wake up early, and the whole meeting lasted about six hours. Beside myself, all everyone was changing positions numerous times, and honestly, I got tired watching it all. No, I don't want to say anything about it. It just got tiresome. I could see that Gary was exhausted, and well, I wasn't in the best condition myself.

Everyone made concessions. What do you think was your main concession?

My title of the "Classical World Champion " meant and means (until the unity occurs) more than Ponomariov's title of FIDE Champion, which he won in the knock-out system and with another time control. There can be different opinions, yes, even there is no sense to speculate after the fight. But, in my view, the formal acknowledgement of the equivalence of these titles - is the main victim, to which I had to agree.

Another concession - and that was my own proposal, to play the unifying match on equal conditions, without the privileges to the World Champion. I chose do agree to this even though I consider myself the World Champion.

And the third concession: Einstein is a powerful structure, with financial guarantees on conducting the World championship cycle. We are completely independent and went for all these agreements in order to improve the situation in the chess world.

I think if we look at the situation as a whole, then I made most of all of concessions. But I made them knowingly, since I am confident that we must unite.

Will the Dortmund candidate tournament and your match with its winner be sponsored by sources mentioned in the Einstein and Madame Nahed Ojjeh proposals?

So I understand, although I am moving away from all those things now. The representatives of Einstein agreed so I have no problem either. It's their part now, to settle everything up with Bessel Kok and FIDE. I am no more part of it.

When is your match with the winner of Dortmund scheduled for?

I believe, April - May next year. The unifying match should take place in October-November.

Ilyumzhinov said that you were the one to insist on 'FIDE's obligation to defend the interests of chess players'. What do you mean by that?

The point is that I did not have any personal interest in the whole process. My contract with Einstein is still intact. I was the least interested party, and therefore I wanted to take some reasonable role upon myself in this process. Other sides conducted some negotiations, made agreements, about which I did not and I do not want to know. I hope that they all are contented. However, I spoke a lot to the players here in Prague, and understood that my mission at this meeting is to defend the interests of chess players. Maybe, this was excessively arrogant, but, from other side, I felt the support of my associate Grandmasters. And I did my best.

There were several proposals as to HOW to conduct the unification. It is more precise, as to carry out FIDE's cycle. I am not against the match of the Kasparov - Ponomariov; I don't care who plays with whom, this is not my business. But, I consider that as undemocratic and incorrect. They must have tried to draw as many as possible chess players. And there was a possibility: chess players themselves manufactured the system, according to which the first stage is an elimination tournament. Then four or five conquerors are joined with those seeded: Ponomariov, Kasparov and, possibly, Anand and Ivanchuk (this question is discussable), and then there is a double round-robin tournament which reveals the FIDE World champion.

I completely didn't want to target Kasparov's interests. In my opinion, this system is not worse either for him or for Ponomariov. Many even consider that this version is more preferable for Kasparov: he is an acknowledged tournament player, and for him, it's easier to win a tournament, than a match. On the other hand, it would include a large number of chess players, including an important figure such as Anand.

This is a very reasonable proposal. I was approached by many chess players who agreed that nothing better could be devised. A couple of days before the meeting I conversed with Yasser Seirawan, and he also said: "yes, this is the best system." At the very beginning of the meeting, several chess players, who explained the advantages of this idea, came forward.

Unfortunately, this version was rejected without reasonable reasons. However, all players understood before the meeting, that the whole purpose of unification is extremely important. I asked the chess players: "do you give me some moral authorities for standing for your interests, where is the limit?" And the general opinion was: it is better to have some agreement than none, although ideal would be the adoption of the system, proposed by Grandmasters themselves.

I attempted, as I could, for several hours, but, unfortunately was unsuccessful. Actually, the only drawback of today is that the rights of chess players were pinched again. The only thing I was able to get was the phrase about the fact that "FIDE is forced to shield the interests of all chess players". The time will show how formal a nature will this position bear.

Your opposition says that in the case of adoption of the system proposed by you, the cycle would take way too long. And second, why can't Anand and Ivanchuk be invited to Dortmund?

The first thesis does not stand under any critics, the qualification tournament can be arranged very quickly, besides, the Kasparov - Ponomariov match will take place no sooner than April next year. I think, by April you can find a week to have this tournament. I don't think this is the real reason for not accepting this system.

Concerning Dortmund, I have already answered this question a number of times. The contracts are signed, the preparation of the players has begun and they don't want any changes to be done to the line up.

How do you see the prospects of the chess world after the Prague agreement?

I think one should not be over-optimistic. I am just a spectator here, I've played my role, and I only do chess now. However, I understand, that there are many unclear things remaining. And, I believe, disagreements between Bessel Kok and FIDE are inevitable. It's very important HOW those disagreements will be taken care of. I hope all problems will be solved, and we will come to a day when we could say that there is a concrete structure and concrete people have occupied some concrete positions.

Maybe I am being too cautious, but it is early to speak of unification. Only some very basic positions have been stated in Prague. It is to be followed by a very long and hard process, but I will be out of it. It's the problems of Bessel Kok and FIDE now. I hope the whole process will be democratic.

One of the conditions of the agreement is yours and Kasparov's participation in FIDE tournaments. According to FIDE site, you were officially invited to the Moscow Grand Prix tournament. Were there any negotiations about this or your participation in Bled Olympiad?

These subjects were yet touched. As a whole, I have nothing against Grand Prix tournaments. However, the invitation for the Dubai tournament came very late, and I had made my plans already, after all, a World champion's schedule is quite busy. I sent a very polite reply that this time the invitation came a bit late, but next, if a timely invitation comes, I will consider it. In general, a rapid chess Grand Prix is not a bad idea reminding me of the Intel times. If I had anything against the abbreviations 'FIDE' I would not have made any agreement. I have no problems whatsoever with FIDE; I have some disagreements but it has nothing to do with tournaments organized by FIDE.

As for Moscow, nobody has approached me yet, and I think the FIDE guys had enough opportunities to do it today. It's becoming very close again, and I am not sure I will be able to rearrange my calendar. If I succeed - I will play, if not - I will play the next stage. About the Olympiad, in principle, I also have no problem with that. There were disagreements with my chess federation, with time control. But, I played for the Russian team many times, so why not play another one?

This article originally appeared at It has been reused with permission.


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