22 March 2017

Chess in the 21st Century

Finishing the actions on the 2016-17 Women's World Championship, I added the names of the 64 players from the 2017 FIDE Knockout Matches to the Index of Women Players. Of these players, 17 were competing in a Women's World Championship event for the first time.

The event was troubled from start to finish. Last October, we had the controversy that I documented in two posts: Hijab Hubbub and Hijab Hubris. The final word was announced shortly afterwards in Visit of FIDE President to Tehran, Iran (fide.com; November 2016).

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov arrived in Tehran on October 24. The next day, he spoke live on Central Television in Iran, after which he held talks with the President of the Iran Chess Federation, Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh. [...] The FIDE president spoke with reporters of Tasnim News Agency. In replying to the question of how he relates to the need to wear hijabs by women chess players, Ilyumzhinov said: "There are 188 members in FIDE, each of them has the right to hold chess competitions. All these countries have their own laws and customs, under which the tournaments are held. FIDE adheres to the belief that these laws should be respected."

Of course, all countries have the right to hold chess competitions. That doesn't mean that FIDE is required to hold prestigious, high visibility events in those same countries. By Ilyumzhinov's logic, even the most repressive countries in the world have 'the right to hold [FIDE] chess competitions'. This might fit Ilyumzhinov's personal interest, but it's clearly not in the best interest of chess.

A few weeks ago, rumors started to swirl that the players had not received their prize money. This was confirmed in List of Decisions of the 2017 1st quarter FIDE PB (fide.com; March 2017), where 'PB' means Presidential Board:-

  • 1PB-2017/3. To pay the prize money for the Tehran WWCC from FIDE money.
  • 1PB-2017/4. To give a two-week deadline for the Iranian Chess Federation to send the money they owe to FIDE failing which the services for them will be frozen.

'WWCC' means Women's World Chess Championship. Not only were the players expected to play under a restrictive dress code, they did so for free. At least one of them got to be called Women's World Champion; they others got zilch.

FIDE's current problems aren't exclusive to women's events. At the beginning of the month, when I reported on the 2017 Grand Prix, Sharjah, I ignored controversies surrounding that event. See, for example, Leonard Barden's FIDE Grand Prix struggling in Sharjah as big names stay away (theguardian.com; February 2017), or Colin McGourty's What went wrong in Sharjah? (chess24.com; ditto). 'What went wrong?' started with...

  • Too many short draws
  • The Swiss system with only 18 players
  • Top players missing
  • The prize fund
  • etc. etc.

...and ended with no.11...

  • A dysfunctional website ('failed to meet the most basic of standards')

And I thought I was alone in detesting the Worldchess.com site. Add to all of this another flap emanating from the 1st quarter FIDE PB, Did He Resign?, and it's again clear that FIDE has gone badly astray. In the 'Resign?' post, I asked,

When was the last time a chess story grabbed so many mainstream press headlines without once mentioning the name Magnus Carlsen?

Now I remember. It was the hijab kerfuffle.

PGN for Recent Events

Continuing with the two most recent posts...

...for which I had created the corresponding page on my WCC site and added crosstables documenting the events, this left both pages in an unfinished state. For this current post, I added PGN files to both pages along with relevant notes.

For the first time in a long while, I discovered an incorrect result recorded against one of the games. The initial error was made on the official site for the women's championship and was then propagated elsewhere. Of the sites I looked at, only Chessgames.com had already corrected the result.

15 March 2017

2016-17 Women's World Championship

For my previous post, 2017 Grand Prix, Sharjah, I created a stub page for the World Championship (Women) : 2017 FIDE Knockout Matches. For this post, I added crosstables for the matches played in all six rounds. For the record, the previous report on a related subject was 2014-15 Women's World Championship (April 2015).

Still to do: (1) Add the players' names to the Index of Women Players; (2) Add PGN files to both the 2017 Women's Knockout and the Sharjah Grand Prix; and (3) Add various explanations like FIDE.com links.

08 March 2017

2017 Grand Prix, Sharjah

In my previous post, Missing Months, I mentioned,
I'm in a holding pattern this week, waiting for a couple of events to finish : (1) the first of the 2017 Grand Prix tournaments, and (2) the 2017 Women's World Championship. Both should finish some time next week, which will keep my Wednesdays busy for a month or so.

Both events have since finished and today being International Women's Day (wikipedia.org), I should have addressed the Women's World Championship first. Unfortunately, there is so much work there that I settled for creating a stub page, 2017 FIDE Knockout Matches (Women), and adding it to the index page World Chess Championship for Women.

As for the Sharjah Grand Prix tournament, I added the crosstable to my page on the 2017 Grand Prix. There is also more to be done there, including the PGN file, but that will have to wait for the next time.

22 February 2017

Missing Months

I'm in a holding pattern this week, waiting for a couple of events to finish : (1) the first of the 2017 Grand Prix tournaments, and (2) the 2017 Women's World Championship. Both should finish some time next week, which will keep my Wednesdays busy for a month or so. In the meantime, what to do?

A couple of weeks ago, while working on a post about the 1995-1999 Women's Cycle, I noted,

As long as I'm filling gaps, I should also complete the missing months ('--') in pages like the 1999 Xie Jun - Galliamova match.

Knowing when an event was played is useful to locate tournament reports in chess magazines. A quick search located about 50 events missing months. How long would it take to research those? Maybe an hour or so? Ha!

Tackling the events in chronological order, the first batch was easy enough. Just as in 1927-39 Women's Title Tournaments (September 2009), I used Kazic's 'International Championship Chess' (Batsford 1974), to fill in months for eight women's title matches from 1953 to 1972. Then the exercise became trickier.

The next two events were both from the 1961-63 cycle: the 1962 Stockholm Interzonal and the 1962 Curacao Candidates Tournament. In both cases, the event missing a month was a playoff match. As I started looking into the two matches, I realized that there was more than a missing month to document -- I was lacking basic information on how the playoffs fit into and affected the rest of the cycle. As I looked deeper, I realized that the little project might be spinning out of control. I know from past experience that once I get sidetracked, I risk losing sight of the original goal, so I stopped and simply documented the months the playoffs took place. That will do for now.

I'll come back to the remaining 40 pages missing months some other time. Ditto for the 1961-63 cycle.

15 February 2017

The Last Standard Women's Cycle

In my previous post, I collected reports from Wikipedia on the unusual events that occurred during the 1995-1999 Women's Cycle Now let's hear from Mark Crowther's The Week in Chess (TWIC).

1997-12-29 TWIC 164:-

FIDE Women's Candidates • Alongside the FIDE Championships in Groningen was the women's Candidates tournament. The ten player double round robin,was won by Alisa Galliamova of Russia who dominated the event. The battle for second place was between Chiburdanidze, Xie Jun and Ioseliani all of who could have qualified for the important second place which entitles them to play Galliamova in a match for the right to meet Zsuzsa [Susan] Polgar.

1998-08-17 TWIC 197:-

Introduction • The oddest story of the week is one which I'm trying to confirm the details. Galliamova was due to play a ten game match against Xie Jun in China starting on August 15th. She did not show according to Chinese sources and is reported to have defaulted the match allowing Xie Jun to challenge Polgar for the World title. There is surely more to this than meets the eye.

1998-08-24 TWIC 198:-

Galliamova defaults against Xie Jun • The Women's World Chess Championships have been thrown into chaos by the no-show of Alisa Galliamova of Russia for her match with ex-champion Xie Jun of China in Shenyang last weekend for the Candidates final match. The match went ahead with press and TV there although it was known to FIDE that Galliamova would not turn up. She is reported to be both in dispute with her own Federation and unhappy that the match was not split between her home town of Kazan and China. Kazan could not raise the required funds for the match. Quite what the sponsors of the $US 120,000 match think is not known but the Chinese Chess Federation are already asking for compensation from FIDE. It is also clear that this makes it much harder to find a sponsor for the final match between Zsuzsa Polgar and Xie Jun. It will be interesting to hear in more detail why Galliamova decided to default, especially as even under the circumstances she would have been favourite for the match.

1998-09-28 TWIC 203:-

'Xie - Galliamova : From Beginning to the End' by Sun Lianzhi (The original text was published in a Chinese newspaper). • Ignatius Leong sends a story about the events leading up to Galliamova defaulting against Xie Jun. Of course it is merely one take on the affair although much of the detail is persuasive. [...]

1998-10-16 TWIC 205:-

33rd Chess Olympiad [...] FIDE Congress • [...] The defaulting of Alisa Galliamova for her non-appearance at her match against Xie Jun was confirmed. There are stories from the States that Zsuzsa Polgar does not plan to defend her title. An application was made to have Galliamova as her replacement was in the event of a no show was made by Russia. This will be the last traditional match for the title as next championships will be a knock-out event, possibly to be held in Moldova in Sept 1999, with 60 players and $500,000 prize fund.

1999-03-29 TWIC 229:-

FIDE Press Release • Regarding the Women's World Championship final match between Zsuzsa Polgar of Hungary and Xie Jun of China, the Board decided that FIDE shall organise the match in line with the resolution of the General Assembly in Elista between the last week of May up to 20 July 1999. After noting that no offer had been received to meet the minimum prize fund, it called for the best offer possible to be submitted to the FIDE Secretariat not later than 15 April 1999.

1999-06-21 TWIC 241:-

Introduction • Off the board the reports (that appeared firstly on Club Kasparov) that the Women's World Champion Zsuzsa Polgar has been defaulted and that FIDE have arranged a match between Xie Jun and Galliamova for the title in China makes the news. Whilst is it clear why FIDE have done this, they have their next Championships with a sponsor in September. Zsuzsa Polgar makes an extremely forceful case that this crisis was of FIDE's making and that the default is entirely against their own rules. [...]

Letter from Zsuzsa Polgar • Zsuzsa Polgar has reacted to reports that FIDE have decided to hold a match in Shenyang, China from 3 July to 27 July 1999, between Xie June and Alisa Galiamova for the Women's World Championships, claiming that Polgar has "effectively declined to defend her title". • Zsuzsa Polgar replies: [...]

1999-06-29 TWIC 242:-

Willy Iclicki replies to Zsuzsa Polgar • FIDE have decided to hold a match in Shenyang, China from 3 July to 27 July 1999, between Xie June and Alisa Galiamova for the Women's World Championships. Women's World Champion Zsuzsa Polgar has been defaulted and been replaced by Galiamova. Last week in a letter from Zsuzsa Polgar she outlined her position. This week Willy Iclicki [Chairman of the World Championships Cycle Committee] speaking to me from Belgium on Saturday, has reacted to Zsuzsa Polgar's letter of last week. He makes several points: [...]

1999-07-05 TWIC 243:-

Introduction • [...] More Women's World Championship news. According to one source the Xie Jun - Galliamova match has been delayed at least until July 27 and Galliamova is looking for a Russian host for the first half of the match (deja vu) and if she fails the whole match will begin in China in early August.

1999-08-02 TWIC 247:-

Women's World Chess Championships • The Women's World Championship Final Match between Xie Jun and Alisa Galliamova is taking place from July 30th to August 23rd. For The first half of the match takes place in Kazan, Tartarstan the latter half in Shenyang, China. [...] The Women's World Championships were to have had a knockout championships to start in September almost directly after the finish of the Xie Jun - Galliamova match. This has now been cancelled.

1999-08-23 TWIC 250:-

Women's World Chess Championships • Xie Jun regained her FIDE World Championship title by defeating Alisa Galliamova in a match July 30th to August 23rd. The first half of the match took place in Kazan, Tartarstan and finished in a 4-4 tie. The second half in Shenyang, China started on August 15th with a win for Xie Jun with black in game 9, game 10 was drawn. Xie Jun seemed to be almost home after winning game 11 but Galliamova struck back in game 12. Game 13 was drawn before a wild game saw Galliamova go two down with two to play. A final draw saw Xie Jun home. Galliamova was ELO favourite in this match but the scrappy play suited Xie Jun.

This match was originally meant to be the Candidates final but when Galliamova was unhappy with the match only been in China Xie Jun won by default. A similar situation applied to the championship match against Zsuzsa Polgar where long negotiation and a supposed September date for the FIDE knockout championships where the title was up for grabs (along with Polgar's pregnancy) led to FIDE defaulting the World Champion. Xie Jun then had to play the highest placed player in the cycle which was Galliamova. This time sponsorship for a two part championships was found and the match went ahead. Xie Jun is FIDE's recognised champion, whether FIDE might feel that a match with Polgar, if finance is available and now that time is available, would be fair is open to question. It has certainly been extremely unsatisfactory.'

1999-08-30 TWIC 251:-

Introduction • [...] In the letters section Xie Jun (in response to statements on Polgar's own website) says she is ready and willing to play Zsuzsa Polgar in a match if she can raise the finance.

Letters from GMs • [...] Xie Jun Women's World Chess Champion • Beijing, 30th August 1999 • Dear Zsuzsa Polgar, Having finished my match against Alisa Galliamova, I finally have the time and energy to reply to the open letters and comments you published on your web site, some of which I felt were directed to me personally. [...]

This was the last cycle in a Women's World Championship featuring an Interzonal, a Candidates tournament, and a title match. The next World Championship would be the 2000 FIDE Knockout Matches at New Delhi.

08 February 2017

1995-1999 Women's Cycle

The top part of my page on the Women's World Championship provides a bird's eye view of the last 30 years.

World Chess Championship for Women

Despite its apparent completeness, one important piece is missing: details about the two forfeits in the 1995-1999 cycle. These occurred between two major event:-

Why aren't the forfeits explained in more detail? I started that page in 1999, while the cycle was ongoing. The first version was released in September 1999, and I had so many events to document that I never went back to the 1995-1999 cycle. It's high time I corrected that oversight. [NB: As long as I'm filling gaps, I should also complete the missing months ('--') in pages like the Xie Jun - Galliamova match.]

What does Wikipedia say? Three pages are particularly relevant.

Women's World Chess Championship 1999

1997 Candidates Tournament • The seven qualifiers from the Interzonal Tournament were joined by the loser of the last championship match, Xie Jun, as well as the two runners-up from the previous tournament, Chiburdanidze and Cramling. These ten players contested a double round-robin tournament in Groningen in December 1997, from which the top two would advance to the final to determine the challenger. Galliamova and Xie Jun finished first and second. FIDE decided that the whole final match should be played in Shenyang, China, after Chinese sponsors made the best offer for the prize fund. However, Galliamova refused to play entirely on her opponent's home turf, so Xie Jun was declared the winner by default and given the right to challenge champion Polgar.

1999 Championship Match • The championship match was at first scheduled to take place in November 1998, but champion Susan Polgar requested a postponement because she was pregnant. FIDE had been unable to find a satisfactory sponsor, so the request was granted. By the time FIDE announced the new date and venue for the title match to be played China in 1999, Polgar had given birth to her son Tom - however, she still considered that the time to recover from childbirth and prepare for the new match was insufficient. In addition, like Galliamova, she didn't want to play entirely in the opponent's home country. She also wanted a significantly larger prize fund, so she requested that the match be postponed again. This time FIDE refused and negotiations broke down. Instead FIDE ruled that Polgar had forfeited the title and arranged a new title match between the two Candidates finalists, Xie Jun and Galliamova.

Xie Jun

At the age of 20 Xie won the right to challenge for the women's world title, and in 1991 she defeated Maya Chiburdanidze of Georgia, who had held the title since 1978, by a score of 8.5 - 6.5. In 1993 she successfully defended her title against Nana Ioseliani (winning the match 8.5 - 2.5). In the summer of 1994 she was awarded the full Grandmaster title. She lost the 1996 Women's World Chess Championship to Susan Polgar of Hungary (8.5 - 4.5) but regained the title in 1999 by defeating another championship finalist, Alisa Galliamova (8.5 - 6.5), after Polgar refused to accept match conditions and forfeited her title.

Alisa Galliamova

In December 1997, she won the Candidates Tournament for the Women's World Chess Championship held in Groningen, Netherlands. She was scheduled to play a match with Xie Jun, who finished second, in August, 1998 and the winner of that match was supposed to play a match in November 1998 with Zsuzsa Polgar for the Women's World Chess Championship.

However, after the match with Xie Jun had already been scheduled, Galliamova objected because the entire match was scheduled to be played in China, the home of her rival. The reason for this was because only China had bid for the match. Galliamova wanted half of the match to be played in Kazan, Russia. However, the Russians did not have the money required. Finally, when Galliamova failed to show up to play the match, the match was declared forfeited to Xie Jun.

FIDE then scheduled a match between Xie Jun and Zsuzsa Polgar for November 1998. However, Polgar said that she could not play at that time because she was pregnant. After Polgar had given birth to her son, Tom, in March, 1999, FIDE again tried to schedule a match. This time Polgar said that she could not play the match because she was nursing.

Finally, after repeated efforts to organize a match which was supposed to have taken place in 1998, FIDE declared that Polgar had forfeited her title and that the title was vacant. FIDE decided to let Galliamova back into the cycle and held a match between Xie Jun and Galliamova for the Women's World Chess Championship 1999. This time, Galliamova was willing to play because her original demand had been met in that Russia had come up with the money to sponsor half of the match. The match was held in Kazan, Russia and Shenyang, China in August, 1999 and Xie Jun won by 8.5 - 6.5.

While that is certainly 1000% better than what I have, there is even more to the story. I'll come back to it in my next post.