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IM Malcolm Pein Chess Editorial – August 2018

The 2018 Grand Chess tour kicked off in Leuven, Belgium with the Your Next Move Rapid and Blitz, and then moved to Paris where the tournament was again staged in a TV studio just outside the city. The Paris tournament is supported by the media conglomerate Vivendi and one of their media assets, the TV channel Canal+, makes the programmes which are aired the same day on their sports channel.

The Paris Grand Chess Tour was once again broadcast on French TV by Canal+. | Chess Magazine August 2018
The Paris Grand Chess Tour was once again broadcast on French TV by Canal+ | Chess Magazine August 2018

Wesley So’s pragmatic approach proved very effective at Rapid and he managed to win the Rapid sections at both Leuven and Paris. He came under more pressure at Blitz, but still emerged victorious overall at Leuven before being overhauled by Hikaru Nakamura in Paris. The absence of Magnus Carlsen makes it all the more interesting in some ways and less interesting in others, but he will be a wild card at St Louis where he plays the Sinquezfield Cup. Before that the Tour continues with the St. Louis Rapid and Blitz, beginning August 10th.

The Tour really is a tour when we transfer the players from Paris to Leuven or vice versa. The most convenient way to do this is by train. This year because there were a couple of days between the two tournaments, many of the players elected to stay on at Leuven sponsor Jan Callewaert’s luxury hotel The Fourth, which stands on the same town square as the 15th century town hall where the games are played.

Naively, the organisers, of which I am one, decided that if we laid on taxis and train tickets and left plenty of time, the players would make it on their own. But, somehow, they contrived to miss the train by about 30 seconds. This leads to me to ask the question: how many grandmasters does it take to catch a train? 8 clearly isn’t the right answer.

The Grand Chess Tour standings are:

  1. Wesley So – 21
  2. Hikaru Nakamura – 20
  3. Sergey Karjakin – 19
  4. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave – 15
  5. Levon Aronian – 13
  6. Alexander Grischuk – 9
  7. Viswanathan Anand – 8
  8. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov – 7
  9. Fabiano Caruana – 4

Here is an example of Wesley So’s smooth positional style. Maxime was playing for a win as he was behind Wesley in the standings, but maintaining symmetry in the opening seems an odd way of going about it.

Capital Developments

If you are reading this at the British Championships in Hull you will hopefully be either playing or being treated to the sight of a representative British Chess Championships thanks to funding from Capital Developments Waterloo. Without this support the ECF would really struggle to attract such a strong field and stage a tournament that merits the name. I’m really pleased to see that the field includes all our strongest players apart from Nigel Short who is devoting himself to his FIDE Presidential Campaign, of which more below.

Mickey Adams, David Howell, Gawain Jones, Luke McShane and Nick Pert are all playing (although Howell’s name has not made it to the website yet), as well as a strong supporting cast. This quintet will be playing together for England at the Chess Olympiad and I’m doubly pleased to be able to announce that John Nunn has agreed to replace me as captain. His experience will be invaluable.

The Women’s team for the Olympiad will be: Jovanka Houska, Dagne Ciuksyte, Akshaya Kalaiyalahan, Sue Maroroa, and Louise Head, who qualified by virtue of her super performance at the last English Women’s Championship which she won with 5/5. The captain will be IM Lorin D’Costa.

Women’s Chess, Time for Action

Chris Fegan (left) is the new ECF Director for Women’s Chess, pictured here with ECF CEO Mike Truran | Chess Magazine August 2018
Chris Fegan (left) is the new ECF Director for Women’s Chess, pictured here with ECF CEO Mike Truran | Chess Magazine August 2018

The participation rate of female players in what I would describe as mainstream chess is pitiably low. I was relieved when the English Chess Federation reinstated the post of Director of Women’s Chess and pleased when Chris Fegan, with whom I work at Chess in Schools and Communities, was appointed. Chris is already pushing for an increased budget and has some excellent policy ideas. It is CSC, of course, who pioneered the teaching of chess in UK classrooms, specifically to ensure that girls as well as boys get the chance to learn the game.

As you can see from the many pictures on the CSC website from our tournaments, the number of girls competing is way, way higher than in regular tournaments. Of course CSC only has the resources to operate in primary schools, but it’s a start.

There was some controversy and articles in the press at the decision of the ECF Board to appoint a man to this post. It should be remembered that it was previously held by Sarah Longson who resigned, after which the post was informally offered to other female players. Chris also has a stated aim to recruit a female successor. The recruitment process was thorough and a female candidate was interviewed who had the right non-chess skills, but no real chess experience, including tournament organisation which is a big part of the role.

Chris and the ECF would like to hear from any female player who is prepared to work towards taking over this voluntary role. The whole UK chess environment needs to be made more welcoming to women. The Casual Chess project in London is a good example of what can be achieved and it would be so nice if it could be replicated in other UK cities.

Ilyumzhinov Suspended

As we went to press, the FIDE Ethics Commission made the following announcement:

“The Ethics Commission unanimously decides that Mr Ilyumzhinov is guilty of the violation of the FIDE Code of Ethics. Mr Ilyumzhinov is sanctioned with a temporary exclusion from holding any position for a period of 18 months from today, of which a period of 12 months are suspended for a period of 2 years. The immediately effective suspension is one of 6 months, commencing on 13 July 2018 and ending on 12 January 2019.”

Kirsan immediately said he was going to court to contest this decision, but of course he said that about the U.S. Treasury sanctions applied to him over two years ago. As we know by now, all this is just bluster. Ilyumzhinov said he would go to the Court of Arbitration and Sport (CAS), but he won’t get any joy there. In April, I accompanied FIDE officials to a meeting with senior executives of the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne where we discussed Kirsan’s sanctioning, refusal to resign and other matters. The IOC officials were surprised the matter had not been referred to the FIDE Ethics Commission, so we undertook to look into the possibility and I’m pleased the commission has acted.

An Unholy Alliance – The Kremlin comes up Short

Ilyumzhinov, did not, as expected, submit a ticket for the FIDE Presidential elections. Instead, as mentioned last month, the Kremlin decided to nominate Arkady Dvorkovich who, as I write, will just have finished discharging his duties as Chairman of the FIFA World Cup Organising Committee. So it’s a three-way fight between Dvorkovich, Georgios Makropoulos, whose ticket I have joined, and Nigel Short.

The first stage of the election sees candidates seek nominations from federation presidents for their tickets. Following a frenetic month of campaigning, Makro secured 64, Dvorkovich 13 and Short 6. There are 188 federations entitled to vote. In fact the Makro ticket had more nominations, but we decided only to announce 64 for symbolic reasons and also to avoid certain federations coming under pressure for declaring their support for us. This looks quite good for Makro’s ticket, but there is a long way to go before the voting at the Batumi Olympiad in early October.

Predictably and unfortunately, Dvorkovich has spoken favourably about a future role for Ilyumzhinov if he is elected (reference: http://www.ng.ru/chess/2018-07-06/8_ 7260_chess.html), and he has allied with the discredited President of the African Chess Confederation Lewis Ncube who has been cited for ‘borrowing’ $30,000 from FIDE funds to create an office for the ACC in Johannesburg which never materialised.

Short understands he hasn’t got a hope of winning the election. All he is doing is splitting the anti-Kremlin vote. Worse still, he has openly offered to consort with Dvorkovich if he can secure enough votes to secure the balance of power. I quote from his most recent election communication:

Unlike Michael Adams, Gawain Jones, David Howell and Luke McShane, Nigel Short will not be competing at the British Chess Championships in Hull as he is busy on the campaign front in his bid to become FIDE President, but would Nigel do a deal with Arkady Dvorkovich? | Photo Credit: Sophie Triay
Unlike Michael Adams, Gawain Jones, David Howell and Luke McShane, Nigel Short will not be competing at the British Chess Championships in Hull as he is busy on the campaign front in his bid to become FIDE President, but would Nigel do a deal with Arkady Dvorkovich? | Photo Credit: Sophie Triay

On the campaign so far I have often heard the refrain “We like your ideas, Nigel, but what, realistically, are your chances? Why should you succeed where Kasparov, Karpov and Kok have failed?” The answer to that is very simple: the electoral arithmetic is completely different in a three-horse race. No single candidate is expected to win on the first round of voting. In that scenario, if I do as “badly” as Kasparov, Karpov or Kok, I will hold the balance of power. Far from being a wasted vote, a vote for my team will, in fact, increase in value because neither of the other candidates will win without our support. This will ensure that our policies prevail and at least some of the above vital reforms are made.

My team are united in opposing another Kremlin take-over of FIDE and won’t be making any deals that might even let Ilyumzhinov back in in some capacity. Indeed, the aim is to rid the organisation of malign political influence. Nigel’s comments look to me like an overture to a Kremlin oligarch, someone who takes his orders from Vladimir Putin, and I condemn it.

By Executive Editor, IM Malcolm Pein

Follow Malcolm on Twitter @TelegraphChess
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