FIDE’s next steps

In an interview in Russia, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich talked about possible changes in the world championship cycle and competitive chess at large: Players may be restricted to compete in only one national league. Team events may no longer be rated. The world championships for teams and children are under review. Stefan Löffler has excerpted the essentials in two parts. The first one focuses on competitive chess.

Arkady Dvorkovich, left, was interviewed by Daniil Dubov.
Arkady Dvorkovich, left, was interviewed by Daniil Dubov. (photo: youtube)

In August, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich was interviewed for more than two hours by Daniil Dubov, the 24-year old Russian grandmaster who demonstrated his independent mind with tough questions and sharp comments. The interview, that has much more depth than for instance the minutes from the FIDE Council meeting, received a lot of attention in Russia after being broadcast on the Twitch channel of the Moscow Chess Federation, which kindly permitted us to publish excerpts from the English translation of the video, which just became available.

Restarting the Candidates

The second part of the Candidates tournament, which was interrupted on 26 March, had been scheduled to be continued in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on 1 November, or alternatively in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, and has now been postponed to spring 2021. Back in August Dvorkovich said:

“We can hold the second part in every country that gives the candidates the maximum comfort because the extra costs will not be very high. We have no real obstacles to hold the second part. When I was asked in the FIDE Council which country, I said it can be anywhere if we get an offer. Why not in Georgia? It is not a formal offer but the idea popped up. (…)

Yesterday I wrote to everyone on the Council about the Candidates tournament. Today most have replied. They think it is better to resume it closer to the end of the year. (…) The virus is getting less harmful although it spreads very fast. From that point the situation in November will be better than in September. (…)

Now the problem is the country where the player is coming from. When a Chinese player returns he has to be in 14 days quarantine in far-from-optimal conditions. It is highly unpleasant for the Chinese players. (…) When Ding Liren and Wang Hao returned they were put in quarantine, and as far as I know it wasn’t pleasant. They don’t want to go through that again.“

World Championship cycle

Dvorkovich said there there was only one taboo for him. He would never touch having a world championship match every two years. He also wants to retain the Candidates tournament as it is but adjust the qualification.

“It is good to have several paths to qualify, but it’s impossible to explain (the current system) to anyone outside of chess. And it is difficult to find partners for all these events, there is always a risk of failure. Therefore we are looking for a way to simplify the system without losing its advantages. (…) An idea that we are favouring is to combine a Swiss with a knockout. Starting with a Swiss, those in the lead proceed to fast knockouts with two games in a day and tiebreaks if necessary. There should be several such tournaments. The advantage is obvious: It’s a well-defined system that gives chances to many. But we expect criticism from adepts of classical chess. (…)

We will keep some places for those who perform best in classical events. (…) The most prestigious tournaments must be considered. Shamkir, Stavanger, Wijk aan Zee, Grenke and any other big events in this period. The best performers in these tournaments should be in the Candidates. It will be weird if the best player in them will not be in the Candidates, but it is easy to fail in the existing qualifiers.”

Competitions under review?

“We have to discuss the World Team Championship. Many people don’t understand its purpose, and it doesn’t generate much interest, to put it mildly. We should figure out how to change it if we want to keep it. (…)

In the first grades (for school children) chess should be an easy game, not too competitive. That is why I strongly doubt the need to hold U8 and U10 World Championships. It is a bit too much for me, because at his age a child’s psyche is very fragile. The tournaments should look more like festivals. Sometimes parents become crazy about their kids and put a lot of stress and create conflicts among themselves. (…) Since they are open it’s sometimes kids that go not because they deserve it, but because their parents have enough money. (…) We have to be careful. I am not saying we have to cancel these world championships, but we need to be a bit more relaxed about and take it easy.”

Arkady Dvorkovich joined the Russian government in 2000, was assistant of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev 2008–2012, Russian Deputy Prime Minister 2012–2018 and chairman of the FIFA World Cup in 2018, before being elected as FIDE President. The 50-year-old, whose father was a chess coach and organiser, holds several degrees in economics.
Arkady Dvorkovich joined the Russian government in 2000, was assistant of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev 2008–2012, Russian Deputy Prime Minister 2012–2018 and chairman of the FIFA World Cup in 2018, before being elected as FIDE President. The 50-year-old, whose father was a chess coach and organiser, holds several degrees in economics.

Chess Olympiad 2022

The interview took place before the mass protests started in Belarus. Apparently, it was not the political instability that made FIDE look for a new organiser for the 2022 Chess Olympiad. Dvorkovich said: ”We received a letter from the Belarus Chess Federation, also signed by colleagues from the Belarus government, that they can’t confirm hosting the Chess Olympiad and the World Cups in Minsk. That’s why we will invite new bids. (…). We will find an organiser for the Olympiad one way or another, probably among the other candidates when Minsk was chosen: Tunisia or South Korea. China was also considering a bid. There is interest in South America, but in the current situation and financial crisis it’s impossible to negotiate. (…) The situation in Tunisia is better.“

Saving the World Cups

Dvorkovich is concerned about the next World Cup and Women’s World Cup, that were supposed to take place in Minsk in summer 2021 respectively spring 2022: ”The World Cups have never been popular among organisers. The players love them, the audience loves them, but it’s a nightmare for the hosts. We are looking for a way to allow all players that qualified to play and at the same time make the life of organisers easier, the events shorter and more spectacular. (…) I want these changes to be supported by an overwhelming majority of the players. When I say overwhelming I don’t mean 95 percent, but at least 70 percent. Otherwise there will be constant disputes and debates.“

Rethinking league chess

Talking about how professionals can make a living, Dvorkovich suggested: ”I am not sure that only leagues within one country exist in the future. There might be a league in South East Asia, another in Southern Europe or in Scandinavia. (…) A player should only play for one club. There will be opportunities for more players if a player cannot play for two clubs. This can only be regulated at the international level, either by continental federations of by FIDE. We are not there yet, as FIDE cannot intervene in the affairs of national federations. But if we all reach an agreement on the international level, not impose it, but come to terms, it will be possible.“

(Un)Rating team events

When Dubov asked ”a philosophical question: Are team events against the nature of chess?“, Dvorkovich replied: ”To some degree. That is why I am against rating team competitions. (…) We will discuss it in the FIDE council and in the general assembly. (…) It depends on the General Assembly (to be held online on 6 December) and it will be decided there. (…) We have to offer something if we make changes. Many players don’t usually leave their countries and the Olympiad is their chance to meet players from other countries and get rated games. (…) If we can organise more tournaments with players from different continents, from different countries, such a change can be adopted. (…)

But I don’t want this as a 52:48 decision, there must be a broad consensus before we change this. (…) Doing nothing is always a possibility, but you gradually lose your reputation and your contact with reality. If opinions are divided, there is no hurry. I have always been apprehensive of decisions like Brexit that are taken with 52%. When time is pressing, I am ready to take decisions even without much support. But if inaction makes no harm, why not take two or three months to discuss a matter in detail?“

Part 2 will deal with how FIDE functions and finances itself.