Kasparov-Shirov Match off

by Mark Crowther

After speculation that the World Chess Council match between Kasparov and Shirov would be moving to alternate venues in Spain or to America a press release from Gary Kasparov makes it clear that his match against Alexei Shirov is off after funding could not be found. In his statement he speaks of verbal assurances that the money would be there from from Luis Rentero the well known Spanish chess organiser. Already at the time of the Shirov-Kramnik eliminator match there were disturbing stories that the finance was not in place and that contracts had not been signed. It transpires that Rentero has been having trouble with his political contacts in Spain. He had some sort of agreement with the Socialist group in Andalucia but this was evidently only a verbal agreement. In an exchange for a key vote in the regional parliament, the socialists handed over the Ministry for Tourism and Sport to the nationalist, from where half of the budget for the title match was to come from. To his horror, Mr Rentero discovered that the nationalist, unlike the socialists, were not all that enamoured with the idea of funding Kasparov's title defence. In protest, Mr Rentero has subsequently resigned as Socialist town councillor for Linares, where half of the match was to be staged.

The match may still go ahead, but funding will have to come from some new source. It is understood that Alexei Shirov has decided to play for Spain in the Olympiad, a sure sign that he does not believe the match will take place in October. 

Kasparov statement on the World Chess Championships 

Over a year ago I met with Luis Rentero in Madrid to discuss the general future of chess, including the cycle of the World Chess Championship, a series of major chess tournaments, a new chess clock with an improved time trouble control system, and a highly-necessary revised and an improved chess training program and even a museum in a very attractive old mansion in Linares. 

Undoubtedly the most important project for Mr. Rentero was the organisation and presentation of a challenge to me for the World Chess Championship. The World Chess Council (WCC) was born out of these ideas and came into being during Jan. and Feb of 1998 in Linares. The plans for the World Chess Championship cycle were announced by Luis Rentero and we all understood that he had received verbal assurances and, in fact, a commitment from the government of Andalusia for funding in excess of two million dollars. 

The candidates challenge was announced and the first persons invited were Vladimir Kramnik and Vishy Anand, who at that stage rated number 2 and 3 respectively. Eventually Anand declined and I was at that time very much in favor of playing the match for the title against Kramnik, I was overruled by the WCC (yes, overruled by the council) and it was decided that the most successful player emerging from the Linares event would be the Candidate to play Vladimir Kramnik for the chance to challenge me. It is now history that Shirov played very well in Linares and won the candidates match against Kramnik in Cazoria, a resort town south of Linares in the province of Jaen in the region of Andalusia. This is significant because in Cazoria there were signs and publicity clearly showing "Andalusia" as the sponsor of both the candidates match and the upcoming World Championship. At this stage funding did not appear to me to be in any doubt. 

Luis Rentero personally announced a $2.1 million total prize money pool, of which $200,000 would go to the losing player in the candidates match and the $1.9 million remaining would go to the two players in the finals on a 65-35% ratio with a 50-50 split in the case of a drawn match. We were to play 18 games of classical chess and the first player to get 9.5 points would with the championship. In the event of a 9-9 tie I would retain my title. 

What then transpired is not totally clear to me and involves a lot of hearsay and report for which I cannot personally vouch. It would appear that political problems in Sevilla, the capital of Andalusia, caused the junta to have second thoughts. Eventually the match, which was to have the first nine games in Sevilla and the second nine games in Linares was no longer to be sponsored and underwritten by the junta of Andalusia. This state of affairs was unfortunately played very close to Mr. Rentero's chest for a very long time. It was only when rumors started to emerge in June of this year that we began asking strong questions. We were constantly assured by Mr. Rentero that he personally would underwrite and guarantee the games and we confirmed these assurances of his back to him in writing on several occasions. He stated on numerous occasions that his word was his bond, that he would guarantee that the matches would take place and that I should not worry any longer. Matters came to a head in July when Mr. Rentero finally admitted that the whole match was in question. William Wirth, a well-known sponsor of chess in Switzerland and a highly respected man who had accepted the position of Vice President of the World Chess Council, together with Owen Williams flew to meet with Mr. Rentero in Marbella, and for several weeks it was rumoured that Marbella would be the new home of the Championship match. Marbella was not confirmed and since that time both Mr. Rentero and Mr. Wirth have been talking to several sites and cities around the world in the hope of staging the match as scheduled. As of today no alternative site has been found and within the next week of two we will decide what to do. 

As to the future of the WCC, I must refer you to Mr. Luis Rentero, its president, and ask him to give his version of what transpired and the forces at work which caused the curtailment of his efforts. I respect the hard work and effort he made on behalf of the WCC and my only regret is that he gave such categorical and unequivocal assurances when he knew he would not honor them. 

With regard to the World Championship, I am very proud of my title and November 9th is a special day for me as it is the 13th anniversary of my title win in 1995. You all know that I had to overcome severe political problems to even get as far as a challenge to Karpov in 1984. I have played six times and for the ultimate title in chess, I stand read, willing and able to defend my title again.  

My title cannot be taken away from me "by decree." To be the new World Champion, somebody is going to have to site down across the table from me and beat me fair and square. 

It cites Owen Williams (Kasparov's manager) as the contact. (Incidently Andrew Page has not been Kasparov's manager for some time now and has absolutely nothing to do with his affairs anymore).