Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

World chess contest kicks off--without champions
November 27, 2001
By Clara Ferreira-Marques

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The bitterly divided world of high-level chess took a fresh blow Tuesday as the World Championships began in Moscow with nearly 200 players, but without top-ranked masters Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik.

Kasparov and Kramnik, who will instead be playing a series of matches only a couple of miles from the global competition, have left the limelight to Indian top seed Viswanathan Anand, the defending champion of the world chess federation (FIDE).

Kasparov broke away from FIDE in 1993 to found the Professional Chess Association.

Former world champion Anatoly Karpov was initially due to participate in the Kasparov-Kramnik meet, but pulled out in favor of the FIDE championship.

Karpov, Kasparov and Kramnik, dubbed the three K's in the Russian media, have held the chess world crown since 1975, dominating three successive generations of players.

But FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov said the separate matches would not detract from the world contest.

"We have organized this championship since 1996 and it is always at the same time," he said in comments reported on FIDE's official website. "As for the Kramnik-Kasparov tournament, we welcome the idea enthusiastically as it popularizes chess."

Chess associations have long argued over time control, which governs how long each player has to complete his game, as well as competition formats and clashing contest schedules.

Players have objected to the knockout format introduced by Ilyumzhinov, also leader of Russia's Kalmykia region, where the native population is Buddhist.

The FIDE-sponsored contest, scheduled to last until the end of January, with a break for Christmas, will also be the first world meet where chess grandmasters are subjected to doping tests -- part of a campaign to make chess an Olympic sport.


FIDE has not only banned steroids, in line with most sporting bodies, but has also clamped down on stimulants likely to enhance participants' alertness.

"If it is four or six cups (of coffee) during the game, it is not a problem," Pedro Barrera, chairman of the FIDE medical commission said on the FIDE site. "But it depends on the weight of the player. And it is illegal to mix coffee and Coca-Cola because it increases caffeine rates."

The $3.5 million championship has a knockout format. The two finalists from the men's tournament will then face a nerve-wracking play-off at the end of January 2002.

Among those watching the unfolding events with a keen eye is Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Chess is not simply a sport, it makes a man wise and clear-sighted," Itar-Tass news agency quoted Putin as saying at FIDE's opening ceremony.

"It helps one appreciate situations objectively, to plan actions several moves in advance. Most importantly, it forms character," he said.

Ilyumzhinov, one of Russia's more eccentric regional chiefs, was lambasted by the press for designing a "Chess City" in the remote Kalmykian capital Elista, building new houses, streets and chess halls to host FIDE-sponsored events.

Back to the Top    Next Article