1998 Shirov - Kramnik Challenger Match (2000 cycle)

After the PCA folded in 1996, Kasparov was left without the governing body. Based on his reputation and constant dominant performances in world-class tournaments, he was widely recognized as the "true" World Champion. Without organization the World Champion title was his personal property, same as it was 60 and more years ago. Kasparov created a mess which lasted for 15 years and is responsible of pushing the chess world 60 years backwards, but at least he didn't hide behind his title like some of the pre-FIDE champions did. He always seeked to play a World Championship match with the strongest challenger (which we can's exactly say for his succesor).

Remember the old posts about pre-FIDE World Championship matches where I needed to write the whole esay to explain how and why someone became the challenger? Well, here we go again (thats what happens when there is no organization that would govern the World Championship).

(Partial) Reconciliation with FIDE and negotiations with Karpov

After playing their 1993 World Championship outside of FIDE's jurisdiction, Kasparov and Short were expelled from FIDE and removed from FIDE rating list (meaning that even if they would want to, they couldn't participate in FIDE's 1993-1996 World Championship cycle). After a year has passed, in November 1994, FIDE president Florenco Campomanes and Kasparov signed an agreement to seek reconciliation between FIDE and the PCA. As a sign of good faith Kasparov and Short were reinstated on the FIDE rating list. In December 1994 on 65th FIDE Congress, Campomanes was re-elected as FIDE President with the support of Kasparov "to end the current confusion in world chess". First words about a possible reunification match between Kasparov and Karpov were spoken. However soon the first obstacles appear: Kasparov wants the champion's status, while FIDE (and Karpov) claim that he de facto forfeited the title in 1993 (same as Fischer did in 1974/5). Kasparov's reaction was "The FIDE officials are idiots. They are killing an essential agreement (on the FIDE-PCA unification match) because they don't accept that I am World Champion."
In last quarter of 1995 Kasparov defends his title against Anand, and FIDE elects a new president - Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.
In January 1996 Ilyumzhinov proposed a World Championship reunification tournament with 100 players participating. The contest would be an elimination event composed of short matches where Kasparov and the winner of Karpov-Kamsky would enter in the semifinal round. The tournament is proposed for December 1996 and January 1997.
In June/July 1996 Karpov defended his FIDE title against Kamsky.
On September 14th 1996 Karpov and Kasparov signed an agreement to hold a reunification match outside of both FIDE and the PCA (which by that time only existed on paper). A drawn match would be resolved by a series of speed games. For whatever reason the match never happened and by that time Karpov's strength already started to decline. So Kasparov started to look for a challenger elsewhere.

Kasparov seeks a challenger

After Deep Blue matches and refusal to participate in 1997/98 FIDE Wold Championship, Kasparov started to seek for a challenger in 1998 (afterall almost 2 and a half years passed since his last title defence). During the opening ceremony of traditional Linares tournament in February 1998, organizer Luis Rentero and Kasparov announce creation of the World Chess Council (WCC). This was Kasparov's fourth attempt to create a counterbalance to FIDE, after Grandmasters Association (GMA), the European Chess Union (ECU) and Professional Chess Association (PCA). The WCC was about to met the same faith as all others.

Rentero and Kasparov (in the name of WCC) proposed a 10 game challenger match between Viswanathan Anand (world's #2) and Vladimir Kramnik (world's #3) in Cazorla (Spain) beginning on May 20th, 1998. The winner of the Cazorla match would meet Kasparov in October 1998 for an 18 game match played in Seville and Linares, with Kasparov to retain his title if tied. The prize fund for the match with Kasparov would be 1.300.000 USD, which was guaranteed by the Andalusian regional government, according to Rentero, who had procured the funding.

Anand immediatelly responded that his contract with FIDE (player's undertaking for 1997/98 FIDE World Championship) prevents him from playing in any such non-FIDE matches for one year. WCC suggested that the relevant clause had little weight and could be settled favorably in court if FIDE took legal action. Anand's reaction was: "I have signed a contract with FIDE, my signature binds me, and I am a man of my word."

When it became clear that Anand would not accept to play for the WCC, his place was offered to Alexei Shirov (who also participated in 1997/98 FIDE World Championship, but didn't seemed to be bothered by his contract to FIDE). The justification was Shirov's excellent showing in the Linares tournament, where he was in the running for first place until the last round (fact that Shirov lives and plays for Spain may also had some importance in the eyes of the Spanish sponsors Wink)

Soon the challenger match between Kramnik and Shirov was announced. The loser would receive 200.000 USD, while the winner would go on to face Kasparov (now for 1.900.000 USD). Note that the winner would receive no money in Cazorla, he would be paid after his match against Kasparov, depending on the result (65% of 1.900.000 USD for the winner, 35% for the losser).

Shirov becomes the challenger

The Shirov-Kramnik challenger match was played from May 24th to June 5th, 1998 in Cazorla, Spain. The match was 'best of 10 games' played on two consecutive days followed by a rest day. If the match would be drawn, there would be a series of rapidplay games to determine the winner.

Download games

Shirov won the right to play Kasparov for a prize fund of 1.900.000 USD. The match should start on October 16th, 1998 in Seville, Spain. Kramnik received 100.000 USD, with another 100.000 USD to be paid after the World Championship match.

WCC loses its sponsors

Rentero was a member of the political party which controlled the Ministry, but some time after the the WCC announcement in February, control of the Ministry passed to the opposition party in exchange for a supporting vote on a key issue in the Andalusian parliament. The new leadership of the Ministry had no desire to sponsor WCC activities. The situation had been known to the other WCC principles since July, but they didn't announce it publicly, since they were hoping to find new sponsors - there were rumors about Kasparov-Shirov match taking place in Los Angeles or somewhere in Catalonia.

Billed as a warmup for his forthcoming WCC title match, Kasparov played a friendly six game match against Jan Timman in Prague, Czech Republic, starting September 6th 1998 (the match was sponsored by EuroTel). At the press conference on the eve of the match, Kasparov announced that his WCC title match with Shirov had been cancelled due to lack of sponsorship and funding.

New sponsors - New plans

Kasparov went on to win the EuroTel match over Timman (4-2), but more significant than the match itself was the appearance of a new potential sponsor. EuroTel Praha was a Czech wireless company owned 51% by SPT Telecom, which was partially owned by TelSource. The chief executive of TelSource was Bessel Kok, a well known business man who was always interested in chess. As chief executive in the 1980's of the telecommunication company SWIFT, Kok had sponsored a series of annual tournaments in Brussels, including GMA World Cup events. Later he had gone on to a position with the GMA, but had a falling out with Kasparov, which effectively put an end to the GMA.

In October, Kok announced that EuroTel would sponsor a 3.000.000 USD match between Kasparov and the winner of the 1998 FIDE World Championship in Las Vegas (to be played in December 1998). The proposal foresaw a match in the second half of 1999, between Kasparov as the reigning world champion and the FIDE participant as the challenger. The prize fund would be divided 2/3 to the winner and 1/3 to the loser.

In an interview Kasparov announced that "the proposal has great merit" and that he was taking the offer seriously. Asked about his former problems with Kok and the GMA, he replied: "That was long ago. Hopefully, we are both wiser now than we were then."

In December, FIDE Secretary Emmanuel Omuku verbally rejected Kok's offer to finance the match between Kasparov and a FIDE champion. The FIDE championship in Las Vegas had been cancelled, reportedly due to contract difficulties with Karpov, so the FIDE decision may have been due more to the lack of a player than to any fundamental opposition to the idea. Some observers suspected that the collapse of the Russian economy in August may have been a factor in FIDE's cancellation of the event. Also the condition about Kasparov being the Champion and the legitimate FIDE champion as only the challenger, probably didn't sit to well either.

At about the same time Rentero suffered serious injuries when his car was hit by a truck in Linares. He was hospitalized with serious head and chest injuries, and spent more than three weeks in intensive care. The accident marked a firm and unfortunate end to the WCC, which was fast becoming a footnote in chess history.

So by end of 1998 Kasparov was again without any sponsors and organization.

The January 1999 FIDE rating list had Kasparov as the number 1 player at 2812, followed by Anand (2784), Kramnik (2751), and Shirov (2726).

Kasparov wants Anand

Kasparov stopped talking about a match with Shirov and expressed his desire to play a match with Anand. In an interview published on his Web site he was asked, "Under the aegis of what organization?", and replied, "No organization, I don't care about the organization! A title match under the same aegis that covered the match between Capablanca and Alekhine, does anyone remember under which cover they played? Nobody does, at least it does not matter now." He went on to state his view that FIDE had always been subservient to the wishes of the World Champion and of the Soviet Chess Federation. "The time when FIDE was a union of federations is now over. Today FIDE is not an organization, but one man, who finances it." He summarized his position with, "Anand needs to define if he wants to play a real title match with me or not."

On February 2nd 1999 Shirov issued the following statement:
    Since Gary Kasparov has made many statements and given interviews, press releases etc., I strongly feel that the time has come for me to end my silence and express my views on what has happened with and around the WCC World Championship.

    Back in 1993 the former World champion Mikhail Botvinnik said that Kasparov would end up as his own owner of the World champion title as it has been the case with Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine. Today we see that the late patriarch was right - Kasparov has just stated that Anand is the World number two player and should just challenge him for the title without preliminary competition.

    But has there really been no preliminary competition between 1995 and 1999? I am afraid this is where the main contradiction to Kasparov's statements lies.

    When I won the match against Kramnik I immediately realised that things were shaky and my match vs. Kasparov was up in the air. However officially it was still announced for October 1998, they were speculating about both Sevilla and Marbella as the location and Rentero repeatedly said in telephone conversations that the prize fund of 2 million dollars for the match was under control.

    The sad truth became apparent in the end of August when Rentero finally admitted that the signature of Junta Andalucia never existed, that he had all the copies of the contract and he could just eat them rather than pay me the 200.000 USD compensation for cancellation of the match as stated in the contract.

    The WCC did not stop functioning however and rather cynically offered me to play the match in California for the prize fund of 600.000 USD with 400.000 USD going to the winner and 200.000 USD for the loser and Kasparov accepting that! Well, 200.000 USD guarantee for two matches (I mean that all that I got in Cazorla were the bills) had not been the case for quite a while in World Championships and I naturally refused it as I estimated it too low. I suggested the prize fund of 1.000.000 USD with the distribution 600.000 USD to the winner and 400.000 USD to the loser instead.

    I should state that the California offer with 600.000 USD prize fund was the only more or less serious offer I've had until now. Later on Kasparov stated in many interviews that I had turned down the one million offer because of the different distribution (650 thousand to the winner and 350 thousand to the loser) and these statements are completely untrue. I have never seen the official one million offer and I already had had enough verbal offers made by Mr. Rentero.

    I have also tried (and even got the verbal promises again!) to raise the prize money in Catalonia where I live but so far nothing is confirmed. Of course, Kasparov's continuous statements that he wants to play Anand don't improve the situation.

    I presume that my legitimacy as the World Championship contender is not any lower than Kasparov's legitimacy as the World Champion. And if we follow the historical line and assume that the World championship outside FIDE still exists (although in future the agreement between players and FIDE should be made) then my match against Kasparov should finally be organized. I have won all the matches I played since 1991 with a high score, so I feel ready to beat Kasparov in the match play."
Kasparov responded with his own statement:
    "I was ready to play Shirov and I did everything possible to facilitate that. However, I did not succeed in either Andalucia or California, who both potentially provided us with the opportunity of holding this match. However, my adversary considered the conditions offered to be insufficient. Indeed, the prize fund in the case of California just half that of Andalucia but we ended up in a similar position.

    It is not only Shirov who has suffered. My material and moral losses can be compared with his. I spent six months preparing and I would also like to add that in September, I paid for preliminary work on organizing the match in California. This money has been lost.

    The reality is that nobody wants to organize such a match. Potential sponsors are much more interested in a match between the number 1 and 2 chess players: Kasparov & Anand.

    Alexei Shirov says that the Spanish province of Catalonia could organize the match, but as far as I know, the Catalonian Minister for Sports has only supported the idea of holding the match there and has not made a single practical move towards organizing it. Enrico Touret, a businessman from Barcelona, expressed interest but I have not received any offers from him for four months.

    In order to compensate Shirov for his losses in some way, I have recently ceded to him the right to play a commercial match with Judith Polgar in the summer. The match is organized by Bessel Kok, has a prize fund of 200 thousand dollars, and will be held in Prague."
In an interview Kramnik agreed with Shirov that Kasparov had an obligation to contest the promised match with Shirov. A match would also help Kasparov improve his tarnished image with the chess world. He declared that, for what little it mattered, Karpov (!!!) was the official owner of the World Championship title. He also said his loss to Shirov in the WCC qualifying match was "an accident" due to non-chess problems he was having at the time of the match.

In March 1999 Canadian promoter Serge Grimaux proposed a match between Kasparov and Anand, which Kasparov imediatelly accepted:
    The Press Release of Serge Grimaux
    GM Garry Kasparov Vs. GM Vishy Anand
    The Ultimate World Chess Championship

    Following several weeks of discussions which started earlier this year in Madrid Friday, March 12, during a meeting attended by the current World Chess Champion and the highest ranked player after him, it is now official: GM Garry Kasparov has accepted to put at stake the World Champion title he now holds for more then thirteen years and defend it against the ever amazing Vishy Anand.

    The detailed offer prepared by Serge Grimaux, a Canadian entrepreneur in the field of live entertainment for more then twenty years, currently active in North America as well as in Central Europe, has received full backing of world known Chess mentors respected by the entire Chess community and headed by Mr. Bessel Kok, GM Fridrik Olafson (former FIDE President) and Dr. William Wirth.

    As Mr. Kasparov stated it: "I have always welcomed Championships as they are the essence of every sport. A World Championship is even more exciting. Meeting with Vishy will certainly provide the kind of chess games which will be followed, like never before, throughout the entire planet."

    The offer will expire this coming Friday, April 23, 1999, at midnight London time, U.K., but, as stated above, has already received the acceptance of GM Garry Kasparov. Everyone is now waiting for GM Vishy Anand to act similarly.

    The host city of the Championship will be decided by a committee of Chess organizing experts. The Championship is scheduled to commence in October 1999. The prize fund is comprised of US$3,000,000: US$2,000,000 for the winner and US$1,000,000 for the other party.
The deadline passed without any formal response from Anand.

The match is on ... or not

In June 1999, Grimaux issued a press release announcing that Anand had agreed to play a match with Kasparov. At the same time the Candidates for year 2000 were announced, with the next World Championship match in 2001.

Imediatelly after accepting the Kasparov match, Anand declined to sign his contract to play at the 1999 FIDE World Championship in Las Vegas, which would have prevented him from playing any non-FIDE match (like it did in 1998).

Shirov was of course furious and issued another press release:
    "More than five months have passed since my first press release. It's definitely not my style to write open letters, however after so much desinformation around my match against Kasparov (now in fact the match Kasparov-Anand) I feel that I have to clear some points. Just for chess' sake.

    Even before my first press release was published, Kasparov had stated that he wanted to play Anand because 'it was impossible to find money for the match Shirov-Kasparov' and that 'the match Shirov-Kasparov was not interesting for sponsors because Anand was much stronger'. Kasparov repeated these statements until finally on 3rd of June this year Anand was rumoured (I can't find a better word since the official announcement is to be made on 10th of July) to sign the contract for their match.

    Let me refute these statements one by one. First of all, Anand is not anymore stronger than me. Nor is he in comparison with, for example, Kramnik and Morozevich. His last two tournament performances in Monaco and Dos Hermanas were complete failures as he was behind his main rivals. And now, after my relative success in Sarajevo my WCC rating is even higher than Anand's. I don't give much importance to the WCC rating but it's Kasparov who always considers the WCC rating to be more objective than the FIDE rating. Complete contradiction. When last year I collapsed in Dortmund, Kasparov was quick to say that my performance diminished sponsors' interest for the match. What has changed until now when Anand shared the last place in Dos Hermanas? Strange game.

    A few words about Anand's legitimacy. Everybody knows that last year Anand refused to play the candidate's match vs. Kramnik, let me call it 'semifinal'. And now when I replaced him in the semifinal and qualified for the final, he goes to take my place apparently without any conscience problems! As if believing that it's not his problem that I don't have sponsors for the match and the people who want to make Kasparov-Anand match don't recognize my legitimacy.

    And the absence of sponsors is not the true case at all. Now it's 100% clear to me that if Kasparov had always recognized me as his only legitimate opponent for the World Championship match, it would have been possible to make it. And he revealed himself when at the end of May he publicly stated that if Anand refused then he would play against me. So, it was definitely not a money problem that Kasparov preferred to play Anand instead of me. And the real reasons one will never know. I could only add that in March, during the Linares tournament Kasparov refused to have a telephone conversation with the Catalan manager Enric Turet who was working hard trying to make my match against Kasparov in Barcelona and Terrasa. And shortly after that (on March 12, I believe) Kasparov accepted the offer of Mr. Serge Grimaux, the promoter of Kasparov-Anand match, it remained just to wait for Anand's answer. And since the answer could come at any time, any organization that was interested in my match against Kasparov (apart from Mr.Turet I was also contacted by people in Poland, England and USA) could find it useless to go on working on it.

    My last and real chance to play against Kasparov would have been Anand's negative responce to Mr. Grimaux's offer. But this was too much a hope as in our world a lot of people strive for money and more money, so Anand proved to be no exception by taking what doesn't belong to him. I consider both Anand and Kasparov guilty for depriving me of the World Championship match and that this century will end with their inlegitimate 'World Championship'."
In August 1999 FIDE World Championship in Las vegas was won by Alexander Khalifman. Ilyumzhinov put some more oil on the fire by his speech at the closing ceremony, saying: "I want to congratulate Alexander Khalifman, the 14th World Chess Champion. I want to invite him to play again next year to defend his title. From now on, the World Champion must defend his title on the chessboard, not in press conferences [refering to Kasparov] or in the courts [refering to Karpov]."

Few weeks after, Anand's manager announced that Kasparov-Anand match is cancelled due to lack of sponsors who pulled out in the last minute. Kasparov's manager responded that Anand's manager jumped the conclusion and that now the match is really in danger. There were accusation back and forth who said what, but there really seemed to be no money for the match as Serge Grimaux later confirmed with following press release:
    The Ultimate World Chess Championship
    GM G.Kasparov vs. GM V.Anand
    Postponed to the Early Part of 2000

    Friday, October 1st, 1999

    Serge Grimaux

    After many months of negotiations with several major American corporations in the field of information technology, which had given the Committee and the event promoter, Serge Grimaux, strong indications to support the Ultimate World Chess Championship, unfortunately no agreement was able to be reached.

    Consequently contractual and logistic deadlines cannot be met and the Committee will review with the players a possible date for the event in the early part of 2000.

    In the meantime a major European city has offered to host the match, providing all the necessary infrastructure in terms of logistic and venue.

    Negotiations are currently taking place with alternative sponsors.
No alternative sponsors were found.

New sponsors - again

In March 2000, the attention of the chess world shifted to London when The Times reported that a 16 game, 2.000.000 USD World Championship match between Garry Kasparov and Viswanathan Anand was planned for October. The venue was first reported as Bahrain, but later changed to London. The report was confirmed by the Mind Sports Organisation (MSO), a company founded by Raymond Keene, David Levy, and Tony Buzan. Kasparov was reported to have agreed to the terms.

MSO later announced that Anand had not yet signed a contract and that he had been given until April 21st to do so. Anand was somewhat suspicious because of the past experiences and wanted some guarantees instead of just promises. Anand demanded an advance of 300.000 USD. Keene, emerging as the spokesman for the organizing group considered this unnecessary. Then MSO suddendly disapeared and Braingames Network (BGN) appeared as the organizer, and the deadline was pushed forward to March 21st. Because of his (and Shirov's) past experiences and not receiving any firm guarantees (except words) Anand decided to pass, and eventually signed up for 2000 FIDE World Championship (which then prevented him to play a non-FIDE match anyway).

Kramnik becomes the challenger

When Anand passed, the offer went to the #3 in the world - Vladimir Kramnik, who ironically lost the 1998 challenger match against Shirov - the thing that angered Shirov even more. And rightly so - Shirov as the winner didn't get anything (either money or title match), while Kramnik as the loser got money and the title match Indifferent
Kramnik accepted and Kasparov-Kramnik match was announced for October 9th 2000. BGN confirmed the other arrangements and revealed that the prize fund had been raised. Again plans for the future World Championship cycle in 2001 and 2002 were revealed. When being asked about Shirov, Kasparov said: "In 1998, Shirov had the right to play me. In 2000, it's a different situation with a new organization in control."
Shirov responded in an open letter with, "I do believe that the Kasparov-Kramnik match can not have anything to do with any kind of World Championship, be it official, historical, brain or whatsoever. I am the legitimate candidate for it since 1998." Shirov mantained his position in the following years (at least until 2006) and refused to accept Kramnik as a World Champion.

Five years after Kasparov's last title defence, the much awaited match finally happened. At that time the match was billed as the "Braingames World Championship", but was later retroactively renamed to the "Classical World Championship".