1999 FIDE World Championship

In 1999 FIDE decided to held the championship under the same format as in 1998, only that this time the reigning champion (Karpov) didn't have any privileges at all. He should have joined the competition in the 2nd round (like all other high seeds). Karpov fiercely protested against this and refused to participate. He was only willing to play the winner, like he did in 1998. He said that "This is the way it has always been in chess. FIDE is supposed to find a challenger for the champion." Also before the 1998 Championship it was agreed that the winner will held the title for next 2 years.
The championship went bye without Karpov, but Karpov continued to claim the title. The matter was eventually settled before the court of arbitration for sports in Lausanne (I believe Karpov got some money for compensation).

Prominent non-participants:
  • Garry Kasparov (#1) - Kasparov had no intention to ever participate in these kind of events; besides he was trying to set up his own title match
  • Viswanathan Anand (#2) - declined his invitation because he was expecting to play a match against Kasparov
  • Alexander Morozevich (#5) - declined to sign the player untertaking because he wasn't satisfied with the terms
  • Anatoly Karpov (#8) - refused to participate under imposed conditions
All other world's top 25 players were present (including Gata Kamsky who came out of retirement for just this one tournament).

Tournament conditions:
  • tournament was played from July 31st to August 28th, 1999 in Las Vegas, USA
  • tournament was a 7 round knock-out with 100 players (the highest seeds got a bye into the 2nd round)
  • time controls were 100 minutes for first 40 moves, then 50 minutes for next 20 moves, then 10 minutes for the rest of the game, with 30 seconds per move increment from move 1
  • in rounds 1-5 two regular games were played, in semi-finals four regular games were played, in the final six regular games were played
  • if the match was tied, 2 rapid (25min+10sec) games were played. If still tied, 2 rapid (15min+10sec) games were played. If still tied sudden death games (white had 4min+10sec, black had 5min+10sec) were played until the decision.
  • total prize fund was 3.000.000 USD

Download games

Only rounds 5, 6 and 7 are shown here. See the whole pairing tree here.

The tournament was surprisingly won by Alexander Valeryevich Khalifman who was ranked 44th in the world at the time of the tournament. This of course fueled the opponents of KO tournament format, saying that this proves that KO championships are more of a lotery than the measure of strength. The critics were forced to be silent in 1997 when the highest rated participant (Anand) won the tournament, but this time they could really let it loose. Also the majority of public had a hard time to accept so lowly rated player as anykind of champion, even the FIDE one. If Khalifman heard or read 1% of what was said and written about him, he probably wished he would never win this championship. He was the FIDE World Champion who took the most "beating" from the chess public.

I think people were and still are very unfair towards Khalifman. Was he the best player on the world in 1999? No, of course not, but he was at his best when it matered the most - at the World Championship. You can like or dislike the format of the tournament, but Khalifman had to deserve his win like anyone else under any other format. Nobody gave him the win, he had to work for it. And he had to do it against world's top players (minus above mentioned exceptions). Sometimes the outsiders win - in ANY sport. But nobody points fingers at them, saying "Oh, but you're not the real Champion". Why is chess so different???