Chess World Needs Another "Fresh Start"

GM Ruslan Ponomariov is a young Ukrainian dynamo who has carved out a stake in the upper-echelon of the chess elite. However, since winning the FIDE Championship nearly two years ago, controversy has swirled around the Ponomariov camp. Threats of lawsuits and abandonment have dampened what was to be a propitious start to unifying the world chess crown… a proposal initiated by GM Yasser Seirawan's "Fresh Start" essay. The 48-hour deadline set by FIDE passed without an agreement and the qualifying match pitting Ponomariov and GM Garry Kasparov was nixed. In a FIDE press release, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov stated,

GM Ruslan Ponomariov - GM Garry Kasparov (Linares 2002)

Ponomariov and Kasparov in a light moment after Linares 2002.

Since the signing of the Prague Agreement, FIDE has tried patiently to meet with the recommendations of the players involved. However, as the governing body of world chess, FIDE will not give in to unreasonable request or pressure from any player involved in the unification process.

In place of the FIDE World Cup earlier scheduled for December 2003 FIDE shall organize the World Chess Championship (Knockout) Tournament to determine the next World Champion and FIDE shall not allow the selfishness of any one player to cause a hindrance to the unification process as already scheduled and approved by the FIDE General Assembly in Bled last year.

Strong words. It has been these type of words that has caused Ponomariov to demand the respect of a World Champion. However, his demands in his unification match appear to be the result of poor counsel. The 2002 Linares was perhaps the simmering point for the community's perception that the 19-year old Ukrainian was indeed a strong player, but had a team with a business acumen that left a lot to be desired.

Thus, the match has been cancelled and the unification process has met another serious setback. The
Kramnik-Leko match still has not secured a sponsor and the FIDE has now stepped in to help. Kasparov will not meet his new opponent until next year, but almost anything could happen in this time. It appears as if the chess world needs another "Fresh Start."

Sources, FIDE Press Release of Match Cancellation (MS-Word format), "FIDE Cancels World Championship Match," 29 August 2003., "FIDE gives Ponomariov 48-hours Deadline,"  26 August 2003., "Interview with Carten Hensel (Kramnik-Leko match)."

The Chess Drum, " Where is the World of Chess Going?"  27 March 2003.

Posted by The Chess Drum: 28 August 2003