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Questions Surround Kamsky Match Print E-mail
By Macauley Peterson   
May 16, 2008
Gata Kamsky and Veselin Topalov in Sofia, 2007.
 Photo Macauley Peterson

Sofia, Bulgaria

In the past week the deadline for FIDE to receive additional bids to hold the Kamsky-Topalov match was extended for the fourth time since April 11, this time from Monday, May 12, to Thursday, May 15. That is about the only thing that is certain. On Thursday FIDE published a PDF document of a bid from Mr Oleksandr Chernenko, one of Kamsky's managers. Chess Life has been unable to independently confirm any of the details in the bid, and neither has FIDE. ChessBase inaccurately reports that the match has been "confirmed" to occur in Lviv, Ukraine.

ChessBase cites an interview with Chernenko (in Russian) by Moscow-based journalist Yuri Vassiliev, for ChessPro.ru, and concludes, "Chernenko has stated that the financial guarantees have now been received by FIDE, at their Swiss bank account." Both Chernenko himself and FIDE's Athens headquarters rebut that account.

I reached Chernenko by phone in Accra, Ghana, who in fact stated that a wire transfer to a FIDE account in Lausanne, Switzerland, was initiated yesterday, but that the funds would not arrive until at least Monday afternoon.

"I don't know all [the] details, because I am in Africa," said Chernenko on Friday, "but it is definitely in the system."

George Mastrokoukos, a FIDE official reached by phone in Athens, said that FIDE had received no information to confirm the details of the bid. "The only person we have been speaking to is Mr. Chernenko -- I mean not myself personally, but the President [Kirsan Ilyumzhinov]," he said, adding, "These companies that are listed in their bid, we have not reached a point to check this because first of all we are waiting for the original documents and the bank transfer." FIDE also does not know the name of the bank originating the funds transfer. According to Mastrokoukos, "the only information we have is that in two business days, the money will appear in our bank account."

The bid lists "VAT ZTO Prodexport" as the co-organizer, along with "Rondo Holdings S.A.," of which Chernenko is listed as a director. But Chernenko was also unaware of which bank initiated the USD $935,000 transfer, saying only, "it could be done from one of three banks, I think it's -- let me find out because I cannot tell exactly what I don't know. It's not part of my job, it's part of [the] job of Prodexport." He was reluctant to provide any contact information for the "financial director," spokesperson, or any other official of Prodexport, although he offered to arrange contact with a representative of Prodexport after his return to Ukraine on Tuesday evening, May 20th. He also agreed to send me a copy of the official "bank slip," when available. [NB: The reference to a "bank sleep" in the bid PDF was a typo made by Chernenko.]

Prodexport, a holding company with multiple businesses in Ukraine, is providing all the funds for the match, according to Chernenko. The bid included three telephone numbers and a fax number under "organizer's telephones," none of which were reachable on Thursday evening. Chernenko explained that this is because they are not actually numbers for Prodexport, but rather his own private numbers which only he can answer.

The match is slated to take place at Potocki Palace, in Lviv, according to the bid document. Chernenko said he could send agreements by e-mail with both the Potocki Palace, and the Lviv regional governor, approving the match dates, but we had not yet received either at press time.

So the question remains, "will the match be staged in Lviv, Ukraine?" The chess world is only a little closer to having a definitive answer today than it was on Monday. Until some aspects of the bid can be confirmed, or the funds arrive in FIDE's Swiss bank account, there are only assertions, made with no supporting evidence.

Veselin Topalov's manager, Silvio Danailov, who has offered to organize the match in Sofia, has been skeptical that the funding for an alternative bid would materialize. In an interview Thursday evening for ICC's Chess.FM, he called the additional delay, "a joke," and "a bluff."

When pressed to explain possible motives for the continued delays on the part of Kamsky's manager, Danailov speculated that they could be part of some strategy by Kamsky's associates, but offered little justification for this view. He was adamant that he does not suspect Kamsky himself to be involved.

Danailov expects the process to drag on, negatively impacting the credibility of FIDE to organize the match. "[FIDE] cannot control the situation. They have no idea what's going on," he remarked.

Danailov was quick to point out that FIDE itself requested that the Bulgarians bid on the match, and not the other way around, and stressed that he would be happy to see the match organized instead in Lviv if the new bid proves to be legitimate. Danailov is not averse to the deadline being extended, even into the summer months, if it leads to a successful outcome, but he heavily criticized the process to date. "I hope that this money exists and that it will be in the FIDE account," said Danailov, "but I have a lot of experience, and my experience told me that there is no money."

FIDE has a clear incentive to wait. The proposed USD $750,000 prize fund is five times higher than the fund proposed by the Bulgarian organizers, and therefore FIDE's 20% fee could potentially be $150,000.

Topalov and Danailov too would benefit from a larger prize fund, in theory, and Danailov noted Thursday, "I would like to give them a chance to build the match, to find the money, to organize the match in Ukraine -- I am ready to wait, but we are losing time."

Gata Kamsky has expressed reservations about playing the match in Bulgaria, citing concerns about the fairness of such a match. Danailov did not speak to this issue on Thursday directly, but pointed to the ongoing M-Tel Masters tournament as indicative of the favorable conditions for chess in the country. Kamsky himself participated in both the 2006 and 2007 editions of the tournament, held annually in the capital Sofia.

As for the match, Kamsky would nevertheless prefer to play in Ukraine, but he is not directly involved with any aspect of the organization or bidding process. Reached by e-mail, he would say only that he intends to compete in the FIDE Grand Prix tournament in Sochi and the Tal Memorial this summer, to focus on chess and leave the business negotiations to his managers.

For now there is little more to do than wait and see. As the M-Tel Masters comes to its final weekend, Danailov is in no mood to dwell on the matter either. "Let's hope [for] the best. Let's give them one more chance. But I think this is complete crap," he said unceremoniously.

 More from Silvio Danailov in this five minute video:

Macauleysmall.jpgMacauley Peterson is a media developer and foreign correspondent for the ICC. He is currently in Sofia covering the M-Tel Masters tournament for Chess.FM and may be reached at www.MacauleyPeterson.com.

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