Friday, February 17, 2012

When we were Kings XXII

Tilburg, Lucerne, Paris, Munich; Everybody Talk About ... the World Chess Championship

Image appears here thanks to the efforts of the British Library and Phil Makepeace

The Times
Friday February 17, 1978
Page 5

Seven nations bid to stage world chess championship

Amsterdam, Feb 16. – Six West European countries and the Philippines have offered to stage the match for the world chess championship between Anatoly Karpov, the holder, and his challenger, Viktor Korchnoi, the International Chess Federation (Fide) announced today.

The bids to hold the contest were opened by Dr Max Euwe, president of Fide, who said the two Russians would have to make known their preferences by March 2.

The bids and offers of prize money in Swiss francs are: Graz, Austria: 1m (£270,000); Paris: 100,000 plus half the television rights; Hamburg: 1m; Il Ciocca, Italy: 150,000; Tilburg, Holland: 1,220,000 (£330,000); Baguio City, Philippines: 1,054,350; Lucerne: 100,000.

Korchnoi, stateless since he chose exile in West Europe, attended the bid-opening ceremony today, as did the Soviet Ambassador to Holland.

Dr Euwe, a Dutchman, said that although the bid from Tilburg was the highest, Karpov’s side might well object to playing in Holland because it was now Korchnoi’s home territory.

Korchnoi, dashing off from the ceremony to catch a flight to Israel for a chess tournament there, acknowledged he would like to play in Holland, but added: “It’s far too early to say.”

The match will be held in July. It will be the first world title clash since Boris Spassky lost his crown to Bobby Fischer in 1973 (sic).

Dr Euwe will announced the chosen venue and the exact date on March 16 at the latest, bearing in mind the players’ wishes, technical and climatic conditions and “the interests of Fide and the welfare of chess throughout the world”. – Reuter.

So the Candidates' Tournament is coming to London. Well, maybe. It will take more than FIDE's say so before I start booking my annual leave, but still, you never know. Malc Pein's reluctance to poke it with a ten-foot pole notwithstanding, it might actually happen.

That London is again being mentioned as a venue for such an event is a pleasant surprise. If FIDE really wants to popularise chess worldwide, holding its premier events in places other than Kazan and Elista is probably not a bad plan. Not a great move from Kirsan and his mates, then, to let Pein's bid for the World Championship match slip through their fingers.

Yes, it's possible to get a little first world*-centric about all this. Even so, while recognising that the economics of the chess world have completely changed since the fall of the Soviet Union (then: we had virtually all the money, they had virtually all the best players; now: they have virtually all the money, they have virtually all the best players) Western Europe still seems to be a rather good location for a chess tournament.

Which brings us to the article that appeared in The Times on this day in 1978. OK, Karpov-Korchnoi ended up in Baguio City in the end, but of the seven nation army of potential World Championship hosts competing to stage the greatest event in chess thirty-four years ago, no fewer than six countries came from down our way. None of this relying on a planeful of cash from Azerbaijan either. When we were Kings, Western European sponsors wanted chess and were prepared to bid big sums in their attempts to get it.

Those were the days, eh?

* A term that's long-since been out of fashion, and, if truth be told, not one that was very frequently employed back in the day. It was all third world this and third world that, the first two worlds tending to go without labelling.
Well, the third world became 'developing countries' then 'Newly Industrialised/Industrialising Countries' while the second world dropped communism and out-capitalismed its erstwhile capitalist rivals. That it succeeded in concentrating the wealth of millions into the hands of a tiny few is, I suppose, why it's able to afford to buy football clubs and fund chess tournaments.

Lizzie snap from dreary rag


Jonathan B said...

Morning. The maths error corrected (and some typos sorted out by Justin too).

I'll be back with more on the timeline for the 2012 Candidates' nextw week. Also, when I get a moment, I'll find time to write something on how Hans Ree referencing this series in the latest New in Chess is one of the highlights of my blogging life. Right up there with the Nigel Short "fuck face" affair, it is.

Anonymous said...

I note that 1978 Times piece refers to Spassky losing his world title to Fischer in *1973*!

Nice to see our beloved media was as accurate about the great game (and, indeed, more generally) then as they are now ;)