Open Letter to the Global Chess Community

As the 12th, 13th, and 14th World Chess Champions, we are writing jointly to voice our disagreement with recent statements and unilateral decisions made by FIDE, the international chess federation. In particular, we are very concerned about FIDE’s policy changes regarding the official time controls, their treatment of the history of the World Championship, and their open hostility toward the organizers of traditional events.

The world’s chessplayers have been denied a voice in these matters, and we who represent these conventions at the highest level see the need to set aside our differences and speak out publicly in defense of the game that has brought us so much joy. Many players and European chess federations are critical of FIDE’s recent actions and we hope to lend a powerful and unequivocal voice to this protest.

The time honored traditions and rules of classical chess are not to be toyed with and any changes should be made only after such plans are studied and debated in an open forum. Drastically shortening the amount of time available during a game is an attack on both the players and on the artistic and scientific elements of the game of chess itself. To implement these rules without an adequate period for reflection, discussion, and review is foolhardy and cavalier.

Of greater concern is the behavior of FIDE in regard to the prestige and tradition of the World Chess Championship. FIDE’s declaration in Tehran laid claim to a title that existed long before FIDE was created and, we might say, will exist long after it is gone. A century of tradition cannot be wiped away simply by saying that it is so. The true tradition lives on in us and in the minds and memories of millions of chess enthusiasts around the globe. It is unacceptable for FIDE to claim rights to the World Chess Championship while at the same time working to destroy the structures upon which the tradition was built.

Nor are the traditional tournaments that have given so much to chess safe from FIDE. Their threat to schedule FIDE events in competition with traditional ones is nothing less than a direct attack on the organizers, players, and fans of events such as Linares, Dortmund, and Wijk aan Zee.

Chess is not FIDE’s property to toss around like a bauble. The game belongs to the global chess community.

Based on FIDE’s accompanying statements, these ill-advised measures have been taken in an attempt to popularize the sport of chess. This is an admirable goal, but it is impossible to achieve it by assaulting the very things that elevate the game most of all: beautiful games of chess, traditional top tournaments, and the quest for the World Championship.

The chess world is depending on its leaders to provide a suitable and democratic solution to this unsatisfactory state of affairs. We propose an open dialogue on these matters between FIDE, the national federations of which it is composed, and the players – professional and amateur alike – it was created to represent. In this dialogue we will depend on the participation of the fans, organizers, and sponsors to whom chess owes a great deal. We, who have both given to and received so much from chess, look forward to being on the front lines in this battle to protect the status and legacy of the game we love.

Anatoly Karpov
Garry Kasparov
Vladimir Kramnik


Editor's comment:  It is refreshing to see these three great players speak out against the recent behavior of a FIDE leadership controlled by a group seeking to use chess for its own ends, with little respect for the game's great traditions. 

Under the leadership of a political boss who has been implicated in the murder of the only opposition journalist in his territory and has boasted that elections are not necessary to validate his control, FIDE has promoted a "World Championship" which fails to attract the world's top players, allows fluke results such as the victory of Khalifman, and is poorly covered by the media.  The prestige of this once proud event is now scheduled to be further damaged by the imposition of a fast time control that will make the chess clock a far more significant part of the game, favoring reflexes over profundity of thought.

Recently, FIDE leaders have even gone so far as to demand that organizers of the world's leading Grandmaster tournaments join the "FIDE Grand Prix," otherwise FIDE will schedule conflicting events against them in their own countries!  Apparently the FIDE leadership is concerned that if these events continue to be held independently of FIDE (except for being rated), and maintain their existing time controls and other traditions, they will overshadow FIDE's "World Championship."   

The letter gains significance when we consider that Karpov and Kasparov have agreed on little in the past.  For Karpov to sign a document recognizing Kramnik as Kasparov's successor is also important, as the implication is that Karpov does not recognize Khalifman and Anand, winners of the last two FIDE Championship knockout events.  Karpov is open to criticism on the latter point, as he considered himself the World Champion when he defeated Anand to win the FIDE knockout event before these two.  Nevertheless, this statement comes as a breath of fresh air, and I see no reason to believe that any of these three players are not currently expressing their sincere views. homepage