by Hans Olav Lahlum, International Arbiter

Gjøvik in Norway, 28.02.2001

Dear Chessfriends !

I expected and hoped for a message concluding like this press release now, but still felt a strange mix of happiness and horror when reading the one which came. As far as the upcoming meeting in Cannes confirms that title tournaments with full time still should be accepted, this in a short sight of course can be counted as at last half a point for the seriousity of chess. In the longer run, I due to the reasons stated by the President himself feel that this is nothing more than a delay.

To spend just one sentence on the status of the once widely respected FIDE World Championship, this will now suffer a still further loss of seriousity and respect. To spend three more sentences upon the "poll" taken up at the world championship last year, the data published so far proves it close to worthless according to the first method course I went through at the political science study. This out of several reasons : Top players not present were not asked, a high percent of those asked did not answer, a high percent of those answering had no opinion, and those stating an opinion of course did it very vague since they were not presented for any concrete alternatives. As far as brought to my knowledge opinions among GMs are very divided about time limits, and it is not impossible that most of them actually prefer faster play for the World Championship as it is organized at the moment - but please do no try to tell anyone that this poll confirms support for anything as radical as this change of the time limits. I will however leave the World Championship now for two reasons : Very few players will suffer directly from changes in the World Championship rules, and the Presidential Board unfortunately got the right to decide about them from the congress. Much more important for the overwhelming mass of chess players are the general rules for international title tournaments, which the Presidential Board got no mandate to decide about from the congress.

As far as I am able to understand him the President now makes it clear that the true intention of the Presidential Board was to make their new and radically shortened time limits obligatory to all organizers, and he reveals no intention to give up that intolerant idea for good. The recent press release contains no kind of apologizes, and hardly any admits regarding the undemocratic way the Presidential Board have tried to handle this important case above the heads of the rest of chess world. On the contrary shortened time limits are proclaimed inevitable, and so opponents of it are declared out of touch with the future. The presented sport argument of course is still nothing but nonsense : The 100 and 200 meters runs may be the favourites of TV and sponsors, but 10 000 and even Marathon still remains respected and popular disciplines in any olympics or world championships. Probably even more interesting, all attempts to reduce football into anything "faster and more commercial" than the traditional 2 x 45 minutes so far have been brought to silence by a threatening roar from players and onlookers.

To conclude about time limits for now : We will hear much more about them relatively soon, and can only hope that the delegates of upcoming FIDE congresses after this will watch out against all cries for further authorizations from the President and the Presidential Board. Even if the meeting in Cannes should confirm the acceptance of games played with at least six hours for now, I will ask "Chesslines" to upheld the protest list, and ask all federations still working with their protests to fulfill them. The rest of the chess world too should stay awake for any similar future tries by the presidential Board to cut off the feets of their own organization by help of a stolen engine saw.

My more general prediction for the future of world chess today (as yesterday), is that Europe and the remaining Western world will distance itself further from a Presidential Board looking with one still more short-sighted eye for commercial possibilities mainly related to the Asian markets. I very much dislike an eventual such development - I strongly believe in the possibilities of chess in Asia, and do not recognize any real conflict of interess between the continents in this case. However, if the prize for unity decided by the Presidential Board is to accept the beginning of the end for chess as a fascinating intellectual mix of art, science and competition - then that price is too meaningless to be paid at least by me. Fortunately the reactions following this case have strengthened my impression that the overwhelming majority of players actually share this view, and so I after all stay optimistic on behalf of the serious human chess games - those worth to be preserved even in the age of computers. I am sorry having to conclude that I doubt whether the current Presidential Board is worth preserving in any age.

Best Wishes for this time

IA Hans Olav Lahlum

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