Chess Classic

Ian Nepomniachtchi GRENKELEASING Rapid World Championship
GM Ian Nepomniachtchi – ORDIX-Opensieger 2008
31.7.-2. August 2009, 18:30 Uhr, Rheingoldhalle Mainz

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July 27- Aug 2nd, 2009 Rheingoldhalle, Mainz
Chess Classic Mainz 2009 (CCM9)
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Chess Classic

The customer is in our focus of attention
Interview with Hans-Walter Schmitt

12.08.2007 - The 14th Chess Classic will be held from 13 - 19 August in the Rheingoldhalle in Mainz. The biggest rapid chess festival in the world will once again offer top level chess this year. But not the professional players will be in the focus of attention, the customer will be the center of interest. Harry Schaack talked to the organiser Hans-Walter Schmitt about the Chess Classic 2007 in particular and about the chess world in general. (Harry Schaack / English version: Eric van Reem)

Chess Classic-managing of 4.999 games, 309 live

Harry Schaack: Dear Hans-Walter Schmitt, the Chess Classic will start in just a few days. Are you nervous at this point?
SCHMITT: Good question. I am always stressed, but not as nervous anymore. It used to be different in the past, but since I turned 50, I am a little more relaxed. I am not afraid anymore, that anything can go wrong at the Chess Classic, because we have a lot of experience. However, a very thorough preparation is necessary. I am surrounded by many people, who help me to remain calm and cool. Most of all, I am assured that our Chess Tigers organisation team is top competent on all positions.

HWS: higher, faster, stronger...
Chess: visionary, innovator, fighter, ...
first class support for the customer

Question: When is an event succesfull for you?
SCHMITT: When I am satisfied with it.

Question: But you are never completely satisfied.....are you?
SCHMITT: (Laughs) That is right - but not completely. It is the same feeling like after you have won a chess game. You know, that you have made a lot of mistakes and you could have played better moves. But the result is positive. I get the best feeling, when we break another record.

Question: Is it sometimes hard to find those small mistakes?
SCHMITT: Yes, in particular when you listen too much to positive feedback. That is why I mainly listen to objective and sharp critics. Our event has been evolved by suggestions from the players. But also the opinion of the visitors, who can write down their suggestions on our questionnaire, is important to keep our quality standards on a high level.

Question: This year, the Chess Classic offers some novelties. The main event will not be a match but a double round robin in which four players will play traditional rapid chess and Chess960. What has been the reason for you to change the format?
SCHMITT: I wanted to give people like Anand the opportunity to distinguish himself in Chess960. The combination of two disciplines in one tourney can also be seen in Monaco, in which rapid chess and blindfold chess is played. In Mainz we play rapid chess and Chess960. And there is another reason: the main idea of our event is, to play yourself during the day and later, from 18.30 watch the evening programme with the best players in the world. With this new concept we offer the audience 40 games instead of 16 and it will be exciting until the final day.

Question: Has the world championship in Mexico starting in September had any influence on the negotiations with the players?
SCHMITT: Anand and Aronian have played in Mainz so often, it would be silly to renege our annual event for a one-time World Championship. In Mainz the players can earn money every year.

Viswanthan Anand - the No 1 in the chess world and 9-times Chess Classic champion

Question: Who is your favourite in Mainz and Mexico?
SCHMITT: In Mainz anything can happen. All players are excellent rapid chess specialists. But for me Anand is a great fighter with the best ludic moments and he is very experienced, so I think that he will be on the top spot again. However, he has to be very careful in his games against the young and wild stars. In Mexico I think there are three favourites: Anand, Aronian and Kramnik, who seems to be in good shape. The other players are the classical outsiders.

The Fide and their henchmen

Question: The latest FIDE coup determines that Kramnik, even if he should not be successfull in Mexico, will get a match against the winner of the world championship tournament. And the winner of that match will play in a match against the winner of a match between Topalov and the winner of the World Cup. Very confusing. What is your opinion about this special status for these players?
SCHMITT: Words fail me. In general I get sick and tired of this haggling and the protection of vested rights of the world champions. It can not be right, that the managers intervene in the rules of modern chess, and they are the only ones responsible for this arrangement. Topalov and Kramnik will get a double chance. This construction with two or three matches is very adventurous and simply very unfair. Let´s face it: if you do not win Mexico, you´re out. Then you have to qualify in Khanty-Mansyk in a field with 128 players in a 2-games knock-out system with rapid chess tie-breaks. And in the end a well-prepared and relaxed Topalov waits for you. This is madness. In the chess world someone like Ecclestone should be top dog, who is able to say to guys like Schumacher what they have to do. I would love to become the advocate for the other 16 players in the top-20 to defend their rights.

Question: How should a world championship cycle be organised?
SCHMITT: It would be ideal if the world champion plays against the seven best players of the world rating list every two years. Every player has to play a certain amount of games per year, minimum 25 to 30 games. That makes it impossible for a player to settle back on a high place on the rating list. The tournament will be played in matches in a knock-out system, so in the end you will have a real match for the world title, which should not be longer than 8-12 games. It is impossible to market a longer event. It is not easy anymore to keep the tension for a long time.

Question: What else must be changed in the world of chess in your view?
SCHMITT: There is no money in the chess world. There is no serious company that will be willing to show itself on the stage with Iljumshinov. Chess represents strategic management, handling foresightful, exact thinking, making decisions. These are qualities those responsible in FIDE do not have. Another thing is, there is still no rapid chess world rating list available - which is quasi a boycott against Chess Entertainment. If players were able to improve their rating in any rapid chess event, this form of chess would become even more popular.

Chess Classic - participants 2007

Question: The Chess Classic always offers absolute top-class sport. The event is also a very attractive mass-sport event. Could you tell me, how the “masses” benefit from this event?
SCHMITT: For the top-players, the main appeal is the possibility to qualify for the rapid chess world championship by winning one of the open tournaments. For the other players there is a good chance they will meet a strong player over the board. And there is a fair chance you will meet a top player in our field with almost 100 grandmasters! Good players benefit from our facilities: even FIDE Masters get a rebate on their starting fee, which is not always the case in other tournaments. For the amateurs our tourmanent is attractive because of the many high rating prices. You could say, that they play another tournament in their rating class. The popularity is a result of our perfect organisation, which is also stable when we have more than 600 participants. Many visitors are happy with the speediness of the drawings, the on-time start of the rounds and the outstanding playing facilities.

Question: Can you tell me which top-class players will come this year?
SCHMITT: The average of our top-8 players reaches the ELO-average of the World Championship in Mexico. Ivanchuk, who will not play Mexico, is the main reason for this average. Because of his fantastic performance in the last months, he is now number four on the rating list. In the main event we have Anand, Aronian, Bacrot and Kazimdzhanov, in the Opens we have magnificent players like Mamedyarov, Shirov, Grishuk, Kamsky, Akopian, Almasi, Volokitin, Karjakin, Sasikiran, Landa, Sargissian, Harikrishna, Navara, Gashimov and Naiditsch. The youngest GM in the world, Parimarjan Negi form India will also come. We have also strong women playing: Zhu Chen Cmylite, Gaponenko, Pähtz and Zhukova, to name just a few.

GM Vassily Ivanchuk, No 4 in the world ranking list, in the October list 3/2007 head on head with Vishy Anand with an Elo of about 2790!

Question: You can consider yourself fortunate to have invited Vassily Ivanchuk for the simultaneous exhibition. He is the most succesfull player of the last months. It is usual that the players have to play the simul on 40 boards. Have you had any complaints about it?
SCHMITT: You can consider yourself fortunate to have invited Vassily Ivanchuk for the simultaneous exhibition. He is the most succesfull player of the last months. It is usual that the players have to play the simul on 40 boards. Have you had any complaints about it? There is no discussion possible about the number of boards. Every player, who comes to Mainz to play a simul knows our standards. And almost everybody knows the results of their predecessor. Not even Kasparov asked how many opponents he would have. A nice story in this context: when Kasparov played the simul a few years ago, Ivanchuk asked me, if he could buy my place in the simul. He was always eager to play against Kasparov, no matter how. But I turned down his offer (smiles).

Question: Who has scored the best result?
SCHMITT: Anand scored the best result in a Chess Classic simul, +36=4-0. Kasparov was second best with five draws. He was tremendously irritated by that result. The lord mayor and I can drew our games and save Vishy's record!

Question: Can you tell me something about the history of the 40-board simul?
SCHMITT: The Chess Classic originated from an initiative I had undertaken, when the chess club Frankfurt West celebrated its 70th anniversary. I was able to engage Vishy Anand for a simultaneous exhibition. More than 150 people were willing to play against Anand, despite a starting fee of 50 German Marks. That is why I asked Anand to play three simuls on one weekend, he agreed to play two. At the end of our negotiations, he asked me how many boards he had to play. I suggested 50 boards, but in the end we agreed on 40. And that still is the Chess Classic standard.

Question: How can people get a place in the simul?
SCHMITT: Everybody can get a place. Personally I was always very upset, that I never would get the opportunity to play against Kasparov, because there were so many candidates to play. For that reason we sell places at an online auction via Ebay, so everybody can buy a secured place. It is also an excellent idea as a gift. The other boards are reserved for our standing customers. Some of them have booked a seat until 2015, they want to play every year. Finally I need some seats for young players, sponsors and members of our staff.

Chess Classic - talented children in focus

Question: In this year´s event you are focussing more than ever on the youth, with a mini-FiNet and a mini-Ordix Open. What do you do to recruit new talents?
SCHMITT: The basic idea by founding the Chess Tigers in 1999 was to bring out a world champion in a foreseeable time. However, that was not possible, because there were absolutely no talents around. That is why we founded the Chess Tigers University to create a basis. Learning and playing is our motto. During our new Mini-Opens the juveniles will be escorted by the grandmasters Artur Jussupov and Daniel King. It is their task to spot young talents, who will be supported systematically by us in the future. The youngsters will get the opportunity to play on a big stage to get the electrifying feeling, what it is like to play in the spotlight. We also give the most succesfull young German players a free place in the Open tournaments. Our project “Region 111” from last year opened the doors for the best young players within a distance of 111 km from Mainz. The get a free place in the Opens.

Cornelia Schmitt talks to Mrs. Zickelbein

Question: When will Germany have a world champion again?
SCHMITT: I am convinced that we can bring out a German world champion in the foreseeable future. We want to support chess nationwide and our goal is to have a wide base. For us, as an organiser it would be easier, if we would have a walking advertisement like Magnus Carlsen. Maybe we should try something like in England in the seventies, where the first grandmaster could win a big prize. We should try to find a sponsor, who is willing to offer a nice sum as a reward for the first German player who reaches 2700 ELO.

"New campaign with great chances"

Chess960 World Games - the chess of the future

Question: One of your biggest concerns is the promotion of Chess960. You hoped that this chess variant would establish itself. The first big Chess960 Open was played six years ago during the Chess Classic. How is the actual state of affairs?
SCHMITT: If you consider that “normal chess” exists from time immemorial, we have achieved a lot in this very short period of time. For the fun of it I once said that Chess960 is the only chess variant that will be played in 500 years , but is seems that things will develop much faster. By analysing openings with powerful computers, nipping creativity in the bud, it becomes obvious that Chess960 will gain ground. With this variant we can reach chess lovers, who do not have much time to prepare chess openings. These people, who are in the middle of their working life, should come back to the world of chess. The promulgation of Chess960 is still going slowly. There are not enough tournaments. Nowadays, there is not much opposition anymore from the professionals. The best players of the world play in our tournament. Gata Kamsky asked me recently, why there are no Chess960 tournaments in the USA. He would love to play Chess960 every weekend. Players are obviously interested.

Hans-Walter Schmitt talks to the female Chess960 world champion
Alexandra Kosteniuk and her husband Diego Garces

Question: Since a few months there is a cooperation with the biggest Internetserver ICC.
SCHMITT: On ICC you were able to play Fischer-Random-Chess. However, I think that the synthetical name Chess960 is free of complaints. Fischer is a bad label, because many people associate Fischer with anti-semitic utterances and “random” is not a good term in English. Together with ICC we want to promote Chess960 internationally. We agreed with ICC that they change the name to Chess960 and organised a tournament together. The response was phenomanal! 1586 people played in the tournament. The winner won $600, a flight to Frankfurt and is our guest in Mainz during the Chess Classic for a whole week. The winner is from Armenia and has quite a remarkable name: Tigran L. Petrosjan!

Question: Do you have any idea how Chess960 can be established worldwide?
SCHMITT: Five or six Million Euros from a big company would be enough to make Chess960 attractive all over the world. You have to launch regional organisations, create a world rating list, organise big and small events and a world championship.

Question: This year Anand will play Chess960, he is the world´s number 1!
SCHMITT: ...and that fact will have a signal effect. When Anand shows he is willing to play Chess960, amateurs will stop their obstinate resistance.

Chess Classic - computer and technology

Livingston Chess960
Computer World Championship

Question: Which function do the computer events have in the Chess Classic?
SCHMITT: In the past the matches between the computer program Fritz and Anand functioned as a crowd puller and attracted a big sponsor, Siemens. In this context it is rather strange that Anand, who made Fritz popular, was never offered a highly remunerated match by ChessBase. Apart from that, chess programs are an important factor in the propagation of Chess960. Our tournament has been an important factor for computer Chess960. Almost all major chess programs can now play Chess960. This year Shredder, Jonny, Rybka and Spike will play their world championship under the same conditions as the human tournament. It makes the whole event coherent.

Live-director Chess Tigers: Thilo Gubler
live internet management at its best

Question: The Chess Classic distinguished itself in the past by its excellent medial presentation. What can the spectators expect this year?
SCHMITT: The technical aspect will be improved significantly this year. With the technical premises and the routine of our crew, we will be able to serve our spectators perfectly. We will use even more monitors to broadcast the games. In the lobby we will show the computer evaluation on the screens, so that all amateurs will know immediately how the situation on the board is. Four grandmasters, Jussupow, King, Döttling and Bischoff will analyse the games.Two of them in the traditional “silent auditorium” of the Rheingoldhalle, one in the lobby, where the “public viewing” will take place and one in the “gourmet club”. We do not only focus on the player, but also on the spectator, our customer. You do not often see this kind of presentation, and for that reason several organisers have announced their presence, because they want to see, what we are doing in Mainz.

Question: What is your opinion about the regulation used in Dortmund lately, to broadcast the games over the Internet only with a delay of 15 minutes, to prevent cheating?
SCHMITT: It is not possible to cheat in rapid chess. The broadcast of the Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting was not live anymore. They wanted to antagonise the cheaters and their henchmen, but in the end they punished the chess lovers who wanted to see the games live. Not even in the press room it was clear when a game had come to an end. Such measures are absurd from a media point of view and a dramaturgic misperformance by the organisers. However, it was an important lesson: live is live and not live plus 15 or 30 minutes.

Question: You do also practice friendliness to families.
SCHMITT: Yes, our event is an event for the whole family. You can bring your children to our Childrens Club. We have two governesses in our team, who will take care of the kids. They can play Chess and Chesster, build towers, draw tigers or just take a rest. The partners of the chess players, who do not know too much about chess, are also important to us. We want to give them the opportunity to understand what is going on.

Chess Classic - art and chess - sponsorship
learning and playing - feeling chess together!

Question: At the same time there will be an exhibition in the Rheingoldhalle by the German artist Jörg Immendorf, who died recently. Will that be of any use to the Chess Classic?
SCHMITT: This is one of the advantages from the renovated Rheingoldhalle. There is enough space for other activities next to our event. Off course we hope to get a positive reaction from the Immenhoff-exhibition. You can not only visit the chess event, but can also go to the art exhibition, which is a good option for the non-chess playing visitors. Our visitors can buy a reduced ticket for the exhibition and this fits perfectly in our motto: experience together.

Lord mayor Jens Beutel in action

Question: Which meaning do the City of Mainz and the Lord Mayor Jens Beutel have for the Chess Classic?
SCHMITT: Next to Vishy Anand and myself, Jens Beutel is the third important person for this event. He was responsible for the fact that the event is taking place in Mainz and not in Frankfurt anymore. Jens Beutel can argue concusively about chess, because he is a strong chess player himself and closely follows the developments in the chess world. He has been fighting tremendously for the event - every year.

Question: You offer outstanding general conditions to the sponsors. What goodies do you offer them?
SCHMITT: We´ll kick off with the Champions Dinner with all our top players. Sponsors can meet with other business partners and politically influential persons. They will be sitting near the Lord Mayor, and will have a nice evening with good food. I think that is a good offer. Since last year we offer the Gourmet Club. Sponsors can meet their guests in a pleasant atmosphere and enjoy the games, which will be analysed and commented by renowned grandmasters.

Networker: - regional, - national, - international, ...

Question: You work together with sponsor Grenke Leasing in another project. You are closely connected to the Bundesligateam from Baden- Baden.
SCHMITT: I have certainly contributed to the fact that my friend Vishy Anand plays there. And the captain of the team is Sven Noppes, who is my deputy in the Chess Tigers organisation.

Hans-Walter Schmitt and Sven Noppes: talking about the south-west strategy

Question: The Bundesliga has been reorganized lately. Which impulses do you expect from the Bundesliga e.V. next season?
SCHMITT: So far, no live broadcasting of all Bundesliga games has been possible. In Baden all games can be broadcasted live on the Internet. But maybe some things will change now after founding the Bundesliga e.V. I think the Bundesliga is a top product. But it is only a top product if a top manager will take care of it. And that can not be a club ruler. Every club must broadcast the games live. Considering the fact, that so many nations act in the Bundesliga, it is strange that no other countries seem to be interested in the product.

Question: Wilfried Hilgert, the patron from Porz, did not want to walk on that uneven path. How do you assess the step he took, by withdrawing his team from the Bundesliga?
SCHMITT: Wilfried Hilgert´s abundant merits are undisputed. However, his trauma seems to be: “one against all”. He has achieved a lot for the league, but he has also allowed himself things with the league, that were not ok. I like charismatic people like him, but in my view he made an absolutely wrong decision. He should come back again next year and everybody will welcome him back. Baden-Baden needs a lot of strong opponents. (smiles)

Question: How does your cooperation with Baden look like?
SCHMITT: We, the Chess Tigers have created a South-West axis together with Baden and Deizisau. We are considering if we need a traditional tournament in our portfolio, which would fit perfectly in Baden, which has a long tradition. But we are also thinking about a top-class live Blitz chess event. That would be a nice event for Frankfurt Airport or Frankfurt City.

Question: As an organiser you do also cooperate with other tournaments, in particular with Wijk aan Zee. What is your connection to this traditional chess tournament in The Netherlands?
SCHMITT: My first visit to Wijk aan Zee was back in 1993 and I was immediately captured by the natural flair of the event, I was excited! This chess festival has been an inspiration. The mixture between top level chess and chess for amateurs is great, and all play in one big hall. By now I have a good relationship with the organisers. We visit each other and make the contracts with the players for our upcoming tournaments.

Theo Hoogland, Dolf Vos (Corus Chess Tournament, Wijk aan Zee)
with host Hans-Walter Schmitt

Chess Classic - An example for the German Chess Federation and the Olympiad in Dresden

Question: In May the German Chess Federation has chosen a new president, Robert von Weizsäcker. What do you expect from him?
SCHMITT: The German Chess Federation now has a man at the top with an illustrious name and a lot of knowledge about economy. But he has to deal with ineffective structures in the Federation. I liked the way he administered his office in the first months. He is a strategist and wants to achieve something. But I am not sure if the people surrounding him are capable enough to follow the same path. He has already detected some grievances, like the Chess Shop or the bad image the Federation has in public.

Question: Next year the Chess Olympiad will take place in Dresden. At some point it looked like the project would fail, because those responsible have not done a good job. Millions of Euros still fail. What is your opinion about that matter?
SCHMITT: I would not try to find for a sponsor, if I had the assurance, I will get € 4,2 Million in case of a cancellation of the event. I would only try to get money for the sidelines. But all joking aside, I think it was very good, that von Weizsäcker made a clear statement about the preparation of the Olympiad, because the status quo is dramatic. I still have hope they can make this Olympiad a good event. However, it is already too late to make it a top-class event. Some processes just need time. Weizsäcker should grab chess addict Peer Steinbrück, the minister of finance, and together they should talk to possible big sponsors in the next two months to bring home at least one big sponsor. The annual chess events and the Bundesliga are very important for German chess. But a Chess Olympiad is an unique event for a country, although it does not have the same impact as it had in the past, when there were fewer tournaments. Therefore it is of major importance to organise such an event perfectly. The European Championship, the final rehearsal according to the organisers, was in many fields an extraordinarily weak event. The elements not having anything to do with chess were tolerable, but the chess and technical elements were abysmal, and worst of all international requirements were not met at all. The organisers in Dresden obviously do not have a competent project supervisor with expert knowledge in the field of top-class chess events.

Thank you for this conversation.

Harry Schaack

Published by Chess Tigers

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