Thursday 8 May 2014

A surfeit of matches

News that FIDE have yet to receive a bid for the 2014 Carlsen v Anand World Championship Match is probably a symptom of a issue that is now just coming to a head. This is the question of how often a World Championship Match should be held.
Between 1948 and 1984 the World Championship title operated on a 3 year cycle, although there were some matches played out of sequence, due to the defeated champions 're-match' clause. The after the aborted Kasparov v Karpov Match in 1984 there were matches in successive years, until 1987, when it all settled down again. The Kasparov-Short split with FIDE in 1993 heralded a succession of format changes, until things returned to normal in 2008 when Anand defeated Kramnik to unify the title once more.
It was thought that FIDE were sensibly going to stick with a two year cycle from then on, but this seemed to change with the involvement of new commercial partners. The 2012 Anand-Gelfand match was followed by the 2013 Anand-Carlsen Match, and the 2014 Carlsen Anand match is scheduled for the end of the year.
This surfeit of World Championship Matches seems attractive, if their is the available sponsorship money to support it. But even if there is, deciding the title this frequently is still problematic. It does take away the gravitas of being World Champion, if you might only hold it for a single year, although this did not take the shine off Smyslov and Tal's achievements. It also impacts on other issues further down World Championship hierarchy, specifically the World Cup and Zonal events. These are held every second year, and so lining them up with a specific World Championship match can be confusing.
So while it is understandable that FIDE takes advantage of the importance of the World Championship match, overdoing it may result in a loss of prestige and commercial return.

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