FIDE Grand Prix in Hamburg: No complaints, for two days at least

The Grand Prix in Hamburg had not begun yet when the FIDE president started complaining about his unloved organizer WorldChess, better known as “Agon”. Because WorldChess had gotten into time trouble in the weeks leading up to the event, Arkady Dvorkovich once again announced publicly that he will keep this company in line as best as he can. Of course, he had said the same thing more than a year ago before he was elected FIDE president.

Arkady Dvorkovich in conversation with Ulrich Stock from “Zeit”. When Dvorkovich said he was contracted with WorldChess, Stock could have pointed out that Dvorkovich’s FIDE just rebuilt the contract (and curtailed WorldChess’s powers) instead of ending it. (Photo: FIDE)

Indeed, WorldChess doesn’t organize the whole World Championship cycle anymore, but they still organize the Grand Prix., currently running in Hamburg. Given previous experiences things started smoothly. All player names were spelled correctly. No player complained that he could see analysis for the audience. No one complained about inaccessible toilets or unspeakable playing conditions.

Even the live broadcast worked, albeit after some jerking. On Youtube commentator Evgeni Miroshnichenko began his stream with a minute-long explanation of how boring it is going to be now that he has no co-commentator to give the thing a little whistle. Nevertheless, exactly the same number of people, a good 20,000, switched on the Grand Prix start as did the professionally produced kick-off of the Grand Chess Tour in Bucharest the day after. A success given the difference in production quality.


What is Dvorkovich’s problem, one might ask.

In fact it took two days until the first scandal unfolded. Well, the second scandal actually. Fortunately for WorldChess the public’s indingation remained limited after online spectators complained that their pockets were picked by the organizer.

Can happen once, must not happen all the time: Misspelling the names of people involved again and again documents the lack of respect for their work. In Hamburg players have been spared so far. German Grandmaster Ilja Zaragatski who does the German commentary has not.

People who had bought an annual ticket for WorldChess broadcasts last year, were now told via email that they have purchased an automatically renewed subscription instead. There is no cancellation option on the website, and no satisfying replies from WorldChess support have been reported so far. “Borderline theft,” it said on Twitter as well as on r/chess.

What chess Youtuber agadmator retweets is seen by tens of thousands.

Ian Nepomniachtchi, number six in the world, is known for being emotional on twitter. When he lost his first round match it severely damaged his chances of becoming a World Championship candidate.

“Billions of spectators!” WorldChess boss Ilya Merenzon (left) at the Grand Prix opening in Hamburg with journalist Florian Pütz who reports on chess for Der Spiegel. (Photo: FIDE)

Other people would have taken it sportsmanlike. If they did not see any reason to congratulate the competitor or to thank the organization they would remain silent. Nepomniachtchi tweeted this:

Of course, WorldChess boss Ilya Merenzon was annoyed. He is said to have ranted internally that “Nepo” would be housed in a dungeon next time, so he likes the playing venue better than the hotel.

Okay. Venting one’s anger is better done in a small circle than public.

Rather than staying quiet on the outside, Merenzon tweeted the following, caught a nasty response from Nepomniachtchi and promptly found himself in the shitstorm he had been begging for:

“Golden Standard of pathetic organization” is a felicitous descripition of the combination of glittering facade and lack of substance behind it which again and again distinguishes WorldChess events.

“How stupid can you be” one could think in the face of such unprofessionality – if it had been the first incident. Instead, it’s one of many in a long line of stupidities or demonstrations of incompetence that reliably upset people.

It could be fixed. Merenzon needs a consultant who keeps him away from the social media channels of his company. Someone who translates his marketing phrases into rousing messages. Who explains to him that his English is not good enough to write World Championship and other bids by himself. Someone who loves chess and makes sure that those who love it, too, or masterfully play it will not be offended in good regularity. Someone who ensures that suspected fraud does not arise. Someone who takes people along instead of disgusting them.

As long as FIDE does not pull the plug, the following applies:

To be continued.

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[…] ONLINE chess reporter Florian Pütz (right) with World Chess CEO Ilya Merenzon at the Grand Prix in Hamburg. (Foto: World […]