Andrew Paulson: "I Found It Particularly Absurd That the Player Would Publish an Open Letter"

Время публикации: 21.03.2013 21:47 | Последнее обновление: 21.03.2013 22:27

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M.YURENOK: Hello Andrew, thank you very much for agreeing to talk to me and Chess-News. Our listeners and readers are very excited to listen to an interview with you. 

A.PAULSON: Is this going to be broadcast orally or will that be a transcript?

M.YURENOK: It will be broadcast orally but a lot of readers obviously don’t understand English, so it will be transcribed into Russian.
The first question that I have is how is everything going with the Candidates tournament so far, is everything going according to the plan?

A.PAULSON: Well, the most important thing is the players, everything else is secondary. I think this is a great deal of excitement. For example, I think that during the match in Moscow everyone was concerned that it was draw after draw after draw, but in the end it produced a great, very dramatic finish; already yesterday in Round 4 we began to see some real lines of conflict and excitement emerging and even in the games which finished in draws there was an interesting stuff going on.

M.YURENOK: During the opening ceremony you mentioned that there are some special security measures that you have implemented. Can you talk to us about it?

A.PAULSON: Well, that’s like an iceberg – some are below the surface and some are above. You have already seen those that are above.

M.YURENOK: Yeah, the metal detectors for the spectators…

A.PAULSON:  They are actually useful for two reasons. It also means that it’s very easy for us to distribute the tablets. Samsung is giving us a number of tablets, so the spectators can watch the game with a little bit more information. So, not only does it keep people from bringing mobile phones in, but it also prevents people from taking the Samsung tablets out. The tablets are blocked with a special piece of software, so they can only receive the signal from one URL and they don’t have any access to any other applications.

There’s also one of the things that we have implemented which you can see if I will tell you about it, but you might not notice it otherwise, it’s that we have very-very high resolution cameras taking pictures of the audience. So, if in future there will be any question about the possibility of cheating, it can be resolved. As for me, I have a very-very precise and strong statement to make about this; when I first got involved with chess the idea that there could ever be cheating among the top fifty-hundred players seemed to me absolutely absurd. For example, I can understand why people might take drugs – to improve the strength of their muscles, but to actively cheat at a certain moment during the certain game is such a revelation of weakness that for me, I would imagine that completely destroy the morale of the player, but now that I’ve spent a year getting to know better the world of chess, I can add a nuance to that belief – I still believe that no great chess player would ever cheat, unless he thought that someone else was cheating. In this case I can understand why he might be tempted, I don’t believe he could do that, but I can understand why he might be outraged. The most important thing that we’re trying to achieve here is to make all the players completely calm – to banish the worry. We search the players when they come in, we monitor the radio frequencies in the hall and there also are some things that we just don’t talk about.

M.YURENOK: What was the idea behind the hall design, I mean the darkness for the spectators and the light…

A.PAULSON:  Well, there are several things. First of all, one of our goals is to make chess more dramatic, theatrical and staging is part of that. The second is of course also from the point of view of security. If you’re standing on stage of the theater with the lights in your eyes you can’t see the audience; so we have very-very intense light on the boards and no light at all on the audience – this heightens the drama, but also prevents any possible distractions to the players.

M.YURENOK: And what was the thinking behind the design of the chess pieces used online? The black pieces are red and some people have commented that they’re a little bit difficult to look at, not easy on the eye, you know.

A.PAULSON:  Let’s see how it plays out over the course of the next couple of weeks. Historically, chess pieces were made of ivory and coral – traditionally they were red and white. So from a purely historical point of view we can say there’s some justification here. Making the pieces red was necessary in order to make them stand out from black and white; my feeling at the moment is that on the tablets, on decent computers they’re perfectly readable as long as the screen has a good resolution. There’s a certain amount of problem with the TV screens, where the resolution is not so high and you get close to them  and you can't see; however, even on those screens that is a problem only when you have a tournament view with four boards at the same time, but as soon as you click on one of the boards, then the board is big enough so you see everything perfectly clearly what’s necessary to be seen. There’s an issue for the colorblind and we are going to add in the next release the option of changing the color to blue, green, or orange or whatever, while retaining red as the default.

M.YURENOK: And what about the price of the tickets? Some people found it’s a little bit too much to pay, especially if they are coming from outside London.

A.PAULSON:  We based our ticket prices on the London Chess Classic, which takes place in the venue which is quite far from the center – very adequate, but very plain venue. I think we charge five more pounds per ticket, so instead of 20 it is 25 pounds, because we’re in the center of London, we’re in a very prestigious venue; basically the overall investment in the design and the production is a little bit more, but on the other hand we’re offering almost everybody a 10% discount, so we can monitor where the people who buy the tickets come from. Are they online, or from the Telegraph, from the Times, students and so on.

M.YURENOK: That’s all about the tournament, so I would like to talk about the future now. The first question is: Kirsan Nikolayevich [Ilyumzhinov] was live on Chess-News a few days ago and he said the Lisbon stage of the Grand Prix will take place in Switzerland during the same dates as originally planned. Are you still organizing it? And can you comment on why it’s moved?

A.PAULSON: Sure, over the course of recent nine months we have developed the great relationship in Lisbon. We were on very good terms with the government: the Ministry of Sports, the Ministry of education and so on. I had my heart set on Lisbon, but the problem is that we got a competing bid from Zug, because the city itself and the sponsors were interested in hosting it there so we moved it.

M.YURENOK: Can you comment on other changes that might take place, like Madrid grand-prix stage, or any other future ones.

A.PAULSON: First of all Kirsan jumped a gun a little bit making that announcement. I think that the documents are going to be signed today and as soon as they’re signed there will be a formal press release. The same is true for Madrid. I’ve been to Madrid a number of times, I’ve met the Mayor of Madrid and I was very excited about the possibility of also bringing the fourth Grand Prix to Madrid. We’ll see.

M.YURENOK: Do you ever read tweets from Silvio Danailov - the ECU President? He actually tweeted that the Grand Prix Series will be abandoned and Agon will also fold. Can you comment on that?

A.PAULSON: When was the last time you read the tweet by Danailov that was correct?

M.YURENOK: I don’t know, I don’t tend to read his tweets very often to be honest…

A.PAULSON: OK, then find me an example of one tweet of Danailov that was accurate and I’ll get back to you.

M.YURENOK: OK. The next question is FIDE gave you rights to hold the Grand Prix, the Candidates and the World Championship Match, so what sort of relationship do you have with them, in the sense that the news seem to come out from FIDE, I mean they announce the news but you don’t seem to promote your own actions.

A.PAULSON: First of all FIDE is an important chess organization. I’m not interested in publicizing myself or my company. I think that our goal is to create new products surrounding chess, settings in which chess sits and offering those to our global marketing partners.

M.YURENOK: A lot of players, and some of them are participants of the Grand Prix, are asking about some information, especially when it’s not coming out soon enough, especially when changes are expected. For example, you might have read that Hikaru Nakamura has sent the open letter a few days ago asking what is going on.

A.PAULSON: I heard about this and I found it particularly absurd that the player would publish an open letter when if he had addressed the letter to me or to FIDE he would have gotten an answer. Most of the other players have communicated directly with FIDE or me and they have gotten the answers. I can’t quite understand what would bring a player to put a letter in the bottle and throw it into the ocean and hope to have some sort of a useful response.

M.YURENOK:  Obviously, in his letter he’s saying that he’s a professional player and he’s got his schedule planned well in advance, and if any changes happen – it really spoils his plans. And because there’s still no official press release…

A.PAULSON: Wait a minute, there are official press releases that announce the dates of the events and if there was any change to be announced the change would be announced. Yes, there is the official press release. I repeat, if the players contacted us directly and talked to us, they would have been satisfied with the answers. As with the first Grand Prix we don’t believe it’s appropriate to make an announcement until the contracts are signed and as soon as there is an absolute clarity we will make an announcement. There’s nothing suspicious or bizarre here.

M.YURENOK: I guess if I was planning to go to Grand Prix myself and I was booking tickets in advance and then it’s announced that the venue is changed from Lisbon to Switzerland – that’s also some kind of expense that’s unexpected, so I guess that’s just another extra thing that the players have to worry about rather than just chess. So do you consider maybe it’s a good idea to keep people updated via some social networks like Twitter or Facebook? 

A.PAULSON: No, I would suggest the best way for us to keep the players updated is through email. To answer your question about airplaine tickets – I completely sympathise, I think if that's the only question worrying these people then they’re very lucky people.

M.YURENOK: Why do you say that?

A.PAULSON: Because the world is a very complicated place and I think that probably most people buy their tickets two-three weeks in advance – no longer is there enormous savings in buying tickets six months in advance.

M.YURENOK: I guess when the rights were given to you by FIDE, a lot of people were saying “This is great, at last we have stability, schedule, we have something firm…”

A.PAULSON: We do – we have stability and we got a schedule.

M.YURENOK: OK. But there are sometimes unexpected changes.

A.PAULSON: No, not in the schedule. My understanding, when I made my arrangement with FIDE was that we had to stick to the dates. We’re perfectly welcomed to change the venues as we like, but probably it wasn’t a good idea to return to Khanty-Mansiysk, but our interest, first and foremost, is making sure that the players are comfortable; second - making sure that the games are available in a timely and interesting way for the global audience and third, to the local audience.  All of this is paid for by our partners and therefore all of those things have to be taken into account: the influence, needs and desires of our partners.

M.YURENOK: Now, I want to reiterate to people who are going to listen - the schedule is fixed and it will not change. Any final words you want to say?

A.PAULSON:  The world will be a new and different place on April 2nd when the winner receives his medal. The closing ceremony will take place in No. 11 Downing St. which is the House of the private residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, right next door to 10 Dowining Street. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is an avid chess player. We’re going to be gathering together the members of the house of the Lords, the Cabinet, the House of Commons, there will be important representatives of British establishment who play chess, to witness the decision of who is going to be the next challenger of Anand. Will Anand be able to retain his crown again or will he pass it on to someone else. The question of who will win here is already very-very exciting and it’s only going to get more and more tense as we approach November.

M.YURENOK: Thank you very much for the great interview.


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