FIDE Vice President Mahir Mammedov Apologizes to Female Chess Players Affected by Changes in World Championship Cycle

Время публикации: 08.10.2019 13:04 | Последнее обновление: 08.10.2019 13:04

FIDE Vice President Mahir Mammedov told our website something the federation's leaders had preferred to keep silent about. It concerns the first big decision by the new FIDE, namely to change the Women’s World championship cycle. Fifteen female chess players have become victims of the decision taken last autumn, when the 2018-2020 cycle was already under way. Earlier they had won the right to take part in the 2020 World Championship knockout; that is, the winner of it should have become the World Champion. The knockout, however, has turned into the World Cup which is just a qualification stage to fight for a few spots in the next stage, the Candidates tournament.

Back then, Lela Javakhishvili was the only player among those fifteen to write an open letter to Arkady Dvorkovich.

The letter got no response.

Later, on November 21, 2018, an anonymous text announcing the new championship system appeared on the FIDE website. "All players who are qualified for the Women's World Championship 2020 will automatically proceed to the Women's World Cup and retain all rights", it reads. The text is still available on the old FIDE website.

Mr. Mammedov was quite frank with us about the matter a year after, although at the very beginning of his interview to Evgeny Surov he mentioned that he could explained everything earlier had Surov asked him.

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"I did vote for that. And not only did I vote, but I also praised the people in charge for what has happened to the cycle. I haven't changed my mind as yet.

[...] As to this matter, I think you [as a journalist and Chess-News editor-in-chief] were obsessed with your personal issues. I think your opinion was quite influenced by the fact that Lela Javakhishvili’s interests were affected – by the way, she is among my beloved people in the chess world, a bright star in women’s chess – and you see her at home every day. It seems to me that you couldn’t detach yourself from this fact, so your everyday talks at home have finally shaped your point of view.

For many years, I was sorry for FIDE (although I was not among the board members) and for Kirsan Ilyumzhinov (whom I respect) because of the mess around those cycles. As the men's and women's cycles were not synchronized, it was total shame as it emphasized women's chess being inferior to men’s; it was a humiliating statement of women's chess being something different. Women lived in some sort of parallel world, while men lived in the normal world that emerged since the Kramnik–Topalov match in the mid-2000s. This difference was insulting for women’s chess, as far as I understand. Hou Yifan would continue her world champion career year after year, while others would get “excuse” titles in-between.

It was similar to Khalifman, Ponomaryov or Kasimdzhanov being nearly ready to apologize for having become world champions with Kasparov or Kramnik still sitting on the throne. So were the women that would win the World Cup (equated to the World Championship) just to wait humbly for the "beating" half a year later. Actually it would take them a lot of effort to win the title deprived of its value. Maria Muzychuk for one – didn't she deserve to stay a happy champion for a long while? But who remembers her championship now? Everyone just remembers that it was Hou Yifan who was the world champion during those years, as she would lend her title as a toy for a while and then get it back. Hou Yufan won all the matches. Did anyone believe that the knockout champions ever had a chance of defeating Hou Yifan? Nobody did. And yet, the illogical cycles went on.

The new FIDE leadership started to think over the idea of making the male and female championship cycles identical, so that the women's champion could reign, logically, for the whole deserved period of time. The prizes were also increased. Is this so bad?

But the transition from one imperfect system to another, even if to a more modern and stable one, can't be totally smooth. There is no magic formula to take everyone's desires into consideration and to infringe no one's rights. If you could invent it, you could be proud of it. We found a certain formula though. Emil Sutovsky (whom you don’t like) worked on it; Arkady Dvorkovich supported him and so did we. Now there are two equal cycles and there’s more money in women’s chess as well.

It's clear that those qualified for the World Championship are the victims, as they planned to play in the Championship while they will play just in the Cup… There could be a way to apologize to them in some letter, but that wasn’t done.

- Let me make a note: it's the first time I hear that. It's the first time I hear about the “infringed rights” and “victims”. There were no official victims before.

- Nominal victims!

- I'd like to call a spade a spade.

- Well, yes, perhaps some of them would have chances in that championship, but how to get smoothly from an improper system to a logical one? How to act in behalf of each and every person? Yes, it was possible to address those persons. Let me apologize for FIDE: dear girls, dear women, please excuse us. You haven’t lost any money but there was a violation of the system."


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