Chess title opens with hoax bid: London leads the field with pounds 2m offer to stage world championship as Short and Kasparov present united front

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A mystery offer of DM10m (pounds 4.2m) threw all calculations for the world chess championship into turmoil yesterday.

For a few hours, the chess world wondered at the identity of 'an anonymous individual' putting up more than twice as much as any other bidder, to stage the match outside Warrington.

Then lawyers for the world champion, Garry Kasparov, concluded that it was a hoax. Noel Alms, a businessman based in Whitley, near Warrington, said he made the bid in pre- World War One reichmarks 'out of a warped sense of humour'.

The highest serious bid is the pounds 2m by the London Chess Group, a consortium of London businesses and agencies, which wants to hold the match at the Barbican Centre. It will be another two weeks before the players decide which offer to accept.

Yesterday, Garry Kasparov, and his challenger, Nigel Short, put on a display of solidarity at a press conference in London, as they completed their coup, wresting control of the championship match from FIDE, the International Chess Federation.

'FIDE's existing structure is not relevant for raising big sums of money for professional players,' said Kasparov, who also described the world chess governing body as a 'big, fat, bureaucratic organisation'.

A month ago, FIDE awarded the match to Manchester with a prize fund of pounds 1.2m. The players, furious that they had not been consulted sufficiently, reopened the bidding process and announced the formation of a new association to run the match.

Apart from the 10m mark joke, there were four bidders yesterday: The Brain Foundation offered pounds 1.4m; the Monsi Group, a catering and events management organisation, bid pounds 1.2m; Times Newspapers and Teleworld Promotion, Rotterdam, offered pounds 1.7m; and the London Chess Group pounds 2m. The size of the bids were cited by Short as evidence that FIDE had 'woefully undersold' the match in the earlier bidding process. The new round of bids 'vindicates our original position', he said.

FIDE has given the players until tonight to accept the terms for a match under official auspices. They have threatened legal action against any body attempting to organise a match calling itself 'The World Chess Championship'.

Over the next two weeks the contestants will be looking into the details, particularly the residual earnings from marketing and television rights, and, according to Kasparov, will choose the bid that is 'best for the long-term future of chess'.

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