London hosts chess clash: Newspaper group wins right to stage world title match

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The Independent Online
IN A brief statement which is certain to exacerbate the already acrimonious state of world chess, Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short yesterday accepted the bid from Times Newspapers and Teleworld of Rotterdam to stage their world title match. It will begin in London in September.

The decision ends eight weeks of uncertainty and mistrust, which began on 30 January when Short defeated Jan Timman to win the right to challenge Kasparov for the world title. Despite requests from the British Chess Federation for extra time to organise a sponsor in England, the International Chess Federation (Fide) stuck to a schedule that allowed only a week to enter bids for the title match.

The result was only two bids, a small one from Spain and a huge one from Serbia. Both were subsequently declared inadmissible for technical reasons and the bidding was re-opened.

On 22 February, three new bids - all from England - arrived. Fide awarded the match to Manchester, whose offer of pounds 1.2m in prize money, though not quite the largest, was the only one accompanied by a deposit and bank guarantee.

Short and Kasparov issued an angry statement, claiming that they had not been consulted, accusing Fide of incompetence, and announcing that they would organise the match themselves through a new Professional Chess Association. They formally re-opened the bidding.

Fide reacted by announcing that it would sue anyone organising a match purporting to be the world chess championship. This did not stop offers rolling in for what was now the third round of bidding.

When the bids were opened and studied, it quickly became clear that the choice would be between the pounds 2m, plus residuals, offered by the London Chess Group - a consortium of companies in the capital, and the bid from Times Newspapers for pounds 1.5m - plus a guaranteed pounds 200,000 in marketing revenue.

Despite the shortfall in the formal offer of prize fund, there was something about the bid from the Times that attracted Kasparov. Yesterday's statement came as no surprise to anyone close to the negotiations.

However incompetent Fide might have been in the past, Short is now being increasingly seen as the man who delivered the running of the world chess championship into even less predictable hands.

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