UN in talks over venue for Short chess match

THE Foreign Office and the United Nations yesterday joined in the increasingly bizarre negotiations surrounding the siting of the world chess championship match between Nigel Short and Garry Kasparov. Two days after the formal opening of bids for the match, only one thing is clear: Nigel Short will not play in Belgrade.

There have only been two bids. The Serbian-based Yugoskandic Bank has offered a prize fund of dollars 5.6m (nearly pounds 4m) to hold it in either Belgrade or Sofia, Bulgaria. The other offer comes from Santiago de Compostela, Spain, with a tenth of that prize fund.

When asked about the legality of staging such an event in Belgrade, a spokesman for the International Chess Federation (FIDE) said it had contacted the United Nations and will be 'undertaking a technical study of the proposals made by the bidders'.

Meanwhile, the British Chess Federation has been talking to the Foreign Office, whose lawyers are examining whether trade sanctions would apply to an event in Bulgaria financed by Serbian money. 'I'm not too struck on the idea of playing in Belgrade at the moment,' Short said at a press conference yesterday. Then he thought again and said: 'I will not play in Belgrade.' When asked why, he said: 'I think it's bloody obvious, to be quite honest.'

It was also obvious why he did not want to play in Santiago de Compostela: it was not offering the rate for the job.

So, despite the insistence by FIDE that bids are now closed, attempts continue to bring the match to Britain, where five separate sponsors are said to have expressed strong interest. It is probable that the world champion, Garry Kasparov, is also making efforts to gazump the match.

According to the regulations, Florencio Campomanes, FIDE's president, must now consult the players; only if their preferred venues are different must he make his decision on the basis of prize money, conditions, security and climate, in that order.

In the past Mr Campomanes has been known to rewrite the regulations when problems occur.

(Photograph omitted)