The World Chess Federation, FIDE, held its General Assembly during the Istanbul Olympiad with one proposal dominating the meeting; should FIDE hand over all commercial rights to the World Championship for the next 27 years to an organisation, FIDE Commerce, controlled by the FIDE President Kirsan Iljumzhinov?
To an outside observer, the plan might not seem to have had much chance of success. Apart from the absence of a tender process to allow for other bidders and the obvious conflict of interest in Iljumzhinov's positions in both FIDE and FIDE Commerce, the time scale for the agreement was clearly excessive. In addition, the case for privatising the World Championship was far from overwhelming.
Yet the FIDE Commerce agreement was passed overwhelmingly with only two nay-sayers, Holland and Portugal.
"I was impressed by Iljumzhinov's speech," said Australian Chess Federation President Graeme Gardiner on the evening after the General Assembly meeting. "He is obviously looking forward."
Yet within 24 hours of the agreement being passed, the true consequences of handing control of the World Championship to a private company became apparent.
Iljumzhinov, arguing that the current pace of tournament chess was too slow for commercial exploitation, announced that the time limit for the 2001 World Championship and all its qualifying events would be 40 moves in 40 minutes, followed by 20 minutes to finish the game - more than three times faster than the current time limit and too fast even to be rated under current world ranking regulations.
A delegation of senior Grandmasters paid a special visit to Iljumzhinov in Istanbul to suggest that the standard of chess played in the Championship would inevitably suffer if the new time limit were implemented.
However Iljumzhinov, whose lack of knowledge of chess was shown up in a 1998 'Foreign Correspondent' programme when Iljumzhinov played with his king and queen on the wrong starting squares, overruled the sceptics.
Iljumzhinov, President of the Russian republic of Kalmykia, informed the GMs that the new time limit had been tested in the last two Kalmyk Championships. Local experts had assured him that the quality of the games remained the same as ever.
Fortunately, later interviews with Iljumzhinov suggested that the President might be having second thoughts about the new time limit. Iljumzhinov offered to speak to the players at the World Championship tournament (which begins in New Delhi today) and ask their opinion of his new idea. Whether many of the players in India will be brave enough to tell the tournament's guarantor their true opinion of his plan to end serious chess as we know it, is a moot point.
The best game played by an Australian at the recent Istanbul Olympiad was the following.
Instanbul Olympiad 2000
White: Zhao Zong Yuan
Opening: Sicilian Defence
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 Qb6!? 7.Nb3 e6 8.Bf4 Ne5 9.Be2 Be7 10.Qd2 0-0 11.0-0-0!?
Bluff - Black could now safely have taken the f2 pawn.
11...a6 12.Rhg1 Qc7 13.g4 b5 14.g5 Nfd7 15.Be3 Nc4?!
15...Nb6 was probably stronger.
16.Bxc4 Qxc4?! 17.Qe1! Re8 18.f4 Bf8?! 19.Qh4! a5 20.Rg3 g6 21.Rh3 h5 22.gxh6 b4
22...Kh7 loses to 23.Nd2 Qc6 24.Nf3.
23.Nd2! Qa6?! 24.Bd4! e5 25.Nd5! Qc6
If 25...Qb7 26.fxe5 dxe5 27.Nf6+ Nxf6 28.h7+ Kh8 29.Qxf6+ Bg7 30.Bxe5!! Rxe5 31.Qd8+ is decisive. Now, however, White's second knight enters the game with decisive effect.
(Diagram) 26.Nf3! exd4 27.Ng5 Ne5 28.fxe5 Be6 29.Nxf7! Bxf7 30.Qf6 1-0
** The 2000 Tuggeranong Vikings Weekender, a Grand Prix event, will be held on December 9-10 at the Chisholm Sports Club, Benham St, Chisholm. Details Lee Forace 02 9556 3960 or 02 6231 8314.