Baghdad is site of chess championship

March 08, 1996|By Richard O'Mara | Richard O'Mara,SUN STAFF

Why did the International Chess Federation, the governing body of world chess, choose Baghdad as the site for its next championship match between the Russian Anatoly Karpov and the Russian-born American, Gata Kamsky?

For the same reason, chess sources say, that Willy Sutton robbed banks: It's where the money is.

FIDE President Kirsan Ilumjinov announced yesterday in Paris that the match was set for June in Iraq, and that Saddam Hussein would play host. He also said the winner would get $2 million.

Since Iraq is diplomatically isolated, and under United Nations sanctions, the U.S. government is not likely to be receptive to this. Nor is the U.S. Chess Federation, the governing body of chess in this country.

"We're very supportive of the match," said Albert Lawrence, the federation's executive director. "But this is an unacceptable venue for an American, to go over and play under the supervision of Hussein."

The federation's president Denis J. Barry yesterday fired off a letter to Mr. Ilumjinov reminding him of U.S. State Department penalties for Americans, including Mr. Kamsky, dealing with Iraq.

Whether Mr. Ilumjinov foresaw the political implications of choosing Baghdad is uncertain. The reason he gave was that a group trying to bring the match to Montreal could not guarantee a $1 million prize.

Both Mr. Lawrence and Glenn Peterson, editor of Chess Life, believe Mr. Ulumjinov was lured by Iraq's guarantee of $2 million. "That's larger than the prize money at the Viswanathan Anand and Garry Kasparov match in December," said Mr. Peterson. It would be the biggest prize ever.

World chess is starting to resemble the splintered state of boxing, with new organizations emerging ambitious to control the sport. In 1993, Mr. Kasparov and Briton Nigel Short broke from FIDE, as the International Chess Federation is known, after a dispute over its management. They set up their own championship match in London (which Mr. Kasparov won), then founded the Professional Chess Association.

Mr. Kasparov is the reigning champion of that organization and is thought to be the greatest player ever. Last month he reconfirmed his pre-eminence by defeating the IBM computer Deep Blue in Philadelphia.

He would be expected to meet the winner of a Karpov-Kamsky match. In five matches, he has never lost to Mr. Karpov.

Pub Date: 3/08/96

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