Speculation Ends: Date and Venue Set for World Chess Championship in New York
By JOHN LELANDAUG. 9, 2016
Back in February, the company that runs the World Chess Championship announced some big news: The tournament would return to New York City this fall, for the first time in more than two decades. The company promised to reveal a venue shortly.
But then it did not.
Players and bloggers cried foul, suggesting that the tournament would not come to the city after all. The company, Agon Limited, based in Russia, called the speculation “tittle-tattle and gossip.”
That was in May. Then more silence, more speculation. The official chess world, it should be said, is as fractious as the Olympics. Kirsan N. Ilyumzhinov, the Russian businessman who heads the World Chess Federation, has been sanctioned by the United States Treasury Department after being accused of “materially assisting” Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, and also said he was abducted by space aliens.
During the controversy about a planned Islamic center near ground zero in New York in 2010, Mr. Ilyumzhinov wrote to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg offering to build a 24-story interfaith tower designed like a chess piece on the site instead. Support for his governing practices is not unanimous in the chess world.
The silence on details about the coming tournament struck some chess fans as suspicious. Nigel Short, a British grandmaster and tart commentator, posted on Twitter, “Can’t imagine the next World #Chess Championship taking place in New York, for a whole host of reasons.” The speculation can now rest. The world championship will be held at the South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan, Ilya Merenzon, the head of Agon Limited, told The New York Times. Mr. Merenzon said a formal announcement would come later on Tuesday. Joel Lippman, the events director for the Seaport, confirmed the arrangement.
The tournament pits the current champion, Magnus Carlsen, 25, a charismatic Norwegian who appeared in ads for the sportswear company G-Star RAW, against the Russian challenger, Sergey Karjakin, 26, who will come to the match a decided underdog. Many chess fans had hoped the challenger would be one of two Americans, Hikaru Nakamura or Fabiano Caruana, who both have roots in New York, but Mr. Karjakin, a supporter of Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Crimea, bested them and others in the qualifying tournament in Moscow in March.
The games are scheduled to begin on Nov. 11 and continue for several weeks, until one player earns six and a half points (players receive a point for a win and a half point for a draw). Mr. Merenzon said that securing a venue for such a long period proved harder than expected. Among the other sites considered: Trump Tower. The players will compete in a soundproof glass room, in front of 300 spectators plus VIPs, who will have a lounge area. Regular tickets will cost up to $50. Mr. Merenzon said he expected audience members to come and go during games, which can take five or six hours, with long stretches between moves. Commentators will analyze the game in progress, and a gift shop will sell souvenirs.
“It’s the first time we’re taking this product fully to market,” Mr. Merenzon said. “We’re saying chess is open for business.”