27 July 2010

Let's Make a Deal

From Eljanov wins final FIDE GP, Radjabov qualifies for Candidates (chessvibes.com):-

Round 11: This round saw another Azeri derby: Radjabov versus Mamedyarov. It was an important game, since Radjabov’s win regained his chances to qualify for the Candidates matches. In the Exchange Variation of the Ruy Lopez White got a small advantage and then developed a strong initiative following Black’s unsuccessful queen maneuver on the 19th move. The game transposed to a queen ending with a remote passed pawn for White. Black was short on time and committed the decisive error on the 38th move. Mamedyarov resigned immediately due to inevitable loss of the kingside pawns.

From comments to Airport Delay Dortmund Blogging (chessninja.com):-

Thomas | July 25, 2010 10:27 AM : Some people (including GMs Yemelin and Eljanov) had speculated that Radjabov - Mamedyarov 1-0, Astrakhan GP [Grand Prix], was a "deal" - but that's another story, helping to secure spots in the candidates event for BOTH players.

Thomas | July 25, 2010 12:59 PM : On Radjabov - Mamedyarov: I wouldn't have brought this up if two respectable GMs, both present in Astrakhan, hadn't done so before (in the German magazine "Schach"). As I said it was a win-win situation for both players, AND the game was rather strange.

The game doesn't look strange to me -- Teimour Radjabov vs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov; FIDE Grand Prix 2010 (chessgames.com) -- but the accusation is nevertheless disturbing. How was it theoretically possible?

FACT: Radjabov and Mamedyarov are both Azerbaijani. Astrakhan was the last of six Grand Prix events to determine two qualifers to the candidates event, Aronian having already grabbed the first qualifying spot. One player would qualify from the Grand Prix to the candidates, with Radjabov in an excellent position and Mamedyarov in a hopeless position. If, however, Mamedyarov finishes ahead of Radjabov at Astrakhan, Radjabov's chances are severely diminished. (This can all be verified on my page 2008-2009 Grand Prix.)

FACT: The candidates event is currently scheduled for 2011 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (This is up-in-the-air for now, but it wasn't at the time the game was played.) The organizers have the right to nominate one player for the event.

SPECULATION: Radjabov would be the first choice of the organizers, Mamedyarov the second choice. Instead, the organizers of the candidates event exert sufficient influence to parlay their one nomination into two.

I am certainly not saying that this actually happened and I sincerely hope that it didn't happen. The possibility that it might have happened is disturbing enough. How to prevent similar scenarios from occurring in the future? Don't award the organization of an event in a qualifying cycle until the previous events have completed, especially if the organizers have the possibility to nominate a participant.

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