01 April 2014

An Empty Arena?

A few days before the last round of the 2014 Candidates Tournament, FIDE made an announcement about the official web site, Candidates tournament 2014 with record breaking interest:-

Candidates tournament 2013 in London was one of the most successful events of last year. With high interest, good organization, and large media coverage, it became the pillar of the first half of the year and was only surpassed in visitors by the World Championship in Chennai. Candidates tournament 2014 is improving last year's London numbers and registering record breaking levels.

Around the same time, Europe Echecs (EE; April 2014, p.5) wrote [translating from the French],

Candidates - Siberian Vacuum • The previous tournament at London 2013 stirred up enthusiasm, including the playing area. It was crowded despite paid access. In Siberia the aisles were deserted. [...] In all sport an empty arena is not a sign of healthy media interest, except for FIDE. From which this key question of 600.000 Euros, the total of the prizes in play at Khanty-Mansiysk : the Candidates interest no one or, more precisely, the organizers from Siberia are invariably the highest bidder?

The EE commentary was illustrated by the following photo.

Round 2; Candidates Tournament 2014, Khanty-Mansiysk [Flickr.com]

The photo contrasts sharply with one of my posts from last year, Anand - Carlsen, Pregame Photos.


Co-Founder Michael said...

Well Khanty-Mansiysk is hardly the most exotic of places for starters. The Russian press aren't interested as their boys make up half the field and the stronger half at that, so it was merely a means of selecting the next Russian hope to meet Carlsen. The Indian press were not really expecting anything from Anand so didn't really show. As for the European press their man is World Champion so not really that interested.Mamedyarov, Topalov and Aronian didn't seem to inspire their national chess press to make the journey on that occasion maybe they thought that it was in the bag for Russia. Also the elephant in the room is the political issues surrounding Russia, a boycott by default could also been at play.

Mark Weeks said...

The topic screams for commentary, but at the time I wrote it I couldn't get my thoughts in order. I'll try again.

First, the 'key question' posed by EE isn't clear. Are they asking why K-M bid on an event where the local population has little interest? Or are they asking why there is so little interest in general? Or something else?

Second, FIDE claimed that 'tournament 2014 is improving last year's London numbers'. Since there is no reason to dispute this claim, it's a positive sign for chess.

There is a fundamental disconnect here: other than website traffic, the group sponsoring the event reaps no obvious benefit for their sponsorship. In other words there is no obvious connection between the sponorship funds and the event. The funds could come from anywhere, the event could be played anywhere, and the website traffic would be the same. - Mark