The 2014 Candidates Tournament will be held in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. This was announced yesterday on the FIDE website. The qualifiers are Levon Aronian (rating), Sergey Karjakin (rating), Vladimir Kramnik (World Cup), Dmitry Andreikin (World Cup), Veselin Topalov (Grand Prix winner), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Grand Prix runner-up) either Magnus Carlsen or Vishy Anand (the loser of their match) and a wild card to be chosen by the organizer.
The World Championship match between Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen is two and a half weeks away, but this report is about the next stage, that will lead to the 2014 title match. As was announced by FIDE, the Candidates Tournament that will provide next year's challenger will be held 12-30 March 2014 in Khanty-Mansiysk, the Siberian city that hosted several World Cups and an Olympiad before. (Just like this year, the 2014 Candidates tournament will be a double round robin of 14 rounds. You can find the regulations here in PDF.)
A real bidding process didn't take place for this event. (In fact it is still Agon, Andrew Paulson's company that hasn't been very active since the previous Candidates, that has the official rights to make a decision here.) Before the FIDE Congress meeting in Tallinn, Estonia earlier this month, two candidates had sent a declaration of interest to FIDE: Kozloduy (Bulgaria) and Khanty-Mansiysk (Russia). However, one day after the FIDE Congress, Bulgaria withdrew their bid:
Having in mind the highly suspicious, scandalous and shameful way in which World Youth Championship 2015 was awarded to Greece, Bulgarian Chess Federation has decided to withdraw its bid to organize the Candidates next year.
The main reason is that we are not willing to pay 300.000 Euro fee to the Organization who treats national federations in such a disrespectful way.
My best wishes to Khanty-Mansiysk, we have no doubt they will organize an excellent event.
President of Bulgarian Chess Federation
What exactly happened in Tallinn? Well, first here's the video by Sevan Muradian taken on October 7th:
At the start of the video, FIDE Executive Director Nigel Freeman tells the delegates that FIDE asked both candidates for a bank guarantee, but only Khanty-Mansiysk gave one. Bulgaria asked whether a letter from the President would be acceptable, whereupon FIDE asked for a letter from the Prime Minister. FIDE allowed Bulgaria a few more days to arrange either this or a bank guarantee and they had good reason: their offer was double the one from Khanty-Mansiysk.
FIDE Vice President Israel Gelfer then suggested to give the Bulgarians until the end of the month, but FIDE Vice President and representative of the Russian Chess Federation Ilya Levitov was not happy with this. "First the deadline was September 20, then October 4 and now we keep on moving it?" Eventually it was decided that the Bulgarians would get until the end of the week, so four more days.
Then the meeting moving on to the selection of the venue for the 2015 World Youth Championship. There were three Candidates: Albena (Bulgaria), Porto Carras, Halkidiki (Greece) and Kemer, Antalya (Turkey) and all gave a presentation. The one from Bulgaria was quite remarkable; Sevan Muradian described it as follows:
Pay attention to the sub-titles in their video and make sure you're not eating or drinking anything while watching it because you will choke on whatever is in your mouth. Apparently they didn't bother to check the work done on the sub-titles because it was taken from what appears to be a Phil Specter biographical movie (violent and vulgar words being used).
After the presentations, Nigel Freeman presented the inspection report created by David Jarrett and Anil Surender (in PDF here). Surender and Jarrett had visited all three venues in May of this year, and wrote the following conclusion in their report:
We have not made a recommendation. Provided that comments made above are taken into consideration, in our opinion, we consider that all three bidders are capable of hosting the event. Specifically we would highlight the following:
In Bulgaria there is the recommendation to use specific hotels. In addition, the additional playing accommodation will not be constructed until next year and the access through the local airport connections would need enhancement.
In Greece there is the need to ensure that only players have access to toilets at the Convention Center.
In Turkey, attention needs to be given to toilet facilities and access to the playing hall.
However, in the document the conclusion was followed by a "catalogue of criteria" where the inspectors give points for all three venues for the different criteria. According to the scores, Bulgaria finished on 115 points, Turkey on 133 points and Greece on 149 points.
At the Executive Board meeting in Tallinn, FIDE Executive Director Nigel Freeman asked the delegates whether they would vote to accept this inspection report, and if they would vote in favor, this would mean that Greece would win based on the highest scores. There was some discussion, but in the end the report was accepted and Greece was awarded the event.
As Bulgaria's representative, Silvio Danailov was the only one to vote against the report, and soon he expressed his anger in the media. Chess-news.ru quoted him as follows:
What happened today can only be described as a daylight robbery. People came from Bulgaria to make an impressive presentation. As you could understand this wasn't a cheap thing to do. Several minutes before the meeting started, the delegates were handled a document presenting some new regulations which haven't been known earlier. As it turned out the inspector recommended to choose Porto Carras and according to new regulations approving inspector's report is enough for making a decision.
The news was also picked up by Bulgarian media. On Twitter, Danailov posted:
Swedish IA Anil Surender, one of the two inspectors of the venues, said he was surprised when he heard about the procedure in Tallinn:
We didn't know this would happen with the report. The notes were really only intended for internal record keeping, and not meant for distributing. When we submitted, FIDE told us that they wanted the scores as well.
If there was a clear difference between the venues, then we would make a clear recommendation. If not, we would simply confirm they were all acceptable. That was the intention. And in the end we decided that it was too close to make a clear recommendation, so we specifically refrained from that.
When Danailov met with Surender in Bilbao earlier this month, he posted this tweet:
On the phone, Nigel Freeman said that a slightly amended version of the inspection report was used in the meeting, which had "no reference to a recommendation" but it did include the scores. (Apparently this amended version had also been published on the FIDE website, but where exactly is unclear.)
— Update 25 October 2013: as it turns out, the inspection report mentioned above was the one used at the EB meeting. —
When the scores came out, there was a big difference. The delegates could see the scores, and they were allowed to vote.
Thus, the question is why the scores were used in the meeting, even though they were not intended be used as such, at least not by Mr Surender. Freeman:
There were enough board members who could have objected, but in the end only Silvio voted against.
Obviously we wanted to ask Silvio Danailov more details about the Bulgarian bid, but unfortunately over the past few days he was not available to comment.