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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kasparov-Ponomariov Matchup in Jeopardy

KIEV -- A spat between the reigning World Chess Federation champion, Ukrainian Ruslan Ponomariov, and chess officials threatens to cancel his title-defending match next month against Russia's Garry Kasparov, the champion's lawyer said Tuesday.

But the World Chess Federation, or FIDE, said in a statement Tuesday that it was trying to resolve the standoff "in a last effort to save the match."

The dispute centers on the players' contracts for the September match in the Ukrainian resort of Yalta. FIDE wants both players to sign the agreements as they are, but Ponomariov is demanding four changes, his lawyer Hrihoriy Ginsburg told a news conference in Kiev.

The Switzerland-based FIDE said in a statement, published on its web site, that it was willing to comply with some, but not all, of Ponomariov's demands, and it gave him until noon Thursday to sign. Kasparov has already signed his contract.

Ponomariov's manager, Silvio Danilov, said that if FIDE disqualifies Ponomariov or replaces him with FIDE's second-highest ranked player, Vasiliy Ivanchuk of Ukraine, the match in Yalta won't go ahead.

"Kasparov doesn't want to play just anyone," Danilov said. "Sponsors won't pay anything for an Ivanchuk-Kasparov match," he added.

Ponomariov has appealed to Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, head of the match's organizing committee, to resolve the dispute.

At the center of the debate are the four amendments that Ponomariov requested. These include the addition of one Russian-speaking referee, allowing no last-minute replacement of Ponomariov as FIDE's champ, providing no extra day of rest in the case of a tie-breaker, and to conduct anti-doping analysis only in certified laboratories outside Russia or Ukraine.

FIDE said in its statement that one of the referees will be chosen from a list of three nominees submitted by Ponomariov, and it agrees that the anti-doping tests should be conducted in a neutral country. But the chess organization said it will continue to insist on the extra day of rest in the case of a tie-breaker and it refuses to relinquish its authority to replace either of the players "as a matter of principle, when any of the players is in fundamental breach of the contract or regulations for the match."

The Ponomariov-Kasparov match, scheduled for Sept. 18 through Oct. 6, was set to begin during a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States, with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Russian President Vladimir Putin making the first moves for the players.

Its cancellation would be a blow to FIDE's attempt to repair a rift that has divided the chess world since 1993. Under a plan agreed a year ago to reunify chess, Classical World Champion Vladimir Kramnik of Russia was to defend his title against the victor in a qualifying tournament, which was won by Hungarian Peter Leko, while Ponomariov would defend his title against former champion Kasparov, the world's top rated player. The winners were then scheduled to face off for the undisputed title.