International chess Grandmaster Robert Fontaine has joined Agon Limited, the rights holder to the World Chess Championship cycle, as chief of staff to founder and chief executive Andrew Paulson.
Mr Fontaine, the six-times under-20 youth champion for France, becomes a principal aide as Mr Paulson implements his strategy to organise and commercialise the ongoing World Chess Championship cycles, starting with the opening Grand Prix for the 2012/2013 cycle at Simpson’s-in-the-Strand in London in September.
Mr Fontaine has won a number of international tournaments over his playing career, including Las Vegas in 2006, Stockholm in 2007 and Paleohora in 2009. He became a Grandmaster in 2002 and a member of the Olympiad chess team in 2004.
He is also known as a presenter for Europe-Echecs, where he interviewed champion players and politicians for video reportage on the world’s leading chess events.
Mr Fontaine said: “I heard about Andrew’s plans to restore chess to its rightful place as a leading global entertainment form, and was extremely interested to see how I could bring my experience to help him realise his ambitions. What Andrew is proposing can only benefit the international chess community through raising the profile of the game and opening up chess to a new generation of players.”
Mr Paulson, the chief executive of Agon, said: “Robert is incredibly well-connected in the chess world, and his experience of interviewing top-ranking Grandmasters and his deep understanding of the complexities of the game will be invaluable as we build up to the start of the next iteration of the world’s most compelling sport.”
On semi-retiring from competitive chess in 2005, Mr Fontaine became a professional chess coach as managing director of the chess club Cannes-Echecs, where he managed a team of ten teaching chess in schools to 4,500 children.
He also introduced chess to the employees of French electricity and gas companies by working with CCAS, the energy industry social fund, to help co-ordinate a scheme that has taught chess to 45,000 people since 2007.
About the World Chess Championships:
The World Chess Championship Cycle is the pinnacle of chess and consists of nine events over two years: six Grand Prix tournaments, the Candidates Tournament, the World Cup and the World Championship Match.
The 2012-13 championship cycle will start in London in September with the first Grand Prix, to be hosted at Simpson’s-in-the-Strand from 20 September to 4 October. Succeeding Grand Prix tournaments will be played in Tashkent, Lisbon, Madrid, Paris and Berlin, and the World Cup will be held in Tromsø.
The 2012-13 Candidates, a double round-robin tournament among eight players, will take place in London in March next year. The winner of the Candidates will play the reigning World Chess Champion, Viswanathan Anand, in the World Championship Match in November 2013.
The long-term commercial rights for the World Chess Championship Cycle were accorded to Agon, founded by the media entrepreneur Andrew Paulson, by the World Chess Federation (FIDE) in February 2012. Mr Paulson is negotiating with commercial brand partners to sponsor the tournaments, allowing him to increase the prize fund to 5.5 million euros and to significantly expand the media coverage of the sport, with interactive broadcast on smartphones, tablets and online supplementing the highlights coverage on global television networks.
The design agency Pentagram has been hired to create new branding and design for
the cycle. There are an estimated 605 million chess players around the world, with enthusiasts including Sergey Brin, George Soros, Bill Gates and Mikhail Gorbachev.
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– GM Susan Polgar