Viswanathan Anand has asked for a postponement of his World Championship match against Veselin Topalov in Sofia, Bulgaria, as the grounding of international flights due to the volcanic ash over Iceland has left him stranded in Frankfurt.
The best-of-12 match starts April 23, and in case of a tie it will be decided in a rapid play-off by May 12.
Defending champion Anand was scheduled to reach Sofia on April 16 but has not been able to fly due to the closure of the airport in Germany. The Indian says he needs time to make alternate booking, prompting the All India Chess Federation to also ask for a postponement of the match by three days.
"In view of the extreme force majeure situation we are facing, it has become difficult and near impossible to travel in Europe. We are working with the FIDE supervisor to see how we can travel at the earliest. Given these circumstances it has been agreed, keeping in mind Vishy's arrival in Sofia the schedule could be moved accordingly," said Aruna Anand, wife and manager of the world champion.
Anand has also sent out a legal notice to FIDE explaining his position.
"We were due to arrive at 13.05 on April 16 by Lufthansa LH 3484 from Frankfurt to Sofia. We were in transit from Madrid. Unfortunately, from 16th April all flights have been cancelled as is the case in most European countries due to the volcanic eruption. Therefore, due to circumstances beyond our control we are unable to reach Sofia as scheduled on April 16.
"We are in close consultations with Lufthansa and if the airspace in Germany does open we will fly to Sofia. Meanwhile, have been checking on alternatives of going to airports that are reachable by train," the notice stated.
"However, trains are overbooked and further the airports seem to be shutting down. Re-booking on flights seem very difficult and we have used considerable influence in getting ourselves re-booked at the earliest.
"Trains to Sofia would take about 28 hours to reach and I would not be in a mental state to play immediately after travelling such distance. Further to play immediately would be unfair and unjust due to the fatigue given that the opponent has arrived a few weeks back. Under these circumstances the contest would not be equal and fair.
"In this current scenario I request you to postpone the first round by three days," the notice adds.
The AICF has also sent a message to FIDE seeking postponement of the match. The AICF honorary secretary D V Sundar sent an urgent message requesting FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov to intervene and postpone the match to allow time for Anand to reach the venue.