'We want to win Gold at the 2012 Chess Olympiad'

2/11/2008 – In March 2008 the Turkish Chess Federation, together with the country's largest bank, is staging a spectacular international women's event in the center of Istanbul. But why are they doing this, and intend to continue doing so for the next five years? To encourage Turkish ladies to the point where they can compete for medals at the Olympiad, that's why. Interview with the TCF President.

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Women's Super-tournament – participants and goals

Interview with Ali Nihat Yazici, President of the Turkish Chess Federation

ChessBase: We know that you stage many big tournaments – World Youth Championships, European Club Cup, European Championships, youth festivals, and many others. Now you are organising a super-event for women...

Ali Nihat Yazici: It's called the Atatürk International Women Masters Chess Tournament...

Right, and it is not just for Turkish players but the best international ladies. Is there some special reason for this?

There are many reasons for it, but we may group them in three main headlines.

First is business. Nowadays there are many super tournaments for men, such as: Corus, M-Tel, Linares, etc, It has become a product. But there are practically no super tournament for women – just Baku, Azerbaijan, where they organised one twice. If you look at budgets, unfortunately (as a chess lover I mean it) the money spent for women chess cannot be compared with men's chess. When our sponsor Türkiye Is Bankasi decided to go for a top level round robin tournament, and wished to make it product, I offered them this. Because, with a smaller budget we can create a beautiful traditional super-tournament, and conduct it regularly. I must tell you honestly that the effect on the media will not be less than for men's chess. Also we wish to support women in chess, who really need all the help they can get.

The second reason is to respect to revolution made by our eminent leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who created out of the debris of the First World War a modern secular country. He changed everything in positive way, and especially he installed the principle of equality between men and women with regard to human rights. Such as the right to be elected or right to vote in elections. Did you know that Turkish women were one of first in Europe and in the World to get these rights, comprehensivel? Atatürk introduced many other revolutionary laws to improve the rights of women in society. Also he was the founder of Türkiye Is Bankasi. When these two motives are combined, it was not difficult for us to decide in favour of a women's super tournament.

Ali Nihat with Jorge Saggiante, the organiser of the World Championship in Mexico 2007

The third reason is that the Turkish Chess Federation wants to create a dream team for women in future. Like China, Georgia or India, we want to be on the top in women's chess. This is more realistic and easier than for the men's team. We want to win the Gold Medal in the 2012 Chess Olympiad, which will be held in Antalya.

Wait, are you serious? Is it realistic to aim for Gold a the Olympiad 2012, and also to stage the Olympiad in Antalya?

Think big, my friend! Make Big! Succeed Big! That is my principle. Why should I sacrifice my life for developing chess in Turkey for smaller aims. We are in the process of creating a gigantic chess country. We have to be realistic that it will require twenty years for us to compete with Russia, Ukraine, China or Armenia in men's chess. But we may be able to do it faster in women's chess. If you think this is unrealistic then I would ask you to look at what we had done in the past three years. We have already started the process. Our infrastructure is outstanding and superb. The girls work with the best coach of women known in the world. So why should we not succeed, tell me? Anyway, to prepare these girls for this goal we need to invest in women's chess. I remind you that IM Ekaterina Atalik, who is only 24, already won the European title in 2006. Do not be surprised if she gets one of the top three places in the World Championship this year. Also WIM Kübra Öztürk, WIM Betül Cemre Yildiz, WIM Zehra Topel – they cannot be compared in strength to top women players in the world, but they are all teenager and we see that they are going up and up, continuously. Behind these four aces we have many children, currently around 80, who are big talents. We have an aim. We know it looks impossible, but I have to tell you that to succeed with the impossible gives you more pleasure.

Ali, all we know that you are very ambitious, and wish you luck. Tell us more about the tournament.

We got almost all the top twenty players' approval. We invited all of them.

Including Judit Polgar?

Including Mrs. Polgar. She has sent me a very kind answer telling me why she does not play in women's tournaments. I am a member of her fan club, but after this answer I understood why she has her place at the top. She is great genius. For her it is matter of principle to make no gender difference between men and women in chess. I respect that a lot. I hope women will become better in the future, and we all need to do something to make it happen. Miss Humpy accepted our invitation, but then she had a very strong reason to drop our offer. I hope to see her next year in Istanbul. The current world champion, GM Xu Yuhua, did not get an invitation due to a mistake on my part. I am very sorry for that. Since it is difficult to know the gender of a player by reading the Chinese name, and Xu Yuhua, who has the title of GM, was not on top 50 women list on the FIDE web site. When we send out the invitations we thought another Chinese player had the title. I was simply confused. Then, after we understood the mistake, it was already very late. It was my big mistake, and I am sorry for it. The other players almost all accepted very quickly.

Playing against honorary FIDE President Florencio Campomanes, who was hospitalised after an accident in Antalya.

You started a new system of appearance fees, which are very transparent and published in advance. Why?

I do not want to have to explain to each player why she got this and the other got that. Our system is fair and known to all. But I have to tell you that also here there were two big mistakes. The first one was that we should have made the invitation priorities on the basis of the January 2008 list. But I thought it would be too late. Therefore the current start list does not reflect the order of the current rating list precisely. The other mistake was not to include appearance fee for the other continental champions – as you know we did this only for Europe. We will correct all these mistakes next year. On the whole I am very satisfied with the participation.

Are there any activities organised around the Atatürk Women Chess Masters?

Yes. This year we aim to present our new Internet products in Turkey. The Turkish version of Playchess will be launched on the 19th of March. Also a Chess Academy Online, a new product which fills the gap in chess training. Also from March 18 to 21 we are hosting the FIDE Presidential Board Meeting in Istanbul.

The FIDE Presidential Board meeting in Kemer, Antalya, in February 2007

Isn't that the third time you are hosting a Presidential Board meeting in Turkey, in the past two years?

Yes! And it is not the last one. We will also host a Presidential Board meeting in Ankara in July-August. [Laughing] Because if we are the number one federation we have to do it. Also, as a Vice President of FIDE I want my colleagues see the first edition of this important event with their own eyes.

FIDE people: Vice President Zurab Azmaiparashvili, Vice President Ali Nihat Yazici, President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos, Presidential advisor Berik Balgabaev

    Pictures by Frederic Friedel and Özgür Akman

İş Bankası - Atatürk International Women Masters Chess Tournament

The tournament will take place from March 10th to 20th, 2008, in the rarified hights of the İş Bankası towers: the 41st storey, overlooking the city of Istanbul.

Amongst the participants are two current or former world champions, three grandmasters, three IMs and three WGMs (one just 13 years old and rated 2502). The participation fees had been meticulously set and announced in advanced. So this is how the funds are distributed:

No. Player Country  Title Elo Elo cat. WCh ECh Elo rank Total Airfare
1 Pia, Cramling Sweden GM 2531 $1250 $500 1.1.08 $1750 $300
2 Zhu, Chen Qatar GM 2531 $1250 $1000  1.1.08 $2250 $900
3 Zhao Xue China WGM 2530 $1250   1.1.08 $2250 $900
4 Hou, Yifan China WGM  2502 $1250 1.1.08 $1250 $900
5 Chiburdanidze, Maia  Georgia GM 2500 $1250 $1000 1.1.08 $2250 $300
6 Ushanina, Anna Ukraine IM 2486 $1000 1.1.08 $1000 $300
7 Harika, Dronavalli India WGM 2480 $1000 1.1.08 $1000 $900
8 Krush, Irina USA IM 2475 $1000 1.1.08 $1000 $900
9 Atalık, Katerina Turkey IM 2404 $500 1.1.08 $500
10 Betul Cemre Yildiz Turkey WIM 2220 1.1.08
$9,250 $2,000 $1000  $6,600 $18,850  $5,400

The sixth column ("Elo cat.") gives the stipend that is awarded according to Elo category, i.e. US $1,500 for players over 2600, $1,250 for those over 2500, etc. The next column, "WCh" is the additional fee payed to ex or current world champions, the next to ex or current European champions. There is an additional fee that will be awarded to the players according to their starting rank ("Elo rank", $1,200 for 1st, $1,000 for 2nd, $900 for 3rd, etc.), but this will be determined according to the January 1st FIDE list.

Reserve players are Lela Javakhishvili and Monica Socko, in case any of the above players withdraw before signing their contracts, or are unable to appear due to other reasons.

So the following players will take part in the İş Bankası - Atatürk International Women Masters Chess Tournament in March next year. Their world rankings are given in the second column. Judit Polgar, the world's number one female player, does not participate in women's tournament, while Alexandra Kosteniuk, number six in the world, had already planned a holiday with her new baby in exactly this period.

No. W-rank Name Title Country Rating B-Year
 Cramling, Pia  GM  SWE  2531  1963
 Zhu Chen  GM  QAT  2531  1976
 Zhao Xue  WGM CHN  2530  1985
 Hou Yifan  WGM  CHN  2502  1994
 Chiburdanidze, Maia  GM  GEO  2500  1961
 Ushenina, Anna  IM  UKR  2486  1985
 Harika, Dronavalli  WGM  IND  2480  1991
 Krush, Irina  IM  USA  2475  1983
   Atalık, Katerina  IM  TUR  2404  1982
   Betul Cemre Yildiz  WIM  TUR  2220  1989

              Reserve players

 Javakhishvili, Lela  IM  GEO  2474  1984
 Socko, Monika  IM  POL  2473  1978


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