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Geurt Gijssen: Final response to Yasser Seirawan

11/17/2006 – "I was really surprised by the number of e-mails and phone calls I received after the publication of Mr. Seirawan’s article at ChessBase, my response and his subsequent response," writes the world championship arbiter. "As a matter of fact I was not surprised that the majority of the reactions I received supported my decision." Geurt Gijssen responds.
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An Arbiter's Notebook

By Geurt Gijssen
Reprinted with permission of

Unusual Incidents

My last response to Mr. Seirawan regarding Appeals Committees and arbiters

I was really surprised by the number of e-mails and phone calls I received after the publication of Mr. Seirawan’s article at ChessBase, my response at ChessCafe and his subsequent response at ChessBase. As a matter of fact I was not surprised that the majority of the reactions I received supported my decision.

There was one point in my article I tried to explain and I thought I had explained it well. But Stephane Escafre, Chairman of the French Arbiter’s Council, was able to explain it in a much better way than I. He has given me permission to publish it:

Obviously, Mr Seirawan doesn’t know the basic notion of “Separation of Powers.” First, the Legislative Branch makes the law. Second, the Executive Branch executes the law. Last, the Judicial Branch interprets the law. It is clear that the Arbiter represents the Executive Branch. Mr Gijssen executes the law. He can neither change nor interpret the law. Maybe you don’t like it but it would be quite dangerous for democracy if the Executive (police, military etc) made its own rules. The main problem in this World Championship came from the Judicial Branch: The Appeals Committee.

Why? Because the Judicial Branch (Appeals Committee) was not separated from the Legislative Branch (FIDE). Instead of abiding by the Law, the Appeal Committee didn’t follow the rules and made its own laws: this is against “Separation of Powers” doctrine and this is not democracy.

Many things for which Mr Seirawan reproaches the Arbiter should be in fact directed to the Appeals Committee or to FIDE. From a democratic point of view, Mr Gijssen exercised his duty as a representative of the Executive Branch. Mr Seirawan wrote “When an injustice is committed it should be righted.” Yes, Sir, but not by the Executive Branch. Injustice should be righted by Judicial Branch.

I will not react to all his points, but there are some remarks I would like to make.

First of all the Appeals Committee. The President of FIDE or the Deputy President is the chairman as per FIDE’s own governing regulations. They also state that no member of the Appeals Committee may belong to the same federation as one of the participants. What I had been trying to explain is the following: Suppose the President is the Chairman of the Appeals Committee, and does not have the same citizenship as one of the participants. The Appeals Committee makes a decision. How can the President, as member of the Appeals Committee, overrule that committee in his capacity as President?

That is why I wrote, that the fact that the President can overrule the Appeals Committee is “nonsense.”

However, more important is the fact that it is not stated anywhere that the President may overrule the decisions of the Appeals Committee.

That Mr. Seirawan several times apparently chooses to cast what I put forth as “nonsense” is his own personal viewpoint.

A short remark about the Appeals Committee:

When we experienced a short period without an Appeals Committee (less than one day!), the President had the capacity to act per Article 3.23.1 of the Match Regulations:

At any time in the course of the application of these regulations, any grounds that are not covered or any unforeseen event shall be referred to the Presidential Board or the President of FIDE, for final decision.

And it was clear that we had an unforeseen situation. I cannot remember any important FIDE event without an Appeals Committee.

I disagree with Mr. Seirawan that the President acted as an Appeals Committee. He started negotiations with both teams. He made several proposals for further continuation of the match, which were not accepted. What this really means is that he did not make any decision, but tried to find a solution acceptable to both sides. I do not understand Mr. Seirawan’s remark wondering why it is not possible to continue to negotiate, even when the Appeals Committee’s decision is final.

Just before the start of game 5, I received a request to briefly postpone the start, because a letter from the President was on the way. Of course, I did not know the content of this letter, but it was, in my opinion, appropriate to wait for this letter. I suggested to both players to wait for this letter. As previously mentioned, Mr. Kramnik did not change his mind and informed me that he would not play. What then happened is well known.

Chief Arbiter Geurt Gijssen announcing that the game is delayed by 15 minutes

I repeat, I had no authority to call for a time out.

Mr. Seirawan finished his letter as follows:

Mr. Gijssen would do well to remember that such an impasse (in case Mr. Topalov had won the match) would have resulted in him, and other match officials, being called upon to explain their conduct in a court of law.

Well, Mr. Seirawan, I was ready – and remain ready now – to explain my conduct in any appropriate forum, because I believed then, as now, that from my perspective, there was no choice: I had to start game 5.

I shall refrain from replying to the unfortunate ad hominem remarks made by the respected American grandmaster. They were unnecessary and unwarranted. This shall be my last public statement on this entire episode.

This text originally appeared on October 18, 2006 in the "Arbiter's Notebook" section of Since this is a periodical column the contents are replaced at some stage with a new article. The original article may then by found in the Chess Cafe archives. Copyright 2006 CyberCafes, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Yasser Seirawan's response

Apart from quoting at length a French gentleman who, pricelessly, compares FIDE to a democratic State, Mr. Gijssen makes only two substantive points:

1) ‘I disagree with Mr. Seirawan that the President acted as an Appeals Committee.’ Mr. Gijssen has apparently forgotten what was stated in FIDE’s press release of 1 October 2006:

‘Until the appointment of the new members and their arrival in Elista, the functions of the Appeals Committee will be performed by the FIDE President.’

2) Then Mr. Gijssen writes: ‘However, more important is the fact that it is not stated anywhere that the President may overrule the decisions of the Appeals Committee.’

Yet we all know that by ordering Mr. Kramnik’s bathroom to be unlocked the President did precisely that.

Mr. Gijssen says that he is willing to explain his conduct ‘in any appropriate forum,’ but, three sentences later, announces that his latest article is ‘his last public statement on this entire episode.’

It should certainly not be. All parties involved in the Elista farce need to explain themselves, openly and fully. As history proves, if we don’t learn from our mistakes we are doomed to repeat them.

GM Yasser Seirawan

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