It's politics as usual

6/17/2004 – The Israeli chess federations is suing FIDE (and apparently Libya), the ACP is complaining about irregularities, FIDE replies to the ACP, world champion Ruslan Ponomariov wants to know why FIDE is silent now, and Georgian WGMs reply to the women's championship finalists. On the eve of the World Championship in Tripoli it is a chess world in turmoil.

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In the past few days we have been receiving messages and statements from different parties, criticising or defending the actions taken by FIDE to stage its world championship in Tripoli, Libya, and commenting on related subjects. We have compiled the most significant of these, with summaries and original documents. Click on any of the following links to jump to the relevant section on the rest of the page.


Israeli chess body wants to sue Libya over ban

17.06.2004 The Israeli Chess Association says it hopes to sue Libya for barring the Israeli team from this year's world chess championships in Tripoli. Spokesman Yerach Tal said the Israeli team, ranked second in Europe after Russia, would incur financial losses as a result of the ban. Tal told The Associated Press that the association was also considering a suit for damages against FIDE. He said one of the Israeli players, Vadim Milov, was trying to attend the tournament as part of the Swiss team. Milov was due to fly from Zurich to Tripoli on Thursday, but Tal did not know if he had been successful, as he did not have an official Libyan invitation. [Full article]


Mike Lebowitz: Chess – not just for smart people anymore
Yes, it's official. The IOC and its cronies have fallen hook, line, and sinker to Libya's plot to host a Jew-free World Chess Championship in Tripoli. And guess whose fault it is that top ranked Israeli and US Jews have been effectively barred from competition? "The Israeli chess players decided not to participate in the Tripoli Chess Championship," stated Georgios Makropoulos, deputy president of the IOC-sponsored World Chess Federation (FIDE), in responding to questions as to who was to blame. [Full editorial]


Irregularities in nominations of players to the 2003-2004 World Chess Championship

15.06.2004 In a letter to FIDE the ACP protests irregularities in nominations of players to the 2003-2004 World Chess Championship. In the main part FIDE qualified 44 instead of 46 players from the Continental Championships in Batumi 2002 and Silivri 2003. The two missing places went to GM Baadur Jobava from Georgia and IM Kivanc Haznedaroglu from Turkey, who personally nominated by the ECU President. This is in violation with the Regulations for the 2003 – 2004 World Chess Championship. [Full text]


FIDE answer to the ACP Open Letter dated 8 June 2004.

Elista, 8 June 2004: FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov answered the May 26 open letter written by ACP chairman Joel Lautier, expressing surprise that Lautier would choose to contact him through the mass media, instead of normal means of communication, viz. through the FIDE secretariat. Ilyumzhinov states that the FIDE official representatives have worked hard to secure that all players including the Israelis, will get visa upon arrival. The Libyan authorities had twice confirmed in writing that all qualified players will get visa. "Based on my personal contact with the Libyan leader H.E Moammar Al Ghaddafi, I am absolutely confident that this problem is solved." However the Israeli players had "either failed to sign the Players Undertaking or signed with conditions or withdrawn from the Championship after the deadline." Ilyumzhinov also expresses surprise that the ACP doesn't see "the importance of having the World Chess Championship in Libya, during the time when the country is opening up to the international community in a way that has been widely appreciated by many top leaders of the world." [Full text]


Why FIDE is silent now?

In June 15 ChessBase.com published an interview with Georgios Makropoulos which bore the title "Why were they silent in Prague?" and was given by him to the Russian newspaper "Sports-Express" or June 8, 2004. In my opinion, the manner of dialogue and the entire style of Mr. Makropoulos are characteristic for the majority of chess officials. It leaves no doubts in my mind that Mr. Makropoulos considers himself the "chief" of all chess players. Naturally, the main arrows have been directed at his obstinate "subordinates" – top grandmasters, among whom has once again found me.

I would like to mention that I for my part have a long time ago turned the page of history with regard to the aborted match Ponomariov-Kasparov. I see no sense in living in the past. But as the functionaries of FIDE constantly return to the theme, trying to impose on the chess public the idea that the match did not take place due to my unwillingness to play against Garry Kimovich, I think it necessary to not to ignore these stories but to reply to Mr. Makropoulos and again remind him of the chronology of negotiations with FIDE.

In April 2003 I received the draft contract for our match with Kasparov in Buenos Aires. Before signing it I gave it to the lawyers for examination. Some of these lawyers were permanently cooperating with different sporting organizations. They came to the unanimous conclusion: the draft contract had several legal defects. The parties did not have equal rights, and one party – FIDE – was given a clear advantage over the other party – the "Players" (i.e. Mr. Kasparov and myself). It was wrong to make both players act as one party of the contract, while they could not meet regularly and work out a common position. The lawyers also pointed out that the interest of FIDE officials (and especially their financial interests) were over-protected, while the players' rights and ways to protect the "Players" interests were not outlined clearly enough.

On the part of FIDE only the rights were listed, without any mention of the FIDE's obligations to the players. On the part of the "Players" – only their obligations and duties towards FIDE were described, and also the sanctions for failing to perform these obligations. No sanctions for FIDE were previewed in case it breaks the "Players" rights, there were not even any sanctions if FIDE fails to perform it's own obligation: to organize the match in Buenos Aires on the specific dates. I sent to FIDE twenty one most important (in my opinion) suggestions to change some parts of the contract, and pointed out that three parts are contradicting with the Prague agreements and the rules of the match. I asked to send my comments to Kasparov and to tell me about his position.

The Executive Director of FIDE Mr. Omuku accepted a few least important of my suggestions and objected against most of them saying that FIDE has its traditions and normal practices. At the same time Mr. Omuku told me that the match will not take place in June in Buenos Aires because the president Ilyumzhinov by his authority postponed the match to autumn and divided it between Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Among my suggestions to improve the contract there was a request to impose sanctions on FIDE if it breaks its obligations, and in particular if the match will be cancelled because of it, so Mr. Omuku told me that for postponing our match FIDE will pay Kasparov and me $100,000 each in form of compensation for our related losses. FIDE took an obligation to pay it by August, 15, 2003. I must say that Argentina paid this money to FIDE as a non-refundable security advance payment. FIDE failed to fulfill its obligation. Ilyumzhinov said in several interviews that Argentina did make this payment to FIDE, but it is unknown where this money is now.

In July the president of Ukraine sent his order to hold the match in Yalta to Mr. Ilyumzhinov, and once again I started urging FIDE to adjust the contract in the short time remaining before the match. I suggested that the parties meet and discuss the contract details. FIDE ignored my requests. Again they sent me the draft contract at the last moment, and again Ilyumzhinov's signature was missing from it. The contract can not be considered an official document if it doesn't bear the signature of the FIDE President. The absence of his signature was all the more strange because earlier Mr. Omuku confirmed that Mr. Ilyumzhinov should be the first to sign the contract because it was him who created this document.

To my disappointment I found out that even those of my suggestions and changes that were accepted by FIDE in April, were not included in the new draft contract. I sent my suggestions again, this time I reduced the number of changes because time for corresponding were running short. I demanded that they fulfill the following requirements:

  • they should send me the contract in Russian (previously they consistently were sending me all papers in English that didn't only delay things but there was also a risk of translation errors);
  • the contract should be signed by Ilyumzhinov;
  • the contract should include Kasparov's opinion on its contents, and on my suggestions.

I was patiently waiting that Mr. Kasparov would express a desire to meet with me, or would at least inform me about his opinion about the contract, and about my suggestions. However, Kasparov was silent, and I started strongly asking FIDE to arrange an exchange of information between me and Kasparov. Up to the moment when the match was cancelled by Ilyumzhinov neither him, nor his office nor Kasparov answered my question about what Kasparov thought about the contract, and whether Kasparov even knew of my suggestions. Eventually I found out that Kasparov made a statement that he didn't approve the text of the contract, and that he sent to FIDE five pages of his objections, but later he for some reason withdrew it. Also Kasparov said that because the match in Buenos Aires was postponed, and then the match in Yalta cancelled, he lost $500,000. In this connection I find it strange (to say the least) that Kasparov withdrew his objections, and that later he didn't demand that Ilyumzhinov compensates his losses.

In response to my requests Ilyumzhinov sent me a fax with the request that I should be the first to sign the contract. As for his own signature, he promised to put it on the paper as soon as he can spare a moment in between of his state affairs. On August, 12 I faxed to FIDE a Russian text of the contract with my signature. I left only five of my previously requested changes (all the other changes I didn't include in order to reach a compromise). I was sure that my compromising approach would make Ilyumzhinov want to reciprocate, and that he would accept my five changes that in no way affected FIDE's interests. But instead the FIDE Board gave me a new deadline, and an ultimatum: if I don't sign a contract by August, 18 without any reservations, I will be replaced by another participant.

I reduced the number of my proposed changes again to a necessary minimum, I left only two of them, and I was ready to give up on one of those two after personal discussions. I made still more compromises with a sole purpose of saving the match. Because Ukraine fully guaranteed the prize fund of the match and the organizing expenses in the amount of $1,700,000, I gave written guarantees to the Ukrainian Government that I'll be ready to play after my proposed changes are accepted. The Organizing Committee of the match approved both of my changes, and considered them legal, fair and honest. My first proposed change was to remove the incomprehensively written clause giving FIDE an absolutely illegal right "to defer the player's right to play in the match" if he "does not observe the time frame stipulated by the contract" or if "his conduct violates the conditions of the contract". In such cases FIDE can appoint a "reserve" player instead of the one who broke the rules and "to impose the punitive sanctions in full".

It sounds rather vague, doesn't it? What does it mean "to defer the player's right to play in the match" To defer for how long, and when to resume? What "time frame" should a player "observe"? What exactly meant by "the player's conduct violating the conditions of the match"? What is a "reserve" player and what is "imposing punitive sanctions in full"? What are the criteria to determine if "the player's conduct does or doesn't violate the conditions", and most importantly, who are the judges? Who has the right to determine that a player's conduct is bad enough to replace him? There were no answers to these questions in the draft contract. In the history of World Chess Championships there was a case when a match was suddenly terminated by the FIDE President. But while in the past it was done without mentioning the right to do this in the contract, now Mr. Ilyumzhinov decided to "legalize" the FIDE's right to arbitrary rule.

The second controversial point of the contract was adding a twentieth day to the match in the form of a day-off before tie-breaks, in case the winner is not determined after the main twelve games. Indeed, on January 6, 2003 my manager Mr. Silvio Danailov on my behalf suggested that there were only three days off in the match schedule: two during the match, and one before tie-breaks. However, at the time FIDE declined this suggestion. An extra day off in itself was not a problem for me, and I would agree to this suggestion made by Kasparov, but I had one principal objection. In the official rules of the match, worked out by FIDE, there was no mention of the third day off, and the match was supposed to last for nineteen days. Mr. Ilyumzhinov had no right to make changes in the rules single-handedly. But Kasparov, who as early as on December 31, 2002 signed the rules, suddenly decided to add an extra day off after twelve games, and Ilyumzhinov readily obliged him. Thus, he forged the rules that were approved by the FIDE Board on February 22-23, 2003 in Bucharest. I raised my objections because such "freedom" in handling the rules is dangerous in principle. There was one more distinct flaw in the contract that had to be corrected: the early termination of the match was not previewed in case a participant sores 6.5 before all twelve games are played.

I suggested that FIDE, Ilyumzhinov, Kasparov and the members of the Organizing Committee get together, freely exchange opinions and then sign the mutually agreed version of the contract. FIDE declined my offer. But without meeting in person we were not able to settle certain disagreements that concerned the issues beyond contract. Wasn't it a discrimination against me (since I'm not fluent in English) that Fide conducted all correspondence with me in English, and I was demanded in a categorical manner to sign the English version of the contract – whereas FIDE Statutes maintains that Russian is one of FIDE's official languages. Why then to use English in correspondence between the Russian Ilyumzhinov, the Russian Kasparov and me, whose native language is Russian?

According to an old democratic tradition all the participants were asked to name three arbiters, and FIDE had to pick two out of those three: a chief arbiter and a deputy arbiter. I wonder why only English speaking arbiters from Kasparov's list were chosen, and all the Russian speaking arbiters from my list were declined? When the organizing Committee objected against this decision, Ilyumzhinov told me that he accepted my objections and included Zsuzsa Veroci (Hungary) who was number three in my list. Ms. Veroci speaks Russian, although she's not perfectly fluent. But numbers one and two in my list were fluent Russian speakers, one of whom lives in the US, and the other in Byelorussia. FIDE created the position of the third arbiter-assistant for Ms. Veroci. This position was not previewed in the rules, the rights and duties of the third arbiter were not determined. That means FIDE once again broke its own rules while pretending that it satisfied my legitimate request. In fact, I was put in an unequal position with Kasparov.

As far as I know, soon after that there was a phone talk between the FIDE representatives and the Ukrainian government, and the preliminary agreement was reached about accepting my requests. But then the FIDE President cancelled the match in Yalta without giving reasons.

In opinion of Mr. Makropoulos "Should the least possibility to save the match exist, the FIDE President would have had used it.". It would be desirable to ask Mr. Makropoulos: if the conditions which I put forward were so insignificant from the point of view FIDE, why were they not accepted? And who purposefully negotiated to abort the match?

For my part I can recognize one doubtless mistake: until recently I considered that it is enough for a chess player to play and to prepare for competitions, not paying attention to the mass media. Unfortunately, the officials of FIDE are making every effort to influence the mass consciousness of ordinary chess players and create a split between top-grandmasters and other chess players. Dishonest methods, so-called "dirty" PR are actively used.

By consistently ignoring their interest in steering chess players of the world, and the passivity of top grandmasters, have led to logic result: the upcoming tournament in Libya can be called anything, just not the “world championship”. Can you imagine a world championship in football in which the teams from Brazil, Italy, France, Spain, England and Germany did not participate? And a world championship in hockey without Canada, the USA, Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden and Russia? In chess today everything is possible!

I do not even speak about the wild situation of excluding Jewish chess players from the world championship. Mr. Makropoulos may consider the nonparticipation of Jews in tournament in Libya "insignificant", but the fact remains: the nation that has given the chess world a majority of champions has, due to the political, organizational and financial actions of FIDE officials, been effectively banned from the struggle for a chess crown.

Unfortunately, FIDE officials do not take into consideration any constructive offers, and prefer to deliver personal insults. I have, for example, not received an intelligible answer to my proposal of a match-tournament [http://en.chessbase.com/Home/TabId/211/PostId/4001656] with the participation of top players and with an aim to unify the title. The answer I receive is: where were all of you in Prague? So if the FIDE management recognizes a situation in which the realization of the Prague agreements was in jeopardy, can it not stop and think what to do further, instead of struggling with its own ambitions?

Ruslan Ponomariov, the World Champion.
Kiev, June 16, 2004.


Reply of Ana Matnadze and Lela Javakhishvili to the address by Antoaneta Stefanova and Ekaterina Kovalevskaya.

First of all we would like to congratulate Antoaneta Stefanova and Ekaterina Kovalevskaya with their outstanding accomplishments which they achieved despite of fierce competition – they did their best and justly became World Champion and Vice World Champion – Congratulations!

Nevertheless, there was one thing that concerns us. Antoaneta is one of the most admirable persons for us, whenever we see her in different tournaments, she is always provoking only the most positive feelings. But we, being citizens of the Republic of Georgia, can not congratulate her with getting the award which is, for some reason, named after Aslan Abashidze. We believe that Antoaneta did not have the relevant information and did not know, that she was getting an award named after a person, who recently had to flee Georgia, a person, who is more often called a dictator. President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili addressed Georgian population congratulating Abashidze’s flee to Russia: “Georgians! Aslan has fled! Adjara is now liberated and free! I congratulate you all with the beginning of new Era!”

We remained rather surprised after we read their address, as far as it can not be considered as a proper reply to the questions and problems we posed; besides, we have certain doubts, that their reply does not completely express their views, as far as we noticed very familiar style in it:

  1. The fact that Zurab Azmaiparashvili is a professional chess player and not a lumberjack is common knowledge in Georgia . Of course, nobody is trying to claim the opposite. As for the popularization of chess in Russia and Bulgaria, we can not comment on this, but we can say what he has done in this respect in Georgia – his speeches, rude addresses, fake statements, we believe, lowered the prestige that chess and Georgian chess players had in Georgia – if you look at the newspaper articles, interviews of chess players and chess-lovers, you can clearly see this.

  2. As for the possibility of organizing the Word Championship in Georgia – in our letter we stressed the fact, that Georgian Government was ready to hold it in Tbilisi and even provided 700 000 USD for its organization. But for some reasons, it seems, this idea did not appeal to Azmaiparashvili – we hope that if you ask him he could provide you with the reasons why he would not accept this proposal top hold Championship in Tbilisi.

  3. As for the idea of ‘thanking’ Abashidze, there is only one thing left that we could dream of , that Osama bin Laden becomes interested in the organization of chess tournaments. It’s a pity that neither Saddam Hussein nor Pablo Escobar can join him.

And finally, we would like to address FIDE: publish our letters too, otherwise FIDE website looks more like a ‘one man show'.


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