Open Letter from the ACP to the ECU

2/12/2004 – The Association of Chess Professionals, which has been holding board meetings in Wijk aan Zee and Paris, has just released an open letter to the European Chess Union, a branch of FIDE. In it they criticise past practices and demand specific and substantial changes. We bring you a summary and the original letter.

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Summary

The five main topics of the letter are

  1. Accommodation during the last European Championships in Silivri (Turkey)
    This was held in June 2003, and the players were forced, as a prerequisite for their participation, to stay in organiser-designated hotels. The ACP calls on the ECU to explain why the players were overcharged and to make sure that in the future all participants are allowed to choose their accommodation and will not have to pay more than the normal rates in the hotels.

  2. The forthcoming Women’s European Championship in Dresden (March 2004)
    Since the next FIDE Women’s World Championship has not been announced it seems pointless to declare the Dresden event the qualifier for the next cycle, when the current one is nowhere near completion.

  3. Qualifiers for the FIDE Men's Championship
    During the Men’s Championship in Silivri a tie-break was arranged to determine the final qualifiers for the FIDE World Championship. Now the ECU President Boris Kutin has nominated two apparently random players (Baadur Jobava from Georgia and Kivanc Haznedaroglu from Turkey) to play in the World Championship. He doesn’t have the power to do so, and makes the tie-break session in Silivri pointless. The ACP demands that the two nominated players be removed and the tie-break candidates be allowed to play in their stead.

  4. Conditions during the European Club Cup
    The playing conditions in the Rethymnon (Crete) tournament in September 2003 were “simply unacceptable and must not be repeated”. Also the time control in the men’s event was changed from one supported by the majority of the clubs to the one these clubs were voting against.

  5. European Team Championships in Sweden and Greece
    The ECU has awarded the 2005 and 2007 European Team Championships to organizers from Sweden (Gothenburg) and Greece (Crete) respectively, in violation of the bidding procedure, ECU statutes and the ECU tournament rules. The ACP demands that the whole bidding procedure be repeated and conducted in the proper way.

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Open Letter from the ACP to the ECU board

Paris, 11th of February 2004

Dear Mr Boris Kutin, President of the ECU,
Dear members of the ECU Board,

To start with, the ACP would like to thank the ECU for the invitation to take part in your Board Meeting that will be held in St Vincent (Italy) on 14-15 February 2004. Unfortunately, none of the ACP Board members is available on those dates, as all are active players and thus already committed to various tournaments. Nevertheless, the issues we wish to discuss with you are pressing and we should not postpone them until your next Board meeting. Since all chess professionals are concerned by these issues, we have decided to present them to you in an open letter. For the sake of transparency in our dialogue, we would kindly ask you to reply to us in the same way.

Without further ado, we will now proceed with the five main topics that are foremost on our agenda in respect to the ECU.

1) The accommodation problem during the last Individual European Championships held in Silivri (Turkey), June 2003

Our position in this important matter has not changed since our previous press release, dating from the 7th of November 2003. Unfortunately, all the questions asked in the press release have to this day remained unanswered by the ECU, we thus feel compelled to formulate them once again:

On what objective grounds are the participants forced to stay in a hotel designated by the organizer, considering that all accommodation expenses are carried by the players themselves? The reason given in the ECU Tournament Rules (point 1.13.6) strikes us as particularly shallow:

“In order to hold the ECU competitions in a proper manner and to be in permanent close contact with all participants, official hotels have to be appointed. Each participant is obliged to stay in one of the official hotels. Players not fulfilling this condition are not allowed to take part.”

One is truly left guessing here as to what exactly entails “holding the ECU competitions in a proper manner”, while the necessity and purpose of “being in permanent close contact” are both rather puzzling, to say the least. If contact between the organizer and the players is what is meant here, then surely in this day and age of advanced technology, participants need not remain within such close range of the organizing committee as to prevent them from staying in any hotel they see fit. This unfounded and unjust rule is at the root of the problem. In essence, it is simply a violation of basic commercial rights, in this case the consumer’s freedom of choice.

Things became worse in Silivri, when it appeared that the players had to pay higher prices for their rooms than regular tourists, as was repeatedly demonstrated in our previous letters. The necessity and purpose of keeping “all participants in permanent close contact” suddenly acquire an entirely different meaning, i.e. that the organisers abused their position and charged more for the rooms than they should have, a policy not quite in keeping with the ECU Tournament Rules from the same article 1.13.6, which further stipulate that “The room prices should not exceed the normal rates”.

We do not have any objections against organizers making a profit but why does it have to be at the participants’ expense? The ECU has argued several times that the expenses of some players were covered by the national federations. This may be true for a happy few but does not take into account the large number of players who had to stay home because they could not benefit from such a support and for whom the costs were too prohibitive.

We would like to get an answer as to why the ECU Tournament Rules were not respected in Silivri 2003 and as a consequence, players were charged more than the normal rate. We strongly demand that in the future, several official hotels are offered to choose from and that participants are ultimately left free to stay wherever they wish.

2) The forthcoming Women’s Individual European Championship in Dresden, March 2004

All of the above remarks concerning the accommodation problem are obviously valid for the forthcoming Women’s Individual European Championship in Dresden next March. On top of that, we would like to remind you that in the absence of any announced dates and venue for the next FIDE Women’s Individual World Championship to be held in 2004, it appears quite pointless to announce that the Dresden event will be a qualifier to a following edition of the FIDE Women’s World Championship. How can players qualify for a future FIDE World Championship when the current cycle is nowhere near completion?

We ask you to cancel the qualifying status of the next Women’s Individual European Championship to a future FIDE Women’s World Championship. It cannot be justified when the current FIDE WWC keeps being postponed and may not take place in a foreseeable future.

3) The attribution of qualifying places to the FIDE World Championship in the ECU European Individual Men’s Championship in Silivri (June 2003)

According to the World Chess Championship 2003/2004 Regulations, a total of 46 qualifying places to the FIDE World Championship were given to the European Continental and Zonal Championships. As there are no Zonal Tournaments in Europe anymore and 5 players had already qualified from the 2002 European Championship held in Batumi, 41 players should have qualified from the 2003 European Championship in Silivri. For unfathomable reasons, 2 players have been personally nominated by the President of the ECU, Mr Boris Kutin, in order to play in the next FIDE World Championship. These players are Baadur Jobava from Georgia and Kivanc Haznedaroglu from Turkey. Why precisely these players were hand-picked has not been explained, but that is a moot point, since there is no article in the World Chess Championship 2003/2004 Regulations which allows the ECU President to directly seed players into the FIDE World Championship. The only person who enjoys such a privilege is the FIDE President himself, who nominates eight players. As can easily be checked in the list of qualifiers, however, he has not handed out these places to anyone yet and all eight places are still at his disposal. This means that he has in no way transferred his right to the ECU President. During the last European Championship in Silivri, the number of players who scored 8 points or more from thirteen games was 46, including 5 players who were already qualified by rating to the FIDE World Championship. In an ironic twist of fate, it therefore turned out that, had the ECU President not taken away two qualifying spots from the European Championship in favour of Mr Jobava and Mr Haznedaroglu, no tie-break matches would have been necessary! At that time, however, the participants were not aware of the detailed regulations and were just told that they had to battle for 39 places instead of 41.

After the last round, this meant that Alexei Fedorov, Sergey Tiviakov, Ernesto Inarkiev and Andrei Istratescu had to play a tie-break session among themselves to determine the two players that would not qualify.

These four participants refused to play their tie-break matches, were disqualified altogether from the FIDE World Championship by the ECU and eventually replaced by Mateusz Bartel (European Champion under 18) and Aleksander Delchev (the leader of European Grand Prix).

We have gone at some length to describe this issue in order to demonstrate that:

a) The ECU President was not allowed by the World Chess Championship 2003/2004 Regulations to nominate both Mr Jobava and Mr Haznedaroglu to participate in the next FIDE World Championship;

b) The four above-mentioned players who refused to play their tie-break matches should all have been qualified and should not have been asked to participate in a tie-break.

We urge you to consider qualifying A.Fedorov, S.Tiviakov, E.Inarkiev and A.Istratescu to the next FIDE World Championship, on the grounds that, had the ECU not taken away two places from the European Championship without any valid reason, all of the four above-mentioned players would have been qualified.

4) Conditions and rules of the European Club Cup

The last European Club Cup (ECC) organized in Rethymnon (Crete), in late September 2003, was affected by several problems of an organizational nature. We will briefly go over them:

a) An abrupt last-minute change of hotel accommodation, and even tournament location, for all women teams and numerous men teams, due to a mix-up in the hotel reservations. This was possibly not the direct responsibility of the ECU, it may have been the consequence of the hotel management’s sloppy work. Nevertheless, it affected the playing conditions for many players. If the ECU has an agreement with a large hotel and brings in several hundred guests, it should be entitled to a proper reservation service.

b) Unacceptable playing conditions for the men’s event: the players were competing in a very cramped playing hall, after four hours of play the heat and lack of air were at times hardly bearable.

c) The current format of the Club Cup has been criticized by a number of team sponsors and captains: the event involves considerable costs for the teams for a low return in terms of publicity. The media coverage in Rethymnon was very scarce, despite the participation of some of the world’s very best players.

Rules about the proper registration in advance of teams and their players have once more been ignored in Rethymnon: Garry Kasparov was not even on the official list of participants on the eve of the first round. If players can show up at the last minute and still be part of a team, then why does the ECU compel all clubs to submit a list of players that cannot be changed at least one month before the event? We do understand that Garry Kasparov’s participation was very important for the prestige of the European Club Cup, however, his inclusion should not have been at the expense of the ECU’s own rules that are applicable to all participants.

According to the minutes of the ECU General Assembly held in Plovdiv in October 2003, a vote was passed on the time control to be used at the next European Club Cup in both the men’s and women’s events. The adopted time control was the new FIDE control of 90 minutes plus a 30 second increment for the whole game. We’d like to remind the ECU that a poll was organized just prior to the first round in Rethymnon. The result for the men’s competition (the women did adopt the 90 minutes time control) showed that team captains and participants were largely in favour of the previous classical FIDE time-control of 100 minutes for 40 moves, followed by 50 minutes for 20 moves and 10 minutes for the rest of the game, with a 30 second increment from the first move. Since this time control was eventually applied for the men’s event, why has the ECU ignored this fact and changed the time control to the one the players were voting against? Another question arises in that respect: on what grounds was a poll organized during the Captains’ Meeting? The ECU Tournament Rules do not foresee such a possibility and clearly stipulate in F.5.3.5 “The rate of play has to be notified by the organisers in the letter of invitation.”

There is one more remark which we would like to make regarding the dates of the 2004 European Club Cup. As the Olympiad is scheduled from the 14th until the 31st of October, it would be logical that the ECC be played earlier than the scheduled dates, i.e. between the 2nd and 10th of October. This would leave some breathing space for the players between two important and difficult events.

Summing up: We would like to have an answer as to why the rules of the European Club Cup regarding team line-ups were not followed in 2003. For the next edition of the ECC, we strongly ask you to stick to these rules. Moreover, we draw your attention to the fact that playing conditions, such as those imposed on the participants of the men’s competition in Rethymnon 2003, are simply unacceptable and must not be repeated. At the same time, we don’t understand why the time control in the men’s event has been changed from one supported by the majority of the clubs to the one they were voting against. Finally, we suggest that the European Club Cup in 2004 should start at least one week earlier than scheduled.

5) The attribution of the European Team Championships to Sweden in 2005 and Greece in 2007.

According to the minutes of the ECU General Assembly in Plovdiv, the attribution of the 2005 and 2007 European Team Championships (ETC) to organizers from Sweden and Greece respectively, violated the bidding procedure, the ECU Statutes and the ECU Tournament Rules. Since all members of the ECU Board are no doubt informed of that matter, we will limit ourselves to outlining the problem that arose.

The two bids for the 2005 European Team Championship were initially emanating from Gothenburg (Sweden) and Crete (Greece). Both bids did not fit the timeframe allotted by the ECU in its Tournament Rules about the European Team Championship, which must be held between the 15th of October and the 30th of November 2005. Instead of asking the bidders to modify their offers accordingly, the President of the ECU proposed to vote for a “package deal” of having the European Team Championship in Sweden 2005 and one in Greece in 2007. What followed is hard to understand: although this proposal was for many reasons in complete contradiction with the bidding procedure, the ECU Tournament Rules and the ECU Statutes, and despite the fact that Greece had not even offered to stage the 2007 ETC in the first place, the members approved the President’s motion by vote.

As a result, the 2007 ETC has already been granted to Greece even before the bidding procedure could begin. This means no other organizer was given a chance to submit a bid for 2007, a particularly absurd decision, given that the Greek organizers only had an offer for 2005.

We strongly ask you to follow your own rules and statutes in attributing your events to hosting organizers. Since the bidding regulations, the ECU Tournament Rules and the ECU Statutes were all ignored during the vote, we suggest that the whole bidding procedure for both the 2005 and 2007 European Team Championships be repeated and held in a proper way.

Sincerely,
THE ACP BOARD


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