As you probably know the Women's World Championship was originally to be held in the Autonomous Republic of Ajaria in Georgia, but was subsequently moved to Elista, Kalmykia, due to political tensions in the Georgian Republic. A week ago we received an open letter from Georgian WGMs Ana Matnadze and Lela Javakhishvili.
The two WGMs accused FIDE of willfully mismanaging the choice of venue. Even after the original host, Aslan Abashidze, had declared full disobedience to the central government, FIDE president Ilyumzhinov refused the offer of the Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili to move it to the capital of Tbilisi (Saakashvili offered to supply the funding of US $700,000). Instead the championship was moved to Elista and named the prize after Aslan Abashidze. While the population of Georgia was celebrating the disposal of the Abashidze’s regime, Mr. Azmaiparashvili enthusiastically told the world that in addition to the Aslan Abashidze’s prize, the official name of the championship itself would be “Aslan Abashidze’s Gift to the World Chess.”
Lela Javakhishvili and Ana Matnadze
When Matnadze and Javakhishvili protested these decisions, Azmaiparashvili responded aggressively, treating them "in a hostile and intimidating manner, using inappropriate and vulgar language and bringing to tears our mothers who were also present at the meeting." He tried to prevent them from participating, and the two WGMs in fact cancelled their participation. But they were convinced to go by the famous Georgian GM Nana Alexandria and offered protection by Nona Gaprindashvili "from Mr. Azmaiparashvili’s aggression." However Zurab Azmaiparashvili and his wife Marina Milorava continued to put psychological pressure on the two, who almost ended up spending the first night on the street in Elista.
FIDE vice president Zurab Azmaiparashvili with disposed Ajaria leader Aslan Abashidze
The two Georgian ladies wish to inform Chess Federations around the world of the above behaviour and believe that a man like Azmaiparashvili "should not be part of the management and decision making process at either National federation level, or especially at FIDE." They invite the Federations to comment on their letter and their slogan: “FIDE without Azmaiparashvili!”. They have given email addresses, which we do not include, to protect them from spam robots that crawl the big international web sites. If anyone wishes to contact the two they can use the feedback form on the left of this page. The messages will be passed on. [Full text]
Due to the very serious nature of the accusations we asked FIDE and Zurab Azmaiparashvili for comments or a response to the criticism. For a week we got nothing, then came a facsimile letter from the main FIDE office. It had been written by the new Women's World Champion Antoaneta Stefanova (Bulgaria) and Vice Champion Ekaterina Kovalevskaya (Russia). In it the two finalists express "much bewildered" at the open letter. They describe Azmaiparashvili as an active professional who at the same time uses his energy for the promotion of chess and the organisation of tournaments all over the world. "His contribution to the popularization of chess as a sport is invaluable."
Stefanova and Kovalevskaya praise the decision by Aslan Abashidze not to take back his word to sponsor the Women's Championship, even after it was moved to Elista. The "brought on him the gratitude not only of the participants of the Women's World Championship, but of millions of fans of this ancient game." They thank Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, Asian Abashidze and Zurab Azmaiparashvili for their activities for the sake of chess movement. [Full text]
By the International Grandmasters Ana Matnadze and Lela Javakhishvili
We would like to share our deep concern regarding the situation in Georgia Chess Federation, the conduct of the 2004 Women’s World Chess Championship and, in particular, immoral and unjust behavior of Mr. Zurab Azmaiparashvili, the Vice President of FIDE.
As you know, the Women’s World Chess Championship was supposed to be held in Batumi, the capital of Georgia’s Autonomous Republic of Ajaria. Due to the political tensions in the region, the Georgian government could not provide security guarantees for the participants of the competition. Georgia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Sports and Culture have both made official statements regarding this fact.
By the time when Mr. Azmaiparashvili invited the president of FIDE Kirsan Ilyumzhinov to Ajaria to sign the contract with Mr. Abashidze (the head of Georgia's Autonomous Republic of Ajaria, who governed the region in an increasingly dictatorial manner) regarding the World’s Women Championship in Batumi, Mr. Abashidze had basically declared full disobedience to the central government. He blocked all of the main roads, banning Georgian government officials from entering the region. He also violently dispersed peaceful demonstrations in Ajaria. For this very reason, the Georgian government could not guarantee security for the participants of the Championship. President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili during his meeting with Mr. Ilyumzhinov in Tbilisi, suggested to move the World Championship instead to the country’s capital Tbilisi. President Saakashvili guaranteed provision of all security guarantees, as well as the necessary sum of 700,000 USD.
However, this offer was refused. Instead the championship was moved to Elista, the capital of Kalmykia. Later FIDE board members informed the public from Batumi that the winners of the World Championship would receive a special prize named after Aslan Abashidze.
This decision, which we protested, came at the time when Mr. Abashidze’s security forces blew up key bridges isolating Ajaria from the rest of Georgia and brutally dispersed a peaceful rally of students and teachers.
Mr. Azmaiparashvili returned to Tbilisi after the mass demonstrations in Batumi forced Aslan Abashidze to resign and flee Georgia. At the time when the entire Georgia was celebrating the bloodless revolution and liberation of Ajaria from Aslan Abashidze’s regime, Mr. Azmaiparashvili enthusiastically told the world that in addition to the Aslan Abashidze’s prize, the official name of the championship itself would be “Aslan Abashidze’s Gift to the World Chess.”
We protested these decisions. Azmaiparashvili responded with usual for him aggressiveness towards an opinion different from his own. He treated us in a hostile and intimidating manner, using inappropriate and vulgar language and bringing to tears our mothers who were also present at the meeting.
Mr. Azmaiparashvili also pressured us into refusing to participate in the championship, hence forcing us to give up our right to the competition which we gained absolutely independently from both Mr. Azmaiparashvili and Mr. Abashidze.
Participation in the World Championship was extremely important to us, but because we believed we could not be protected against Mr. Azmaiparashvili’s aggressive behavior in Elista, we decided to refuse to take part in the championship. We changed our minds only after Nana Alexandria, a famous Grandmaster who has always served as a great example to us, asked us to reconsider our decision and Georgia’s Ministry of Sports and Culture and Board members of the Georgia’s Chess Federation decided that Nona Gaprindashvili would bare personal responsibility for our protection from Mr. Azmaiparashvili’s aggression.
Unfortunately the arrangement did not work. In Elista, Zurab Azmaiparashvili and his wife Marina Milorava continued to put psychological pressure on us. Upon our arrival, we had problems with accommodation and would have had to spend the night in the street if it were not for the kindness of our Georgian friends and colleagues.
In Elista, Azmaiparashvili's wife Marina Milorava was in charge of the logistical support. Remarkably, Mrs. Milorava serves as the Vice President of Tbilisi Chess Federation. Due to the recommendation of her husband Zurab Azmaiparashvili she is also the Secretary General of the Black Sea Chess Association and is FIDE’s International Organizer.
We believe that all Chess Federations around the world must be informed about the above-mentioned facts. It is our strong belief that the Chess World both in Georgia and across Europe would be much better off without involvement of an aggressive and biased person like Mr. Azmaiparashvili. We believe that a man who abuses his position and attempts to influence negatively chess players and their careers should not be part of the management and decision making process at either National federation level, or especially at FIDE.
This is why we call for all Chess Federations and professional chess associations around the world to support our cause, to share our slogan “FIDE WITHOUT AZMAIPARASHVILI!” and to comment on this letter.
Ana Matnadze Lela Javakhishvili
We were very much bewildered, after having attentively read the open letter of the Georgian Grandmasters Matnadze and Javakhishvili, published on the ACP site under the motto "FIDE without Zurab Azmaiparashvili". We would like to send our following comments as our reply to this letter in our quest for the fair play and without mixing political implications of such a declaration:
Z. Azmaiparashvili, a professional chess player, who continues to play in various top tournaments, at the same time uses his energy for the promotion of the chess movement and is an organizer of numerous tournaments not only in his own country, but all over the world. His contribution to the popularization of chess as a sport is invaluable.
The said Women's World Chess Championship, the hosting of which was initially planned in Tbilisi, then Batumi, where Mr. Azmaiparashvili and Mr. Aslan Abashidze had spent so many efforts, did not take place in either of these cities not because of the fault of the organizers, but due to the change of the political leadership of Georgia and following events. After the decision was taken to transfer the Championship venue to Elista in the same dates, Mr. Aslan Abashidze behaved in a courageous manner and did not take back his word to sponsor this tournament, which brought on him the gratitude not only of the participants of the Women's World Championship, but of millions of fans of this ancient game. The cooperation between the FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Aslan Abashidze during the period of more than 5 years, has brought its yield and now we are in a position to declare to the world that the Women's World Chess Championship did take place and the organization of this large scale event, despite the time pressure, has been excellent.
Women's World Chess Champion Antoaneta Stefanova (Bulgaria)
Women's World Chess Vice Champion Ekaterina Kovalevskaya (Russia)