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The Gashimov Saga and Azmai's reaction

10/10/2010 – Perhaps the most significant story in the run-up to this year’s Olympiad was the Azerbaijan team’s decision to leave out Vugar Gashimov. They paid the price at the chess board (finishing 12th), but there were also more problems between the team and the captain Zurab Azmaiparashvili, who lost his FIDE Vice Presidency and now threatens to sue the World Federation. The conflict continues to rage.
 

The Gashimov Saga

The latest development was the resignation of team captain, Zurab Azmaiparashvili, who, in a strange twist of fate, called for Gashimov’s reinstatement and talked of how his association with Kasparov hindered his chances of remaining a FIDE Vice President. Before getting to that, however, it’s worth recounting the whole course of events since the story was last reported here.


Azeri GM Vugar Gashimov, 24, currently rated 2719 (down from 2759 in January 2010)

Back then one of the main reasons the sports hierarchy gave for Gashimov being left out was that he played for the Kasparov-Marcote team in the Spanish Championship. Azmaiparashvili implies that Gashimov chose not to play for his national team, and this was the dominant theme of a press conference held in Baku on 14 September. Elman Rustamov, President of the Azerbaijan Chess Federation, was quoted as saying: "We didn’t expell Gashimov from the team - he decided not to play himself. Our doors were open to him, but he had to come and make peace with all the members of the team and admit his mistake. In my opinion in the current situation we can talk about a “star illness”. After the European Championship Vugar Gashimov fell ill with exactly this 'star illness'."

During the Olympiad in Khanty Mansiysk Gashimov gave an interview to Telman Amiraslanov of Vesti.Az. He wishes the team well, mentions he doesn’t know the real reason for his being left out and denies suffering from a star illness:

At the Team World Championship this year in Bursa, after a series of unsuccessful games, I asked for a day’s rest when we were playing a weak team (Egypt), so that I could recover and then re-enter the fight. That was the first time I’d asked Azmaiparashvili for a rest. I’d played 13 games without a rest and in the whole of 2009 I’d only lost once, while here I had a bad series of results and had lost two games. I was, to use boxing terminology, knocked down and, knowing that we were playing the weak Egypt, I mentioned my condition in the team meeting. The guys supported me, agreeing I needed a rest, but the next day I discovered that I was still playing – the captain had ignored my request. I was shocked! I also lost to Egypt, and was completely knocked out, after which, to my great regret, I wasn’t in any condition to continue at the tournament, however much I wanted to.

The Azerbaijan team left for Khanty Mansiysk without Gashimov. Their performance there was reasonable, with all the players performing at around their rating, except for Gashimov’s replacement, Eltaj Safarli (rating 2607, rating performance 2498). If Rauf Mamedov had converted a winning position in the last round they could have finished fifth, but in any case, as expected, without Gashimov they failed to challenge for a medal. Rauf Mamedov gave an interview where he rated the team performance in Khanty Mansiysk: "I think you can assess it as normal. At 4 out of 5. I realise that back home they expected a lot from us but the reality was that this was the maximum we could count on. Why? Because Vugar Gashimov wasn’t in our team. Was that the main reason we finished outside the top-10? Well, that and the team captain Zurab Azmaiparashvili not being able to be with us for the whole tournament. He was putting himself forward for the post of FIDE Vice President and had things to do."

Azmai's reaction

Zurab Azmaiparashvili, asked about the lack of attention the Azeri team had received, said in an interview with Azerisport:

I knew that I’d be short on time, as the FIDE Congress was taking place here. Therefore I tried to delicately decline the captaincy. Many thought that it was because I’d fallen out with someone on the team, but that wasn’t it. I felt that I couldn’t put my whole heart into the guys at the tournament. I gathered the team together in the evening, then in the morning gave them instructions. But it’s clear that because of the elections I had lots of other meetings. Even before the last round at a team meeting I told the guys that I was seeing them as a captain for the last time. I maintained friendly relations with everyone, but I’m going. In addition I told them I’d do everything I could so that in the next major tournament Vugar Gashimov would play with them.

On the loss of his position as FIDE Vice President in Khanty Mansiysk Azmai says:

"I didn’t feel any support from Ilyumzhinov’s team. I don’t know what the reason was. Most likely it was connected to the name of Garry Kasparov. Everyone in FIDE knows perfectly well about my relations with Garry. No doubt the fact that he supported Karpov played a role. The other thing was that in the ECU elections I was a supporter of Silvio Danailov, while FIDE was supporting Ali Nihat Yazici. They simply worked against me. I don’t think that it was an order from Ilyumzhinov. But I do know that some people who’d promised me their vote were “worked upon” by others. Ilyumzhinov named five FIDE Vice Presidents, although the rules only allow him to name two. As a delegate of Georgia, I’ll do everything I can to put right that breaking of the rules. So I’ll sue them and demand justice. I can even tell you that in the near future Kutin, Gelfer and Yazici will lose their FIDE posts."


Old friends: Azmaiparashvili and Kasparov at the former's 50th birthday celebrations

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