World Chess Politics – a review

5/14/2004 – As everybody knows the world of chess is in strife. On a daily basis we receive articles, communiqués and press releases from antagonist parties. A lot of new material has accumulated in our files. Since nobody can be expected to read it all we provide, as an additional service, brief summaries of all documents.

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You can thank us for it – we have actually read all of the documents, and written short summaries as a special service for our readers. If anything catches your attention you can click on the links provided to see the full documents. Press Ctrl-D to bookmark this page for later review.

This is not the final installment in our political debate week. We already have an article by Yasser Seirawan in which he replies to Garry Kasparov and makes a constructive new proposal for unifying the world chess championship title. And a few other influential personalities have also asked us to publicise their views. At the end of this, probably on Monday, you dear readers will also get your chance to tell us what you think and vote on the different proposals put forward to cure the problems in world chess.

Summaries

1. FIDE replies to USCF protest:

Answering the open letter by the USCF of May 7th FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos expressed concern that the a leading federation would jump to conclusions in very serious matters, without thoroughly investigating the facts or getting in contact with FIDE. USCF President Beatriz Marinello had written that the FIDE President owes FIDE millions of dollars. This, according to Makropoulos, is not true. Over a ten-year period the FIDE President had spent more than US $30 million from his own pocket. To help FIDE the President had agreed to pay FIDE the sum of 500,000 USD. The money so far had not been paid, "but I am absolutely sure that the President once again will honour his financial commitments."

On the problems some players encountered with a world championship in Libya Makropoulos writes: "First of all, FIDE is always faced with some visa problems when players from all over the world compete. This was the situation in the Las Vegas World Championship, and it will most probably occur in all future Championships." He repeats that Libyan authorities had firmly stated in the invitation to the Championship that all qualified players would get a visa to Libya. "The visa procedure is quite simple, either the player contacts the Libyan embassy in his country or the visa is issued upon arrival in Tripoli." He reminds Marinello that Libya recently hosted a distinguished group from the US Congress, and that President Bush had made very positive comments regarding the developments in Libya. Makropoulos adds: “Statistics indicate that Libya is an extremely safe country, with a fully-fledged internal security system. Its people are always friendly, outgoing and courteous." [Full document]

2. Statement of Ukraine Sports Committee

The Sports Committee strongly protests FIDE's president ignoring the interests of FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov. The cancellation of the match against Garry Kasparov was dictated by the "FIDE president's personal pride and a disinclination to find constructive ways to solve the problems." Ponomariov suggests organizing a match-tournament for the unified world champion title. It would involve Ponomariov, Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand, Leko and the winner of the Libyan championship. It is a system anchored in the history of the game. [Full document]

3. Ponomariov's Sport Express interview

The Russian magazine "Sport-Express" interviewed FIDE world champion Ruslan Ponomariov, who explained why he was not defending his title in Libya, mainly because the winner would have to take on "a challenger who calls himself ''the strongest chess-player in the world'', something he has not proved with his results!" He insinuates that it would be pointless anyway, since people would find "methods to prevent me from defending my title, some provocation…". He sites the example of a mysterious phone call which caused his mobile to ring during a game. In this case the arbiters were relentless and he forfeited the game; whereas Kasparov was allowed the leave the playing hall during the tournament in Linares.

Ponomariov tells of moving to Kiev and getting a four-room flat from the mayor. He has filled it with cactuses. Also he rides a bicycle for about 20-30 km every day, for training and to get to know Kiev better. But he still sees conspiracy all around him. FIDE president Ilyumzhinov and Kasparov decide everything between themselves, organizers are boycotting him due to the influence of the two kingpins. Even the head of the Ukraine Chess Federation is part of the plot, taking a "treacherous position" by ratifying the Prague agreements. He expects success "only when Garry Kimovich will become old and retire. I'm 20 and I expect to outlive Kasparov." The interview has been translated for us by WGM Anna Sharevich. [Full interview]

4. Interview of the FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

The President of the Republic of Kalmykia and FIDE President touches on a number subjects in this interview published on the FIDE web site. He describes the "very difficult diplomatic slalom in the mountains of Georgia" that was required to move the Women's world championship (21 May – 8 June) from Batumi to Elista.

On the subject of the world championship he defends FIDE's decision to hold the event in an Arabic country. "Libya is a member of UNO and has reinstated its diplomatic relations with all countries. I would like to underline that 114 out of 128 World Championship qualifiers have already confirmed their participation. As for those who refused… It's a pity, but it is their right - to play or not. Although to my mind a real chess professional must play but not become a politician." He cites the example of one FIDE ex-World Champion who criticised Ghaddifi's record and says: "But the blamed one lost his daughter in the bombing of his house by American air forces. This cannot be forgotten and forgiven. Al Ghatafi has found enough strength to give his hand to the world community. Why should then strike a pose then? This is neither noble nor wise." He once again confirms that Libya guaranteed entry visas for all 128 participants.

Talking about the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP) and their protest against the one-sided contract the players have to sign Ilyumzhinov reminds us that it is the same contract used for the World Championships in Groningen, Lausanne and Las Vegas.

With regard to reunification Ilyumzhinov stresses that the Prague agreement must be upheld, and that the match between the new FIDE World Champion and Kasparov will takes places approximately in January next year. The prize fund will be one million dollars, and there are "serious proposals from Dubai and Cairo". The final unification match between the winner of this and the Kramnik-Leko match is planned for next summer, with a $2 million prize. He criticises Ponomariov's proposal to hold a six-way reunification, which would require reconsideration of the Prague Agreement and the organization of a new chess summit. "We have already wasted much time." As for the collapsed match with Kasparov in Yalta "Ponomariov should thank those around him" for the unfortunate turn of events. [Full interview]

5. Gulko's Open Letter

In a recent article we discussed the plight of Israeli players with regard to the Libyan venue for the FIDE world championship. In an open letter to FIDE American GM Boris Gulko calls Libya "a very controversial choice". In light of the fact that the country’s leader, Moammar Qadafy, has recently been seeking to join the world community as a member in good standing Gulko agreed to participate in the world championship and in fact bought a ticket to Tripoli. [Full document]

However on May 5, the son of Moammar Qadafy, Mohammad, announced that Libyan Organizing Committee (of which he is president) "did not and will not invite the Zionist enemies to this championship". Gulko notes that the phrase "Zionist enemies" refers to citizens of Israel, but also to Jews generally. As a Jew who holds Israeli citizenship (in addition to American citizenship) he concludes that Libya has withdrawn its invitation to him as well as to participants from Israel. This is a clear violation of the charter and spirit of FIDE. Gulko supports the demand by Israel’s Chess Federation that the world championship be moved to a more suitable country. "Mr. President, I implore you not to be the first president of FIDE to preside over the first world chess championship from which Jews are excluded. Our magnificent and noble game does not deserve such a disgrace."


Original documents


FÉDÉRATION INTERNATIONALE DES ÉCHECS

Recognized by the International Olympic Committee
9 Syggrou Ave., 11743 Athens, Greece
Tel.: (+30) 2109212047, Fax: (+30) 2109212859, Email: office@fide.com
www.fide.com

Athens, May 12 2004

United States Chess Federation
3054 NYS Route 9W, New Windsor
NY 12553, United States of America

Attn: President Beatriz Marinello

Dear Beatriz,

FIDE has received a “Statement of the US Chess Federation” regarding several issues, among them the World Chess Championships, the alleged mismanagement of the FIDE Presidential Board and money owed to FIDE by the FIDE President.

Let me first express my concern of the fact that a leading federation like the USCF seems to jump to conclusions in very serious matters, without thoroughly investigating the facts or in any way getting in contact with the authorized persons in FIDE. By operating in this way the USCF contributes to confusion instead of creating clarity.

I take this opportunity to clarify the points you raise in the Statement and hope that this will enable you to reconsider the harsh and hardliner approach you and your federation has taken.

Presidential Board

Since the Halkidiki Executive Board meeting 2003, the Presidential Board has taken a number of necessary steps and worked very hard to secure all FIDE interests. The Secretariat has been moved from Lausanne to Athens, a new budget has been approved, both the men and women WCC has been secured, the FIDE secretariat has been working under the supervision of the Presidential Board and three very experienced FIDE representatives have been designated additional tasks and spend time on regular basis in the secretariat.

I am fully convinced that all this steps will be in the best interest of FIDE and that the member federations soon will feel that service on all levels have improved so that chess really can develop and improve in the future.

I would also like to emphasise that the steps taken by the Presidential Board has been monitored by the chairman of the verification Committee, who has been both consulted and invited to the Presidential Board meeting in Kotor 28 – 29 February.

Executive Director

The Presidential Board, with the full support of the FIDE President, resolved to divide additional tasks between the Tresurer David Jarrett, Vice President Morten Sand and Executive Board member Israel Gelfer, instead of hiring a full time Executive Director.

I assume that the USCF do not question the capability or integrity of these three gentlemen. Furthermore, I believe that this arrangement will prove very fruitful for FIDE. These appointments are for a period of two years. We can all evaluate the results and needs by the end of this two-year period.

From a financial point of view the stipends allocated to the three persons will probably represent a less costly solution for FIDE compared to the cost of a fulltime Executive Director.

The FIDE President

You write in the Statement that the FIDE President owes FIDE millions of dollars. This is not true and it seems a little inappropriate to publicise such information in a statement to a broad audience.

Please keep in mind that the FIDE President over a ten-year period has spent more than 30 million USD for chess from his own pocket. To help FIDE in the present and uncertain financial situation, the FIDE President has agreed to pay FIDE the sum of 500 000 USD. It is correct that the money so far has not been paid, but I am absolutely sure that the President once again will honour his financial commitments.

World Chess Championship for Women

Already in Halkidiki in October 2003 it was decided to give the organizing rights to Georgia for the WCC for women. This decision was based on FIDEs longstanding experience with Georgia as a chess loving country with a powerful tradition in women chess, and the Georgian Chess Federation as organizer of several important chess events.

In the Presidential Board meeting in Kotor all indications pointed towards a normal organization of the WCC. Of course the later political events made this impossible in the end. FIDE was faced with a very difficult situation. However, again FIDE reacted very fast by sending a delegation to meet with the president of Georgia. Now I am happy to inform you that 61 of the 64 qualified players have already signed the Players Undertaking and will participate in the Elista WCC for women.

World Chess Championship in Libya

I do not agree when you write in the Statement “players from many countries would experience insurmountable problems in travelling to and competing in the event.” First of all, FIDE is always faced with some visa problems when players from all over the world compete. This was the situation in the Las Vegas World Championship, and it will most probably occur in all future Championships.

The Libyan authorities has firmly stated in the invitation to the Championship that all qualified players will get a visa to Libya. This guarantee has later been repeated and the players will get their visas if and when they follow the instruction given on the FIDE website or by our secretariat in Athens. This information has also been sent to all the participating federations and those individual players who have a known e-mail address. The visa procedure is quite simple, either the player contacts the Libyan embassy in his country or the visa is issued upon arrival in Tripoli. All participants must send copy of their passport in advance to the organizer.

I doubt that many nations have national laws preventing their citizens from travelling to and doing business with Libya. Never the less this is an internal problem for those nations and FIDE cannot relate to such national legislation. Only in the case where the UN has decided a total boycott, FIDE would feel bound to follow. I can also inform you that Libya recently hosted a distinguished group from the US Congress, the US has an ambassador accredited to the country, President Bush has made very positive comments regarding the developments in Libya. And recently the British Prime Minister Mr. Blair has visited the country as well as the President of EU the Italian Prime Minister Mr Berlusconi. I believe the development in the last year has been very positive and that the WCC Tournament in it self will only add to this.

Further you write that the Malta event now is cancelled. Yes that is correct, but the option of having one group playing in Malta was only meant to solve the problems occurring if FIDE faced any visa problems with Libya. From the moment all players were guaranteed a visa to Libya, there was no longer a need for Malta.

When it comes to the important issue of safety, I assure you that Libya will provide all necessary measures needed to secure the Championship. Recently the International Football Federation – FIFA – inspected Libya because the country is in the race for hosting the Football World Cup 2010. For your information I will quote from the FIFA report:

Safety and security in the country

“Statistics indicate that Libya is an extremely safe country, with a fully-fledged internal security system. Its people are always friendly, outgoing and courteous. Everything to do with internal security is managed by the justice Department through the police and army.

In the opinion of the Inspection Group, if the 2010 FIFA World Cup were granted to Libya, there would be no cause for concern for the safety of the FIFA family and spectators”

Personally I have visited Libya several times since the Libyan bid for the WCC came, and I fully agree with the findings of the FIFA.

Future cooperation

It is necessary for FIDE to have a good relationship with the national federations. In future I hope that you will contact the FIDE secretariat or me before you send out this kind of Statements so that we together can avoid mistakes and misunderstandings. I am also looking forward to receive bids from your country for the future hosting of the great FIDE events.

Gens una sumus
Yours sincerely

Georgios Makropoulos
Deputy President


Here's the text with a few names English standardized and a few obvious typographical/grammatical mistakes corrected.

Statement of State Committee of Ukraine on Physical Culture and Sports

The central organ of executive power on physical culture and sports of Ukraine makes the strong protest in connection with the ignoring by the FIDE president the interests of FIDE World Champion – the citizen of the Ukraine Mr. Ruslan Ponomariov. The FIDE leaders break first sport principles and tries one way or another to realize its illogical plans. The abolition of the match between Ruslan Ponomariov and Garry Kasparov which have been planned for last autumn is not dictated by the interests of chess development and the consolidation of the chess world. There were a satisfaction of FIDE president's personal pride and a disinclination to find constructive ways to solve the problems.

We state the support of the initiative of FIDE World Champion Mr. Ruslan Ponomariov regarding to the match-tournament for absolute world champion title, in which could take part the best chessplayers: Ruslan Ponomariov, Garry Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik, Viswanathan Anand, Peter Leko and the winner of a tournament which will take place in Tripoli (Libya) and Valetta (Malta) from 18 June to 13 July 2004. The world history of chess development confirms the right approach to decide crisis situations. The realization of the offered version will do the real consolidation of the chess world on the sport basis and provide equal conditions for best chess-players.

We are confident that the initiative of FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov will find support from the chess world and stimulate for development of this unique and famous in all the world play.

Chairman of State Committee of Ukraine on Physical Culture and Sports

[Signed]
M. Kostenko
29th of April 2004


Ponomariov's Sacrifice

In the following interviews FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov and ACP President Joel Lautier are answering the questions of Juri Vasiliev, the commentator of "Sport-Express".

As it was earlier announced by "Sport-Express" FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov had circulated an open letter to his colleagues from the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP), in which he expressed protest against granting Garry Kasparov special rights in FIDE World Championship.

The title of "the strongest chess-player in the world", which Kasparov has appropriated, is neither provided for by the FIDE regulations nor by any other official sources. I consider that such situation breaks all principles of honest sport competition", wrote Ponomariov.

Sport Express: Ruslan, does your open letter mean that you will not play in the World Championship in Tripoli?

Ponomariov: First of all it meant that I wanted to acquaint my colleagues of the ACP with my point of view on the present situation. You will not encounter such a situation in any other kind of sport, where the world champion must go through competitions in order to prove that he is the champion, and then have to play against a challenger who calls himself ''the strongest chess-player in the world'', something he has not proved with his results!

Sport Express: But will you sign a contract to play in the World Championship? Because time allowed is 21st of April…

Ponomariov: Of course I will not sign such a contract! Why should I participate in this show? Even if I play well there will be methods to prevent me from defending my title; they will find some provocation…

Sport Express: Explain, please, what do you mean.

Ponomariov: Probably you heard that during the European Team Championship in Plovdiv my mobile phone unexpectedly rung, and I forfeited the game. It happened on my birthday, and even now I don't know who decided to phone me during that game. The arbiters were relentless and steadfastly followed the rules: if you haven't switched off your mobile and it rings you lose the game. By the way, not so long ago in Linares, Kasparov went out of the playing hall and proceeded to his room before he had finished his game. This fact was confirmed by the woman in press centre, who followed Kasparov from the playing hall. The arbiters saw that he had left and did nothing to stop him. Many people say that Garry Kimovich has done it a number of times. But ''the strongest chess-player'', as Kasparov calls himself, wasn't punished for it. Do you feel the difference between the attitude to me and to him?

Sport Express: From where do you know such details about Linares?

Ponomariov: From press. Leontxo Garcia wrote about it in his newspaper ''El Pais''.

Sport Express: On the back way from Linares to Moscow I spoke to Yuri Dokhoyan, Kasparov's coach, and he told me that Kasparov had gone out to get some fresh air, and not to his room…

Ponomariov: If I went out ''to get fresh air'' before finishing the game, probably I would be disqualified. Or my game would be considered lost. Because it's forbidden by the rules. But as you see the rules for me and for Kasparov are different.

Sport Express: In your open letter you say that Kasparov had appropriated the title of ''the strongest chess-player in the world''. But I think that you will not deny that the former world champion has been number one in the rating list for about 20 years, and he still remains the leader today. You will not find something like that in any other kind of sport.

Ponomariov: In any other kind of sport you have to prove that you are the strongest. Now Kasparov plays only once in a year and, for example, Anand in order to surpass him need many years. There are unique conditions for Kasparov to save his title. From my point of view the FIDE president and Kasparov decided everything between themselves during the period in which Kasparov got the match with computer, a match which Ilyumzhinov had publicly promised to the FIDE champion. That match with the computer became a good compensation for the cancelled match in Yalta, which by the way Garry could have lost. And if he lost, it would be unlikely that he would get a contract for further matches with the computer.

Sport Express: I think, Ruslan, that resentment moves you. You blame Kirsan Ilyumzhinov for a conspiracy with Kasparov. But there are the Prague agreements; there was the FIDE Congress, where Viktor Petrov, the chairman of the Ukraine Chess Federation, spoke. Why didn't he protest against the ratification of Prague resolution? Why did no one of 162 members of FIDE General Assembly do so?

Ponomariov: Regretfully during that Congress Viktor Petrov took a treacherous position. I can only suppose why it happened. Maybe because of the financial dependence of the Ukrainian Chess Federation on FIDE, or maybe because of political preferences of Mr Petrov. He represents the opposition, and the worse the political situation the better it is for them.

Sport Express: Sorry, Ruslan, but I am not a specialist in politics, especially in Ukraine. Let's return to chess. You didn't play anywhere for a year. Is it hard to keep fit? And when will we see you among participants of any great tournament?

Ponomariov: Of course it's hard to keep fit without playing anywhere. But when will I be invited to a tournament? This question isn't to me but to Kasparov…

Sport Express: But what is the role of Kasparov here?!

Ponomariov: Thanks to his vast circle of friends, organizers don't want to deal with me. And I think that you will not see me in any major tournaments in the nearest future. Only when Garry Kimovich will become old and retire. I'm 20 and I expect to outlive Kasparov.

Sport Express: Ok, I think that’s enough on these traumatic subjects. You have recently come to the capital of the Ukraine. How do you feel yourself on the new place?

Ponomariov: The mayor of Kiev, Alexander Omelchenko, has given me a flat with four rooms. I have decorated it, bought ten cactuses. I want to grow them.

Sport Express: Cactuses grow slowly, so it will take much time… What else except growing prickly plants do you do in Kiev?

Ponomariov: I bought a sport bicycle. Every day I ride for about 20-30 km. It's a good training and I can get to know Kiev better. The town is really very beautiful. Recently Sergey Karjakin visited me. We trained for about a week, after what he took second place in Dos-Hermanas.

Sport Express: So you have good perspectives in coaching…

Ponomariov: I think I will not hurry with that. Because I consider that I haven't reached everything as a player yet. I'm sure that one day organizers will stop boycotting me and there will be organizers, who will not pay attention to the influence of Kasparov and Ilyumzhinov. I hope that all my best achievements are in future.

Translation by Anna Sharevich


An Open Letter to the President of FIDE,
Mr. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov,
from Grandmaster Boris Gulko

You designated Libya as a host country for the World Chess Championship this year. From the beginning, this was a very controversial choice, considering the long history of terrorism that country has been involved in and the fact that Libya remains on the State Department’s list of countries that sponsor terrorism. Recently, of course, there have been signs that the country’s leader, Moammar Qadafy has changed his ways and is seeking to join the world community as a member in good standing. In light of that shift, and desiring to participate in the most important tournament of the year, I signed the agreement with FIDE regarding my participation in the World Championship. I considered it a positive development that the invitation of the Libyan organizers was extended to all qualified players and I bought a ticket to Tripoli.

Yet on May 5, the son of Moammar Qadafy, Mohammad, who is also the president of the Libyan Organizing Committee, announced (according to the Associated Press) that "We did not and will not invite the Zionist enemies to this championship...We know the Zionists will seize such occasions to enter the Arab society... but we will not give up our principles even if that leads to canceling holding the tournament in Libya."

As you are undoubtedly aware, the phrase "Zionist enemies" refers to citizens of Israel and also to Jews generally. I am a Jew and I also hold Israeli citizenship (in addition to American citizenship). So the Libyan organizers have apparently withdrawn their invitation to me as well as to participants from Israel, a country that is a member of FIDE. This is a clear violation of the charter and spirit of FIDE.

In light of the Libyan statement, on May 6, I sent you a letter supporting Israel’s Chess Federation’s demand to move the World Championship to a more suitable country. On May 7, FIDE stated that the Libyan Organizing Committee has confirmed that the invitations to all participants remain valid. Yet until the government of Libya withdraws the statement of Mohammad Qadafy about “Zionist enemies,” participation in this tournament remains unthinkable. Already, with that designation hanging over them, a long list of Jewish players from the United States, Israel, Russia, and elsewhere are withdrawing.

Mr. President, I implore you not to be the first president of FIDE to preside over the first world chess championship from which Jews are excluded. Our magnificent and noble game does not deserve such a disgrace.

Sincerely,
Grandmaster Boris Gulko
Former Champion of the USSR and USA
Fair Lawn, USA


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