Chess Olympiad without the Russian women?

7/18/2014 – No way José, says FIDE President Ilyumzhinov in an Itar-Tass interview today. And hear this: Anatoly Karpov has come out strongly supporting FIDE's position. Meanwhile the Russian Chess Federation sent us a detailed description of the current situation. They have hired a powerful legal team which set the Tromsø organisers a deadline to concede: 5 p.m. CET today, 18 July, 2014.

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Chess Olympiad without the Russian team?

A bid to deprive two-time Olympic champions of the right to defend their title

An unprecedented situation has arisen over participation by the Russian women’s chess team in the World Chess Olympiad in Tromso (Norway, 1–15 August).

On 16 July 2014, the Organising Committee of the World Chess Olympiad published an open letter to FIDE Executive Director Nigel Freeman announcing that the Organising Committee had decided to prohibit participation by teams that had registered their participation after 1 June 2014. The decision directly affects the Russian women’s chess team, winner of the last two Olympics. The team submitted its final application on 16 June 2014. If the decision of the Chess Olympiad Organising Committee remains unchanged, the Russian women’s team will not be able to take part in the Chess Olympiad.

The Russian Chess Federation (RCF) considers the Organising Committee decision to be unlawful and will challenge it in court.


According to the Regulations for the Chess Olympiad published on the official website participants should be registered in two stages.

Stage one: four months ahead of the Olympiad, the countries confirm their application to participate. The Russian Chess Federation (hereinafter RCF) confirmed participation by its men’s and women’s teams in a timely manner, i.e., before the deadline set by the Organising Committee, that is, before 1 April 2014 (clause 3.6.1). According to Clause 3.6.1 of the Regulations, teams that have not applied before that deadline are not allowed to take part in the Olympiad.

Stage two: two months before the start of the Olympiad, the countries register the lineups of their teams. The Olympiad Organising Committee set the deadline of 1 June (clause 3.7.1). Under the regulations, failure to meet the deadline does not carry any sanctions other than a minor fine (clause 3.7.2).

Having set the application deadline for 1 June, only on 5 June 2014 did the Organising Committee publicly announce that the Olympiad would go ahead. Until that time, the Organising Committee representatives repeatedly expressed doubts in the press, claiming they had not received enough funds from the Norwegian Government.

The Russian men’s team was registered before 1 June 2014 and was accredited shortly afterwards. Registration of the women’s team was complicated by the situation that arose because Ukrainian chess woman grandmaster Kateryna Lagno had transferred from the Ukrainian Chess Federation (UCF) to the Russian Chess Federation (RCF). In accordance with the FIDE rules on transfer of players, Kateryna Lagno applied to transfer to another federation on 6 March 2014. The three-month period for Lagno’s transfer from the UCF to the RCF expired on 7 June on the condition that there were no written objections from the Ukrainian side. In this connection, on 4 June, the RCF asked the Olympiad Organising Committee of officially to extend the registration deadline, explaining that the delay was due to a valid reason: the RCF was waiting for Lagno’s transfer to be completed and intended to register the team in its full lineup. The request went unanswered.

On 16 June, it became clear that the transfer of Lagno from the UCF to the RCF would drag on indefinitely, so the RCF registered its incomplete women’s lineup in the system: Alexandra Kosteniuk, Natalia Pogonina, Valentina Gunina, Olga Girya and three coaches: Sergei Rublevsky, Alexander Ryazantsev and Evgeniy Najer. The late registration did not meet with any objections on the part of the Organising Committee. Moreover, on 7 July 2014, the Norwegian organisers sent an invoice to the RCF for participation in the Olympiad by both teams: the men’s (5 players) and the women’s (5 players). The invoice was paid by the RSF in a timely manner.

On 12 July, after the decision of the FIDE Presidential Council, Kateryna Lagno was transferred to the Russian rating list and was able to join the Olympic team. On that same day, on 12 July 2014, the RCF sent FIDE and the Organising Committee a letter with the final lineup of the Russian women’s team including Kateryna Lagno. It should be noted that, under clause 3.7.2 of the Regulations for the Chess Olympiad, late notification of the team lineup is accepted by the Organising Committee up to 20 hours before the start of the tournament (i.e., effectively until 31 July 2014) and is punishable by a fine of 100 euros per person.

Even so, the question of the final accreditation of the Russian women’s team remained open until 16 July. In their private correspondence, FIDE and the Norwegian organisers referred to the Organising Committee meeting on 16 July, which was to give final confirmation of participation by the Russian women’s team. The RCF position on the issue remains unchanged: FIDE is the main body responsible for holding the Chess Olympiad. In addressing the President of FIDE the RCF proceeded in accordance with clause 6.1 of the Regulations for the Chess Olympiad, whereby the President of FIDE has the deciding vote in all the disputes concerning the Olympiad in general.

The RCF considers the Organising Committee decision published on 16 July on the official website of the Olympiad to be unlawful. It is illegitimate because the Regulations do not stipulate any sanctions for breach of clause 3.7.1 (registration before 1 June). It is also illegitimate because it ignores the position of FIDE expressed by its Vice President Mr Israel Gelfer (to allow the teams registered after 1 June 2014 to participate). It is important to add that the history of World Chess Olympiads (held since 1924) has seen many precedents of late registration by teams and not a single precedent of a team being banned from the Olympiad.

The RCF will uphold the right of the Russian women’s team to take part in the World Chess Olympiad in Tromso by all legitimate means, including an appeal to the Sports Arbitration Court in Lausanne and the courts of Norway and Switzerland.

President of the Russian Chess Federation Andrey Filatov

I appreciate the position of FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov on the issue of banning national teams from taking part in the Olympiad in Norway. I consider it to be a fair, honest and sportsmanlike decision. Nevertheless, the Russian Chess Federation intends to pursue a legal investigation into the illegitimate actions of the Organising Committee of the World Chess Olympiad. All the materials relevant to this case were handed over to a legal company yesterday.

Our interests in the litigation are represented by the American Quinn Emanuel, a leading international company specialising in court and arbitration procedures. I am confident of the unequivocal outcome of the legal proceedings and deem it necessary to set up a precedent to prevent such situations from arising in the future. Chess players of any national team must feel secure, and chess officials must act in strict accordance with the law and refrain from arbitrary actions.

The American law firm Quinn Emanuel will represent the interests of the Russian Chess Federation in connection with the excluding of the Russian women’s national team from participation in the Olympiad in Tromsø. Quinn Emanuel is the world’s biggest law firm dealing with court and arbitration proceedings. The company lawyers have already worked with 2,300 disputes and have won 88.4% of disputes. Quinn Emanuel specialists have already examined the Olympiad Organizing Committee decision and are ready to maintain the Russian Chess Federation’s position that implies the decision is illegitimate.

  • Letter by Quinn Emanuel to the Tromsø Organizing Committee (PDF)
    The letter ends with the paragraph: "We demand that you provide us with written confirmation that our client's men's and women's teams are eligible to compete in the 2014 Chess Olympiad. If you do not comply with the foregoing demands by 5 p.m. CET today, 18 July, 2014, we will take all appropriate steps to protect and enforce our client's rights, including, if necessary, commencing legal action and pursuing all appropriate remedies, which may include injunctive relief, claims for compensatory and exemplary damages, attorneys' fees, and all other costs associated with RCF's claims."
  • Letter of the FIDE lawyers, Lausanne, to the Tromsø Organizing Committee (PDF)
    This one ends with the paragraph: "In case the OC would unfortunately not (i) reverse its decision of 16 July 2014, (ii) allow legitimate delegates to attend the FIDE Congress, (iii) exclud e biased members and (iv) fully comply with the let ter and the spirit of FIDE regulations, FIDE will (i) r equest urgent measures before the CAS and (ii) sue individually the members of the OC and/or signatori es of the decision of 16 July 2014 for the financia l damages caused by their infringements of FIDE regul ations, in particular (but not only) if the Chess Olympiad in Tromsø must be cancelled and be held in another country.

Anatoly Karpov weighs in

ITAR-TASS – 17 July 2014

Anatoly Karpov: Only FIDE can decide who will play at the Chess Olympiad

The 12th World Chess Champion has called the actions of the Olympiad Organising Committee in Norway ‘an outrage’.

Moscow, 17 July / Correspondent Artem Kuznetsov for ITAR-TASS/. FIDE, the International Chess Federation, may consider outright cancellation of the World Chess Olympiad, in response to the Organising Committee’s decision to prevent the Russian Women’s Team from competing. TASS learned of this announcement from the 12th World Chess Champion, Anatoly Karpov.

The decision to exclude the Russian Women’s Team from the competition – due to take place in the Norwegian town of Tromso on 1–14 August – was taken by the Organising Committee of the Chess Olympiad. The Committee explained that the Russian side had failed to lodge its competition application on time – submitting its application after the 1 June deadline. The Russian Chess Federation (RCF) has asserted that it lodged the application on time, and that the organisers have no business in taking such decisions.

“Permission for one team or another to take part in the Olympiad rests entirely with FIDE. And only FIDE is empowered to decide whether there has been any infringement of the submission rules. I remain certain that the Norwegians must admit all competitors to the event who have obtained the necessary permission from the World Chess Federation. They have no right to set their own rules in this matter” said Mr Karpov. “If the Organising Committee fails to carry out its job, then FIDE has the full right to take appropriate action in response – including the complete cancellation of the Olympiad”, he added.

“In any case, the Norwegians are supposed to have organised enough space for all possible competitors – actually they might well have had to expect as many as ten further teams. And now they turn round and say – that they lack the facilities, eh? When they accepted the hosting of the Olympiad, we didn’t hear a word about that. There has never been the slightest mention of controlling competitor numbers – because it’s always been hoped that there would be a good showing from ‘smaller’ countries too”, Mr Karpov confided to our correspondent.

As far as Mr Karpov is concerned, the organisers of the Olympiad were under obligation to prepare for the participation of teams from all 171 countries who are members of FIDE. Mr Karpov went on to say he believes that there is just one single reason why the organisers are refusing to permit the participation of not just the Russian Women’s Team, and of female teams from nine further countries too. The Norwegian organisers claim that these other nine teams similarly failed to send their applications in on time. But Mr Karpov is convinced it’s because they’ve not arranged enough hotel accommodation. “I believe it’s because they’ve simply failed to book enough hotel rooms”, Mr Karpov averred.

“But the reason doesn’t really matter. The organisers are going beyond their remit – they don’t have the authority to decide who participates, and who doesn’t. It’s a complete outrage!” Mr Karpov exclaimed.

The Russian Women’s Chess Team have won the Chess Olympiad twice, and in very recent years – 2010, and 2012. In all, the Russian Women’s Team has taken part in ten of these Chess tournaments – taking the Silver or Bronze medal on three occasions. The team has also won three ‘silvers’ at the World Team Championships, and has carried off the European Team Championship three times too.

ChessBase reports

7/18/2014 – Olympiad Tromsø: FIDE President issues a deadline
The problems of missed registrations for some teams has come to a head, with FIDE President stating that the Organizing Committee has "performed an unbelievable scheme of combined illegitimate actions which should never take place in a democratic country like Norway." Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has issued a deadline to the Norwegians to solve the issues: Monday 21 July, 11 am CET.

7/10/2014 – Visa problems for the Chess Olympiad
In order to travel to the Olympiad in Tromsø many players require a visa. But in countries without Norwegian embassies this can pose a problem. European laws require biometric data to be supplied personally, forcing players to travel to a different country. In an open letter FIDE President has complained to the Norwegian Prime Minister, and the Olympiad CEO has replied.

7/17/2014 – Russian Women's team out of Olympiad
Shocking news: the organisers of the Chess Olympiad in Tromsø have informed FIDE that federations that did not meet the June 1st deadline for registration had been excluded from the Olympiad. One of these is the Russian Women's team! FIDE Vice President Israel Gelfer has mysteriously blamed Garry Kasparov for this development and advocates cancelling the Olympiad.

7/17/2014 – Garry Kasparov on the threat to Tromsø
"Unfortunately the Organizing Committee [of the Tromsø Olympiad] is influenced by people who are working for Garry Kasparov. They are using it for their election purposes." That was what FIDE Vice President Israel Gelfer said in a much-publicised video interview yesterday. After debating the subject with Kasparov after midnight, this morning he sent us the following statement.

6/5/2014 – To Tromsø with Style
Norway's coastline is spectacular. As has been noted by thousands of tourists and by Douglas Adams in his classic "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". But what does this have to do with chess? Well, if you want to visit the Chess Olympiad in Tromsø in August and experience the beauty of Norway's coast there is an opportunity to combine both.

6/5/2014 – Breaking news: "There will be a Chess Olympiad"
That's the good news the twitter account ChessOlympiadNorway could spread to the chess world. After doubts whether the 41. Chess Olympiad 2014, which will take place from 1. August to 14. August in Tromsø, Norway, could be financed, the Norwegian parliament has come to the rescue. With 12 million Norwegian Crowns (about 1.47 million euros).

5/14/2014 – Trouble in Tromso: Olympiad underfunded
The Chess Olympiad is scheduled to begin in just two and a half months. Everything was looking great, with participants and fans expecting to see the biggest and finest team championship ever. But now, suddenly, the Norwegian media has sounded alarm: apparently there is a US $2.5 million hole in the budget, which the organisers need to fill at very short notice. Should we be worried?

10/2/2010 – 41st Chess Olympiad to be staged in – Tromsø!
On its last working day the FIDE General Assembly took a decision on the venue of the 41st World Chess Olympiad in 2014. There were two cities bidding to host the event – Albena in Bulgaria and Tromsø in Norway. The bidding procedure lasted several days, in the end the Norwegians won by a 95-47 vote margin. We have reported extensively on Tromsø – here's a summary.

All ChessBase reports on the 2014 Olympiad in Tromsø

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vdpandit vdpandit 7/21/2014 09:51
If the Russian women's team is not allowed to participate, many chess lovers would turn their back to the Olympiad. That team is very strong and chess lovers want to see them play. Barring them play on some flimsy ground is, as Karpov said, 'outrageous' to the spirit of the game which FIDE as an authority is supposed to respect and uphold.
Bauerndiplom Bauerndiplom 7/19/2014 06:19
Poorly organized , also for Arbiters see here :
Wastrel Wastrel 7/19/2014 03:45
I tend to agree with Mr. Karpov that only FIDE can decide who can play in the Olympiad. The Organizing Committee is there to make the tournament run smoothly and be an event that everyone can enjoy. But apparently they have the power to set deadlines (or do they?), which then do not have to be honored... and as a result hotel space and other needs and amenities can be compromised. The visa problem is beyond their control. Still, when placed in this difficult position, the Organizing Committee apparently did not do enough organizing and planning for contingencies, and then, appaently due to personality conflicts the level of rhetoric went through the roof. The people affected most by this are the players, and that is a shame.
chessdrummer chessdrummer 7/18/2014 10:28
The Lagno issue is strange since in the Ukrainian letter, they objected within the three month period... June 3rd. They even put her name on the roster before June 1st apparently.
KWRegan KWRegan 7/18/2014 08:42
I started writing a comment to the effect that GM Lagno's change seemed quicker than my memory of other cases, drawing attention to the one "hard fact" that it was not in time for registration for the Olympiad, and suggesting the compromise position that Russia's team be allowed to play, but not with GM Lagno. However, from reading FIDE's rules and the history as recounted above, especially the lack of an answer on 4 June, I have to side with the RCF here---there was reasonable effort at compliance given the circumstances.
Odirovski Odirovski 7/18/2014 04:46
Once again; I repeat - this has become utter madness, this is no longer Chess. Let us use our rational minds and call a 'hoe a hoe' and not 'a garden implement'.

Anyone who can put 2 and 2 together must come up with 4. I have no political affiliation whatsoever in this FIDE Election but I now believe Mr Kasparov as Chess politician is the equivalence of the coming of the Antichrist.

I am not being over-dramatic; I have PERSONALLY experienced the fallout of his 'METHODS' in my National federation - I sent Mr Kasparov a tweet several months ago in which I said (to paraphrase): "your ideas may be good for Chess but they are getting lost in translation by your representatives". This level of desperation to become FIDE President is too much! Is it for the good of Chess? Why can't Chess players think? I am truly shocked and saddened for our world...