Election 06: 'Statements of support' are nonsense

by ChessBase
5/26/2006 – Russian chess journalist Yuriy Vasiliev is gaining cult status. After famously using George Orwell's Animal Farm to criticise opponents in the democracy debate, Vasiliev, who staunchly supports the Kirsan ticket, has written about an attempt by the other side to install "fifth columns" (as in the Spanish Civil War) and destroy world chess unity. Article and a puzzler.

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The Fifth Column

An essay about those who try to destroy the chess unity

By Yuriy Vasiliev,
Chess Observer, "Sport-Express Daily" (Moscow)

As you know the term “fifth column” emerged during the Civil War in Spain. During the war four fascist columns attacked Madrid and the fifth column comprised of the secret agents acted in the Republicans’ rear. Lot of water has passed under the bridge ever since but the term took roots in many languages. “Fifth column” refers to the betrayers within a state who help enemies from without.

The current FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov’s rivals’ desire to undermine his authority and popularity among the great number of national federations is easily understood. But their methods seem dangerous for the future of the entire chess world. Following is an example of their methods.

In this article I do not want to mention the name of one of my favorite and deeply respected Grandmasters. I worshipped his creative play in numerous reports from various tournaments. I consider him to be a chess genius even though this sonorous title is usually applied to the chess players who have gone to glory. But he is a genius and he keeps on playing and winning. And this is a wonderful thing.

I know this person very well and even in a bad dream I can not imagine that he may scribble some statements. He is always eager to play chess no matter where, when and how much he is paid. But he is definitely not an ink-slinger.

One very indicative fact from his life proves it well: once his parents asked him to mail a postcard from some exotic tour. He did mail a postcard, but there was not a single word on it written by him. Not even words of greetings. He simply does not like to do correspondence and this is it.

And here all of a sudden the honourable Grandmaster writes a “statement of support”; and in it he clearly opposes his personal position to the official position of the chess federation of his native country, of which he is a faithful patriot.

I can assume that he was “asked” to do it and that he could “sign” something. But what is the real purpose of those who arranged it? Do they really intend to drive a wedge between the most respected Grandmaster and his native federation? Do they want to set the federation against him? Or do they want to demonstrate that he does not care a fig for his native federation?!

Whatever their target is, it is anyway by far high-souled.

I have never paid much attention to all those “Statements of Support” just because to my mind they are nonsense.

In one of my previous articles I mentioned FIFA as an example of most honorable World Organizations. Can you imagine even in a bad dream that Ronaldinho would write a letter to support some football satrap? Can you imagine Backham agitating for the “ticket” of some football executive or his opponent?!

Then why does someone try to make fools of the honourable Grandmasters?!

Why does someone try to establish fifth columns within some national chess federations thus provoking splits in them?! Is this the target which “chess democrats” try to achieve?!

Yuriy Vasiliev

Fifth Column

A "fifth column" is a group of people who is secretly trying to undermine a larger group to which it nominally belongs, usually a nation or a country. The term was coined during the Spanish Civil War by Nationalist general Emilio Mola in 1936, when he spoke of his four of his army columns that were moving on Madrid. He called the militant supporters within the capital, who were intent on undermining the Republican government from within, his "fifth column".

Today the term is mainly used in reference to groups within a population who are assumed to have loyalties to foreign countries, especially if it is assumed that they are in some way supporting the war effort of some other nation against the country in which they live. During World War II, it was German minority organizations in Poland and Czechoslovakia who engaged in atrocities and helped the Third Reich in conquer those nations. The internment of Japanese Americans in the US was in order to prevent them from acting as a fifth column during the War.

"Fifth column" has highly pejorative connotations, and is usually equated with traitors and treachery.

Puzzle: who is Vasiliev's recalcitrant friend?

The article by Yuriy Vasiliev has led to quite a lot of speculation at postgame dinners by players who are trying to figure out who the Russian journalist's mysterious friend could be. The grandmaster friend, who Vasiliev is sure must have been tricked into signing a letter of support for the Right Move campaign, is a chess genius who keeps playing and winning, is not prone to "ink-slinging", hates correspondence and is a patriot who would never undermine the official position of the chess federation of his native country. Here are most of the candidates:

  • The Statement of Support page of the Right Move campaign lists the following players explicitly, with pictures: Judit Polgar, Michael Adams, Viktor Korchnoi, John Nunn, Oscar Panno, Jan Timman, Bent Larsen, Henrique Mecking, Suat Atalik, Murray Chandler, Fridrik Olafsson, Stuart Conquest, Nigel Davies, Max Dlugy, Iosif Dorfman, John Emms, Boris Gelfand, Christian Bauer, Mikhail Gurevich, Mark Hebden, Vassily Ivanchuk, Predrag Nikolic, Zviad Izoria, Lubomir Kavalek, Daniel King, Peter Heine Nielsen, Alex Baburin, Michal Krasenkow, Jonathan Levitt, Luke McShane, Jonathan Mestel, Sergei Movsesian, Emil Sutovsky, Ekaterina Atalik, Harriet Hunt, Ana Matnadze, Vladimir Tukmakov, Peter Wells, Yasser Seirawan, Nigel Short, Ivan Sokolov, Genna Sosonko, Jonathan Speelman, James Plaskett, Eduardas Rozentalis, Alexandra van der Mije-Nicolau, Keith Arkell, Danny Gormally, Jonathan Parker, Ken Rogoff. It should, logically, be one of them.

  • However, we can rule out the German team: GMs Alexander Graf, Jan Gustafsson, Gerald Hertneck, Joerg Hickl, Thomas Luther, Christopher Lutz, Helmut Pfleger, Michael Prusikin, Philipp Schlosser, IMs Georg Meier, Christian Seel, WGMs Elisabeth Paehtz, Bettina Trabert, and WIM Jessica Nill have all expressed their support for the Right Move ticket. But so have their federation, so they are not doing a fifth column thing.

  • The same applies to the 19 French players: GMs Etienne Bacrot, Joel Lautier, Christian Bauer, Laurent Fressinet, Josif Dorfman, Igor-Alexandre Nataf, Jean-Marc Degraeve, Robert Fontaine, Amir Bagheri, Anthony Kosten, Olivier Renet, Eloi Relange, Eric Prie, Cyrill Marcelin, Darko Anic, WGMs Silvia Collas, Maria Leconte, Roza Lallemand and Christine Flear. The French Federation also supports the Right Move.

  • Vasilev's friend also cannot be one of the 18 English GMs who pledged their support for Kok and Co., in line with the policy of their Federation: Keith Arkell, Murray Chandler, Stuart Conquest, Nigel Davies, John Emms, Danny Gormally, Mark Hebden, Harriet Hunt, Daniel King, Jonathan Levitt, Luke McShane, Jonathan Mestel, John Nunn, Jonathan Parker, James Plaskett, Nigel Short, Jonathan Speelman, Peter Wells.

We are sure we have not listed all the GMs who have spoken out for the Kok-Yazici ticket and are listed on the Right Move site. But it is reasonable to expect that the one Vasiliev is referring to is amongst those listed above. Your guess is as good as the grandmasters'!

The essence of democracy

Reply of the Right Move to Yuriy Vasiliev's article

It is interesting that our good friend Yuriy Vasiliev has written today an article on Chess Fidelity about Grandmasters making a fool of themselves by writing letters of support. Moreover he hints that normally these type of people would not even have the capability to think about such things and obviously somebody must have primed them to do such a difficult thing !

Well really, Mr Vasiliev, apart from being extremely disparaging to some of the most distinguished and qualified members of the chess world, we would like to point out that given the disastrous state that the chess world finds itself in today:

  • with no guarantee of a decent income,
  • with tournament opportunities continuously reducing,
  • the World Championship cycle in a state of confusion,
  • a calendar which is cut and pasted without due care of attention or impact on other people or events,
  • complete disregard on top players' opinion regarding implementation of new time controls or tournament regulations,
  • media pulling out of the coverage of chess,

We can assure Mr Vasiliev that professional chess players do not need any prompting to send their open support to a campaign which has been open, honest and transparent from day one. They do this with the full trust that we live in a democratic society, where people are allowed to speak out and moreso where they are perceived to be important stakeholders in the game. The Federation has no direct obligation to listen to these players and is constituted very often of people from all walks of life. GMs respect the opinion of the Federation and likewise, democratic, open Federations respect fully the opinion of their leading players.

In January 2006, George Makropoulos, in an open debate, in Birmingham considered the statements of support as being divisive. Well three months later our good friends on Fidelity tried to get off the ground with the same ideas but they obviously lacked the critical conviction or drive to maintain the momentum.

"Are such statements really divisive?" Bessel asked Makropoulos in Birmingham. "Was Makro going to reward or punish anybody for expressing his or her opinion in public ?"

"No", answered the current FIDE Deputy President, "of course not" realising that the expression of an opinion is a fundamental right in a free society. Of course, this is not important for Mr Vasiliev, since the statements of support "are nonsense". It is great to know what Mr Vasiliev thinks of the opinions of other people of course.

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