FIDE – who is being indecisive?

by ChessBase
11/16/2010 – In the past years, even its most ardent supporters will be forced to admit, the World Chess Federation has displayed a remarkable inconsistency in its work for those on whose behalf they are set to act. This is because, as Rune Vik-Hansen argues in this deeply philosophical article, "FIDE and the chess community, which they are set to represent, literally live in different worlds". Summary and full text.

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Drawing upon our previous work the present article attempts to provide an answer to the whys and the hows underlying FIDE’s counterproductive inconsistency the past few years on behalf of whom they are set to act. As “Gens Una Sumus” does not seem to cut it, we need to look behind what all parties may share; common interests, aims, goals and purposes and if so, resolving the FIDE situation would seem to be a mere “matter of technique”.

However, acknowledging the complexity of human behaviour, the article takes a short detour into the history of causality exploring the Roman and Greek notions to see if there may be necessity or contingency to FIDE’s conduct and behaviour. If FIDE can act differently, why don’t they? Or perhaps they can’t? Can they?

Comparing FIDE’s inconsistency to blunders in chess, the article explores whether FIDE’s indecisiveness may be caused by lack of feedback from the chess community or careless processing or interpretation of the information received. A central part of the discussion explores the concepts of “democracy”, “predictability” and “transparency”, how they relate to one another and how the chess world in its entirety may benefit from a mutual understanding and commitment.

Playing on the previously introduced concept of exformation, the article argues that FIDE and the chess community, which they are set to represent, literally live in different worlds where different platforms, conceptual understanding, and expectations reduces the chance for mutual communication and predictable actions. A lion’s share of the article suggests why players may have not dealt with the “FIDE problem” and finally, we suggest possible solutions to the problem.

FIDE – who is being indecisive?

By Rune Vik-Hansen

Currently, as has also been true of the past few years, might be recognized by inconsistent and unjustifiable decisions continually being made by FIDE-officials, such as changing rules mid-cycle, apparently randomly handing out special privileges galore, and being unable to bring a working system into place, while not listening to those the decisions concern. This flabbergasts possible sponsors, professional and amateur players alike – since it seems apparent to these outsiders that decisions by FIDE should fulfil at least two requirements: consistency and justification to all whom they concern. The same question is posed by all players: "How can handing out special privileges galore be justified?" (not to mention new questions now raised about the recently introduced "zero-tolerance" rule on being present when the game commences). Yet, we have yet to read a rational explanation, i.e., an explanation our minds can latch onto, understand and accept by force of a reason assumed to be shared by others.

What IS the Problem...anyone?!

Resonating with Joel Benjamin’s secret wish regarding FIDE’s lack of democracy and representation of the needs of the professional in NIC 5/09 and drawing upon on our previous article, we will try to unravel the conundrum.

What is FIDE’s problem? Lack of technology? Absence of will? Lack of information or knowledge? Lack of organisational skills and competence? Lack of morals or common sense? Lack of empathy or character? Lack of reason or backbone? Lack of self insight? Or do we have to dig deeper?

One might suspect the FIDE officials of not wanting to solve the problems (if not of purposefully trying to sabotage the life of chess players to the best of their abilities). But why would they not want to solve things? If what it all comes down to are acts of volition, the problems might be solved by using proven methods of negotiation to reach an agreement acceptable to all parties. Since there are known methods of negotiation available to lead dissenting parties to agreements, and if the volition of the officials were aimed towards resolution, the rest would be a matter of technique. A key question is to explain how FIDE knowingly can make decisions running counter to the interests of chess players on whose behalf they originally were set to act. So what does this possibly suggest about the state of clarity or motivation of those in positions of authority in FIDE?

A Matter of Technique?

Contrary to Isaiah Berlin, who claimed that contemporary politics is reduced to a sole matter of technique, since we all agree on the aims and purposes, a possible answer might be that there actually is real disagreement concerning the aims or purposes of FIDE. Considering the situation in toto, a timely question would be why it should prove so difficult to agree on the aims and purposes, and if aims and purposes cause real disagreement, how well justified is this disagreement? “Gens Una Sumus” does not seem to cut it. However, Berlin's idealized formalism is severely challenged by a consciousness unable to abort or veto highly contradicting and mutually exclusive interests, desires, cravings, aims and purposes counterproductive to a community as a whole.

The matter is further complicated when FIDE repeatedly is being made aware that their decisions are counterproductive and still force their decisions through. This would appear to signal that their decision-making is anything but rational and well-founded or they may have a different agenda than the well-being of the professional chess community as a whole.

As Jan Timman aptly writes in NIC 4/85: “You can expect thoughtlessness and short-sightedness from officials... [...]” (p.63), and the question is, if this is shallow prejudice, spiteful generalization or a spot on observation. Is there a cause?

Causes and Nexuses

Contemporary understanding of causality is more bound together with the Roman notion of causa-efficiens (cause and effect), where the point is a necessary connection between the cause and the effect, than the perhaps more relevant Aristotelian notion of cause and effect. The Roman understanding became influential for the mechanistic outlook which arose in the 17th century. When we think of the Roman concept of causality, we think more along the Humean lines (after the Scotch philosopher David Hume, 1711-1776) with a billiard ball “A” hitting billiard ball “B” whereby ball “B”, by necessity, begins to roll. Watching what happens, we state that billiard ball “A” is the cause making billiard ball “B” roll, as the effect; single cause, single effect.

The cause is often presented as something “at work”, and that to be “at work” means gaining results, effects. In a sense, causa efficiens thereby determines all causality. According to the German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) the word Causa, casus, belongs to the verb cadere, “to fall”, and would imply ”cause this or that as an outcome”. According to Heidegger, who read Greek, the notion of causality, in Greek thought, had nothing to do with “outcome or result” or “causing or bringing about an outcome or result”. What we call “cause”, the Romans called causa, are by the Greeks called aitia which means “culpable”, or, “contributing to something else.” The Roman notion is about necessity, the Greek concept does not imply a necessary connection between several factos leading to some kind of outcome or result. The Roman concept of causality might not be very useful when it comes to more complicated phenomena, like learning, so instead we might turn to the Greek concept, first formulated and explicitly articulated by Aristotle. The difference between the Roman and the Greek concept of causality might perhaps best be illuminated by the example of a silver bowl, where Aristotle’s concept of causality fairly straight forward explains how his four causes all contributes to the existence of the bowl without necessarily leading to the existence of the bowl even if all the four causes are present;

  1. The material cause (causa materialis) being that from which a thing comes into existence as from its parts, constituents, substratum or materials.
  2. The formal cause (causa formalis), telling us what a thing is, that any thing is determined by the definition, form, pattern, essence, whole, synthesis or archetype.
  3. The efficient cause (causa efficiens), being that from which the change or the ending of the change first starts and so suggests all sorts of agents, nonliving or living, acting as the sources of change or movement or rest.
  4. The final cause (causa finalis) being that for the sake of which a thing exists or is done, including both purposeful and instrumental actions and activities.

Here we can see that the silver is the material (hyle), the bowl being a bowl and nothing else (the formal cause), the silversmith being the efficient cause who brings about the bowl, and finally the aim or the purpose of the bowl being the the final cause. All four causes contribute to the existence of the silver bowl not involving any kind of necessity, as the Roman concept implies: four causes = silver bowl. If the Roman concept of causality applied to FIDE, their actions would apparently be more easily explainable as there would seem to a 1:1 ratio: a causal unit = an effect unit.

The final cause or telos is the purpose or end that something is supposed to serve, or it is that from which, and that to which the change is. This also covers modern ideas of mental causation involving such psychological causes as volition, need and motivation, rational, irrational, ethical, all that gives purpose to behavior.

Human actions and intentions in general have to arise from somewhere, their source being deep within the brain and what comes out depends on the wiring, i.e. connections and neural synapses, meaning points at which a nerve impulse is transmitted from one neuron to another, where estimates give approximately 100 billion synapses for adults.

Actions per se are never self-explanatory as they are not their own cause, thus criticizing actions per se is no explanation and leads nowhere since the agent is left detached and untouched. Differently put; it is impossible from the actions themselves to read off their causes or motivation and the analogy of the aforementioned implicit and unarticulated exformation connected to speech acts, springs to mind. The hypothesis is further strengthened by the fact that consciousness never triggers actions and the actions do have to arise from somewhere.

Nørretranders’ concept of exformation may be linked to a Cartesian notion of causality: i.e. identical causes yield identical effects, and, seeing people act, from outside, we may ascribe certain motives (causes) to the agent assuming this kind of motive leading to that kind of effect, i.e. different motives would lead to different effects or actions. Considering FIDE, a pertinent question is if the possible causes underlying their inconsistency and lack of democracy are identical or different; different causes may very well yield the same effects;

We stretch after a piece of cake, because we know we want cake. However, we cannot know why we desired cake in the first place.

If neither Roman nor Cartesian notions of causality can help us explain human behaviour and we are denied access to impulses, we may have to lean on Aristotle, making human behaviour even more complicated as no clear, necessary nexus between possible causes and effects (actions) seems apparent, i.e. when two people do the same thing, do they share identical mental states or identical configurations of neurons, or what if an agent does the same thing twice? Still, there might be different sets of causes at work every time. The Cartesian concept, relying on some sort of necessity seems closer to the Roman notion than the Aristotelian. If we cannot be sure there is a necessary connection between causes and effect we may be stuck with Aristotle, leaving human behaviour even more of a mystery.

We might say that human behaviour has its causes, though, due to the brain working in mysterious ways, we can never know what these causes are since, due to the interface of consciousness, we are denied access to these possible causal cerebral machinations. Is causality the right framework to think about this problem?

FIDE – A Blunder?

From the previous article, we remember that blunders or mistakes might have three possible sources (notwithstanding time trouble which is more a problem of mental inertia than time):

  1. We take in only parts of the position due to inadequate vision, focussing only on certain parts of the board.
  2. We take in the whole position but something happens while processing the material resulting in apparently spontaneous and inexplicable blunders.
  3. Even when seeing the whole board, our brain does not take it all in.

In our case, “sense impressions” might be said to be the information or input (external) from players, editors, organizers and national federations brought to FIDE’s attention regarding how the chess world should be run to the best of the chess community as a whole.

As FIDE’s inconsistency and indecisiveness can be perceived as blunders, to stick to our blunder-analogy, all of the above appears to be plausible candidates, i.e. either (1) FIDE bases their actions partly on missing information, (2) something happens when the information given is processed in the minds of FIDE officials or (3) the information brought to FIDE’s attention, is not taken in. In light of the list above, lack of information does not seem plausible as information on a number of occasions over the years repeatedly has been brought to FIDE’s attention and still they make bad decisions.

The second alternative immediately complicates the issue as this involves subconscious processes outside our conscious control, i.e. there might be a wiring problem processing the information in such a way that when consciousness is informed, the conscious experience of the interpretation causes incomprehensible (to others, that is) actions.

The same point might be made for the third possible explanation; even when presented with full information (all the facts), the brain does not take it all in, and this might also be explained as a wiring problem (close resemblance to option 2, but not identical) since there does not seem to be any plausible explanation as to why we on purpose should not take it all in. It appears counterintuitive not wanting to take it all in and either we take it all in or not and we are in no position to control our perception. In other words, we cannot decide by acts of volition what we should let through our filter or not as the brain absorbs what it absorbs.

A certain Kasparov alluded to life imitating chess, and to stick to the chess game analogy: usually decisions are explained and attempted justified afterwards and this is usually the order of the day; first decision – then explanation. However, if decision-making was conscious, logically, it should be the other way around; first we explain why certain decisions should be made and then the brain triggers the requested impulses, right? If we could give perfectly viable and reasonable explanations for every decision we were to make, why would the brain of FIDE trigger impulses leading to actions that forever remain inexplicable and aggravate the whole chess world?

Summing up our blunder-analogy, if FIDE’s decisions are based merely on fragmentary information, its inconsistency and indecisiveness are perfectly understandable, but no matter how we twist and turn, FIDE are obligated to gather adequate information to form well-founded decisions and since lack of information has not been the problem, as repeatedly pointed out, this cannot be the reason. Another possibility might be that FIDE simply discards, ignores or does not understand the information, or is unwilling or unable to gather the required information to make sound decisions and if so, we need to ask why, as access to information should not be a problem whatsoever.

Concerning the processes in the mind, since interpretation is subconscious, how are we to hold people responsible for irresponsible interpretations? Neither perception, understanding nor interpretation are acts of volition (that is, conscious), why would FIDE perceive, understand or interpret the information to the detriment of the chess community? If FIDE has access to all relevant information, logically, misinterpretation might be caused by lack of perception and understanding.

Regarding explanation #3 even when having full access to all relevant information, it might be a wiring problem as our sensory apparatus does not take it all in and no acts of volition can correct or amend that.

On a general note, as already pointed out, we notice our blunders or bad decisions only after they are committed, since we would not commit them on purpose. Considering FIDE-decisions the past 15-20 years, one might be inclined to think that FIDE would learn from its mistakes, but this apparent lack of ability still leaves the pertinent question of “why”, and our slightly crude suggestion again would be a wiring problem, (a more polite phrase might be “lack of self-insight”) unless they have other reasons (not causes), which we will come to in a minute, to commit the same mistakes over and over.

Contrary to chess positions, the concept of pattern recognition might more appropriately be applied to human behaviour where FIDE decisions the past few years indeed seem to fall into a pattern, by now highly recognizable; changing rules mid-cycle, handing out privileges galore, unable to create sustainable qualifying cycles or regular world champion matches, sudden introduction of new rules, question arises, illogical behaviour and incomprehensible response by officials causing mass confusion. However, contrary to what chess players are trained to, i.e. to respond according to position, concerning FIDE behaviour, neither players nor federations seem able to respond accordingly. Why would be anybody’s guess, but one possible reason might be the misguided contemporary climate dictating that “all cultures and practices are equal and differences must be respected”. However, this does not solve our problem.

Culture...or lack thereof

Although actions, in the final instance, still are grounded in neurology, FIDE’s behaviour might also be explained by slightly higher level phenomena.

A culture might basically be described as the sum total of all the impulses triggered by the brains of the members of a certain community manifesting themselves in a number of different ways like art, sports, politics, literature, science, upbringing, vandalism, bullying etc. Therefore, using culture to explain actions and decisions is not as straightforward as one might think. The relationship between practices in a social context and the impulses our brain triggers is far more complex that what first meets the eye. A timely question is how much of our decision-making is due to our own accord and how much is caused by the surrounding social context and culture? If culture is thought to explain everything, our behaviour would be completely determined making it impossible to veto impulses we know we ought to abort; as agents we would merely be playing out a script our culture has written for us, making it impossible to hold people morally accountable for their actions and decisions. With our brain and culture as the only parameters, it is in principle impossible to determine what the causes of our actions and decisions are. This can easily be illustrated with a paradox: say someone grows up in a violent culture or a culture of drinking tea. How to tell if the violence or tea drinking is caused by the whims of the individuals themselves or the culture, and does either cause excuse or explain the actions?

The human brain per se does not seem able to form a concept of morality until a (self) conscious self arises and is able to relate to subconsciously triggered impulses. Then, for the sake of morality, we do have to posit a mindset working independently of culture (though one might object that the stronger the culture, the weaker the individual consciousness and the ability to veto impulses.)

Placing this rather abstract theorizing into context, we might try to see how this might relate to FIDE and see if their inconsistency and indecisiveness can be explained in light of culture or lack thereof.

FIDE is said to suffer from a certain democracy deficit, cloudiness and unpredictability and the core question is why, as one would think they have every reason not to. Henrik Carlsen’s demands for democracy, transparency and predictability (Chess Base 02.12.08) merit a discussion as these concepts are more closely related than what may first meet the eye, and seeing how these are related might give us a clue about the whys and hows of FIDE being undemocratic, opaque and unpredictable.

As many (most?) of the FIDE member countries are undemocratic, reasonable to assume is that the mindset of FIDE as a whole also suffers from being undemocratic, even if the organization ideally is supposed to work by democratic principles. (It isn’t?!J)

Lack of democracy in general is due to lack of conscious governing of the mind preventing us from moving at our own discretion between nurturing undemocratic mindsets to entertain democratic ones. Along the same lines, the UN human rights council might serve as another example (where undemocratic nations recently tried to coup the freedom of speech by equating criticism of religion with violation of human rights.) The formula is rather simple: undemocratic + undemocratic + undemocratic = undemocratic. It appears impossible to detect some sort of synergistic effect where adding undemocratic components would yield a democratic net result. Although theoretically possible, it is highly unlikely that there would be organizations, groups or nations consisting solely of undemocratic mindsets able to fight their natural inclination or disposition and still work according to democratic principles and notions, which apparently suggests that any organization is not likely to be more democratic than the mindset of its representatives.

In order to explain FIDE’s lack of transparency and predictability, we will launch a hypothesis based on some rarely emphasized qualities intrinsic to the concept of democracy. Basically, this hypothesis concerns how one relates to one another in a public sphere, notwithstanding the more procedural, voting aspect of democracy.

As democracy implies some sort of adherence to a public sphere, open and readily accessible where participants share and are under some obligation to common norms, conceptually, democratic mindsets intuitively, appear to be more transparent and predictable than its opposite number. The implications also work the other way around; being opaque and unpredictable in conduct, in all probability, may indicate an undemocratic mindset as well. Being obligated to a set of common norms naturally constrains possible whims and the chance of implementing these to the detriment of others.

A major problem with organizations consisting of states or people with undemocratic mindsets, dispositions or inclinations, is that any possible democratic voice might easily be suppressed, as well as transparency and predictability might also be systematically opposed or counteracted as these may run counter to more internal whims, interests, emotions, urges and desires favouring the few. The problem arises when such conflicting emotions, whims, interests and desires prove stronger than the conscious ability to abort unwanted, unfounded, risky, unsound and unfortunate urges, interests or desires. The perceptive reader will probably already have noted the concomitant problem of holding people accountable if being caught in a maelstrom of forces outside and stronger than our conscious control. Where does this leave room for morality?

Regarding the possibility for a change within FIDE, if culture exclusively is said to be the source and parameter of our actions, a pertinent question is how likely it is to expect democratic voices calling for transparency and predictability to arise within cultures themselves undemocratic, opaque and unpredictable? The key question is how to get minds not democratically inclined to embrace democracy and welcome transparency and predictability. Or, in the words of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976): how to enter the circle correctly?

Strictly speaking, culture, context or background as possible causes for our actions are irrelevant as actions still are to be judged irrespective of their origin. Unless conclusively can be proven that culture and actions are so intimately intertwined that they are impossible to separate, culture is unacceptable as an excuse for bad judgment.

 Extending our notion of culture, FIDE’s practice might be said to bear close resemblance to what is known as methodological relativism, i.e. the anthropological attempt to understand behaviour and beliefs in their local context. Thus, FIDE may make decisions appearing fully rational, logical and consistent within their practice, but completely incomprehensible, unacceptable and transboundary nonsensical to those outside. Confusion might be caused by premises or values being too vague, unclear, unknown or unacceptable to those whom the decisions may concern.

Differently put: If the values and premises that FIDE's actions are presumably based on were publicly presented or made known, we might at least follow (even if disagreeing with ) their actions. But since the working documents of FIDE are never on display, and most decisions are made behind closed doors, the chess community is frustrated even further by not even knowing if there is any connection between a premise and action whatsoever.


As also discussed in "Mind Games: Who is doing the playing?" (Chessbase, 2008), just like effective communication depends on a shared and implied body of knowledge (exformation) between the persons communicating, it may also explain the discrepancy between FIDE and the chess community materialized by actions more or less incomprehensible to the chess world

Speech acts, verbal utterances or written text, where the discarded information cannot be read off the words spoken or written, may be described as carrying very little information due to the infinite ways of formulating a message. Actions, on the contrary, illustrated by the power of examples, may have a far greater bandwidth and therefore, because we perceive more of actions than of speech acts, even if not explicitly stated, intention, motivation or otherwise inaccessible thought processes might partly be read off the actions. For instance, when a bank robber storms into a bank, waving his gun, we do not expect him to lecture in philosophy or paint a portrait of the head cashier. Strictly speaking, declaring “This is a robbery!” is redundant. We get that! We do not say “Oh no, a gun.” “Unmarked notes in separate envelopes!” would long suffice.

Generally speaking, spontaneous and seemingly inexplicable actions springing out of a “nowhere”, or without any apparent cause, may illustrate action’s possible dual character making possible two perspectives: the view from within and the view from outside. Actions may appear comprehensible or incomprehensible both to the agent himself and a possible observer. Both agent and observer may or may not understand the actions, exemplified by: “You did that?!” or “I did that?!” The assumption has been that FIDE is accountable and that to their actions do pertain an underlying, traceable rationality or justification. The question, of course, is where? Inexplicable actions may spring from whims, state of affect, lack of self-insight or fundamental character flaws and (heaven forbid!) assuming FIDE to be unaccountable where would that leave us?! Usually, actions are understood because they spring from a shared and familiar exformation contexts (rituals, traditions), but if the contexts are too different or unfamiliar, the actions may appear incomprehensible to those in or outside that context. Not only would the actions be incomprehensible but the exformation contexts themselves could not even be implied nor shared by the people communicating, thus further complicating, if not rendering impossible, interaction and effective communication. With too unclear or unfamiliar exformation contexts, we would not even get to the level of actions. Not only would we be like Spassky’s infamous opposite coloured Bishops, but we would be opposite coloured Bishops on different boards.

The level of conflict between FIDE and the chess community, suggests that FIDE’s way of communicating is anything but effective thus implying (1) a lack of exformation, i.e. lack of a shared body of implied knowledge between FIDE and the chess community and/or (2) an inevitable clash between different exformation contexts at discord, the question being what this discord might amount to. The discord may be explained as expectations unfulfilled, not shared, met or complied with or disagreement on concepts, or finally, simply irreconcilable agendas.

Somehow we would expect a body supposed to make decisions on our behalf to the best of our interest to share our exformation context, our understanding of concepts, our aims and purposes and expectations, thus making their actions transparent and predictable.

Precisely due to the abyss between exformation contexts, FIDE’s actions appear incomprehensible and the discord might be said to be rooted in two distinct, incommensurable worlds or paradigms, existing side by side but that shall never twine.

The Power of Infamous Examples

To explain possible unsound, parallel existing exformation contexts, cultures, in trying to explain FIDE’s apparent inexplicable decisions, rumour will have it that corruption or “gift exchanging practices”, sneaked in with Campomanes, plaguing FIDE ever since. Indeed, if corruption is the case, and pecuniary, or other motifs, are the reasons behind FIDE’s inexplicable decisions, (inexplicable to those outside due to being cut off from the underlying causes), the previously apparently incomprehensible decisions might be explained; decisions and actions are being made to the benefit of a smaller circle, feathering one’s own nest.

Corruption is greed at the expense of others, but why are we greedy? Do we choose to be greedy? Can we choose to be greedy? Where does greed come from? What makes us greedy contrary to for instance being more benevolent? Corruption addresses the aforementioned lack of interplay between an unruly brain and a disciplining consciousness, where subconsciously triggered impulses leading to unwanted, immoral, embarrassing or foolish actions are not vetoed or aborted. We know corruption is morally blameworthy and legally problematic, and the puzzle is to explain why and how we knowingly still yield or fall victim to impulses leading to morally blameworthy or illegal actions.

The Greeks knew the eternal struggle between subconscious impulses and consciousness as the problem of a weak will and were seemingly aware that desires, urges, yearnings, passions and ambitions many a time might prove stronger than our ability to discipline them.

Even if responsible for neither wiring (character) nor consciousness, we might at some level, depending on how disciplined our consciousness is, be responsible for our actions. If so, the question would be a matter of disciplining our consciousness to help us veto impulses or not. One does not have the choice whether or not impulses are triggered and it appears impossible, by acts of volition to force impulses that lead to actions which are” called for”, morally, politically, legally, creatively, scientifically, etc.

Irrespective of the minds’ secret machinations, intuitively, undemocratic mindsets seem more susceptible or exposed to corruption, whereas the more democratically inclined, on the contrary, seem more resistant precisely due to how our three key concepts, democracy, transparency and predictability, relate to each other, i.e. in the sharing of being committed or obligated to a set of common norms.

If it turns out impossible to exercise consciousness to abort or veto impulses leading to wavering decisions and inconsistency, the only solution is physically to replace the entire body, assembly or board in question rather than solutions of patching and mending which sooner or later would tend to suffer from fatigue. In plain English, this means that character flawed minds, no matter how many times they are corrected, due to inherent organic (character) weakness, will always run the risk of unfortunate lapses. If consciousness were in control, attitude campaigns might work since convincing (not persuasive!) arguments would change our attitude, but instead rational and reasonable explanations are often met with people smiling, nodding, saying they understand and yet they still continue as before? The reason for this is that we cannot change consciously our attitudes or points of view by acts of volition.

If corruption is the cause of FIDE being inconsistent, wavering and indecisive, this needs to be addressed immediately.


Currently, the chess world is paying the price financially and schedule-wise, (planning forthcoming tournaments is difficult, if not impossible) of having a dysfunctional FIDE and topping it off with an undemocratically inclined president at that.

As is well known, it takes two to tango and a key question is why chess players, chess communities, federations, organizers and possible sponsors for so long have put up with FIDE in its current state. Cowardice (didn’t the Greek teach us anything?), disinterest, egotism, frustration due to ignorance, inattentiveness, indifference, lack of strength or energy (obligations and priorities elsewhere), laziness(!), legal restrictions, an absence of a systematic, organized opposition or a combination of them all suggest themselves as possible explanations; the principled point being that the lack of response is explainable.

Two tendencies appear when approaching a problem:

  1. Delineating the number of possible explanations (remember “candidate moves”?) to a minimum, thereby possibly missing the relevant one or

  2. Expanding the possible number of explanations infinitely (“It’s never THAT simple”) thus not knowing when to stop expanding and not having time to check them all leaving the problem well intact.

Considering the problem soluble, the explanation might lie somewhere between the two extremes, and in want for verifiable hypotheses, intuition and understanding of how concepts logically relate to each other, may be our best guides.

Motivation might further be split into internal and external, the former being more problematic than the latter as internal motivation is subconsciously triggered desires, urges, whims, wishes and interests, the point (rather crude, I’m afraid, to organizers of weekend seminars) being that if we do not desire this, urge that or want this, we are sort of stuck as it is impossible by acts of volition to trigger the right urge, the correct desire or the sought-after interest and there isn’t any “Why?” or “Why not?” to be accounted for: Why are you so egotistical? Why are you not interested? We cannot not know why our brains prefer chess to curling or clog-throwing to darts since interest in these activities takes place outside our conscious access. Usually, we get interested first and later on we try to concoct some sort of explanation as to why this and not that. It’s the same with poetry or novel writing: first the poem or the novel is written and only later on some critic conjures up his/her review. Try to reverse that!

If ignorance is the problem, gaining the necessary competence, skills or knowledge should be relatively painless (chess players are bright, right?) and legal restrictions preventing action do not seem likely.

The deeper internal condition where the abovementioned motivations somehow also reside, are the more lasting disposition and inclination, also known as “personality” or “character”, comprising laziness, cowardice and inattentiveness and although these sometimes may be remedied by Aristotelian virtue training again we are left to chance as change of personality or character cannot be forced by acts of volition.

However, if not disposed or inclined to commit heroic deeds, rescue might be found in motivating external circumstances needing to be addressed, but even this might not suffice as the 2006 election where a democratically disposed president (Bessel Kok) announced himself only to be rejected, the question being why.

Well, some (David Levy, 02.06.2006, among other probable causes, like not being specific regarding possible sponsorship, missing out on personal face-to-face meetings, presumed affinity with the elite, hostile web site rhetoric etc.) have argued that Kok was not elected due to coming from a country (Belgium) being a former colonial power, causing third world (undemocratic?) countries almost instinctively to react against their former mother countries, i.e. their consciousness not telling them to think twice even if the long term outcome is anything but certain.

The road to hell is said to be paved with good intentions. The world’s chess countries need to act positively in the interest of today’s chess players, and not negatively by punishing them for sins committed by non-chess players’ past sins. Electing the current president punished today’s players for past sins; was unfair and continues to punish the wrong persons.

The crux of the matter is that when the current president was elected, the delegates voting with their guts, not their minds, went with the money even if they perfectly well knew that the current problems within FIDE would remain, why? Other possible reasons, motifs and causes notwithstanding, instinctive reactions are not “rational” in the strict sense, though in some respects they may be, and back in 2006 there appeared to have been two options only:

  1. A candidate known more for the size of his wallet than his democratic instincts where a still undemocratic FIDE would depend solely on this president and his money.

  2. A candidate with well-developed democratic instincts and experience from building and running companies but without the same access to money, who would head a bankrupt but democratic FIDE not solely dependent on its president as saviour, forced to learn how to move in commercial environments for funding.

A problem with the first option is that if the president leaves, it will wreak havoc. If he stays, FIDE would still remain undemocratic even if tournaments are being organized and funded by his private pocket. A problem with the second alternative is that even if being fully democratic, due to problems finding sponsors and lack of commercial intuition, there would be serious problems funding chess events. Further down the line, chess players may be forced to realise that sponsors for chess tournaments would be hard to come by, leading to a substantial decrease in chess events until some sort of benevolent benefactor comes along. Until then, chess players would have to fund tournaments themselves.

The 2006 election reveals an interesting asymmetry between FIDE and the chess communities, federations and players. The former somehow appears unable to veto impulses leading to inconsistent actions and unable to trigger impulses leading to transparency and predictability whereas the chess community appears unable to force through impulses leading to actions necessary to cause the change they want.

Chances to win against mighty opponents are rare and far between, and a critical moment may have announced itself with Magnus Carlsen (Chessbase 05.12.08) withdrawing from the qualifying cycle, although, the time for doing something about FIDE, of course, is long overdue. Carlen’s withdrawal should have been perceived as an invitation and a signal to synchronize actions, as together, organized GMs would seem to be a formidable force to be reckoned with, no less so if joined with federations, possible sponsors and chess communities in general, hopefully forcing FIDE to become compatible with the needs of the chess world a since without players, members or federations, there is no FIDE.

“Sins of omission”, occur when we knowingly abort or veto impulses we know we should not. One purpose of consciousness is precisely to help us make the right decisions even if uncomfortable or difficult. The perceptive reader will long since have realised that our “will” is at work only in the vetoing and not in the triggering, this having serious consequences when it comes to accomplishing anything within FIDE. Even if players, communities, federations and possible sponsors are encouraged to stop feeling paralysed and synchronize their perception of this situation and pull in the same direction at the same time, we now understood this cannot be forced by acts of volition.

But since quite a few currently are unpleased with the situation have now followed this line of logic, a reasonable assumption is that some impulses might be triggered into some non-vetoed actions to deal with the predicament.

So, where does this leave us? What alternatives are there?

Three options only appear possible:

  1. Hoping for a miracle within the wiring of FIDE (since this cannot be done by acts of volition on the part of FIDE or by anyone else)

  2. Those who do not hold much hope for miracles may work for replacing the current FIDE officials with others who seem to have with a better interplay between brain and consciousness,


  3. Those able to synchronize their understanding and perception of the situation will take actions to create a new, restructured governing body run by people knowing what they’re doing actually working on behalf of, instead of against, chess players, chess communities and federations all over the world.

The first two options do not hold much promise though the third, combining common sense, courage and perceptiveness with an understanding of what is at stake may inspire some seriously constructive actions taking as its point of departure a shared exformation (values, outlook) context.

We live in a fast moving world where increasing moral relativism and fragmentation makes it more urgent than ever to find common ground in steadfast values and norms. A widespread misconception is that reality is hard and values are soft, but rather on the contrary, values need to be firm, irrespective of possible profit. Corporate business companies have discovered that customers find it easier to relate to them when acknowledging steadfast values or beliefs instead of being turncoats. Therefore, the sooner players and representatives declare and agree on values and norms the sooner democracy, transparency and predictability may be restored in the chess world (Read: FIDE).

Copyright Rune Vik-Hansen, 2009-08-17

About the author

Born in 1968, Rune Vik-Hansen graduated from the University of Tromsø in 1999 with a thesis on Heidegger's concept of Dasein. Other fields of interests are metaphysics, ontology, theory of science and political ethics.

Besides having worked as a teacher on different levels, Vik-Hansen also writes philosophical texts, chronicles, papers and essays as well as children’s literature.

He is currently actively involved as a mentor on writing, philosophy and chess projects with school children in New York City.

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


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