Ilyumzhinov reiterates: we should not mix sport and politics

by ChessBase
8/20/2008 – Recently a number of participants in the World Women's Championship appealed to FIDE to have it moved away from a region of armed conflict. FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the ECU and the organizers have appealed to the players not to politicize the event. Now Ilyumzhinov gives further assurances. Here's his latest message and letters from participants and readers.

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Elista, 19 August, 2008

Statement of FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

Dear chess friends!

During last several days I have received a number of letters, including an open letter from six Georgian chess players in respect of a possible change of a venue and dates of the World Women's Chess Championship. As you know, the championship is scheduled to take place from 28 August to 18 September in Nalchik, capital of Kabardino Balkaria.

I have already expressed my opinion several days ago. I reiterate: we should not mix sports and politics, and should not involve FIDE into various disputes and arguments. Once again I express most sincere condolences to all victims of the humanitarian catastrophy.

As a response of the Georgian Chess Federation I would like to note that there are not any grounds for such a change. The Organisers have undertaken all necessary steps and carried out a good preparation and are ready to host all the guests. It is not their fault that blood was shed. We can't help taking into consideration interests of other participants, who purchased the tickets and are practically on the way to the venue of the tournament. But, first and foremost, the interest of lots of admirers of the talent of chess players should not suffer, as they are looking forward to the start of the Championship.

I fully realise all complexity of this situation, I call on all participants, trainers, officials, guests and journalists – all without any exception – to come to Nalchik and show in fact, and not in words – that we are one family.

Gens Una Sumus

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

Dear Colleagues!

The current situation and the tragic events taking place in recent times in Georgia have motivated me to draw your attention to impatrial, objective information broadcast by the international mass media.

We suppose the delivered information makes it clear to you why the Georgian lady chess players (Maia Chiburdanidze, Lela Javakhishvili, Sopio Gvetadze, Maia Lomineishvili, Sopiko Khukhashvili, Nino Khurtsidze) refused to participate in the World Championship planned to be held in Nalchik, Russian Federation.

We greatly hope on your support and compassion.

With deep respect
Mr. Giorgi Giorgadze
President of the Georgian
Chess Federation

Dear ChessBase,

I would like to remark that when FIDE and the Organizing Comitee write that the open letter was written by Georgian chess players they never say that it was later signed by eight more players from different countrys. They all agree with us 100%, that this champioship should be moved to another place. Here are their names:

  1. Irina Krush, USA
  2. Claudia Amura, Argentina
  3. Monica Socko, Poland
  4. Iweta Rajlich, Poland
  5. Anna Gasik, Poland
  6. Ketino Kachiani-Gersinska
  7. Tea Lanchava-Bosboom, The Netherlands
  8. Marie Sebag, France

These are playes whom we were able to contact. I'm sure that if we had the emails of others they would suport us as well. So, please, if you have a chance, ask them to contact us at one of the following addresses:

Many thanks and best regards
IM Maia Lomineishvili, Georgia

Opinions from our readers

We have included all legible and reasonable (some borderline) letters we received from our readers. Naturally the views expressed in them do not represent the views of our editorial staff. We have not selected, filtered or edited the letters to reflect any specific viewpoints. Only gratuitously insulting passages, as always, were removed. We also list the letters in the order in which they were received (oldest first).

Sriram Girish, Chennai, India
Excuse me? Do not mix sports and politics? Fine, Mr. Ilyumzhinov, I'd like to see you playing chess amidst gunfire on the Indo-Pak border, or in the midst of clashes between Israel and Palestine. It's all fine and dandy to talk noble, sitting in the comforts of your elaborately decked up office. I understand if there's been too much money invested in organising this event in Nalchik, but the least Mr. Ilyumzhinov could do is guarantee the safety of the players. If not by actions then at least in words. Instead, we have such a farcical letter. And the last line about everyone being one family – don't know why, but that's the corniest line I've come across in quite a while now. No prizes then, for guessing why FIDE isn't exactly the most popular apex sporting body around.

Jack Harris, Texas, USA
The Women's World Championship should be moved to someplace besides Russia. The failure to do this proves that the FIDE and Kirsan Ilyumzhinov are not interested in the safety of all the participants!

Nick Schober, Twin Lakes, USA
It is exactly this kind of utopian attitude that causes athletes to loose their lives. The attitude that sport will always overcome political, religious, and other prejudices is a lofty ideal but it has proven fatal in the past. I remember full well watching the Munich Olympics. Deliberately putting people's lives in jeopardy is absolutely stupid. I think all the players should boycott until the FIDE comes to their senses. If anything truly "interesting" does happen, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov should be held personally responsible for his turning a blind eye to the situation at hand. I realize there will be responses from the FIDE and others about how they have assessed the situation and are confident that the event will be fine. And it may truly be uneventful. But I feel it is ridiculous to put people in any environment or situation that is as volatile as this.

Shiv Mathur, Mumbai, India
How blatantly these 'politicians' use these catch-phrases to suit their own arguments. "Do not mix politics and sport" – lovely, sounds wonderful. But they are NOT mixing politics and sports – they are mixing staying alive and sport. Their misgivings are nothing to do with 'politics', and it is callous, insensitive and cussed to say that it is.

Nathan Bauman, Coquitlam, BC, Canada
A lengthy quotation on your page "Ilyumzhinov: Do not mix politics and sport" constitutes intellectual dishonesty on the part of the person who made it. The quotation is attributed by Natalia Khoudgarian to Foreign Affairs Canada. Aside from errors in grammar and spelling, which were not present in the original, the phrase "despite this warning are taking serious and unwarranted risks" in the second paragraph of the original is repeated by Ms. Khoudgarian in the first paragraph after the words "neighbouring North Caucasus."

However, a look at the actual Canadian government document indicates that the phrase in question refers only to Chechnya, not the entire North Caucasus region: "Canadians contemplating travel to Chechnya despite this warning are taking serious and unwarranted risks." The entire original quotation can be read here.

If your quotation of Natalia Khoudgarian's quotation of a government document is accurate, then Ms. Khoudgarian appears to be lying about a document of the government of Canada. This is all the more egregious because in this age of computer technology, longer quotations can be conveyed simply and completely accurately using the "copy and paste" method. I believe you owe your readers some indication of this apparent act of dishonesty on the part of Ms. Khoudgarian.

Lonnie Kwartler, Chester, NY, USA
The message from the FIDE president seems to extend condolences to South Ossetia rather than, as he says, "to all who have become victims of this terrible tragedy." This contradicts his "appeal to all not to mix politics and sport."

Philip Feeley, Vancouver, Canada
I'm a little confused. Did Mr. Ilyumshinov even read their letter? How does telling them not to mix politics and sport (as if that were possible!) going to allay their (very real) fears? Their concern is justified, and both these officials hiding behind a cliche is outrageous. There will be more to this, I'm sure.

Anton Taylor, Kentucky, United States
FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has brought in political issues by hosting an international tournament in an unstable region. How can any player honestly say they aren't going to be negatively effected by holding the tournament in Nalchik? Kirsan states that security measures have been taken. Wouldn't it just be cheaper to hold the tournament somewhere else (rather than spending a fortune on ineffective security). Unless Mr. Ilyumzhinov is claiming that FIDE has a standing army to combat invaders? I think we can all see that the security measures he mentions are just empty assurances.

Whether or not there is financial motivation in the actions of FIDE in supporting this 'go ahead' is unclear but from the point of view of the general public it certain seems that way. It is scandalous to support holding the tournament in Nalchik. It would make more business sense for FIDE to distance itself from the political issues and move the tournament elsewhere. It's not about expressing political views ... it's an issue of personal safety. After all, Russian Chessplayers aren't immune to Russian bombs. They too should be concerned.

FM Eric Peterson, PhD, Slovakia
The response by FIDE to the concerns of many women chess players shows a complete lack of concern for the worries and the safety of the players. The attempt to make headlines with phrases such as "Do not mix politics and chess" is ridiculous! The players are not concerned about politics and the request to move the event has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with personal safety. Chess is important, but it is not worth risking your safety and health. FIDE doesn't seem to have any idea why the players are concerned. FIDE is implying that the players are expressing political opinions, instead of understandable concerns about security. I hope Chessbase will publish replies to FIDE's insensitive public statement.

James Jennings, Fairfax, USA
The non-Russian members of FIDE have no-one but themselves to blame for this ludicrous scheduling of a major chess tournament, much less a women's tournament, in such a dangerous place. When is FIDE going to throw the Russian Mafia thugs out of office. Or are you all afraid the Putin will cut of the oil and gas.

Michael Allard, Bowie, MD, USA
Mr. Kasparov adroitly raises critical issues for chess and politics: as they are intertwined. But again he errs in the notion of "democracy" being present anywhere on our planet. Alas, he is quite correct on rampant selfish aggression from both East and West and the moral stench surrounding the addiction to oil. I, along with others I'm sure, await proposed solutions to this mess from Mr. Kasparov.

Francisco Rivera, Cebu City, Philippines
They have a brilliant point for quiting such tournament. I coudn't believe why Kirsan Ilyumzhinov said that the chessboard is not the place for political games. It's not about politics, it is about WAR! With all due respect, sir, I know you used your personal money to guarantee the match of Kamsky and Topalov, which is highly appreciated. But I hope, sir, this time you use your common sense that the WAR there is inevitable.

Gerry McDonnell, Ireland
Kabardino-Balkaria contains the highest mountain in Europe, Mount Elbrus, approximately 5,650 meters high. I have been there while the neighboring Chechin wars were ongoing, and other mountaineering tourists continue to go there. I think that it is nonsense to say that it is "too dangerous" for a chess tournament. I hardly ever even saw police there, or saw or heard of any problem.

H. Cattoir, Belgium
Georgia, backed by the idea the US and some West European will help them, recently was attacking Ossetia, bombarding and killing civilians. An act normally punished by The Hague International Court. The reason: There president became very unpopular and tried a strategy used by some dictators. Alas, he didn't win and now he is screaming for help. I remember we where told the cold war was over, but instead I see the US positioned troops in most of East European, and even in Asian country's, damaging their independence. Probably to promote peace? I know Georgia still has monuments for Stalin (may be for Beria too?). I think it is the last country having them.

Anthony Migchels, Arnhem, The Netherlands
I assume that the reason you give all this political airtime to our former 'boss' is because he is the best player ever and chess owes him. Fair enough. But Georgia attacked South Ossetia. They killed thousands of civilians in a way that looks like ethnic cleansing. It took the Russians 24 hours to get their own action going. Georgia is infested with American and Israeli 'advisors' (teachers in killing). It is pathetic, that a little girl speaks more truth than the best player ever.

Johan Geyser, Johannesburg, South Africa
The recent statements by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Boris Kutin are a joke. On behalf of FIDE, Ilyumzhinov implores: "I appeal to all not to mix politics and sport". Mr Boris Kutin, from the European Chess Union is just as pathetic: "I would like to emphasize that mixing politics with sports is clearly against the spirit of the international chess community".
Have these two gentlemen just (conveniently) forgotten that this is just what FIDE did for many years to South Africa. By depriving SA's participation to international tournaments, FIDE effectively left South Africa with a backlog of achievement. And now these gentlemen deign it upon themselves to get on the high ground and inform us that this is not how FIDE operates!

Alexander von Gleich, Almaty, Kazakhstan
There are more important things in life than to push wooden pieces. This holds especially true if your country is occupied, the infrastructure destroyed and more than 100,000 refugees are looking for a home and food. Under these circumstances you cannot expect Georgian chessplayers to play in a tournament in Russia, when at the same time Russian troops occupy your country – as if nothing had happened. The statement of the European Chess Union lacks both knowledge and minimum understanding of the conflict, and the situation in which Georgian chessplayers are.
It is not about supporting politics but the fear for their beloved ones and the future of the country.

James Satrapa, Canberra
Kabardino-Balkaria is inside Russia and is not a trouble spot, and hence very unlikely to be a source of danger for chess players. The pressure to move the tournament seems to be more about punishing Russia than about ensuring the safety of the players.


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