Never Ending Saga of Moroccan Chess - Part II

by Diana Mihajlova
10/28/2023 – The first part of the "Never Ending Saga of Moroccan Chess" described the dubious practices of Moustapha Amazzal, the President of the Moroccan Chess Federation. The second part describes how FIDE renewed its trust in Mr Amazzal and why Lithuanian GM Paulius Pultinevicius and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and other prizewinners of the 4th International Prix Mohammed VI tournament that took place in August 2023 are still waiting for their prize money. | Photo: Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca | Source: Brochure of the 4. International Prix Mohammed VI tournament brochure

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Amazzal Reinstated as President of FRME

At the FIDE 2020 General Assembly Morocco was the only one among the 196 delegates that had no voting power because they had no president. The last president, Mr Amazzal, had been stripped from power by FIDE for non-compliance with articles 11c and 11q of the Fide charter. But on February 20, 2023, inexplicably, FIDE restored his position even though the reasons for which he was previously not recognised as president still persisted. 

Moroccan chess enthusiasts who have been fighting tirelessly to give a chance again to chess in their country had pinned all their hopes on the FIDE's intervention believing that it would help establish order based on democratic principles. They regarded FIDE as their saviour and trusted that they would be rescued and conditions for normality would be created. However, the unimaginable happened: FIDE sided with Mr Amazzal.

The Moroccan chess rebellion against Amazzal have created online community groups to unite and exchange notes regarding the unfortunate climate in which Moroccan chess crumbles. One such group is called SOS FRME and operates on WhatsApp, the other one, Moroccan Chess Family, has a Facebook page.

Moroccan Chess Family

A report highlighting the state of Moroccan chess was put on the agenda of the FIDE Constitutional Commission's meeting held in Belgrade on the 4th and 5th February, 2023. It can be read here, on page 8.

The core of the matter is stated in the following exerpt:

In full accordance with the recommendations …, considering, from one side, the relevant improvement of chess activities in Morocco and the full cooperation and good intents expressed by the RCMF, from another side the importance to continue FIDE support to the RCMF, the CC advises the Council to act as follows:

- to not extend the mandate of the FIDE reverse delegate, this way all rights and duties, related to FIDE membership, will revert to a fully recognised RCMF.

Any chance for a new, democratically elected management of the Moroccan Chess Federation was squashed. FIDE was happy to forget and forgive Amazzal's past misdeeds because he (RCMF) 'expressed good intents'. An officially proclaimed embezzler, previously banned by FIDE for faking arbiters' norms, previously stripped by FIDE from his presidential duties, decried by players for prevented rating opportunities, unpaid funds, unfair treatment, long-term arbitrary banishments, investigated by the Moroccan Supreme Court for appropriating public funds and recently sentenced to a prison term for breach of trust was aided back on the throne.

Moroccan players' hopes that FIDE would lift the oppression under which they languished for years and help them play and earn prizes and norms in a dignified chess environment were thwarted. FIDE slapped them in the face by restoring powers to their tormentor.

Amazzal, Dvorkovich and Bologan accompanied by Amazzal's friends and former ministerial colleagues, Lahcen Taghda (far left) and Abdelmoula Lemsioui (far right) at the Francophone Chess Association's (AIDEF) meeting in Casablanca, July 2022 | Photo: AIDEF

It was also decided to nominate a "FIDE special envoy", for one year, charged with monitoring the compliance of the RMCF with the recommendations listed in the report. This role was assigned to Mr Batikh Tahar (TUN), a former member of the FIDE Council.

The reinstatement of FRME and its president was formally confirmed by FIDE's Legal Director and came officially in force on 20th February, 2023. (See the PDF of the document.)

The following day, 21st February, the legal proceedings mounted against Mr Amazzal concluded with a judgment: six month imprisonment for breach of trust.

Checkmate: Justice has ruled!

The above photo and caption are from the front page of the Moroccan sports newspaper SportPro. The article starts with 'The verdict is in!' and elaborates how justice has finally caught up with Amazzal.

It doesn't matter that Amazzal has been convicted for breach of trust by the Moroccan courts or that he had lost the Moroccan chess community's trust a long time ago. What matters is that FIDE trusts him!

  International Prix Mohammed VI Tournament

A production company from Canada, 'Checkmate Entertainment', was interested in sponsoring a high-profile chess tournament in Morocco, for filming content. As befits, they got in touch with the Moroccan Chess Federation. Mr Amazzal, now a fully-fledged, newly recognized president of the Federation, embraced the opportunity and convinced Checkmate Entertainment to sponsor the fourth edition of the International Prix Mohammed VI. The event would be composed of two sections: 'Crown', reserved to titled players and players with a rating above 2200 and an Open tournament for players rated under 2200. In full trust, they handed Mr Amazzal a generous fund of 2,500 000 MAD (approx: 233 000 euro) to cover the expenses for the Crown section, prizes included, against the right to invite specific players and to film without restrictions. The Moroccan Chess Federation would be the official organizer and Salim Belcadi, a representative of Checkmate Entertainment, would be Tournament Director ("TD").

GM Hichem Hamdouchi, the Moroccan chess hero is interviewed by the local press | Photo: FRME Facebook page

Once a substantial amount of money found its way into his hands, Mr Amazzal did what he knew best. The tournament took place but two months after the tournament ended, prizes to winners, salaries to arbiters and expenses to hotels are yet to be paid.

What happened with the 2,500 000 MAD sponsorship?

IA Stéphane Escafre and FIDE Arbiter WGM Adina Hamdouchi | Photo: FRME Facebook page

Already at the beginning of the cooperation, Amazzal deviated from the original plan. Initially, the tournament was set to take place in Rabat. Belcadi travelled to Rabat to conduct a due diligence on the venue, the accommodation and the restauration plans for invited players. However, a few days before the start and without any prior consultation, Amazzal informed Checkmate Entertainment that the tournament would take place in Casablanca. Apparently, he had  found hotels and a venue for terms and prices more favorable to FRME. Despite the unexpected organizational challenges, Checkmate Entertainment and Mr Belcadi adapted their plans but requested that the Crown section be held in Hotel Farah, where the professional players would play in acceptable conditions.

The original and modified front pages of the tournament's brochure

(Here's a pdf-file of the brochure.)

More surprises were on the way.

Despite the TD’s advice, Amazzal admitted in the Open a much greater number of participants than originally agreed, which made the tournament's format and the playing hall unsuitable. FRME finalised the players list only a few hours before the tournament, and the exceptionally high number of participants (close to 500) prompted Mr Belcadi and the arbiters to increase the number of rounds to 13 to protect the integrity of the event. About 100 players withdrew because of the sudden changes, the poor playing conditions in the selected venue, and the lack of communication from FRME.

Only a day before the start, about seventy players discovered that they had been removed from the list of participants in the Open, without any warning, even though they had paid the entry fees. It transpired that these players in the past showed opposition to Amazzal. Neither the ones that voluntarily withdrew nor the ones that were removed by the organizer ever received their entry fees back (approximately 20 euro).

Some that were lucky to receive any reply were told that their fees were not received. However, many have provided proof that the fees were timely received.

Mohammed Amine Essaheb, one of the 'removed' players, was given an implausible reason for his exclusion from the tournament. Mohammed provided the following statement:

I was unfairly excluded from participating in the Mohamed VI Open even though I registered several weeks ago and paid the entry fee required by the organizers. I only learnt of my exclusion one day from the start of the tournament.

I asked the federation for the reason and they replied that it was at the request of the club with which I was affiliated. The president of the club denies having made any such request. Furthermore, my membership in the club had expired more than 6 months ago. I requested a refund of the entry fee but so far I have received no reply.

Mohammed Amine Essaheb, denied participation for unclear reasons | Photo: Essaheb's Facebook page

Winners in both sections were told that their prize money would be sent by bank transfer. As after several weeks prizes were not yet received players attempted to query the organizer. However, the federation's phone numbers were not working and they received no replies to their emails.  

The winner, GM Paulius Pultinevicius (LTU) got the cup but not the 10,000 USD prize money | Photo: FRME Facebook page

GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov's manager, Rustam Najafov, is indignant that his client was subjected to such poor treatment. He stated the following:

I would like to confirm that Shakhriyar participated and took second place in the mentioned event. We would be happy if making this public could help to get the promised prizes. It is a shame to invite such players and not fulfill obligations.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, not spared from Amazzal's disrespect | Photo: FRME Facebook page

The tournament director, Salim Belcadi, a well-respected chess organizer from Canada, a business owner, and the current president of the very popular Toronto Annex Chess Club is frustrated by FRME’s delay in honoring prizes and expenses incurred by the event.

Joy before the storm: (from left:) FM Mahdi Ouakhir, GM Hichem Hamdouchi, GM Jean Pierre LeRoux, GM Alexei Shirov, WGM Adina Hamdouchi and IM Sophie Milliet. | Photo: Facebook page of Alexei Shirov

Mr Belcadi says:

I am both surprised and saddened by FRME's failure to honor its commitment in a timely fashion. I hope for a swift resolution, ensuring that all concerned parties receive their due payments without further delay. The more pressing concerns are the prize money for the deserving winners, and the wages of the dedicated arbiters who ensured fair play and the smooth running of the competition.

Salim Belcadi | Photo: Annex Chess Club

In the meantime, the Farah hotel's management wrote a letter of complaint to the Minister for Sports. They also engaged lawyers to start legal proceedings in order to recover more than 1,300 000 MAD (approx: 120.300 euro) for expenses incurred by their four hotels that provided services to the FRME.

Participants enjoyed the Moroccan hospitality at the Farah hotel | Photo: Farah Hotel

But who is going to assist the players to recover their prize money? Perhaps FIDE's Ethics & Disciplinary Commission?

FIDE owes some answers to both the Moroccan and the international chess community.

Recently I received an email message from a young Moroccan chess player. He has read the earlier reports published on ChessBase and thanked me for 'trying to help'. But he adds: 'It is all very well that you got statements from Moroccan IMs and GM Hamdouchi but no one considers how we, the Moroccan chess youth, have been damaged by Amazzal's crimes against humanity.'

This strong, metaphoric expression by this young man shows the extent  to which Moroccan players feel hurt  by their federation's president. 


A former university lecturer in Romance philology, she is currently a painter as well as a chess journalist, and reports regularly from the international tournament scene.