Reactions to the decision of the FIDE Ethics Commission

by André Schulz
6/13/2024 – The FIDE Ethics Commission is threatening to expel the Russian Chess Federation from FIDE for, among other things, organising chess tournaments in areas of Ukraine occupied by Russia in violation of international law. It has also reprimanded FIDE President Arkadij Dvorkovich for his close ties to sanctioned members of the Russian government. Unsurprisingly, Russia criticised the Ethics Commission's decision.

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In Soviet times chess and the chess successes of Soviet grandmasters were of great importance and very political. The Soviet Grandmasters received a life pension and enjoyed great prestige in the country.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union this system collapsed too, but with the appointment of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and then Arkady Dvorkovich as presidents of the World Chess Federation, Russia has exercised and continues to exercise great influence in the world of chess and has for a long time also financed part of the international tournament scene through its oligarchic system and state-owned companies such as Gazprom. After the 2014 World Chess Championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand in Sochi, Vladimir Putin personally presented the trophy to the winner, Magnus Carlsen.

Tournaments in Russia and Russian chess successes have served to enhance the status of the Russian leadership and members of the government. People from the inner circle, such as Vladimir Peskov, Putin's spokesman, or Sergei Shoigu, until recently Russia's defence minister, are members of the supervisory board of the Russian Chess Federation, which is headed by the oligarch Andrey Filatov.

Russia's attack on Ukraine in February also changed many things to the detriment of Russian chess. Russian players were still allowed to play in international competitions organised by FIDE, but not under the Russian flag. Russia was excluded from team tournaments. In the European Chess Union the sanctions were even harsher, and the Russian Chess Federation took the consequences and switched to the Asian Chess Federation. 

In 2022, Arkady Dvorkovich was re-elected as President by a large majority of delegates at the FIDE General Assembly, but the sanctions against Russia have prevented him from exercising his office everywhere. For example, he was not present at the Candidates Tournament in Toronto. Apparently, Dvorkovich had decided not to apply for a visa because he expected that it would not be granted.

One of the most consistent critics of FIDE is Peter Heine Nielsen, who, together with Andrey Baryshpolets and another person, filed a complaint with the FIDE Ethics Committee against the Russian Chess Federation and Arkady Dvorkovich for violating FIDE guidelines due to their close ties to the Russian government, whose members and supporters are all on the sanctions lists. The FIDE Ethics Commission has investigated the case and found in favour of the complainants. 

The Ethics Committee wants to suspend Russia's membership in FIDE for two years if the Russian Chess Federation does not cease its activities in the occupied territories and remove the sanctioned persons from its Board. The Russian Chess Federation will certainly not be able to fulfil these conditions without losing face. Dvorkovich was also reprimanded.

Since the governing bodies of international sports organisations tend to take a very "pragmatic" approach to maintaining and financing their activities, the decision of FIDE's Ethics Commission came as something of a surprise. After all, it had reprimanded its own president.

Naturally, the decision did not go down well in Russia. Andrey Filatov issued a statement on behalf of the Russian Chess Federation, calling the decision "politically motivated" and saying that the FIDE Ethics Committee had exceeded its authority. Sport and politics should not be mixed, Filatov said. The Russian Chess Federation intends to appeal.

In an interview with the Russian news agency TASS, Arkady Dvorkovich explained that he wanted to have the jurisdiction of the FIDE Ethics Committee examined at the next FIDE General Assembly during the Chess Olympiad in Budapest in September. The committee, incidentally, consisted of only three people, one of whom was not entitled to vote. The tournaments organised by the Russian Chess Federation in the occupied territories were of a purely humanitarian, non-political nature and were not rated by Elo.

Sergey Karjakin has also spoken out, calling for the establishment of an alternative international chess federation.

The statement of Andrey Filatov, President of the Russian Chess Federation, on the decision of the FIDE Ethics Commission:

Statement by the Russian Chess Federation on the decision of the FIDE Ethics Commission

The Russian Chess Federation considers the decision of the FIDE Ethics Commission to be opportunistic, politically motivated and discriminatory towards Russian chess players. The Russian Chess Federation will continue to fight for the rights of Russian players.

The Russian Chess Federation believes that the FIDE Ethics Commission has exceeded its powers. The question of the powers of the Ethics Commission will be discussed at the FIDE General Assembly to be held in Budapest in September 2024. The General Assembly is the supreme legislative and executive body of the International Chess Federation. Its decisions are binding on the executive and legislative bodies of FIDE.

The Russian Chess Federation has not violated the FIDE Code of Ethics. The CFR is not involved in political activities, but in the development of chess. We are convinced that the organisation of chess tournaments, for which the CFR is directly responsible, cannot be a reason to impose sanctions on the CFR and Russian athletes.

There are many conflicts in the world, and sport, including chess, should not be mixed with politics. The task of sports organisations is to bring people together, not to divide them. This principle guides the activities of the Russian Chess Federation.

Andrey Filatov, President of the Russian Chess Federation

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André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.
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