Russian Women's team out of Olympiad

by Albert Silver
7/17/2014 – Shocking news: the organisers of the Chess Olympiad in Tromsø have informed FIDE that federations that did not meet the June 1st deadline for registration had been excluded from the Olympiad. One of these is the Russian Women's team! FIDE Vice President Israel Gelfer has mysteriously blamed Garry Kasparov for this development and advocates cancelling the Olympiad.

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Russian Women's National Team Excluded

The Russia women, reigning Women’s Champions in the previous two Olympiads, are set to miss this year's Olympiad in Tromsø due to the failure of the Russian Chess Federation to submit their team line-up before the deadline set by FIDE. The World Chess Federation has protested and even considered canceling the Olympiad, with the Russian Chess Federation threatening to take the Olympiad organisers to court.

The mighty Russian team won gold in both 2010 and 2012

Needless to say, this has created enormous turmoil and consternation in the chess community, and the question is how this happened and why. The regulations for registering a team in the Olympiad, including the deadlines, are neither new, nor convoluted. As such, the Russian Chess Federation has explained that in full accordance with paragraph 3.6.1 of the Chess Olympiad regulations, it had promptly sent a request for participation of men and women's national teams – before April 1, 2014. However, this is but the first, albeit necessary, step to include a team in the event.

The next step, whose deadline was on June 1st, is to send the organizers the list of players and delegation members who are to be representing the nation. This was done in full for the Russian Men's team, but not the Women's, and on July 16, the Chess Olympiad organizers informed the Russian Chess Federation that for missing the June 1st deadline to send the list, the Women's team was out.

The open letter announcing the decision

On its end, the Russian Chess Federation has drawn attention to the fact that there are no penalties provided for failing to comply with paragraph 3.6.1. Moreover, paragraph 3.7.2 states that late inscriptions for players or delegation members is allowed, up to 20 hours before the start of the event. In this case, a late charge of 100 Euros is applied to each such player or delegation member. It is not immediately clear whether the late inscription mentioned is to replace a player as opposed to just adding a new one.

Furthermore, on July 7, 2014, the organizing committee billed the RCF for the registration of ten players, two attendants, the two team captains, two coaches and the head of delegation (a total of seventeen people) for the amount of 13,600 Euros. This bill was promptly paid for by the Russian Chess Federation and was received by the organizers. As a result of this, the RCF claims that the organizing committee has no legal grounds to ban the Russian Women's team from participating in the Olympics in Tromsø.

In Bergamo at the ACP Golden Classic tournament, Israel Gelfer, FIDE Vice President, had strong words on the incident:

In the video FIDE Vice President Israel Gelfer states:

"The organisers of Tromsø are very disappointing, they are causing a lot of problems to FIDE and to the whole world of chess. Unfortunately the Organizing Committee is influenced by people who are working for Garry Kasparov; they are using it for their election purposes; they are denying visas for our people, they are denying invitations from federations; they are not respecting the FIDE President's decisions which is very clear according to regulations. FIDE has to consider now very, very strict or strong measures against them. We are still considering what to do. But we are very disappointed at their behavior, and from the way they are handling all the preparations."

The accusation of Garry Kasparov is both quite serious, and equally strange. After all, what could the former World Champion possibly gain by preventing the Russian Women's team from competing? In effect, when we asked the Kasparov Campaign about the statement they seemed quite baffled and asked us in return to name possible grounds for Kasparov's involvement. Furthermore they invited us to consider why the Russian Chess Federation had missed the deadline – which we have done, further below.

The reference to the lack of respect for the FIDE President's decisions, stems from article 6.1 in the regulations that grants the FIDE President the right to make the final decision on all matters relating to the Olympics as a whole. This point is one the Norwegian organizers take issue with, as stated in the open letter:

If the Fide President is of the opinion that the OR point 6.1 gives him the general power to change regulations singlehandedly three weeks before the Olympiad takes place, we strongly object. Even more, we object to such an interpretation when the purpose is to secure participation from a team coming from his own federation.

RCF has announced its readiness to appeal the organizing committee's decision in court.

The organizers all signed the open letter, which we are told was done after a unanimous vote had been taken, reached after month-long conversations with the RCF, with FIDE, and internally. The letter to FIDE makes no mention of the Russian women's team (other than in the context of FIDE pressuring them about it), saying only all teams that didn't make the deadline can't play. Clearly no exceptions can be made for a single major federation.

In the video interview above Gelfer goes on to say:

"We don't know yet, because just now we were informed that they refused several federations which are late in registration, in spite of the President accepting them – according to the Olympiad regulations Article 6.1 it lies in the hands of the FIDE President – they ignored his letters, and FIDE is now considering very strong matters – legal matters. I would even have recommended to cancel the Olympiad, if it is necessary, because their behaviour is unacceptable."

The Lagno connection

The question that comes to mind is of course why the Russian Chess Federation allowed the deadline to pass without registering the women's team, while the men's team was sent in well in time. Well, it's an open secret that the Russians have been trying to strengthen their female squad with GM Kateryna Lagno, currently number seven in the world, ahead of any Russian women. Katya, however, hails from Ukraine, and the Chess Federation of that country registered a protest with FIDE:

The Ukrainian Chess Federation became aware of the fact that the Russian Chess Federation has made an illegal attempt to register the Ukrainian chess player Ms. Lagno for participation in 2014 Chess Olympiad in Tromso as a member of the Russian Chess Federation team. Moreover, we are cognizant of the pressure exercised by the Executive Director of FIDE Mr. Freeman in this regard, favoring the extension of the deadline [July 1 2014] to enable such a registration.

As of today Kateryna Lagno is an official member of the Ukrainian Chess Federation. Following all FIDE procedures and time schedules Ms. Lagno has been duly included into the Ukrainian national team for participation in the 2014 Chess Olympiad in Tromso. There is no legal ground for transferring of Ms. Lagno from the Ukrainian Chess Federation to any other federation. The matter is under consideration with the status quo retained.

Kateryna Lagno, a former child prodigy, won a bronze medal with the Ukrainian team at the Istanbul Olympiad. She was briefly married to French GM Robert Fontaine, moved to Russia after the breakup and applied for membership in the RCF. "I wish to stress that my changing federations is in no way connected to the political situation in Ukraine," she said, "and I don't have and have ever had any conflicts with the Ukrainian Chess Federation. No one was pushing or pulling me, and the fact that I want to change my federation, together with changing my residence, has been known for a year." Her transfer has been pushed through, with a €20,000 compensation for the Ukrainian Chess Federation and a €5,000 for FIDE. Kateryna is is eligible to participate under the new flag starting from July 12, 2014. QED.

The urgency of Lagno's inclusion in the Russian Women's team is highlighted by fact that two of the strongest Russian females, GMs Nadezhda and Tatiana Kosintseva, refuse to play on the team. As far as we know they are not available for the Tromsø Olympiad.

Important links

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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