The Barcza Memorial Tournament Scandal

by ChessBase
4/11/2009 – It was scheduled to go from April 6th to 17th, and players had already arrived in Budapest – some from as far away as India. IMs had to pay a hefty starting fee, 600 Euros, in addition to their flights. Round one was played, but then the hosting hotel shut down the event since no expenses were being paid. Two victims of this scandal and the Hungarian Chess Federation give their views.

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II Gedeon Barcza Memorial cancelled

This tournament was scheduled to take place in Budapest from April 6th-17th, 2009. It was cancelled after just one round. what exactly transpired is described in messages and open letters by different expectant participants in the event. We begin with a letter by GM Evgeny Postny to IM Yochanan Afek in Israel:


The only picture we found of Gabor Pali appeared in this year's Gibraltar Chess Festival and was taken by John Saunders. Pali also appears to have a Hungarian Facebook page.

The II Gedeon Barcza Memorial tournament got cancelled after the first round! In brief I can tell you that the young organizer Gabor Pali (only 25-26 years old) already had a bad reputation. I know at least about one his tournament which got cancelled before it started (I got this information from Krasenkow). I personally already played in his tournament in 2004 (category 9), also Sergey Erenburg played there, and the tournament was running more or less smoothly, even though we were running after Gabor Pali every day to get our appearence fees untill the end of last round.

So, I personally knew that this organizer is not reliable, but I still decided to give him a chance, as I didn't find any other event to play in April, and also I've been many times in Budapest before, and enjoy the city quite much. Last year in October, he organised 1st Barcza Memorial, and the tournament went okay. Oleg Romanishin told us that he paid everything at that tourney. But, it appeared that this time the guy has no money at all. He didn't book the hotel in advance (a superb Ramada resort hotel on the north edge of Budapest Pest side). He took all the receipts from all participants (flights, taxis, some other) and promised to give the money later. In the hotel he also promised something, told untrue stories about the sponsor.

On the day of second round the chief hotel manager urged him to pay immediatly. By the way, hotel offered him huge discount, but he didn't pay either. His credit card has 0 Forints on it, we checked in the bank. We were at his flat, he called some friends and relatives, but nobody wanted to give him money. This kind of situation is impossible to figure out for a "normal" person. It is impossible, at least for me, to understand his logic. He paid nothing, didn't get any money from the sponsor, and didn't run away from the city. He just said that he will pay at a certain date, at a certain hour, a certain sum to a person – all lies, of course. All players met him either together or separately, and he always came without money.

So, he is still here, not really concerning that he will be banned by the Federation, kicked out of his club, probably even go to jail, and that such tough guys as Ivan Sokolov will do everything to get all the money back. As far as I know, all players have already gone home, including Gopal from India who, I guess, is the biggest victim in this story, due to his expensive travel. And not to forget that all young International Masters paid entry fees. Yesterday, we met Gabor Pali and forced him to write some paper where he is obliged to pay to each one of us 600 Euros, by the 16th of April latest. We already agreed with some reliable person who will be ready to pick up the money from him and send it to us. But, I really doubt that Gabor Pali will ever pay something. I think I am the only foreign player who is still in Budapest, perhaps I will go by train to Berlin in one of the following days. Now, I can only say special thanks to Adam Gyorgy who kindly offered his flat free to me, Victor Mikhalevski and Romanishin after we had to leave the hotel.

So, the whole story is very sad, especially when Gabor Pali dared to call this tournament 2nd Barcza Memorial. I suppose that Victor Mikhalevski is already at his home, you can probably get some additional information from him as well.

With kind regards and hopes for some more positive chess events in future.

IM Robert Ris was one of the victims of the failed Barcza Memorial tournament. He sent the following letter to all chess news sites and blogs:

Open Letter regarding the Barcza Memorial Scandal

IM Robert Ris

Thursday 9th April 2009

A few months ago I found out that in April 2009, there would be organized in Budapest a 2nd edition of Barcza Memorial (after reading the story you will understand why there is no tournament site of such strong tournament anymore!). I noticed an email address of the organizer, Mr. Pali, and decided to write him if there would be a possibility for me to participate. Unfortunately, I didn't get any reply, until 2 weeks before the tournament was scheduled. His invitation came quite unexpectedly for me, but I was very glad to get the chance to play in a Cat. 13 tournament, although I had to pay a huge entry fee (600 euro) + flight ticket (320 euro) all myself.

I started my trip Sunday 5 april. Due to late booking I couldn't get a direct flight to Budapest, so I had to make a short transfer in Prague. Arriving there, I decided to check my phone, and saw to my big surprise 3 missed calls from GM Ivan Sokolov, one of the players in the tournament. I called him back, and he told me he arrived at the hotel ( also playing venue) and wanted to check-in, but when informing the reception he came here for the chess tournament nobody understood where he was talking about. According to the hotel manager, Mr. Pali started negotiations a few months ago, but they were stopped early without signing any contract.

Mr. Sokolov informed me that it looked highly unlikely that there would be held a tournament, so the best thing I could do, he advised me, was taking a taxi and booking a room 1 night on my own expense.

After off-loading my luggage in Budapest I was surprised that Mr. Pali picked me up. He told me immediately that the first night I couldn't stay in the hotel, since it was overbooked. After the opening ceremony where all players, but Sokolov were, who was even not informed about the location, he therefore decided to drop me and a few other players in another hotel for 1 night and transfer us next morning.

The next day we checked-out and went to the other hotel. The playing conditions looked really excellent. Everything seemed to be ready for a nice and competitive event.

The 1st round went quite smoothly, despite the slight delay at the beginning of the round. It seemed that all small problems were more or less solved, but in fact they just started...

Next day, 5 minutes before the start of 2nd round, Mr. Pali arrived in the hotel and announced to the players that the 2nd round would be delayed for 1 hour, without mentioning any reason. To me all things were quite clear already, since the hotel management even didn't want to open the conference hall, where we were supposed to play. It was obvious that Mr. Pali hadn't paid anything to the hotel yet. Players decided to relax in the lobby while Mr. Pali went to the bank. Coming back (of course nobody cared about the exact delaying time anymore) he showed some papers to the hotel- and sales manager. As I could read from their faces they were absolutely not satisfied what was going on and Mr. Pali left again, this time accompanied by the hotel manager. After a while they returned and Mr. Pali informed a few players that 'today we don't play, maybe tomorrow double round' while the hotel manager wisely added 'maybe tomorrow no games at all'. When hearing this from other participants I decided to have a serious talk with Mr. Pali. I explained him that the situation for me was absolutely unacceptable, paying a huge amount to play this tournament and being treated in such a way. Arguments from his side like that he lost potential sponsors in preparation of the tournament and he suffered from private problems, didn't convince me at all. Losing sponsors in January and inviting me in end of March lacks any logic. He simply didn't fulfill any of his promises we agreed before the tournament and I didn't see anything better than to withdraw myself from the tournament.

About 1 hour later the hotel manager informed all players that the organizer had absolutely no money, and so the tournament had to be cancelled. The hotel gave him a few chances by extending the deadline, but as the manager stated correctly: 'No money, no business.'

Tournament being cancelled is absolutely a pity, but what about the expenses all the players made? For me personally it means that I lost around 1000 euro's for playing only 1 game. Most of the other players only lost their flight ticket and some starting fee. During the first 2 days GMs Almasi and Sokolov asked many times Mr. Pali to pay their starting fee, but every time he found a bad excuse to delay the payment.

I am very interested what was the reason that Mr. Pali did all this to us. As the hotel manager explained Mr. Pali had absolutely no money to transfer. He lost some sponsors during the preparation of the tournament, but still the Hungarian Chess federation sent him some money ( I have been told 2,2 million forint which is about equal as 7300 euro) which he absolutely misused and/or kept for himself.

After all what happened, it was decided to put up a list with all expenses the players made and forced Mr. Pali to sign himself. As he couldn't escape he signed of course and promised me he would pay me in the morning at the airport. At 7.45 am I met him together with GMs Gopal and Rozentalis. Mr. Pali told me he transferred the money to my account, which was absolutely impossible, since the banks are closed until 8 am. I asked him to pay me cash, so we went to the local currency office. His willingness to pay me cash is already enough proof that he did not sent the money to my bank account! Coming there he explained us that he didn't have his card with him, so he couldn't pay me cash. Similar problems occurred with Gopal and Rozentalis who also didn't get anything. Coming back home I was really surprised to hear that Mr. Pali informed Mr. Sokolov that he partly paid me back! Absolutely a lie!

At last I would really like to thank family Ignacz, who showed great hospitality inviting me to stay with them, after being kicked out of the hotel. Family Ignacz did an excellent job by taking care about more chess players and helped putting up the list with expenses.

I would kindly ask FIDE and Hungarian Chess Federation to take appropriate measures against Mr. Pali so that he will be unable to organize any chess events in the future.

Kind regards,
Robert Ris
robert_ris (at)

Statement by the Hungarian Chess Federation


The Hungarian Chess Federation announces that it has never approved, supported, or promoted any so-called Barcza Memorial tournament or provided any financial support for such a tournament to its organizer Gabor Pali. The event which was announced and handled under suspicious circumstances is entirely the private effort of Gabor Pali. The Hungarian Chess Federation does not take any responsibility for the event and the actions of the organizer. The official tournament calendar of the HCF does not contain any Barcza memorial event. The Barcza Gedeon chess club denounces Pali's action and declares it as a private effort of a cheater.

Understanding from different sources that Pali deceived all the players registered for the event and the management of the venue, the Presidential Board of the Hungarian Chess Federation ordered yesterday a full-scale investigation of the situation and decided to take all the appropriate measurements against Gabor Pali, possibly including a police information action.

The Hungarian Chess Federation regrets that such a fraud could happen and already extended its help to any player who turned to the Federation. At the same time, the HCF announces the forbidding of Gabor Pali from organizing any chess event until the investigation is finished. The investigation may lead to further actions from the HCF, including a complete prohibition of Gabor Pali from any chess activity in Hungary.

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