The role of the Appeals Committee

by ChessBase
10/6/2006 – In his "Layman's Guide to Match Officials" Yasser Seirawan restricted the duties of the Appeals Committee to appeals concerning a decision made my the Chief Arbiter of a match. But their powers and duties go further, says GM Bartlomiej Macieja, who had a close encounter with the Appeals Committee during the FIDE world championship in Las Vegas in 1999. Here is his harrowing tale.

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Comments on Yasser Seirawan's
"The Layman's Guide to World Chess Match Officials"

By Bartlomiej Macieja

Dear Yasser

I have read your "The Layman's Guide to World Chess Match Officials" with great interest and have decided to add a few comments. I hope you will find them useful.

1) You suggested, that "The Appeals Committee is there to consider protests regarding decisions by the Chief Arbiter." and "Now we come to the first mistake. The Chairman of the Appeals Committee, Georgios Makropoulos, agreed to receive the complaint. Given that Danailov's complaint did not concern a decision by the Chief Arbiter, Makropoulos should have had nothing to do with it and should simply have referred the matter to the Match Director.".

GM Bartlomiej Macieja of Poland

In principle, I fully share your point of view regarding roles and responsibilities of match officials, however in this particular case, according to the point 3.17.1 of the Match Regulations:

The [Appeals] Committee may decide on the following matters:
a) an appeal against a decision by an arbiter,
b) a protest against a player's behaviour,
c) a complaint alleging false interpretation of the regulations,
d) a request for the interpretation of specific regulations,
e) a protest or complaint against any participant, or
f) all other matters which the Committee considers important.

It means, the Appeals Committee was not only allowed, but even forced to accept a complaint under investigation. Obviously, after receiving clarifications from Mr. Kramnik, the complaint should have been rejected, as it was completely clear its main aim was to disturb the opponent, to increase tension, and to change a subject, as the chess things were looking very bad for Mr Topalov. It is really difficult to understand what kind of improvement it is to have one toilet instead of two.

2) Regarding the judgement: "As John Nunn pointed out in his article on Elista, the members of the Appeals Committee for the Kramnik v Topalov match are egregiously ill-suited.", I would like to inform you, that already last year the ACP sent an official letter to FIDE, suggesting for Candidates Matches: "We believe that a player should have the right to ask FIDE for the change of an arbiter of his match or a member of the Appeal Committee, providing necessary written explanations. FIDE should then find a substitution." and receiving the following answer: "Concerning the arbiters, we begin point 3.16.1 with "The arbiters of the Candidates Matches will be nominated by FIDE after consultation with the players." For the Appeals Committee it's a matter of principle that its members would decide on issues objectively and with no external influence. So an amendment there doesn't seem necessary."

3) My last comment concerns your guess that "To my knowledge, it is unprecedented in the history of World Chess Championship matches for a forfeit win, signed by the Chief Arbiter, to be overturned.".

I would like to come back to the events of the 1999 FIDE World Chess Championship in Las Vegas. According to the official pairings, I should have been played against Mr Michal Krasenkow. In the last moment it appeared, that two players seeded immediately to the second round didn't arrive. The main arbiter, Mr Geurt Gijssen, stated, they should have been replaced by the reserve players, as it was written in the Regulations of the 1999 FIDE World Chess Championship. Nevertheless, the Appeals Committee decided to change the regulations, so the two missing players seeded directly to the second round were substituted by the two players with the highest ratings seeded to the first round, while they were substituted in the first round by two reserve players. Because of that, my over 200-hour preparations with a coach were (in the short term) useless, as my opponent had changed from Mr Michal Krasenkow to Mr Vadim Milov. Obviously I wasn't glad about the arisen situation, but I didn't complain and the following day went for the first game of my match against Mr Vadim Milov. When my opponent didn't show up at the playing hall, I asked a round-arbiter whether I won my first game by forfeit. He answered positively, the main arbiter confirmed, adding, he would check if I won only that game or already the whole match.

After that declaration I went to my room to prepare for the second game, just in case Mr Vadim Milov would arrive and I would have to play the second game. I was sure a draw would be sufficient for me to win the whole match, and I prepared my strategy accordingly. How unpleasantly I was surprised when just a few hours before a round, in the moment when I was leaving my room for a lunch, I got a call from the main arbiter who informed me about the decision of the Appeals Committee (which he personally disagreed with), that my match against Mr Vadim Milov would have to be played from the beginning. That was a terrible news for me, because it meant, my whole preparations were once again destroyed, as a draw was no longer sufficient for me to qualify to the second round. Instead of thinking how not to lose a game I was forced to start thinking how to win the whole match! It is worthy to add that if the main arbiter called me 5 minutes later, he would not have reached me at a room and I would probably have got to known about the sudden change of the situation only in the playing hall!

Immediately after that call, together with my second, Mr Yury Shulman, we went to the room of the Appeals Committee, asking for an explanation of their decision. We found only Mr Israel Gelfer, who informed us, we could write a protest if we strongly wanted to, but we would have to pay a fee of US $200, while "additionally" he assured us, the protest would be rejected whatever we would write in it. After hearing such a statement, already knowing the decision of the Appeals Committee to my appeal-to-be, I decided ... not to lose $200. The match started from the beginning, but with a delay of one day and ... reversed colours.

According to the schedule, a round consisted of three days: two days for two classical games and a seperate day for tie-breaks. I lost the first game, the second game was moved to a seperate hall, as it was impossible to concentrate for a classical game, having so many rapid and later blitz games played around you. As I won it, a problem arose as to when we should play tie-breaks. It was too late to start on the same day, but on the other hand there was already a first game of the second round scheduled for the following day! The Appeals Committee, selected (as we well know) by strictly professional criteria, didn't foresee such a simple situation! To save the championship, the main arbiter proposed to start our tie-break the following day, cutting the time limit and the total number of games!

Eventually I won that match, but a few hours later I had to play the first game of the second round against Mr Rafael Leitao. Meanwhile I had to eat something and try to rest. I was unprepared, tired, also I found it very difficult to adapt to the new situation in which I had to fight so soon in another so important match against another opponent, with completely different time control. I lost that game and as the second was drawn, so I got eliminated from the Championship.

I still cannot understand how something like that could happen. I came on time, was present at the opening ceremony, fulfilled all conditions predicted in all possible regulations, but I couldn't play like any other player. I was unable to protest (to be more precise: I was told even before I wrote a protest, that it would be rejected), I didn't get any compensation, and I even didn't receive any excuse, neither from FIDE nor from the Appeals Committee. The only thing I got was a letter signed by Mr Emanuel Omuku, without the phrase "we are sorry", or something like it, but with a phrase "Thank you for understanding", which made me only angrier.

I wonder if a similar letter has already been sent to Mr Kramnik.

Bartlomiej Macieja
Warsaw, 6th of October 2006

Yasser Seirawan replies:

Dear Bartlomiej Macieja,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write such an interesting article. Your correction clearly shows that my Layman’s knowledge is outdated. The powers of the Appeals Committee have been greatly expanded under the current FIDE administration. It would seem that with point f (“all other matters which the Committee considers important”) the Committee could become responsible for anything and everything. A remarkable usurpation of powers by FIDE Deputy Makropoulos and his FIDE World Chess Championship Committee.

Yasser Seirawan

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