Turkish Chess Federation: 'Some of the complaints were simply rubbish'

2/9/2011 – The Women's World Championship was staged by the TCF in December 2010. In January 2011 eighteen participants publicly complained about the conditions offered at the venue in Antakya, Turkey – the quality of the hotel and the charges for rooms and transportation. FIDE responded to the allegations in general, now the TCF replies in greater detail, with maps and pictures.

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Dear Friends,

No doubt  you remember the open letter published by several of the players who participated in the Women’s World Championship organised in Antakya, December 2010.

We did not  comment on it until now. We have been waiting for FIDE’s response - the comment of the FIDE Presidential Board last week. First of all, I want to thank the many players who participated  in the event and who contacted me to say that they totally disagree with the content of the letter. Also, I want to express my sincere gratitude to Mr. Makropoulos for his excellent answer.

I want to share with you FIDE minutes for this issue. In Antalya the FIDE Presidential Board made the following observation:

Open letter  issue

FIDE’s position has been clearly expressed by the letter of Deputy President G. Makropoulos. The Presidential Board is totally standing behind Turkish Chess Federation in this respect.

I will start my comments by mentioning what we have done in the last four years, investing in women’s chess. We started the Atatürk Memorial in 2008, and it became the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix in 2009. We have organized the ACP Women’s World Cup, women’s round robin tournaments, the Women’s World Championship and more. This year we will organize the World Women’s Team Championship, and next year the European Women’s Individual Championship. If the European Chess Union makes the logical decision, we are still ready to organize it this year, with the highest prize fund ever. Also in 2011 and 2012, we will organize two legs of the new FIDE Women’s Grand Prix.

Why?

Because, the Turkish Chess Federation has made a strategic decision to invest in women’s chess. This is the first thing I want to underline before I go into detail about the open letter.

The second issue is that my federation is a very active federation and experienced in international chess organization. We are like a factory, organizing every year a lot of European or world events and many other international events. I am so happy to reach this point of chess development, since I have played a big role in this over the last six years. Honestly, I should mention that it is very normal to make mistakes when you produce something. We remember our mistakes, and we try to reduce them every time we organize a new event. But, concerning this event in Antakya, the allegations made by the 18 players who signed the Open Letter are more than exaggerated. Why?

I was present full time during the Women’s World Championship. I followed everything and tried to ensure that all our guests’ needs were met by the organization. Also, as normal, I followed the international media for news of the event. I could not follow the Chinese media, for reasons of language, but apart from that, I can say that I got all the news, especially from Russian web sites. Why I am telling you this now? Because I will give you some examples that you may not have seen.

Let us now go through the open letter item by item:

Price of hotel:

Players say that the price of the hotel is very expensive!

I really cannot understand  this issue. We bid for the organization of an event, we make our price offer and prize fund offer. We are granted (or not) the right to organize the event following FIDE’s competitive bidding procedure. Then a player comes and makes complaints. This is rubbing salt into the wound - we lost a lot of money on this event. It is not lost as an investment for the future, but  it shows red figures in our accounts. We paid exactly 110 € for each single room (full board) in Antakya. And 2.000 € per day to rent the hall we used during the event. We made 20 € profit each day for each single occupancy room used by the players!

Let us calculate approximately how many nights we sold:

5x80 + 4x40 + 4x22 + 4x12 + 4x8 + 5x6 = 762. Let us say 800 maximum. That makes 16.000 € for us in gross profit on room sales.

Now we paid 42.000 € for rent of the hall. The profit on the rooms does not cover the cost of the hall.

And there were at least 19 organization staff, including appeals, arbiters, TSF staff, journalists, etc. I do not mention the cost of their accommodation.

Indeed no need to go into so much detail; as Mr. Makropoulos mentioned in his official answer, we could have deducted FIDE taxes of 90.000 USD from the 450.000 USD prize fund, but we did not!

I am proud to say that we spent at least 100.000 € from our account for this world championship. I do not know if there is any other federation in the world that would make such an investment in women’s chess.

Raising this subject in an open letter seems to me to be simply bad manners!

When we come to the point about room prices quoted on the Internet, it is even more ridiculous. They do not have any idea about the hotel business. We all complain sometimes about the different prices paid for flight tickets in the same plane.  Hotels operate in a similar way, with a percentage (often 10%) of rooms offered cheaply on the Internet. When you purchase a room on the Internet, you usually get only a bed, with breakfast sometimes, if you are lucky. But when you organize a chess event in a hotel, you book everything. It means you have to cover not just the rooms, but halls, restaurant, lights, overheads, extra staff, and you create a lot of overhead for the hotel. Do not forget that during an event, players play then arbiters, journalists, and others work through the night.

When you purchase a room on the Internet, you do so for 3, 4, 5 days, or maybe a week. The hotel still has rooms to sell in different classes (at higher rates). But when you organize something, you block book the hotel. Then they charge you more than the Internet offer price. And our price here is not bed and breakfast, it includes lunch and dinner.

Also, do not forget that city hotels all over the world sell their halls for other activities; for meetings, weddings etc. This is what we faced there in reality. What the players claim is unfair!

Transportation Cost from Airport:

The players say that we charged them more than the cost of a taxi from airport. In the most simplistic sense, this is true, but ... When you fly anywhere in the world, you may get a taxi; there is usually a line of them waiting outside the airport arrival terminal. You go to the taxi queue, wait your turn, open the door, get in and off you go. But we met all players at the airport, our staff helped them and they did not have to wait in line or cope with language difficulties. More than half the players,  including some who signed the letter, returned back at three or four o’clock in the morning, again with some of our  people helping them (a taxi would cost 50% more). For us it is clear; we did not profit from this, but we covered our expenses for the staff allocated to this service. I do not mind if an organizer chooses to make a profit on this, but we did not.

Taxis would have been much more inconvenient for the players, and more expensive for some of them. Anyway, they were free to choose to take a taxi if they wanted to, so why did they not do so?

Registration fee (or deposit): For us on one side we know that players are certain and they will come but when we book a room for a player or participant we commit to a no-show cost. Therefore, we get a deposit of 100 € so that if the person does not come, the no-show fee is at least partly covered. We just do not understand why this is an issue. There is no charge for any player here – they all turned up, so the deposits were offset against their accommodation cost!

The Prize Fund:

They say that the prize fund remained unchanged from 2001. In 2001 the prize fund was 450.000 USD – 90.000 USD = 360.000 USD net for the players. Our “unchanged” prize fund of 450.000 USD – 0 USD = 450.000 USD distributed to the players. Personally, I see that as a 25% increase, the players receiving in their pockets 90.000 USD more than the 360.000 USD they got before.

Hotel Conditions:

Dirty and noisy road?  The road in front of the hotel is a normal asphalt road. Here is the photo gallery from the hotel.

Also I add here view from Google Earth. As you see, there is a park, the asphalt road and it is not far from the city.

Some of the things published on the Internet about the venue, especially on Twitter by a famous player who signed this open letter, were simply rubbish. She stated that the venue is 40 minutes away from the hotel, and that the hotel is very far from the city centre. The real distance, captured from Google Earth, is exactly 3.0 km. I am sure she could walk this distance in much less than 45 minutes.

Many players chose to walk into the city centre. Alternatively, you could get a taxi (cost 2-3 €) and be in the centre in five minutes (of course, longer if you go during the rush-hour).  So why did some  players say that the hotel was in the middle of nowhere? Ridiculous!


Explore Antakya and the hotel location, here or on a larger map

Only the first game of the first round was played in the Archaeological Museum in Antakya. The second game, and tie-breaks of the first round were played in the hotel; I guess not 45 minutes but probably 45 seconds away from her room.

Also, they fail to understand the importance of playing in a venue such as the museum, just once in their life, for the sake of women’s chess. Sure the conditions there were not perfect, but all should know that we try to advertise women’s chess, to promote it and to get more sponsors. It was fantastic that many TV channels in Turkey showed pictures from there. Is that not good for chess promotion? The sponsors and municipality  spend many thousands of Euros to promote their city. Almost  all sporting events are a vehicle for tourism. We should understand that we, as chess people, can not have everything we would wish for. By using the museum, the Turkish Promotion Committee (connected to the Prime Minister) allocated 100.000 € to the municipality. It really pains me that I need to explain such things about  the difficulties of collecting such a large prize fund and budget to promote women’s chess.

Other things:

You may ask me, why did they do all this? I have asked myself the same question many times. My possible answers are below.

  • Finding a reason for your own failure, when a great nation behind you awaits a good result. (Please check the signers; none of them qualified for the quarter finals)

  • Unfair!

I am sure none of them are against the TSF (I want to believe this). I also believe that it was not a deliberate attempt to make it more difficult for future organizers to raise the necessary funding, but I fear that will be the result.

You may say that maybe they want to improve the conditions of their profession. If so, then ...

  • Why did they not contact me? I was there throughout.

  • Why did they launch this open letter out of the blue?

  • Why did the chairperson of the FIDE Women’s Commission send this letter to the Presidential Board, even though her commission members did not agree with her?

  • Why are all the finalists, the semi-finalists and the quarter-finalists absent from the signatories?

Conclusion:

As TSF, we are not a one-off organizer for an event. In 2011 alone, we will organize the World Women’s Team Championship, the World Amateur, the World Under 16 Youth Olympiad, the European School Chess Championships, and still, perhaps, the European Individual Women’s Championship.

Sure, we make mistakes, but first we would be very happy to receive criticism during the event, so that there is a chance to improve or correct any failings. Such attacks as this Open Letter, will achieve only one thing. The Antakya municipality is investing in chess like many local authorities in Turkey. This is not fair to them, and to us, after such a huge sum of money has been spent on this excellent organization. Considering the ongoing effects of the global financial crisis, it will be very difficult to find more money for prize funds in future. We say in Turkish, don’t cut the branch of the tree you are sitting on!

The only good part of this painful incident is that it was only those players who had an unsuccessful, or even downright bad result who were involved.

Links

FIDE: 'The organisers were not trying to make money'
27.01.2011 – A week ago eighteen players complained bitterly, in an open letter, about the conditions and prices at Women's World Championship in Antakya/Hatay (Turkey). The implication was that the organisers had overcharged for a substandard hotel. FIDE promised to answer these allegations, and today we received a letter from Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos repudiating the allegations.

Open letter by Women's World Championship participants
18.01.2011 – It was an exciting event, and we reported enthusiastically. But as it turns out not all the players were enchanted by the conditions of the WWCCh in Antakya/Hatay (Turkey). They feel they were overcharged, unappreciated and had to play in substandard conditions. Eighteen participants have signed the highly critical letter – to which FIDE has promised to respond. Plus: a new NYT article.

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