USCF, Israeli GM protest FIDE decisions

by ChessBase
5/10/2004 – The President of the United States Chess Federation has expressed "grave concern over the FIDE Presidential Board's recent mismanagement of its responsibilities", citing FIDE's accounts, which are in grave arrears, and especially the decision to hold the world championship in Libya. The latter is of grave concern to Israeli players. Here are all the details...

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Statement of United States Chess Federation

Addressed to the FIDE Presidential Board

USCF President Beatriz Marinello

May 7th, 2004

Dear Members of the chess community:

As a President of the United States Chess Federation, one of the member nations of the Fédération Internationale des Echecs (FIDE), hereby express our grave concern over the FIDE Presidential Board's recent mismanagement of its responsibilities.

Indeed, the sole positive step has been FIDE's decision to move its Women's Championship event from Batumi, Georgia to Elista, Russia. This measure was essential in light of the widespread concerns that had been expressed for the safety of our players.

But the rest of the picture is bleak in the extreme. At present, FIDE's accounts are appallingly in arrears. The FIDE President owe millions of dollars to FIDE. Every assurance from him that payment will be made on specific dates has come and gone without action. Months ago, FIDE accepted the resignation of its Executive Director, yet even today it has still not taken the requisite action to select a new Executive Director.

FIDE's style of governance has been increasingly founded on diktat, with dissenting views brushed aside.

FIDE World Championship Title

Ever since FIDE announced that Tripoli (Libya) would be the venue of the 2004 World Championship it has been increasingly evident that players from many countries would experience insurmountable problems in traveling to and competing in the event. Many nations have national laws preventing their citizens from traveling to and doing business with Libya. It was premature for the FIDE Presidential Board to award the FIDE World Championship event to Tripoli at a time when the United Nations had not lifted its sanctions.

Players unable to compete in Tripoli were due to be given an alternative way of participating in the cycle, i.e. by playing in a parallel competition in Malta. Unfortunately, the Maltese event has been cancelled, which means that some players of FIDE member nations currently find themselves barred from the competition. The host nation of the FIDE World Championship is required to permit safe travel for all competitors, and since Libya is unable to offer such guarantees we call upon FIDE, in the spirit of its own motto, Gens una sumus, immediately to reinstate a parallel event in Malta so that all players entitled to participate in the World Championship cycle may do so.

Beatriz Marinello, President of the United States Chess Federation

Israeli players

In the past weeks we have published a lot of announcements on our web site:

  • FIDE world championships in Libya
    19.03.2004 FIDE announced that it would hold the next knock-out world championship from June 18 till July 13, 2004 in Tripoli, Libya. The announcement came with pictures of FIDE president Ilyumzhinov playing chess against Moammar Al Qaddafi. The world championship was split in two parts: one section in Tripoli, the other in Malta, in order to accommodate the players from Israel, who could not enter an Arab country.

  • World Championship in Libya – for all participants!
    28.04.2004 In a press release FIDE announced that the main sponsor, Moammar Al Qaddafi, has guaranteed "entry visas to all the 128 qualified participants". The press release included the original "Invitation of the Libyan Olympic Committee" as a scanned document. In the list of participants we found two Israelis: Boris Gelfand, who was listed amongst the 13 players had not signed the contract and who were to be replaced by players from the reserve list; and Ilia Smirin, who was first on this reserve list.

  • Libya will not allow Israelis in for FIDE KO
    06.05.2004 Israeli and then international newspapers reported that Mohammed Gaddafi, son of the Libyan leader, had denied that Israeli chess players would be invited to take part. “We didn’t invite nor will we invite the Zionist enemy to the competition” Gaddafi is quoted as saying.

  • FIDE says Israelis can play in Libya
    07.05.2004 FIDE responded with a press release: After receiving notice that several Israeli websites are reporting Libya to have cancelled the invitation to certain participants of the upcoming World Chess Championship, FIDE requested a clarification by the Libyan Organizing Committee of the event. The LOC informed FIDE that the "invitation to all WCC 2004 participants, dated 26-4-2004, is still valid". This strongly implied that the Israeli players would be able to participate.

The last press release had some elliptical words on our 06.05.2004 report, which had gone around the chess world: "FIDE would like to express its appreciation to the vast majority of worldwide media who did not enter into the reproduction of reports which do not contribute to the establishment of good relations between all nations. FIDE is also calling worldwide chess media to follow carefully the official announcements of FIDE and the Organizing Committee of WCC 2004 for authoritative information about the 2004 World Chess Championship."

In the meantime we had an opportunity to speak to one of the three Israeli players, GM Emil Sutovsky, who was playing in the final of the Canarias en Red Internet tournament on the server. Emil, whose name has been on and off the list of participants, told us he was glad that we were covering the Libyan issue so closely on our news page. With regard to the possibility of his playing in Tripoli he said: "I didn't find the exact quote by Gaddafi, but please pay attention to the rhetorics on the official Libyan News Agency Jama. If you take a look at the news there you will see that almost every single day there is mention of the 'Zionists murderers and Palestinian Martyrs'. The word 'Israel' is not used*, the state it is not recognized. When the state news agency takes such a position, showing such extreme negative feelings towards the Israeli people, it's obvious that we are definetely not welcomed in Libya."

Sutovsky told us that he had signed the FIDE contract conditionally, saying "only if I'm allowed to play all my matches in Malta" (that was before Malta had been cancelled). "FIDE handled it just like all other players who had signed, and included my name in the list of players who had confirmed their participation for Libya. I protested and then, for a few days, I was neither in the confirmed nor in the refusenik's lists. I had mysteriously disappeared from the qualified players."

* Emil informed us that after many weeks of monitoring the Libyan News site, on Monday he for the first time found the word Israel on the bulletin page ("Israeli Army Demolished 14 Homes in Gaza Strip"). "Hmmm, pretty strange," writes Sutovsky, "I wrote to the Israeli Chess Federation about it last week, and they said they would ask FIDE to check it out. I can't really believe there is a direct link between the events, but it is a strange coincidence."

Apparently FIDE's problem, that they must announce that all players can participate while the hosts are sending signals to the contrary, has to some extent solved itself. Boris Gelfand has not signed up to play and joins Anand, Svidler, Kramnik, Leko, Shirov, Khalifman, Ponomariov and eight others in the list of "refuseniks". Sutovsky has simply been taken off the lists. And Smirin is still on first place on the reserve list, where he is likely to stay. Sutovsky: "I think it would be much better for FIDE not to stage the world championship at all, rather than to stage it this way."

We do not know how this will end, but it will be well to keep an eye on FIDE's final list of participants.

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