February 16, 2013 10:56

FIDE introduces player licenses... and then retracts them

Due to the Tata Steel chess tournament the news escaped our attention at first, but now it's definitely on our radar: the introduction of "player licences" by FIDE. At the end of January this was announced by the World Chess Federation, and it was subsequently criticized by many national federations. Earlier this week, in a very brief email distributed by FIDE, the plan was retracted. At least for the moment.

The FIDE Presidential Board mid-January in Tsakhkadzor, Armenia | Photo courtesy of FIDE

The article on the FIDE website is still there. On January 25th, Ignatius Leong, Chairman of the Qualification Commission and FIDE General Secretary, informed the world of the approval by the Presidential Board of the new Regulations on Registration & Licensing of Players. The PB had a meeting in Tsakhkadzor, Armenia from the 18th till the 21st of January and this is what was agreed upon:


Approved by 2013 Presidential Board

  1. All Players shall be required to register with their National Chess Federations (NCF). The FIDE Regulations on Registration, Transfers and Eligibility shall apply. 
  2. The NCF (or FIDE) shall issue the FIDE ID Number if the Player does not have one at the time of registration. NCF will register the Player with FIDE by providing information containing the Player’s Name, Gender, Place & Year of Birth, Photo, Passport Number; FIDE ID Number (if any). 
  3. FIDE/NCF shall issue the Player with a Player ID Card bearing the information from Rule 2 above.All information shall be maintained in the List of FIDE Licensed Players. 
  4. A Player who registers to compete in any FIDE rated competition shall be required to provide his FIDE ID Number. 
  5. An Organizer receiving any registration must refer to the List of FIDE Licensed Players before accepting the registration. 
  6. If an Organizer inadvertently accepted a Player without a valid License, the Organizer shall be penalized 50 Euro for every infringement. Such Players shall not have a FIDE ID Number and shall have no Federation Flag. 
  7. Games played by Players without a valid License shall not count for rating for themselves. Games played against them by Licensed Players shall be counted. 
  8. A NCF may subsequently (during or after the competition) register the Player mentioned in Rules 8 & 9 above provided a Late Payment Fee of 50 Euro is paid. 
  9. Players without a License cannot play in any official FIDE or Continental competition.  
  10. For each time a player who has been delisted by his NCF and subsequently re-listed, the payment is 20 Euro.

These measures led to a huge storm of protest – just Google "FIDE player licence" and you'll see the dozens of discussions at websites and forums. And indeed, there are several issues that could lead to problematic situations.


It would have been necessary for every player who wishes to participate in a FIDE rated event to first register with their national federation and send their passport number. There are the obvious questions about privacy, and probably many national federations would not have the manpower and equipment to keep such sensitive information while following national and international regulations about storing this sort of data.

It is likely that a big number of players would simply not agree to the new rules and stop playing FIDE rated tournaments. As was mentioned at the ChessPublishing forum,

If you get other FIDE officials making it both more expensive and more bureaucratic for events to be rated and for new players to take part, that seems likely to have the opposite effect, namely to discourage players from taking part and organisers from running them.

Shaun Press notes another potential issue, which could eventually be revelant for cases like Suat Atalik:

The other issue with the new system is that Federations can 'delist' players ie remove their license to play. At the 2012 Congress the FIDE Ethics Commission rules that while NCFs can sanction players belonging to their own federations, they cannot extend these sanctions to prevent players from playing in other countries. But under this new system, a Federation can apply a financial disincentive on such players, by removing their players license, and forcing any organiser who accepts their entry to pay an extra 50 euro penalty. A kind of 'end-run' around the Ethics Commission.

Bill Goichberg, USCF executive board member and organizer of the majority of the large USA tournaments with FIDE rated sections, has made it clear that he's not going to cooperate with FIDE (taken from ChessChat; unfortunately we could not find the original):

Continental Chess will not participate in the FIDE registration/licensing process, and does not plan to hold FIDE rated tournaments which begin after June 30. The idea that we have to register players for FIDE before the first round is ludicrous, and would probably cause that round to start very late. We also are not going to do the work of contacting advance entries to try to register them for FIDE online. 

Hamers letter

The leader of the "opposition movement" seems to be Herman Hamers, FIDE delegate of the Dutch Chess Federation. He sent the following letter to the Presidential Board.

Dear Board Members,

On 25 January 2013 all national chess federations received an email from FIDE in which Regulations on Registration & Licensing of Players were announced. These Regulations were proposed by the Qualification Commission (although not all members of the QC had knowledge of this proposal) and had been approved by the Presidential Board.

These regulations imply that each NCF should register his players with FIDE by providing information such as the player’s name, gender, place and year of birth, photo, passport number, FIDE ID number (if any). This system should be effective from 1 July 2013. There were penalties announced for organizers who allowed non-licensed players to compete in FIDE-rated tournaments.

In 2011 in Krakow a proposal to introduce a license system for players including a license fee was removed from the agenda after objections by the Chess Federation of the Netherlands. In 2012 in Istanbul a proposal of this kind was not included in the agenda of the General Assembly.

It is highly peculiar, to say the least, that the PB takes such a wide-ranging decision now, without consulting the EB or the GA of FIDE.

The proposed regulations are bureaucratic, expansive and impracticable for the national federations and for FIDE. Indeed, FIDE is at this moment implementing a license system for arbiters, who should have received a license card before this year. It is now February and no-one has seen such a card yet. If FIDE is not equipped to distribute cards to a relatively small group of arbiters in due time, how will it distribute cards to tens of tousands of players? But this is only a practical quibble compared to our real objection.

The proposed regulations for players are not only bureaucratic, but the system is also an intrusion into the private sphere of players. Something we oppose wholeheartedly. Furthermore, these regulations have been passed by the PB without giving a thought to what it would entail for national federations. For, the introduction of such a licensing system would require national federations to hire extra staff, and this in a time in which many federations are faced with diminishing revenues and budget cuts due to the economic crisis.

The federations that support this letter reject the decision of the Presidential Board to introduce the proposed license system for players. These federations will not cooperate in the introduction of such a system and will not send FIDE the requested information mentioned in the decision of January 2013.

The federations, supporting this letter, urge the PB to withdraw its decision concerning the license system of players on short notice.

Herman Hamers
FIDE Delegate KNSB

Retraction by FIDE

On Monday, February 11th we received the following, very brief email from FIDE, sent from their Elista office:

Dear friends,

The licensing of the players has been cancelled. The new documents about registration will be presented in due course.

FIDE Secretariat

According to a report on the website of the Dutch Chess Federation, the "opposition movement" has grown to no less than 24 chess federations, including Russia, Ukraine, France, Spain and Hungary. This might have been the reason behind FIDE's email of last Monday. (We've contacted FIDE but haven't been able to reach them yet. We'll try to add their comment as soon as possible.)

Jeroen Bosch, Sports Director at the federation, mentions that with these player licences, for instance the games of the Dutch league could not be FIDE rated anymore as excessive administrative work would be required. Another interesting point he makes is that the decision about the licences should not have been made by the Presidential Board in the first place, but by the General Assembly.

This story probably needs to end with another "to be continued..."

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers


RdC's picture

The proposals were announced by the Chairman of the Qualification Commission. There are suggestions that some members of his Commission were not even aware the proposals were under discussion, let alone about to be presented for imminent implementation. If you want evidence that the FIDE Board is out of touch, you don't need to look much further than this announcement. The Press release about the Armenian meetings headlined other matters, so the potential world wide effect of licensing and the reaction to it wasn't noticed.

Anonymous's picture

Thank YOU for reporting this without bias and conflict of interest. Seems at first look quite embarrassing for FIDE officials, which is lesser importantly. What everyone seemlessly is missing here is that a 'licenced player' need not know how all the international chess pieces move, but he/she must know how to make payment. Who are "FIDE Secretariat", which can overrule a FIDE PB decision? Or, more precisely, WHO cancelled it?

Bartleby's picture


STH's picture

A specific case in point is India. The All India Chess Federation 'bans' all players who play chess events conducted by an organisation called the Chess Players Association of India. The All India Federation claims playing other tournaments is "activity against the federation" The case is sub judice. Can players be banned for playing a chess tournament? whoever may be the organiser? The Fide licensing is an extension of this arm-twisting currently on in India.

Gurpreet Pal Singh's picture

Very True but the association name is Chess association of India and not Chess players association of India.AICF officials have gone to the extent of filling false affidavits in court so as to linger on the matter and harass the players. Is FIDE hand in glove with them?

Anonymous's picture

I had to stop you because you were speeding.

"But Officer, isn't this a blitz zone?"

No. This is a rapid zone, and you were moving too fast. I will now revoke your license to drive a chessboard.

sab's picture

"NCF will register the Player with FIDE by providing information containing the Player’s Name, Gender, Place & Year of Birth, Photo, Passport Number".

Everytime I'm thinking they can't be more stupid. But they prove me wrong, again.

Anonymous's picture

'Can players be banned for playing a chess tournament?'
The answer is obviously YES. If this is a Law of your federation, then too bad. Follow it or become president and change the Law.
Playing chess tournaments today is very dangerous, you have to double-check first if they are blacklisted among the higher authorities who can punish you as they pretty please.

Anonymous's picture

' "But Officer, isn't this a blitz zone?" '
You may think of it as a joke (nice one indeed!), but I saw it happen already many times. And with chess-threatening words towards offenders.
My other point is - don't give ideas to the people in power, they read all of this differently than you do and will use it against chess.

Mikel Larreategi's picture

SSt least this time players were not required to pay a license fee like arbiters. I have to pay almost 200€ in license fees (fide, national and regional) to be arbiter in fide rated tournaments.

Nobody protests when arbiters are required to be licensed but everyone raises his voice when players are asked to register.

At least in Spain, every player is required to be registered to play rated tournaments. I see no problems on licensing players, the point is that this email ens the door to charge for this license.

Mikel larreategi
international arbiter

bondegnasker's picture

Blatantly stupid. Vintage FIDE.

cmling's picture


noyb's picture


Theo's picture

It's about time the chessworld chooses another (more objective and correct) governing body. PCA was a nice try, but this could be worked out more. FIDE is just messing everything up.

Anonymous's picture

Good for Bill G.!...Pro chess players need to follow the lead of pro tennis and golf players. Have your own association.and negotiate with FIDE the way the pros' association negotiate with Grand Slam tournament organizers in tennis.

RG13's picture

If a few big national federations like Germany, Spain and the U.S. broke away, I wonder how many nations would follow.

Septimus's picture

I think the Russians Federation would be the deciding factor. As long as the RCF supports FIDE, nothing will change.

RdC's picture

If the disaffection with FIDE was because of a measure unpopular with players like Licensing, then any Federation whose officials and management took some notice of players. You could probably find a majority of players in the new body, but not a majority of Federations.

Have the KNSB named all their supporters anywhere?

Wim's picture

Infantile institution FIDE!

Wim's picture

Infantile institution FIDE!

Simaginfan's picture

This just looks like a move to allow national federations to prevent players like Atalik from being allowed to play in events anywhere un the world. I suspectan fide official rom Turkey might support the idea!!

Septimus's picture

Can these jokers get any more idiotic? More red tape?

cmling's picture

Never underestimate FIDE in the idiocy stakes.

Anonymous's picture

Well at least they were having a chess party on this occasion ;-)

AAR's picture

Bureaucracy continues to create more and more Bureaucrats.

Sergio Henrique Riedel's picture

Better without tem.

CAROLİNA's picture

Infantile institution FIDE!

Sam Sloan's picture

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov keeps being re-elected each time because the third-world countries, especially the African countries, vote for him, A majority of the European Countries have always voted against Kirsan. The Africans will support this licensing requirement because they know that they will not have to pay anything. FIDE gives money to the African countries in the form of CACDEC Funds. CACDEC means Committee for Assistance to Chess Developing Countries. So, basically, the rich countries have to pay these additional fees so that the poor countries get more free money.

Anonymous's picture

Just boycott FIDE and start over completely. The end.

Stephen's picture

Why doesn't FIDE just allow anyone to register themselves online for a fee. You supply your name and national federation. Half the fee is automatcially remitted to the national federation. Not exactly rocket science is it ?

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