September 05, 2012 17:48

Top players sign open letter supporting Russian journalist

Ruslan Ponomariov

Almost fifty players, captains and coaches have signed an open letter to FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in which they ask for Evgeny Surov to receive accreditation at the Olympiad. One of them, Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine, put on a T-shirt during the 8th round with the text "Let it Work!" around the URL of Surov's website.

Today Evgeny Surov, the Russian journalist who is not allowed to work at the Olympiad in Istanbul, distributed the following open letter to chess media.

Open Letter of the Participants of the Olympiad to the President of FIDE Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

Dear Mr. Ilyumzhinov,

It seems to be unfair not to provide Mr. Evgeny Surov (the editor-in-chief of the site with accreditation for the coverage of the Olympiad. And it also darkens the main chess event of the year.

You are the only one who may settle out this issue. We earnestly ask you to intervene and provide Mr. Surov with accreditation.

Aronian Levon, GM
Topalov Veselin, GM
Ponomariov Ruslan, GM
Kamsky Gata, GM
Shirov Alexei, GM
Leko Peter, GM
Movsesian Sergei, GM
Volokitin Andrei, GM
Jobava Baadur, GM
Wojtaszek Radoslaw, GM
Navara David, GM
Eljanov Pavel, GM
Onischuk Alexander, GM
Bykhovsky Anatoly, IM, Chairman of Trainers Committee of the Russian Chess Federation  
Moiseenko Alexander, GM   
Sulypa Oleksandr, GM, Captain of the Ukrainian team
Chuchelov Vladimir, GM, Captain of the Netherlandish team
Bartel Mateusz, GM
Akopian Vladimir, GM
Giri Anish, GM
Najer Evgeniy, GM, Coach of the Russian women team
Fridman Daniel, CM
Sargissian Gabriel, GM
Socko Bartosz, GM
Cheparinov Ivan, GM
Van Wely Loek, GM
Petrosian Tigran L, GM
Swiercz Dariusz, GM
Macieja Bartlomiej, GM
Giorgadze Gia, GM, President of the Georgian Chess Federation
Petrosian Arshak, GM, Captain of the Armenian team
Krasenkow Michal, GM, Captain of the Polish team
Sturua Zurab, GM
Sokolov Ivan, GM *
Gagunashvili Merab, GM
Stupak Kirill, GM
Akobian Varuzhan, GM
Sanikidze Tornike, GM
Tukmakov Vladimir, GM, Captain of the Azerbaijani team
Konopka Michal, GM, Captain of the Czech Republic team
Smeets Jan, GM
Matlak Marek IM, Coach of the Polish womens team
Mista Aleksander GM, Coach of the Polish womens team
Stellwagen Daniel, GM
Zhigalko Sergei, GM
Zhigalko Andrey, GM
Grabinsky Vladimir, IM, Coach of the UAE team

*Update September 6th, 10:17 CET
Ivan Sokolov told us that his name was put under the letter without his approval and without any communication with him. Normally he would have given approval, but "not like this". 
We will check whether this happened to other players as well.

Ruslan Ponomariov emphasized his support for Surov by wearing a T-shirt today with the text "Let it Work!" and, the URL of Surov's website. The Ukrainian GM plays second board against Alexander Grischuk in the top match Russia versus Ukraine. He said to us: "Too bad I'm not playing board one!", obviously referring to the fact that all cameras and photographers are focused on the daily "first move ceremony" there.

Former FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov: "Too bad I'm not playing board one!"

Ponomariov and the players, trainers and coaches who signed the open letter are protesting against the Olympiad organizers. A week before the start of the event they sent an email to Surov in which it was said that he wouldn't receive press accreditation. The Russian journalist travelled to Istanbul anyway, but at the venue he is not allowed to enter the playing hall, not even as a spectator. Last week the Russian Chess Federation has openly supported Surov with an open letter directed to the Olympiad organizers.

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers


slonik's picture

None of the Russian players signed it

Frits Fritschy's picture

Which, I agree, is a bit strange, having the earlier RCF's stance in mind. Hope our resident journalist will come up with an answer.
But I'm glad some chessplayers take their responsibility.

Thomas's picture

Is it known who took the initiative for the open letter? It has to be someone ... . If it was Topalov (plausible because Danailov and Yazici can't stand each other), it could be that the Russian players weren't even asked to sign?

What's Next? 's picture

No women signed?

fen's picture

Makes one wonder if they were even asked. Nevertheless, good on Pono for actually doing something to support the journalist.

Arne Moll's picture


Anonymous's picture

Many Polish, bravo, only Est-European grandmaster... What was the explication of the organizers?? Why did they prohibed the acreditation?

Casaubon's picture

Commendable, but where was the letter of support for the excluded arbiters?

AK's picture

For those who are asking about Russians:

Kramnik made his own personal statement. Karjakin signed it. (At least updated Russian version has it).

Updated list has a lot more names. Many very respected players/coaches signed it and they are totally correct.

Roger's picture

I didn't notice any British players or journalists signing it. It's happened before in England.
Google "Free the Henderson One" for details.

PircAlert's picture

Mr Doggers, why so quickly bury the Anand simul report with 3 reports all on Russia - Russian team, Russian journalist, Russian team again!? ;)

This is an useless protest as it wouldn't cost the players anything.

Even in another sense, when in olympics, when a badminton format came into criticism as some players took advantage it, some of these top professional chess players signing here asked for a manipulatable tournament format!

With such things, I think their opinion should not be given too much consideration.

I'm no way for banning the journalist, he should be allowed at least as a visitor, but at the same time maybe a spin master index of 0 to 5 with 5 being the highest should be attached to a journalist when they twist facts or do biased reporting.

AK's picture

This whole mess is not because Surov twists facts or makes biased reports. Not saying that he doesn't do it, but it's a personal revenge by Yazici.

Surov interviewed Ekaterina Atalik. Both Ekaterina and Suat Atalik have some major issues with Turkish Chess Federation and Yazici that are being reviewed in Turkish courts. Surov just interviewed Ekaterina and reported this matter. After that he received a letter from Yazici that he is not welcomed at the Olympiad.

It's a personal revenge, nothing more. If not for Yazici, then Surov would be allowed to work. No matter what he has reported before.

mishanp's picture

This all actually went back to at least December last year, when Surov published an article about how the Women's Team Championship in Turkey was heading for trouble (teams pulling out etc.). You can see how annoyed the Turkish organisers were by their note at the bottom of the website:

"At the moment, the only the media outlet that is not permitted to use any content (pictures, texts, online transmission etc) from this website is is strictly prohibited to use any content of that website."

Of course after that Chess-News posted a lot more criticism (some of a petty tit for tat variety), and they dramatically reduced any chances of help from FIDE by attacking Makropoulos. Sometimes that's justified, of course, but Makropoulos accused Surov of libel for one report on the cancelled Negroponte tournament, and as Surov didn't defend himself he was presumably guilty as charged.

Of course for a FIDE event he should still get the accreditation whatever his relationship with the local organisers, although it seems to me he couldn't have hoped for a better outcome when he travelled to Istanbul (knowing he wasn't welcome). Yazici has given Surov massive free publicity for his site, and he gets to post the kind of "chess-light" but "sensational" stories his site thrives on. Of course he's free to work in Istanbul as much as he wants - writing about the chess, interviewing people etc. - but in terms of readership /publicity it makes sense to concentrate on the "Chess-News issue" and write stories about himself in the third person.

Personally I think the arbiter issue is much more serious, as are the questions of profiteering from the players (absurd fees for single rooms at the hotels etc.), and the changes threatened at the FIDE Congress. The journalist issue largely relates to one person and one organiser - you can say it's a matter of principle, but here the "cure" FIDE has already suggested - FIDE-wide accreditation for journalists - is almost certainly worse than the disease. That's likely to mean additional fees, bureaucracy and the potential for more "political" decisions, just at a higher level. In most situations organisers are of course happy to have as many journalists covering their events as possible (and they don't charge them 100 euros for the privilege as Yazici is!)...

In short, Surov should be accredited, but the focus on his issue is wildly disproportionate, and of course the time for a boycott of the Olympiad (which could have been justified on many different issues) had passed when the federations chose to attend.

valg321's picture

"This whole mess is not because Surov twists facts or makes biased reports. Not saying that he doesn't do it, but it's a personal revenge by Yazici. "

It IS a revenge by Yazici but what of that? The olympiad is held in Istanbul, its HIS show, whether some like it or not, and he has the god d@mn right to say who gets accredited or not. I'm very far from being a Yazici supporter but i think there are more important things happening right now in the chess world (arbiters ban for one) than some sensationalist chess journalist not being accredited.
As far as this list is concerned i'm very curious about some of the names included. I wouldn't be surprised if many of the signees were "duped" into signing without having examined the issue for themselves.

If Surov apparently has the right to twist, embelish, stretch, and fabricate facts as a journalist, Yazici has every right to not permit him accreditation and that's that. This whole issue has been blown way out of proportion which goes to show you just how much power there exists in journalism.

Peter Doggers's picture

Interesting that you use the word "bury". Indeed what I don't like about the current homepage design is that articles sometimes quickly "disappear" (although they remain online and can always be found at the news overview page). Good news: as we speak we're working on improving this.

Regarding the Surov case: other English language chess media have decided to not report on it at all, which in my opinion is really biased.

PircAlert's picture

Maybe for lack of word I used, I'll take it back if it is too strong a word. ;) I knew I could look it up in the more news page but normally I or maybe people wouldn't. Anyways looking forward to your improved version of your site! as web development is getting lot easier nowadays. With open source Dojo toolkit for example. You look balanced in reporting, so Peter, no issues there!

PeterV's picture

Yazici has to be banned, he's a nasty clown.

Peter Doggers's picture

Hm... Ivan Sokolov told us that his name was put under the letter without his approval and without any communication with him. Normally he would have given approval, but "not like this". I will check whether this happened to other players as well.

Thomas's picture

Another "suspicious" name might be Jobava - who isn't even present at the Olympiad but dropped out due to illness, or has he arrived in the meantime?

Just 4 fun's picture

Surov is a very bad journalist. You can see for yourself in this in this forum thread.
It's a russian speakers forum, and they discussing about journalist ethics, and you can see what is Surov.

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