Reports | July 28, 2010 16:00

Arkadij Naiditsch: "Why the German A-team will not participate in the Olympiad"

Due to financial problems and organizational failure by the German Chess Federation, the four German top players won't play at the upcoming Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk. This is what Arkadij Naiditsch tries to make clear in an angry open letter which he sent to ChessVibes. The German top grandmaster doesn't mince words.

Open letter by GM Arkadij Naiditsch

Why the German A-team will not participate in the 2010 Olympiad

Cc: Prof. Dr. Von Weizsäcker

This letter is not addressed to anybody directly. As a player of the German National team I would like to make some things clear about my hard working Federation and its President, Prof. Dr. Von Weizsäcker.
Let’s start with the fact that nobody from the German A-team is going to participate in the Chess Olympiad this year. These players are Georg Meier, Jan Gustafsson, Daniel Fridman and me, Arkadij Naiditsch. Why? The easy answer is that the biggest chess federation in Europe, about 100,000 active members, couldn’t manage to find money to pay the players.

So, the next question is “how could this happen”? This question is easy to answer as well: nobody in the federation has been doing anything for at least five years. The German Chess Federation has no sponsors at the moment, so the money is only coming from their members. Generally, even this should be enough to have a great and lazy life, but the main problem is the meetings attended by huge amounts of hungry officials that are being held almost monthly in expensive hotels.

Let me now become a bit more direct, because I would like to single out a few people with whom I have had to deal with personally.

1) Mr. U. Bönsch - National Coach
The first Olympiad that I played in was in Turin, 2006. I played on the first board for the German team and Mr. Bönsch was already an experienced and well-respected trainer. But the strange thing was, all he ever did was distribute the line-up for the next match and make a great black tea that we drank together every evening. Not once did he make the slightest effort to help anybody from the team chess wise.

So, year after year, the chess help from Mr. Bönsch remained the same: nothing but tea. In my opinion, our national trainer could be a hero in any teahouse!

2) Mr. Klaus Deventer - responsible for finding and distributing money for the national team. In German: Leistungssportreferent.
With regard to finding money there isn’t much to say. I think Mr. Deventer in his crushing career in the Chess Federation never even gave it a try.

In distributing money for the national team he has clear methods and opinions. That is, the national team should play for free!! By the way, to be clearer, Mr. Deventer is the individual who is responsible for fighting for us to get money. So, from a 110,000 Euro budget he manages for “top chess” in Germany, less than a quarter is left for the Olympiad for male and female teams combined.

Strangely, Mr. Deventer is a very important man in the federation. Personally, I could never understand what he is actually doing. And I think after many years of deep thinking, I finally got a little clue about his function; it is to try to stop anybody from being a professional chess player in Germany. Mr. Deventer really hates this. Rarely it is possible to meet somebody as unpleasant as Mr. Deventer.

3) Mr. Ralph Alt - Tournament Director
Mr. Alt is a famous public prosecutor in Germany. He is the organizer of many official tournaments in Germany, such as the National Individual Championship.


Update October 30, 2010: following a request from Arkadij Naiditsch we decided to remove part of his letter, which is about Mr Alt and the scheduling of chess tournaments.

So nobody participated in it from the A-team and the young German player Niclas Huschenbeth managed to win the title. Congrats to him as he showed great fighting spirit in the tournament.

My last German Championship was in 2007. In that year Mr. Alt showed absolute class. He found a city in Germany that has no train or bus (or anything else) connection. So taxi was the only way to reach it. Respect for Mr. Alt!! This is really not so easy to do. Give it a try. ;-)

4) Mr. Jörg Schulz - fifteen different positions!!
Personally, I didn’t have much to do with Mr. Schulz as he has always been responsible for the German Youth Chess Federation. (Deutsche Schach Jugend). Slowly, over the years he took over about fifteen different positions within the federation and is almost completely in charge of the whole money flow now. Bravo to Mr. Schulz!

For example, he created a chess company that is paying the players for participating in the European Team Championships as well as Olympiads. The company is making no money but paying us. Wow, really great job by Mr. Schulz.

That’s all from the main German Federation Crushers! There might be few more that I don’t know, but they are probably in hiding.

About Mr. Prof. Dr. Robert von Weizsäcker I will write a bit down below. First you will have to read his great letter that he wrote to the four of us (German A-team). For other people in the Federation, there are so many that deserve a few choice words, but I think it wouldn’t be fair to the few people who are trying to do something for German chess. Anyway, my many thanks to these few.

Dear readers, I hope you now have a bit of an overview of what is going on in my Federation.

This year, the A-team has said that we will not play for the funny money they are offering and asked for conditions. It drove almost all the guys in the Federation completely crazy! How is it possible that we will not play?? Do we have to cancel now a few dinners? No way we gonna do that!!”

Mr. Deventer immediately wrote a very long and boring letter, where he is comparing us with soccer players and asking us to play almost for free because the German National Soccer team is also not getting their normal salary for going to Africa. Funny, no? I guess then we have to compare Mr. Deventer to a Russian oligarch and ask him to support us from his own budget?!

Afterwards, we half-heartedly attempted to find sponsors ourselves, which didn’t work out. So the result was, of course, that the German A-team is not going to play the 2010 Chess Olympiad.

This is when Prof. Dr. Von Weizsäcker is coming into the game (he has been the German Chess President for the last two years).

So far, according to the words of Jan Gustafsson (all the contact was going through him) our President supported us, the players.

But on June 29th we received a letter from Prof. Dr. Robert von Weizsäcker that completely shocked me. Up to that point my opinion of our President was quite positive; he seemed to be a man with an understanding of chess players.

Here is the letter [translated into English by CV - German version in PDF here]:

Concerning: Chess Olympiad Khanty-Mansiysk

Dear members of the men's national team, dear chess friends,

In answer to my letter of May 19th, 2010 Mr Gustafsson answered by email on June 10th, 2010 that, on the given conditions you are not willing to play in Khanty-Mansiysk. Besides, he has started an initiative to find a sponsor as soon as possible, something that was clearly supported by me. To my knowledge this initiative hasn't had the desired effect.

If no last-minute sponsor will contact Mr Gustafsson soon, this means the German Chess Federation won't be able to send you to the Chess Olympiad. I wouldn't only regret this terribly, but I'd be personally disappointed as well.

I can only partly understand that you keep on insisting on demands that, despite great efforts, couldn't be fulfilled by either the German Chess Federation or the company.

Therefore I would personally like to ask you to reconsider your position and accept the same terms as two years ago. In case you're still prepared to accept this, please declare this to the team captain not later than July 2nd 2010. After that he will be forced to nominate other players. I would have liked to push this deadline up front, if there wasn't a deadline set by FIDE to enter the team.

At this weekend's meeting of the Top Sport Commission it was decided that your status as selected players would become inactive for the time being, if you're not prepared to play the upcoming Olympiad under the current conditions.

This would imply that any course of action to support you as top players would become impossible. Furthermore, for the year 2011 the team captain was requested to check whether the criteria for future support, i.e. the willingness of all players to cooperate with the federation, are still being met. I fully support this decision because in my opinion we cannot simply move on.

Support by the German Chess Federation, which partly involves a longer period of time, is naturally associated with the expectation to engage in an appropriate manner and in a responsible way for German chess.

On the other hand the German Chess Federation doesn't want to close all doors. In any case it would be useful to have a meeting after the Olympiad, to which our Top Sport Coordinator will invite you, to discuss the situation. Still I hope that all these considerations won't be necessary. The decision is yours.

Best regards,
Yours truly,

Robert von Weizsäcker.

Cool, no? Let me clarify a few things:

Prof. Dr. Von Weizsäcker found 0 Euros in two years of being the President of the German Chess Federation. (Maybe he simply has no time, being a Professor at a few universities?) The huge support he is threatening to cancel is this: for myself as German number one (my current ELO rating is 2684), the German Federation covers about half of my expenses for playing in exactly one tournament, the European Championship. That amounts to about 800 Euros a year, nothing more.
Now, of course, their direct threat to cancel all that help is making me sleep badly and giving me nightmares. Next time, maybe if I cover the coffee bill I hope Prof. Dr. Von Weizsäcker and my hard working Chess Federation will not cancel the important support for me?! We will see in the future if they have any mercy.

As we know, Prof. Dr. Von Weizsäcker is running his campaign for the ECU Presidency, and many European countries are giving their support to him. Now, the logical conclusion would be since he could do absolutely nothing for chess in his own country in two years, or again had no time for it, which, of course, led to the same result, can he do something for Europe? I would say probably not. So here comes the idea. Maybe we could open a charity foundation for the German Chess Federation and for Prof. Dr. Von Weizsäcker? Many people are sending small amounts for “saving the forest” so maybe it could work with my dear Federation and Prof. Dr. Von Weizsäcker, too? It is hard to find anybody coming across as more poor and helpless than the German Federation.

Hope you enjoyed reading my statement. And please don’t get the idea that I have exaggerated. I really did my best to stay as close to the facts as possible. :-)

Grandmaster Arkadij Naiditsch

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Editors's picture
Author: Editors


Thomas's picture

As far as I understand, Chessbase was willing to sponsor the German A-team - even if they were unwilling or unable to provide _enough_ money. In that case, the webpage of a (potential) sponsor may not be the right place for submitting an open letter complaining about insufficient sponsorship.

Before its (further) controversial content, Naiditsch's open letter seems to start with a lie or, at least, an inaccuracy or misleading statement: "the biggest chess federation in Europe ... couldn’t manage to find money to pay the players" - at face value this may be wrong as (repeating myself) the little word 'enough' is missing.

ops's picture

many chess players would like to play there without any payed money.

Elvis's picture

Dear Mr. Naiditsch,

Unfortunately, you have chosen to make a "career" out of a boardgame that has relatively little popular interest. If your interest were financial well-being, this was an extremely poor decision and your finances will be impacted accordingly.

Though you are persuasive that many German chess bureaucrats have enriched themselves a bit at the expense of the German Chess Federation treasury, your apparent impression that this money is due to 'professional' German chessplayers is misguided.

Choose whether or not to play for the conditions offered and then get on with your life. Your ad hominem attacks and ugly comments are unbecoming and are very shortsighted. In the long run such a low level of discourse can only hurt your prospects for sponsorship in the future. They appear childish and presumptuous.

Once again, if financial reward is your goal, it might be worthwhile to consider a career other then playing a boardgame.

Fabian L.'s picture

I can understand him comletely! I am a untalented average chess player in a small chess club in Germany and we have to pay much money year by year to the official german chess organisations. But who gets the money and - probably the main question - for what? If you want , nobody can be contacted, if you will manage a championship, nobody helps you. But the fees, to be a member are - in my opinion of course - extraordinary. And then it is a shame, that the best german chess players can not be assisted by the german chess associaton.

If you understand German, you can get an accurate comment by GM Jörg Hickl:

kees's picture

@Elvis. your patronizing post makes me sick.

Suzette Myers's picture

The German A Team deserves moral and financial support from their national chess federation which exists to support an A Team. The German chess federation should honor their country enough to make sure their country is represented by their top players at the Olympiad and other top tournaments around the world. If Germany cannot send it's top players to the Olympiad, then there is no need for a national chess federation at all.
Bravo to Mr. Arkadij Naiditsch for his courage to expose his national federation, to name names and to open this dialogue.
As chess players what can we do to solve this for all top players everywhere?

Peggy Sue's picture

@Suzette Myers
"... national chess federation which exists to support an A Team."

According to the German rating database the federation has about 236000 members, but the only point is to support the top 4 (or10, 20, 100) players??? Let's be generous and say the Top 1000 players. That means 235000 players don't matter?
The longer I think about it, the national team shouldn't get any money apart from travel-expenses and maybe a little pocket-money. Just suppose the "A-team" played in the Olympics and achieved a 3rd place (a bit optimistic but for the sake of argument), would it really benefit anyone ... any operative of the federation, any German (non A-team) chess-player? I don't think so, the participating players would maybe profit, because a successful participation might increase their market value.
The federation exists to ensure the possibility of competitive chess for everyone, not to encourage a minority's greed.

kees's picture

Greed? They are trying to make a living.
If they perform well there will be media attention for chess so that the German federation could use the opportunity to pupularise chess.
Your club game doesn't attract media attention.

ThunderGod's picture

Corrupt? What? Definition??

[14th century. Latin corruptus, past participle of corrumpere 'break completely'. rumpere 'to break']

It is simply as defined. Nothing more. The whole system of governing or organising bodies seems to be broken.

Why? Wait a moment... Does Kevin O' Connell also not get the point?

He appears to exemplify himself as a model of virtue, although why I have no idea? Nobody appears to have called into question his or anyone else's (for that matter) personal status?! Hope his conscience is not twitching. Bizarre response if you ask me.

And more to the pojnt, and like a typical politician, he conveniently sidesteps the actual question raised by Domino...

So what is the purpose of organising bodies, committees, federations, or whatever else you want to call them? Surely the whole point of these is to facilitate better chess?

And yet we see that this is not the case. We see the FACTS that teams, championships and player support is in a mess, they are unsupported or not fully so.

And yet still we see people being busy, going to places, holding meetings, discussing things, passing motions, and then what exactly?

Whether all of this is paid for by individuals like Kevin O' Connell or not. For what purpose is it all exactly?

Surely it serves no purpose. And therefore all cents incurred in doing so must instead be fed back to learning and playing the game of chess itself!

Kevin O' Connell may have paid a lot of money himself - who has disputed that? Or indeed many others like him! In fact surely WE ALL put in time and effort for chess for free (or very little reward)! That is not the issue!!

What is the issue is that chess itself does not benefit. Events and players are not (or very little) contributed to or paid for.

While on the other hand nobody can surely say that these organisational meetings in x or y hotel is completely free? No way! No hotel gives away these things for free. Someone or some body is paying!

And yet even though these trips and/or meetings are paid (or in part) by individuals like Kevin O' Connell, players are still no better supported. Then what is the point?

What is the point at all of having people who 'organise' or 'promote' the game of chess. Since evidently they do not if players cannot play in important events??!!

Surely it would be much better for people like Kevin O'Connell to instead just donate their money to players and not bother to attend any meetings.

Now back to whether or not organisations are totally without blemish or criticism...

This was posted publicly less than a year ago on Chess NE1 "Gerry losing this position as FIDE rep (he stood down as President) will be a big blow to him but the plain thruth is that he has presided over a worsing position for some time and has failed to provide the leadership reguired. In many ways he demonstrated a big gulf between those who can run/organise a chess event very well and those with the business nounce required to succeed in these difficult times."

This "plain truth" is clearly very harsh words about a national president.

And this about 18 months ago:

"To describe this serial junket-junkie as a useless tub of lard, would be to flatter him immensely. England does not need an official whose sole raison d'etre is to be "nice" to everyone, however dishonest and shady they are, so that he may earn invitations to appear at various events in the company of his mother and feel important."

"When I said that he had never made a pronouncement on any issue of substance, I meant it. Does he stand for anything apart from himself? Where was he when that lying, head-butting, move-retracting, Georgian ******* dragged me before the FIDE Ethics Commission? Nowhere to be seen. He might have forfeited a junket or two had he taken a stance. He is an utter disgrace to British chess who has more than overstayed his welcome as President. If he had any decency, he would stand down forthwith." and "The ECF's interests are not served by a representative whose guiding principle is never do anything that may jeopardise his junketing." published on Atticus Chess Forum

Evidently very harsh accusations. So has anyone challenged these words? Has anyone tried to say that they do not imply that anything is "corrupt". Clearly not ejh or Kevin O'Connell. Where were you then to defend against them?

In fact have these public statements ever been challenged by anyone?

If not then are people saying that all national organisations are squeeky clean? Are people saying that every single cent of an organisation is never spent on room hire for meetings, travel expenses, salaries, etc? That every cent of all the money is solely spent on the game of chess, learning or playing? If yes then simple - provide proof!

Otherwise the current facts that people will notice is that the German team has lost out to play at the Olympiad and that fewer GMs have received fees to play at the British.

And yet we see that people want to squash opinion here. Where otherwise they have no voice on any other platform due to the inhibition policies elsewhere to quell public debate!

And on that point, whereas 100 years ago the written word was rare. Most debate was vocal. These days it is the reverse. Most debate and talk is written, online, on the internet or by test or email. Move on with the times! Therefore opinion must be allowed in public debate in all it's forms to be in writing without calling in heavy handed tactics like 'influential moderating' and 'law suits'. Written discourse must reflect modern reality!

And have there been any other comments made on other forums that appear to have been overlooked (are the above examples of this?) which should also be moderated - that is if all things are to be equal.

Even if you are a Professor and you make a very valid point for example about putting some money into internet and IT for a 'modern' British Champioships, the professort gets ruthlessly and inexcusably shot down in flames, and yet just a few days later a few other people make EXACTLY the same point but nobody criticises!? Wow! How very odd people are!?

This was all a test. QED.


steinitz's picture
the german sueddeutsche liked the story.

Thomas's picture

German Chessbase has an interview with Daniel Fridman, another player from the A-team:
So they are willing to discuss the topic (they also link to the newspaper article steinitz mentioned), but either they were considered the tone of Naiditsch's open letter or Naiditsch himself chose a non-German outlet (the letter now also appeared at Chessdom).

The Fridman interview is in German and too long to translate, just a few points:
- One issue was that the A players collectively asked for a meeting with the federation and never got one ("only emails and phone calls").
- "If I were an engineer or programmer and still had the chance to travel to the Olympiad, I would also pay myself [referring to other teams, the Australian one would be an example] to play without any competitive pressure. But I am a (chess) professional and things are different in Germany. ... There are expectations for the German team, maybe not top 3 but maybe top 10 final ranking. ... At a team competition such as the Olympiad one always has to give 120 percent."
- Quite a lot about what a trainer should do and how this is handled by other federations. Funny "detail": Jan Gustafsson will actually travel to the Olympiad, now as second and coach of the Danish team.

Max Bouaraba's picture

This is a very sad moment for Chess in Germany.
We all can see, that the Top-Players in Germany are not happy with their Chess Federation and as it seems, this situation lasts now for about 20 years already (acc. To Mr. Lobron). The letter from Jan Gustaffson cant have been more than a reasonable try to humiliate the DSB (German Chess Fed.) This was the chance for the DSB to immediate call in the players for a talk eye to eye. But what happened was nothing. It seems to me that the DSB was just waiting to see, if their problems can be solved on a most cheapest way. It can’t have been really a serious try to raise money on this way. A sad moment indeed because, only now when a brave Grandmaster like GM Arkadij Naiditsch sacrifices himself by pointing out facts to the public, things might change.
I’m a chess amateur and chess lover. I pay member fee’s to 4 clubs in Germany, also to support this clubs and our sport in general including our national team. I think its just fair to proclaim that of course I want to see the best German players play on a Olympiad! The DSB carries or even own a Chess Marketing Agency but for what reason? Everybody can read the DSB business reports to see himself, that this Chess Marketing Company has no other reasons to exist rather than to be able to use incoming donations for paying salaries – a taxation matter! Instead, “chess marketing” to me must mean to raise money from sponsors as well. But who takes care for this on DSB-side? It’s a shame for Chess in Germany.

Paul's picture

What a joke- our Australian players pay there own way across the planet by playing simuls, fund-raising and so on.

Michael's picture



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