David Smerdon | June 07, 2012 20:38

Istanbul 2012 – The First Controversy

We’re still a couple of months away, and already the first drama for the 2012 Chess Olympiad has begun.  And it promises to be a real doozy.

The Turkish Chess Federation has written an open letter refusing the applications of arbiters from a bunch of countries, on the basis that these federations have in the past either launched or supported legal action against FIDE (the world chess federation).

The countries under the ban include:

  • England
  • France
  • Georgia
  • Germany
  • Switzerland
  • Ukraine
  • …and the United States of America.

This is a big deal.  These chess federations comprise some of the heavyweights of the chess world, encompass a third of all registered chess players worldwide, and, of course, represent some very high quality arbiters.

The letter, written by the president of the Turkish Chess Federation, Ali Nihat Yazici, argues that federations who sue FIDE are hurting the development of chess by diverting funds from chess projects to FIDE’s legal defence.  Verbatim:

“Some federations launched or supported court cases against FIDE and thus created financial problems for FIDE and a loss of distributable income for worldwide chess development.”

This, as a consequence, is undoubtably true.  But the real questions are whether the legal action was justified, whether FIDE bears any fault, and perhaps most importantly of all, whether national chess federations have the right to hold the world chess federation, to which they must contribute a sizeable financial amount every year, to account when allegations of corruption arise.

I, like most chess fans, never want to see the global governing body of my sport spending chess development funds to defend itself in court.  I also never want it to act in such a way that it needs to do so.  But certainly, I don’t want any authority to place itself above accountability, be it in sport, government or society.  There always has to be a system of checks and balances, especially for an organisation as rumour-rife as FIDE.

Scaring off federations from doing so will lead to either a breakaway organisation of disenfranchised countries, or perverse incentives for FIDE to act above the law – or both.  I’m not accusing FIDE of anything – I have no leaning in the world of chess politics – but surely these consequences are far worse for chess than those cited in Mr Yazici’s letter.

One final little factoid on which I’ll offer no comment.  The largest ongoing case against FIDE was brought forward by the English and Georgian chess federations, claiming that the appointment of five FIDE Vice-Presidents violates FIDE’s constitution (which allows the FIDE President to appoint only two).  The five nominated VPs are: Chu Bo, Israel Gelfer, Ilya Levito, Boris Kutin… and Ali Nihat Yazici.

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David Smerdon's picture
Author: David Smerdon

David Smerdon is a chess grandmaster from Brisbane, Australia. David attended Anglican Church Grammar School and Melbourne University. To qualify for the title of Grandmaster, a player must achieve three Grandmaster norm performances, and a FIDE Elo rating over 2500. Late in 2007, Smerdon achieved his third and final Grandmaster norm. In the July 2009 FIDE rating list his rating passed 2500, so he qualified for the title of Grandmaster. He is the fourth Australian to become a Grandmaster, after Ian Rogers, Darryl Johansen and Zhao Zong-Yuan. In 2009, Smerdon won the Queenstown Chess Classic tournament.

Source: Wikipedia




doubleroo's picture

If this was published on April the first I would never pick it as a real story.

Isaac Thabo's picture

David, I believe the first question you should ask before all others is whether arbiters are responsible for the actions of their federation with regards to the federation suing FIDE.

Lee's picture

Clearly the answer to that question would be 'no, they are not'.

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