April 10, 2009 1:17

Barcza Memorial cancelled after first round; organizer never paid anything

II Barza Memorial cancelledThis week the very strong 2nd edition of the Gedeon Barcza Memorial, with GMs Zoltan Almasi (2685), Ivan Sokolov (2669) and GM Evgeny Postny (2648) as its favorites, was cancelled after the first round, when it became clear that the organizer didn't have the money to pay the venue nor the players. As one of the participants, IM Robert Ris gives us a personal account of a small nightmare.

The II Gedeon Barcza Memorial was supposed to take place in Budapest 6th-17th April 2009. It was a 12-player round-robin with GM Zoltan Almasi (2685), GM Ivan Sokolov (2669), GM Evgeny Postny (2648), GM Victor Mikhalevski (2625), GM Eduardas Rozentalis (2595), GM Geetha Narayanan Gopal (2572), IM Gabor Papp (2524), IM Marcos Llaneza Vega (2522), IM Peter Prohaszka (2511), GM Oleg Romanishin (2501), IM David Recuero Guerra (2459) and IM Robert Ris (2432).

Although the first round was actually played, it became clear very soon that the main organizer, Gabor Pali, didn't have any money to pay either the venue or the players. The top GMs were still waiting for their appearance fees and the Ramada Resort Hotel, where the players were staying and where the tournament was held, never received any money from Pali either. On the second day they had to decide to close the playing hall, according to the basic economic rule: "no money, no business".

As a consequence, twelve chess players have been seriously let down and financially harmed. One of them is IM Robert Ris from The Netherlands, who happens to be one of our co-editors for ChessVibes Openings. With such a fantastic field, it was going to be one of the best tournaments he ever played in, but it ended in a nightmare. Here's his personal account:

A few months ago I found out that in April 2009 a 2nd edition of the Barcza Memorial would be organized in Budapest. (After reading the story you will understand why there is no tournament site of such strong tournament anymore!). I noticed an email address of the organizer, Gabor Pali, and decided to write him if there would be a possibility for me to participate. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any reply, until two weeks before the tournament was scheduled. His invitation came quite unexpectedly for me, but I was very glad to get the chance to play in a Category 13 tournament, although I had to pay a huge entry fee (€ 600) + flight ticket (€ 320) all myself.

I started my trip on Sunday, April 5th. Due to late booking I couldn’t get a direct flight to Budapest, so I had to make a short transfer in Prague. Arriving there, I decided to check my phone, and saw to my big surprise three missed calls from GM Ivan Sokolov, one of the players in the tournament. I called him immediately and he told me he arrived at the Ramada Resort Hotel (which was also playing venue) and wanted to check-in, but when informing the reception he came for the chess tournament nobody understood what he was talking about. According to the hotel manager, Pali started negotiations a few months ago, but they were stopped early without signing any contract.

Ivan Sokolov informed me that it looked highly unlikely that there would a tournament going to take place, so the best thing I could do, he advised me, was to take a taxi and book a room 1for one night at my own expense.

After off-loading my luggage in Budapest I was surprised that Gabor Pali picked me up. He told me immediately that the first night I couldn’t stay in the hotel, since it was overbooked. After the opening ceremony, where all players but Sokolov were present (Ivan wasn't even informed about the location) he therefore decided to drop me and a few other players in another hotel for one night and transfer us the next morning.

The next day we checked-out and went to the other hotel. The playing conditions looked really excellent. Everything seemed to be ready for a nice and competitive event.

The 1st round went quite smoothly, despite a slight delay at the beginning of the round.

It seemed that all small problems were more or less solved, but in fact they just started…

Next day, 5 minutes before the start of the 2nd round, Pali arrived in the hotel and announced to the players that the 2nd round would be delayed for one hour, without mentioning any reason. To me all things were quite clear already, since the hotel management even didn’t want to open the conference hall, where we were supposed to play. It was obvious that Pali hadn’t paid anything to the hotel yet.

The players decided to relax in the lobby while Pali went to the bank. Coming back (of course nobody cared about the exact delaying time anymore) he showed some papers to the hotel and sales manager. As I could read from their faces they were absolutely not satisfied what was going on and Pali left again, this time accompanied by the hotel manager. After a while they returned and Pali informed a few players that "today we don’t play, maybe tomorrow double round" while the hotel manager wisely added "maybe tomorrow no games at all".

When hearing this from other participants I decided to have a serious talk with Pali. I explained him that the situation for me was absolutely unacceptable: paying a huge amount to play this tournament and being treated in such a way. Arguments from his side like that he lost potential sponsors in preparation of the tournament and he suffered from private problems, didn’t convince me at all. Losing sponsors in January and inviting me at the end of March lacks any logic. He simply didn’t fulfill any of his promises we agreed before the tournament and I didn’t see anything better than to withdraw myself from the tournament.

About one hour later the hotel manager informed all players that the organizer had absolutely no money, and so the tournament had to be cancelled. The hotel gave him a few chances by extending the deadline, but as the manager stated correctly: "No money, no business."

The tournament being cancelled is absolutely a pity, but what about the expenses all the players made? For me personally it means that I lost around € 1000 for playing only one game. Most of the other players only lost their flight ticket and some starting fee. During the first two days GMs Almasi and Sokolov asked Pali many times to pay their starting fee, but every time he found a bad excuse to delay the payment.

I am very curious what was the reason that Pali did all this to us. As the hotel manager explained, Pali had absolutely no money to transfer. He lost some sponsors during the preparation of the tournament, but still the Hungarian Chess Federation sent him some money (I have been told 2.2 million forint which is about € 7300) which he absolutely misused and/or kept for himself.

After all what happened, it was decided to put up a list with all expenses the players made and forced Pali to sign himself. As he couldn’t escape he signed of course, and promised me he would pay me in the morning at the airport. At 07.45 AM I met him together with GMs Gopal and Rozentalis. Pali told me he transferred the money to my account, which was absolutely impossible, since the banks are closed until 8 AM.

I asked him to pay me cash, so we went to the local currency office. His willingness to pay me cash is already enough proof that he did not send the money to my bank account! Coming there he explained us that he didn’t have his card with him, so he couldn’t pay me cash. Similar problems occurred with Gopal and Rozentalis who also didn’t get anything. Coming back home I was really surprised to hear that Pali informed Ivan Sokolov that he partly paid me back! Absolutely a lie!

At last I would really like to thank the Ignacz family, who showed great hospitality inviting me to stay with them, after being kicked out of the hotel. They did an excellent job by taking care of several chess players and helping to put up the list of expenses.

I would kindly ask FIDE and the Hungarian Chess Federation to take appropriate measures against Gabor Pali so that he will be unable to organize any chess events in the future.

Kind regards,

IM Robert Ris

GM Evgeny Postny already played in a tournament that was organized by Gabor Pali, and knew that the man wasn't the most reliable organizer around. However, Postny decided to "give him another chance". The Israeli grandmaster was happy to share with ChessVibes his experience with Pali:

I personally already played in his tournament in 2004 (category 9), also Sergey Erenburg played there, and the tournament was running more or less smoothly, even though we were running after Gabor Pali every day to get our appearence fees untill the end of last round.

So, I personally knew that this organizer is not reliable, but I still decided to give him a chance, as I didn't find any other event to play in April, and also I've been many times in Budapest before, and enjoy the city quite much.

Last year in October, he organised 1st Barcza Memorial, and the tournament went okay, Romanishin told us that he paid everything at that tourney. But, it appeared that this time the guy has no money at all. He didn't book the hotel in advance (the superb Ramada resort hotel) on the north edge of Budapest Pest side. He took all the receipts from all participants (flights, taxis, some other) and promised to give money later.

In the hotel he also promised something, told bullshit about the sponsor, but at the day of the 2nd round the chief hotel manager urged him to pay immediately. By the way, the hotel offered him a huge discount, but he didn't pay either. His credit card has 0 Forints on it - we checked in the bank. We were at his flat, he called some friends, relatives, nobody wants to give him money.

This kind of situation is impossible to figure out for a "normal" person. It is impossible, at least for me, to understand his logic. He paid nothing, didn't get any money from the sponsor, and didn't ran out of the city. He is going nowhere, just says that he will pay at that date, that hour, that sum to that person, and all lies of course.

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers


matthew's picture

ouch. hope you sue him

dungeon's picture

You can read the official announcement of the Hungarian Chess Association at www.chess.hu:

"About the so-called Barcza memorial tournament 2009.04.10

The Hungarian Chess Federation announces that it has never approved, supported, promoted any so-called Barcza Memorial tournament or provided any financial support for such a tournament to its organizer Gabor Pali. The event which was announced and handled under suspicious circumstances is entirely the private effort of Gabor Pali. The Hungarian Chess Federation does not take any responsibility for the event and the actions of the organizer. The official tournament calendar of the HCF does not contain any Barcza memorial event. The Barcza Gedeon chess club dernounces Pali's action and declares it as a private effort of a cheater.

Understanding from different sources that Pali decieved all the players registered for the event and the management of the venue, the Presidential Board of the Hungarian Chess Federation ordered yesterday a full-scale investigation of the situation and decided to take all the appropriate measurements against Gabor Pali, possibly including a police information action.

The Hungarian Chess Federation regrets that such a fraud could happen and already extended its help to any player who turned to the Federation. At the same time, the HCF announces the forbidding of Gabor Pali from organizing any chess event until the investigation is finished. The investigation may lead to further actions from the HCF, including a complete prohibition of Gabor Pali from any chess activity in Hungary."

Wim's picture

What a bizar story!

christos (greece)'s picture

It is a sad story of course.
You probably should not distrust people too much, and you couldn't expect that the tournament would not take place, but I think paying 600? to participate in a tournament is not normal, and it was a mistake.

Vincent Hoogland's picture

A pity for the players, it's terrible. But maybe this Mr. Pali is the most pitiful, he must be gravely ill. He badly needs a treatment he can't pay for.

Thorex's picture

As a jurist I can assure you that such things happen on a daily basis in all areas of life. It's not only the person, but also the lack or failure of supervisory bodies.

I wonder what organizations like FIDE or this Hungarian Chess Federation are doing for their members to protect them from such things. Couldn't be that much, could it?

CAL|Daniel's picture

stuff like this is really a shame to hear about. bad for the players. bad for chess. just plain bad. What goes in the mind of a man like that? If you don't have the money cancel asap! Before players spend all their money to come play!

milan kovacs's picture


the official news from hungarian chess association - see for yourself. very interesting. i'm actually hungarian and i just don't understand anything about this tournament...

suneet's picture

this is totally absurd!
there was no cross checking or ownership by the official CHESS assocation of that country????

More than the organizer, that organization of that country is at fault.

There is no way any country can allow a tournament like this... preparation takes a TEAM.... the team here was a SINGLE MAN???

I think its a shame on HUNGARY CHESS ASSOCIATION (whatever official body is)...

Ruben's picture

Lynch him!

test's picture

A bit harsh no? And that's not gonna get you your money back either. ;)

It all sounds like an elaborate con, but then it is indeed incomprehensible why the guy sticks around and pretends everything will be ok.

Arne Moll's picture

Tough story, Robert! I guess we won't be seeing the Budapest Gambit in ChessVibes Openings any time soon, will we? ;-)

rajesh's picture

boy, that must've been one frustrating episode for all the players involved.

someone said "sue him"? and?? add your lawyer fees to his reimbursement list which he is going to promptly repay? Good luck with that.

Henk's picture

This is the kind of story for the history trove of chess. I love these kind of stories about gangsters organizing chess tournaments, fraudulent investors using stolen money to organize matches, chess players losing their appearance fee before the start of the tournament in the casino and simply people without money organizing stuff, Great story! Except for those involved that is, but they´ll survive.

Ben's picture

why is this guy not in jail?

Lajos Arpad's picture

It's a shame for all of us, Hungarians. It's a pain to read comments like this:

"I wonder what organizations like FIDE or this Hungarian Chess Federation are doing for their members to protect them from such things. Couldn’t be that much, could it?"

"More than the organizer, that organization of that country is at fault.

There is no way any country can allow a tournament like this… preparation takes a TEAM…. the team here was a SINGLE MAN???

I think its a shame on HUNGARY CHESS ASSOCIATION (whatever official body is)…"

I agree with Ruben. He is a shame for Hungary, the Hungarian Chess Federation, Budapest, for the Hungarian people. He should at least be put in jail, but that's not an appropriate punishment for him to have a place to sleep, to have food for every day all from the expenses of the people from Hungary.

Castro's picture

Because the way to the jail is outside of it ;-)
Anyway, sometimes these cases look more than simple law-breaking issues.

Castro's picture

@Lajos Arpad

"He should at least be put in jail, but that’s not an appropriate punishment for him to have a place to sleep, to have food for every day all from the expenses of the people from Hungary"

Things one can say! This type of comments makes me largely prefer Ruben's "Lynch him!", which, if it isn't, at least may look like pure, funny, fully assumed nonsense!

You love drama, right? But you even sound like wishing it to happen. Have you thought about how small this is, compared with the big disgraces of the humanity, with all the touching, brilliant stories they inspired? And look: There are always survivals! Let's have more disgraces, in the name of drama and of the rest of the arts!

Israel's picture

"I still decided to give him a chance, as I didn’t find any other event to play in April..."
Bad excuse. Postny already had a bad experience with that guy, but gave Pali one more chance! Why didn't he ask Pali to pay him some money in advance or to pay at least a flight? Why didn't he sign any kind of contract from Pali?
This is not the first story ( I've heard of at least a dozen happened in last few years) and not the last, but Grandmasters simply don't do anything to prevent those situations! Hire a good manager and pay him some % of your winnings. In fact, a grandmaster with 2650 can hardly make a living from chess, so they don't even think in that direction. Look at ACP- do they make anything else, except running pointless polls and conflicting with FIDE?
Stop whining, guys! Go and get a normal job. Take an example from McShane, Piket, Sadler etc. Or more guys like Pali will be on your way.

AK's picture

100% RIGHT!!!
That's why most of the 'normal GM's' left chess searching for dignity and showing self respect...

There are so many chess professional gipsies that so often humiliate themself without any self respect,and doing almost nothing for a better future...as to warn others about such great organisers...Nothing to do in April-so let's make a diet and run after a cheater organisers to pay us! A great sport! And if he can't pay us the conditions-what's the problem? We can maybe have a free night sleep in a friendly house and save few euros so we can comeback next year! Bravoo Postny,a real inspiration for any chess lover!
Bobby and Kasparov had to open there chess School to teach GM's how to get more respect and better payment for there job ,but considering this two complex selfish personalities...This is the mirror of the chess world!
Any other respective sport or job without contracts or at least advance payment for expences??!

Wake up sleepy lazy GM's and fight for rights before is too late....or maybe it is already?!

JS's picture

It´s probably already too late.

Robert Ris's picture

@ Christos

In my situation, in my opinion, aying 600 euro's is not so strange. You must imagine I was invited to play in a cat. 13 tournament. The organizer had arranged special discount tarifs in the hotel, so that means in case I had booked a normal holiday in that hotel all myself, it would have been much more expensive.
Secondly, these days there are more tournaments like this where you have to take care about all your own expenses. For example in Aeroflot tournament in Moscow, usually all players in the A1 (2550+) section, don't get any conditions, nothing to say about players in A2 (2400-2550). So in my opinion it's not that strange to do it once, giving myself the oppurtunity to play against such strong field.

Robert Ris's picture

@ Arne

I don't know what's wrong with me, but last Friday I decided to give the Budapester a try in a blitz game! ;-) I found myself in a terrible position, but lucky me, I could escape once again!

Corporate Entertainment's picture

Oh wow, this got every one going - fascinating input mixed with a good read.Corporate Entertainment

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