Russian Chess Federation supports Surov with open letter
The Russian Chess Federation has openly supported Evgeny Surov, the Russian journalist who is not allowed to work at the Olympiad in Istanbul. In an open letter the RCF's Head of the Management Board, Ilya Levitov, asks the Olympiad organizers to accredit Surov for the tournament.
Ilya Levitov | Photo courtesy of the Russian Chess Federation
As we reported last Tuesday, Evgeny Surov was not allowed to enter the playing hall on the first day of the Olympiad, not as a journalist and not as a spectator either. We included a Skype conversation in which Ali Nihat Yazici, the President of the Turkish Chess Federation and main organizer of the Olympiad, told us that he doesn't consider Surov to be a journalist.
Today on the website of the Russian Chess Federation the following open letter was published in both Russian and English:
To the President of the Turkish Chess Federation
Dear Mr. Yazici,
The Russian Chess Federation is sincerely grateful to you for the organization of the world chess festival – Olympiad in Istanbul.
Taking into account the long-term friendly relationship between our countries and federations, we earnestly ask you to provide the Russian journalist Evgeny Surov with an opportunity to freely cover the World Chess Olympiad.
Over the last years, Turkey has become one of the world chess capitals. Thanks to you, the country is experiencing a boom in chess, and the federation is holding numerous major international tournaments yearly. Your outstanding work on popularizing chess causes general admiration.
Evgeny Surov is the chief editor of the Russian biggest chess web-site www.chess-news.ru, that is highly popular not only among Russian but also among foreign Russian-speaking audience. His readers are used to getting the most up-to-date news and interviews from the major world forums.
We are aware of the fact that Evgeny Surov’s website is sometimes hosting sharp, disputable and contradictory materials. Occasionally, these materials may offend and even insult the chess organizers, grandmasters and chess friends. But regardless of the personal attitude to the web-site or the web-site journalists, tournament organizers shall not stoop to the level of settling scores, but are obliged to give them an opportunity to do their job and let the readers make their own conclusions.
We are once again asking you to accredit Evgeny Surov for the tournament as a journalist and give him an opportunity to carry out his professional duty.
The Head of the Management Board of RCF I. Levitov
With this letter Levitov responds to Evgeny Surov's open letter directed to him, and also to another official of the Russian federation, Arkady Dvorkovich. In his letter to the Russian federation, Surov requested Levitov and Dvorkovich
to assess this situation and intervene. I ask you to stand upon my rights, including my fundamental right to practice profession, and the rights of tens of thousands of Russian-speaking chess amateurs' to receive trustworthy information from the Olympiad which they wish to follow on the website of which I am the editor-in-chief.
(We published Surov's open letter in full at the end of our article last Tuesday.)
Levitov's open letter is interesting in that he acknowledges that Surov isn't Mother Theresa either. The Chess-News editor is known to provoke controversy on a regular basis, and Levitov goes as a far as saying
Occasionally, these materials may offend and even insult the chess organizers, grandmasters and chess friends.
Still, the Head of the Management Board of Russian Chess Federation believes that it's not up to organizers to "settle scores" by not accrediting critical journalists.
Among journalists there doesn't seem to be consensus about the case. Most of our colleagues haven't written about the situation yet, perhaps fearing exclusion from the Olympiad themselves. (One chess journalist admitted to us that this was his main reason for avoiding the subject.)
Europe-Echecs did mention the case in their round 2 report. The French editors (of which one, GM Robert Fontaine, is in Olympiad co-hosting the press conferences) seem to reason that it's Surov's own fault:
... During the Anand-Gelfand WCh match, as soon as he [Surov] took the word we all – the players included – knew that the question would be weird. Sometimes this led to sharp answers. Obviously in the microcosm of the chess world such an attitude isn't forgiven and Surov made himself some enemies.
(Translation by Thomas in the comments.)
Last December Italian part-time chess journo Janis Nisii wasn't welcome at the Reggio Emilia tournament. Back then we didn't cover it (perhaps mistakenly), mostly because we felt that there's not much you can do when a private organizer just doesn't want you around.
Today in the comments Nisii rightly pointed out that
[T]here is a tragic lack of truly independent journalists in the chess field for the simple reason there is so little money, that many of them have to rely on the organizers invitations.
ChessVibes will arrive in Istanbul on Monday, September the 3rd and we'll surely discuss the case some more with our colleagues present.
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