July 06, 2012 13:43

Suat Atalik banned from playing in Greece, writes open letter

GM Suat Atalik

Suat Atalik has been banned from playing chess in Greece. The Turkish grandmaster, who was earlier punished with a 15-month ban from international play by his own federation, forwarded email communication between tournament organizers and the Greek Chess Federation to several chess media. Following a ban from the federation, the organizers informed Atalik that he could not be accepted in their tournament.

Suat Atalik | Photo Wikipedia

On Thursday we received an email from Suat Atalik, in which he quoted emails from chess organizers and officials in Greece. Attached was an open letter by Atalik himself. The subject: a ban from the Greek Chess Federation - Atalik is not allowed to play chess in Greece.

Last Wednesday, July 4th the organizers of the Kavala Open wrote the following to Atalik:

Dear Mr Atalik

We regret to inform you that, according to decision of the Greek Chess Federation (below), we are not permitted to accept you in our Tournament, due to your 15-months punishment of the Turkish Chess Federation. We must apologise about this decision, that isn't ours, regarding our good relationship from the past, since your first participation in our Tournament. We give you below translated the message that yesterday our Federation sent us.
We are sorry about this inconvenience and hope not to stop our cooperation in the future.

Best Regards

The tournament directors

Vassilis Liogkas - Vassilis Theodoridis

At the moment of writing, Atalik is still on the list of participants (last update on June 25th):

The decision by the Kavala organizers to reject Atalik from their tournament was made on the basis of the following note from the Greek Chess Federation.

To the Organizers of International Tournaments in Greece

Mr President, dear chess friends,

The Board of the Greek Chess Federation, in the meeting of 30/6/2012, discussed and accepted a demand of the Turkish Chess federation, not to allow the participation of the chess player Suat Atalik in competitions in Greece. S.Atalik is punished by his federation with 15-months exclusion of matches, punishment which has been confirmed by the Supreme Sports Court of Turkey.

According to the above, the participation of this player in matches that will be held in our country during the summer.

Best sport regards

The President, Georgios Makropoulos
The General Secretary, Panagiotis Nikolopoulos

The letter by Makropoulos & Nikolopoulos reveals that the Turkish Chess Federation, who earlier had excluded Atalik from playing chess in or outside Turkey for a period of 15 months, demanded the Greek Chess Federation to follow suit. We mentioned Atalik's ban in Turkey recently, below our interview with Ali Nihat Yazici, the President of the Turkish Chess Federation.

As Atalik wrote in an earlier letter (which we mentioned back then - you can read it in PDF here), his 15-month ban from play was the result of his refusal to sign an undertaking (PDF here) with which the Turkish Chess Federation requests all of its members to ask permission to play abroad. Besides, by signing the player states that he is responsible for all financial consequences of his participation in a tournament abroad, that he will "act in accordance with the responsibilities of a national athlete" and that he won't commit "any activity against Turkish Republic".

Last month Atalik participated in the Golden Sands tournament in Bulgaria. There, the organizers allowed him to participate, despite receiving a demand from the Turkish Chess Federation to exclude him from the tournament. Yazici wrote to them that Atalik's suspension

should be followed by FIDE and all member federations of FIDE. (...) We protest this situation. We want FIDE clarify the situation and intervene to exclude Mr. Atalik from Golden Sands Tournament. We keep all our legal rights to appeal in GA in Istanbul and in international sport courts and diplomacy.

However, Atalik (and his wife Ekaterina) did finish the tournament, about which Yazici told us:

We will react to this not only in sport court, but also in criminal court. 

Now it becomes clear that the Turkish Chess Federation also demanded the Greek Chess Federation to exclude Atalik from all their tournaments, and that this demand was accepted.

The big question is whether this is actually possible from a legal point of view. Suat Atalik doesn't think so, as he writes in an open letter (slightly edited by us) which includes a paragraph from the FIDE Handbook:

Dear chess friends,

As Mr. Yazici could not [succeed] to throw me out of [the] 1st Grand European Open which was held in Golden Sands Bulgaria, he increased his hostility and most likely has written to all the federations to extract me from their tournaments albeit there is no Ethics [committee] neither [a] board decision from FIDE about it since there is no sportive crime by my side.The first sanction for me came in an expected way by Greek Chess Federation and the executive board of the latter came up with a ridiculous decision to prevent my participation for their tournaments only this summer after a meeting at the end of last month.
Approved by the 1979 Congress. Amended by the 1994 Congress.
Moral principles of FIDE for non-FIDE chess competitions.
1. The organizers and the players must be guided by the highest principles of the FIDE Statues:
1. FIDE is concerned exclusively with chess activities.
2. FIDE rejects discriminatory treatment for national, political, racial, social or religious reasons or on account of sex.
3. FIDE observes a strict neutrality in the internal affairs of the national chess federations.
2. In accord with its Statutes, FIDE reaffirms its commitment to the right to play chess and opposes all organized actions that would hinder that right.
3. It is understood that:
1. An organizer of a chess competition has the right to invite any chess player he chooses. Once an invitation has been issued and accepted, it must not be withdrawn.
2. Each player accepts an invitation only on his own free will but in strict accordance with the statutes and resolutions accepted by FIDE.

The paragraphe above is taken from [the] FIDE handbook and it is stated under boycottes. Not only Mr. Yazici's TCF's obligatory demand of permission and undertaking attached to it to gain the right to play in international tournaments for me falls in paragraph 1.3 and 2, his collaboration with [the] Greek Chess federation and IM Makropoulos is an organised action which hinders the right to play chess. Obviously under the command of Greek Chess Federation, [the] Kavala Organisers did not notice 3.1 either.

I personally believe that the chess world is relieved after Mr.Yazici's resignation and now it is turn for one of the most [controversial] figures in chess FIDE deputy president IM Makropoulos after his clear violation of 1.2+1.3 and 2.

GM Suat Atalik

On the one hand it seems like the Greek Chess Federation is overreacting by taking over the ban in Turkey. However, to some extent it is also understandable, since Atalik wasn't just banned by the Turkish Chess Federation. As Ali Nihat Yazici told us, the case was in fact carried to the Turkish Supreme Sport Court and the court rejected the appeal of Atalik and finalized the penalty.

We spoke to one other organizer of a Greek chess tournament (who preferred to stay anonymous, but he's not related to Kavala), who was inclined to reject Atalik from his tournament based on the decision by the Turkish Supreme Sport Court. Another organizer, Giorgos Tsounis, who runs the Negroponte 2012 International, has already stated publicly that Atalik (who is enlisted in the tournament) will be accepted to play, thus disregarding the letter of the Greek Chess Federation. Tsounis asked the federation to provide wrtten evidence regarding the sanction of Atalik.

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers


Stephen's picture

Can one not resign from one's national federation ? If he plays as an individual in a tournament abroad, not representing Turkey, why should it matter what the Turkish federation say ?

NN's picture

Yes, he can leave. Actually, GM Attalik has already left in the past and for many years he was playing for Bosna i Hercegovina in Olympiads. I don't know why he returned. I think the first example might have been Korchnoi who left the USSR and went to Switzerland. Perhaps one can also play under an international flag.

Anonymous's picture

This is very sad news. A federation that is cutting the life support of one of its players. Head of the federation should be a person to support the sport, not giving out penalties. I do not know what GM Atalik's crime was but a 15-month penalty, and trying to make it an international one, is just over kill. Atalik will be remembered for his games and writings. Yazici will be remembered (if) for his personal fight and quest for power. Too bad as it seems that he had done great work for chess in Turkey but his stubborness in this matter and his decision to ban arbiters from Olmypics will make the rest of his achievements go down the dustbin. Chess players can live without a federation but a federation cannot live without chessplayers.

Frits Fritschy's picture

Can you please clarify this: "However, to some extent it is also understandable, since Atalik wasn't just banned by the Turkish Chess Federation. As Ali Nihat Yazici told us, the case was in fact carried to the Turkish Supreme Sport Court and the court rejected the appeal of Atalik and finalized the penalty."

To what extent is this understandable?

Some 30 years ago, an Iranian court declared chess inappropriate for muslims (I do this from memory, I hope others remember this as well). Would it have been understandable when other countries had refused to let Iranians play in their tournaments?

I hope I misunderstood you.

Peter Doggers's picture

Not sure if this is comparable. I see it more as comparable to a cyclist who is suspended from international races, e.g. because of doping use. Some organizers might not accept the cyclist anymore, even though he wasn't (yet) found guilty by the UCI. I'm not saying it's justified to reject a player; the whole case is just too complicated for that. I'm just saying that the reasoning of the organizer is understandable.

Niima's picture

Hi Peter,

Your doping comparison is inept. When an athlete uses doping, s/he is contradicting the spirit of sport by obtaining unfair advantage over others. Furthermore, doping standards and regulations are accepted internationally. This obviously does not apply here.

The question here is, should a state and its institutions have the right to prohibit a professional from pursuing his career not only nationally but internationally, because he refuses to sign a document promising to

"act in accordance with the responsibilities of a national athlete" and not committing "any activity against the Turkish Republic."

What in the world does that mean? The wording is vague, which in turn gives the Turkish Federation and Ali Nihat Yazici power to harass Atalik if he does not toe their line. Maybe that is why Atalik refused to sign it. If so, then good for him, and hail to all the federations and tournament organizers that have the courage to fight this travesty.

S3's picture

""act in accordance with the responsibilities of a national athlete" and not committing "any activity against the Turkish Republic."
Probably means not playing in Israel and such.

Axel Müller's picture

You cannot possibly compare this to doping. Atalik did nothing wrong. His only crime was not to surrender his right to chose where to play without asking permission first.
I hope other organizers will also ignore the ban. I wish some other federation would step forward and make Atalik a honorary member. Maybe this would solve the problems.

Peter Doggers's picture

OK, I agree that it's different from a doping case.

Frits Fritschy's picture

O, and I missed this reply because I was writing another comment.

Frits Fritschy's picture

Other people here already have reacted aptly, I was a bit busy. Now, I'm just wondering, did you just make a mistake as we all do once in a while, am I misinterpreting you, or do you have some kind of working relation with Yazici that you don't want to compromise? I don't expect an answer.
But, when you write: " I see it more as comparable to a cyclist who is suspended from international races, e.g. because of doping use" you suggest that Atalik did not just ignore the rules of his federation, but actually has done something that is generally unacceptable. What should that be? Can you at least answer that?

Peter Doggers's picture

Again: I agree that it's different from a doping case, this was a wrong comparison. My point was that it is not completely strange that some organizers "listen" to a verdict of the highest sports court of a neighbouring country, even if they agree that this verdict is based on a mistake. Let me make this clear: I also think that Atalik is treated wrongly here!

About your other question: ChessVibes has several banner ads paid by the Turkish Chess Federation, as you've surely noticed. However, even though I don't agree with much that he's done recently, one thing I have to compliment Yazici for: as a former journalist he understands that there should be a strict separation between advertisements and editorial decisions.

Frits Fritschy's picture

Okay, this is good enough for me, although we clearly have different opinions about what is normal and acceptable from organisers of a chess tournament.
Further, as a matter of fact, I did not notice these banners. I trust the financial gain didn't influence you; I know as much as you, you would stand to lose much more if it did. Still, as a journalist it pays to have reliable sources high up in organizations - and I was wondering this was a reason for you to take a 'neutral' stand, taking notice of both the cabbage and the goat, as we say in Dutch. Which in this case is not too pleasant for the cabbage.

Axel Müller's picture

maybe I should disable my ad-blocker so I stop missing out on these more subtle aspects ...

S3's picture

+1. This is uncomparable with doping and not understandable at all. Unless the Greek organizers are afraid of Yazici and his henchmen.

simaginfan's picture

Totally agree with stephen.
There are internatonal laws regarding 'restraint of trade' which the courts recognise as valid with regard to sportsmen. Yaziki can take any absurd actions he wishes with regard to his own federation, but he can not prevent anyone from participating in a sporting event in another country, if the relevant organisation chooses to allow that players participation. The greek federation can choose not to allow Atalik to play in one of their events if they so wish, provided the fide regulations are adhered to. In this case, that is a very debateable proviso.

S3's picture

So let me get this straight. The Turkish Federation wants Atalik to sign some stupid political/nationalistical letter and because he refused they took away his job and made sure he can't work elsewhere. Some Turkish court aproves of this criminal bullying.
Bye bye human rights. This sounds a lot like the former Soviet Union and is no justice at all.
It's a good reason for foreigners to boycot Turkish tournaments, GM and amateur alike. And Greek ones too, until they publicly renounce their decision.

Axel Müller's picture

I agree!

osman's picture

again people does not have an idea (if this is not s.atalik) makes comments about turkey. i do not understand why our president does not answer those allegations.
there is no player in the world did get the same support like turkish players, and especially like aalim family. but i checked today mrs.atalik played in many evnts abroad an never has been published. so, does she ask permission and sign this commitments? same ommitments her husband refuse to sign?

S3's picture


Philip Feeley's picture

...and good luck doing that with the Olympiad coming up.

bronkenstein's picture

Looks like it is all made of politics ie personal relations and power abuse (for simple revenge), rather than of some (inter)national law nuances. We should be familiar with the FIDE mechanisms by now, and that´s exactly where Macropoulos and Yazici came from.

Thomas's picture

While general political relations between Greece and Turkey are "tricky", chess relations seem fine. Notably, Greece got an organizer wildcard for the World Team Championship when it was held in Turkey - a controversial decision at the time because Ukraine would have been a more logical candidate. Did this play a role in Greece honoring this Turkish request?
I would understand if other federations or organizers banned Feller from chess events, even though he - so it seems - successfully appealed against the decision by the French federation in court. Atalik's case is different and hard to understand.

Manu's picture

Not so long ago the best player of all times was also banned from playing in an innocent country , not only that, he was also persecuted and convicted for not obeying the ban , despite the fact that the mach was arguably a friendly match.
Suat's case although very different remind me of that kind of abuse of power.
I strongly recommend him to stop writing open letters and start spitting and burning flags .

Frits Fritschy's picture

You have been sharper, Manu.
Which tournament banned Fischer? Okay, Japan arrested Fischer - but what did the Japanese chess federation do? Well, I don't expect Macropoulos to marry Atalik, even if this is possible in Greece...

Creemer's picture

I think he meant the return match against Spassky in Yugoslavia and the following persecution by the US.

Frits Fritschy's picture

As of course I understood.

valg321's picture

"You have been sharper, Manu.
Which tournament banned Fischer?"

no tournament banned Fischer and Manu never said it did, so what exactly was the point of your reply to him? As i understand it Manu just pointed out the general similarity of the two stories

test's picture


Has it really come to the point that the chess world just accepts this sort of stuff?

How much lower can you sink?

George Tsounis's picture

The Chess Academy of Chalcis '' Palamedes of Evia'' ignores the decision of the Greek Chess Federation and does not preclude the Mr. Suat Atalik from the Open Chess Tournament Negroponte 2012. Accepts the participation.

George Tsounis
Tournament Director

Frits Fritschy's picture

George, unlike others, you have a straight back! I would nearly go to your tournament myself.

Axel Müller's picture

That's great, George!

S3's picture

Bravo. I might even play at your tournament btw!

S3's picture

That is, when the site has more info on hotel prices:)

RG's picture

Thank you Mr. George Tsounis for standing up for chess!

Creemer's picture

+ a lot

Anonymous's picture

Bravo George!!
What happenned to Suat is a clear case of a personal grudge of Ali Nihat Yazici (simply willing to deny Suat everything- the right to play, work ,live,...etc). A typical dictator mind trying for the sake of a personal vendetta to destroy (in every sort of way)the best Turkish born player in the country history.
I am surprised that my GM colleagues, chess professionals are (mostly) standing still.
What has just happenned to Suat can actually happen to any of us!
Your act George is act of principle and integrity!
Ivan Sokolov

osman's picture

as a turkish guy, i may tell you that our federation is correct on this matter. since we all know what kind of personality atalik is. first he is lying or exagerating by saying in his open letter that supreme court of sport covering federation.
may you magine that this guy in his weekly column attacking all our female hero non stop. accusing everyone with cheating. never shakes any hand in turkey.
it is clear in turkey that sport corts look athletes fair play and i believe atalik is the worst sportman n earth.
i am very surprised with excellent decision of greek chessfederation.
i advise everyone before speaking about issue to have an idea on case.

for me in turkey that guy desires to b banned from chess for a life.

in 2008 inizmir open i saw him show my hand to shake and the guy slmost pitted on my face.

chess is better without such as guys clearly!

let us see what will happen?

SetNoEscapeOn's picture

You added a bunch of irrelevancies. The man is banned because he refused to sign a certain piece of paper.

If he turns out to be Satan himself, that would still be what is at issue here.

Frits Fritschy's picture

As I understand from you Mr. Atalik is not a very nice person. He is saying things some people think to be untrue or exagerated. He writes things some people don't like. He may be a bit paranoid and rude. He may even have done things for which a tournament organiser has tapped him on his fingers. He may even smell badly, collect parking tickets like others collect stamps and watch dirty movies. Even when all of this is true, it wouldn't give any chess tournament the right to ban him.
By the way, how do you 'almost' spit someone in the face?

Anonymous's picture

Yes. Why don't you give him 100 lashes and 20 years in prison.

George Tsounis's picture

This is an issue of the Turkish Chess Federation and we respect the decisions but we did not impose a penalty one chess player in an open tournament in Greece that has not removed the athletic attribute.
We know yours the hospitality in 2008 in Mersin as the Turks chess players with yours President the our hospitality in Chalkis Acropolis 2009.

Eiae's picture


George Tsounis's picture

Frits Fritschy
19 min 59 sec ago

Thanks a lot

What's Next?'s picture

Fide hasn't banned him. Let him play.

Bartleby's picture

Sounds as silly and petty as the arbiters' ban, but banning a professional from playing for over a year is serious. It's sad when a federation and one of its best players can't come to terms. But that must never be a reason to take away his livelihood. At the utmost they may exclude him from their own tournaments, if there's really a reason. I hope there are many organizers with courage, and this case generates enough publicity that he ends up with more invitations than he would get without the ban.

RG's picture

Not only that but if he refuses to sign the paper at the end of his suspension, what then?

RG's picture

This seems very similar to the U.S. authorities who forbid Fischer to play in Yugoslavia. Fischer was allowed to play at his own risk. Greece should have handled it the same way. The demands of member nations aren't binding upon organizers in other nations or else the FIDE Statutes are meaningless.

RG's picture

"forbid" should be "forbade"

Anonymous's picture

If Poland were hosting an international chess tournament in 1938 and the Deutschland Chess Federation had forbidden a German grandmaster from competing abroad because he would not sign a similarly worded letter, wouldn't Poland forbid the grandmaster from playing in their tournament? Of course the analogy is over the top but the point is that it is safer to disappoint GM Suat Atalik than to piss off an aggressive person such as Ali Nihat Yazici, the President of the Turkish Chess Federation.


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