The World Chess Federation (FIDE) threatened on Wednesday to cancel next month’s 41st World Chess Olympiad in Tromsø, after organizers refused entry to 10 national teams that tried to register after the deadline. The reigning women’s championship team from Russia was among those who failed to sign up in time.
“I will recommend cancelling the Chess Olympiad if it becomes necessary,” said FIDE Vice President Israel Gelfer, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “The organizers of Tromsø are very disappointing. They’re causing a lot of problems for FIDE, to the whole world of chess.”
“They’re denying visas from our people, they are denying invitations from federations, they’re not respecting FIDE President decisions, which is very clear according to the regulations,” Gelfer went on. “And FIDE now has to consider very, very strict and strong measures against them, we are still considering what to do. But we are very disappointed by their behaviour, from the way they are handling all the preparations.”
Organizers crossed president
FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov approved the late registrations, but Tromsø 2014 organizers wrote to the federation, saying they would not accept them. “We’re following the regulations that FIDE has prepared and the contract we have with them, which says when the registration deadline is and that they do not get to participate if the deadline isn’t met,” said tournament director Børge Robertsen.
“After informing Fide of our interpretation and position, we have received mails and phone calls from the Fide Secretariat and Vice President Gelfer asking us to allow the Russian women’s team to participate,” the organizing committee wrote in its letter. “Of course, we can understand the embarrassment it can create when a significant and powerful federation like RCF does not submit a team within the deadline. Still, we as Organizers have a duty to treat all federations alike.”
NRK’ chess expert Torstein Bae said the situation had become very controversial, because the organizers clearly had a right to refuse late registrations, but it would be dramatic if the reigning champions from a powerful chess nation like Russia were denied entry. “It is a rather sharp letter, and there has probably been a deal of communication back and forth, you understand,” Bae said. “It has reached the point where they feel like giving a clear message that these countries have not met the deadline and therefore have no right to be in the Olympiad.”
Part of the issue was the NOK 90,000 (USD 14,500) it would cost to add an extra team to the line-up. Bae believed the Russians would find a way to compete. “I think they will probably find a solution here which will allow them to join, either that they’ll pay the amount themselves or FIDE will step to and pay.”
It’s the second time the tournament has been thrown into jeopardy. Organizers lacked the sponsorship funding needed to stage the event, but were thrown a financial lifeline in the government’s renegotiated budget last month.