Chess Olympiad yields to FIDE

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The organizers of the 41st World Chess Olympiad in Tromsø next month bowed to pressure from the World Chess Federation (FIDE) on Monday, and agreed to allow entry to teams that missed the sign-up deadline. Last week FIDE threatened to cancel the event or move it to Russia when the Tromsø 2014 organizers refused to budge on the late entries.

Tromsø mayor Jens Johan Hjort (left) and FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Chess Olympiad. The Tromsø 2014 organizers bowed to pressure from FIDE on Monday and agreed to let teams who'd missed the June 1 registration deadline compete in next month's tournament. PHOTO: David Llada/facebook.com/IstanbulChessOlympiad2012

Tromsø mayor Jens Johan Hjort (left) and FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Chess Olympiad. The Tromsø 2014 organizers bowed to pressure from FIDE on Monday and agreed to let teams who’d missed the June 1 registration deadline compete in next month’s tournament. PHOTO: David Llada/facebook.com/IstanbulChessOlympiad2012

The organizers did not want to let 10 national teams compete that failed to sign up by June 1. FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov approved the late registrations, which included the reigning women’s champions from Russia. But organizers controversially refused to follow Ilyumzhinov’s edict, said they’d adhered to FIDE’s own regulations, and it would cost too much money to add the latecomers to the program.

The president wrote an open letter to the event holders late last week that was published on FIDE’s website, demanding the excluded teams get to participate, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “As FIDE president I will in the strongest appeal the olympiad organizing committee’s recent decisions and behaviour,” Ilyumzhinov wrote. He threatened to invoke rule 6.1 which allows him to overrule all contracts, including national federations’ own rules.

“We’re giving into the demands, but we still do not agree,” Tromsø 2014 director Børge Robertsen told on Monday. “We have record enrollments, and have needed to adhere to the rules FIDE has set. But now we see that all would be better served if everyone gets to come.” He said they’d discuss with FIDE the economic impacts of letting the 10 extra teams compete.

As well as the Russian women, teams from Cambodia, the Central African Republic, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Oman, Pakistan, Senegal and Afghanistan would now be allowed to participate.

“I think it is totally the right decision,” said NRK’s chess expert, Torstein Bae. “A considerable part of the point of the event is that you gather the whole world into this kind of competition, so it would be a shame if because of a deadline you missed so many countries.”

Legal action threatened
The Russian Chess Federation (RCF) argued an error by the Tromsø 2014 organizers was to blame for the late registrations. The federation’s President Andrej Filatov wrote to Marit Wiig, the head of the Ministry of Culture’s sp0rts department, reported newspaper VG on Monday.

“The Russian Chess Federation will demand a public apology from the organizers over the Russian women’s team,” Filatov wrote. “We are confident in the validity of our legal case and will seek compensation for the costs RCF incurred in connection with this, and for the moral damaged caused to the Russian national team.” RCF hired a US law firm to handle the case.

“It is up to each individual sporting event to decide which rules apply,” Wiig said. “But we are following the case.”

However, chess grandmaster, former world champion and FIDE presidency candidate Garry Kasparov argued the federation was supporting the Russians in an attempt to politicize and obscure what was really a registration error and hassle on RCF’s side. He believed it was a willful violation of the rules, and the organizations had collaborated to get the ban overturned.

Kasparov’s claims were backed by Silvio Danailov, the head of the European Chess Union. He was concerned by FIDE’s aggressive behaviour, and said the federation could not reliably partner with sponsors and organizers.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate