Moving past the politics, and focusing on the chess

FEBRUARY 18 — On February 1, the FIDE (World Chess Federation) website posted a terse notice under PB Resolutions which had just two announcements.

For those not familiar with matters FIDE, PB refers to Presidential Board and that is a meeting held quarterly by the powers that be to approve whatever in between the annual meetings of the General Assembly which is made up of the delegates from member countries who are FIDE voting members.

Of the two items listed, the first was unusual: “Temporary suspension of the Asean Chess Confederation as an affiliated member of FIDE” while the second was business as usual: “The titles submitted by the following Commissions: Qualifications, Arbiters, Trainers, Events and Chess in Schools.”

The issue apparently was that FIDE believed the Asean Chess Confederation (ACC) has no authority to sanction one of its members over an incident raised by another of its members (both are among the 10 National Chess Federations in ACC) and had demanded that it be lifted.

When I was at the 3rd JAPFA Asean Chess Championships last December, I was told by the organiser who was also the Deputy President of the ACC that the FIDE Executive Director had written about a week before the start of the championships to demand that the sanction against the Singapore Chess Federation (SCF) be lifted, failing which FIDE would not recognise the event and its award of direct titles.

They replied advising FIDE an ACC Board Meeting would be called soonest to address the matter. But apparently this was not good enough because on a separate matter of updating the FIDE calendar and announcing the 17th Asean+ Age-Group Championships to be held from May 29 to June 7, 2016 in Pattaya, Thailand, there was no reply to the ACC Secretary-General.

But I understand that in a follow-up to emails made to the ACC Deputy President, the ACC Secretary-General was advised of the same but warned that failure to do so would mean suspension of ACC by FIDE at the next PB Meeting.

And so that has come to pass.  

My take on all this is that FIDE is being a bit ridiculous for many reasons and the following are just a few:

1.            The sanction by ACC against SCF was at the behest and on the basis of a complaint by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) over an incident at an ACC event held in Singapore.  While I personally think the penalty was harsh, there were special circumstances that arguably warranted the action and it was limited to just ACC events. How is that not ACC’s jurisdiction and now that of FIDE’s?

2.            FIDE telling an organiser to act within an impossible time frame on a matter not in its control during a peak holiday period with something like a week’s notice and linking two different things: sanction by ACC with the 3rd JAPFA Asean Chess Championships event not being able to award the titles as published? I think that was clumsy. 

3.            It would appear that while FIDE was quick to act against ACC on what was almost certainly a complaint — official or unofficial by SCF — there was no proper process, let alone an official enquiry established by FIDE to establish the facts and to engage all parties for an amicable resolution. The timelines together with a seemingly lack of due process was telling as was the rush by FIDE to impose such a severe penalty against ACC.

The ACC was started around the Asean Age-group Championships in 2000 and its membership grew rapidly to include all 10 eligible country National Chess Federations which often acted with one voice.

However, the 2014 FIDE Elections in Tromso, Norway splintered the organisation into those who are fully supportive, others who are forced by government intervention to vote differently, and yet others whose own chess leadership sees opportunities to take control for what they cannot do on their own merits.

For some, the suspension by FIDE together with the 17th Asean+ Age-Group Championships not taking place would essentially end ACC as a political force or catalyst for change.

From what I understand, ACC will be engaging FIDE as to the facts and expects the suspension to be lifted. Also, the ACC Board has now met and, with the support of many of its members, agreed that the 17th Asean+ Age-Group Championships will take place as planned regardless of the status of its affiliation with FIDE. 

Very simply, the view of the ACC leadership is that they cannot in good faith allow petty politics to destroy what has been the enabler for the development of young chess players in the region for almost two decades.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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