Sunday, July 20, 2014

What in the Chess World?

So where do you stand regarding the issue of politics in sport? It's a shame when sports stars are used as pawns in political games, or when political powers interfere with sports events. Chess seems to be going through the mill with this at the moment. I'm guessing there are things going on behind the scenes, and possibly political machinations in operation, but the recent announcements of the Tromso Olympiad organizing committee, and FIDE have brought the game of chess to another crisis. The fiasco concerning the late entry of the Russian Women's team, the defending champions, to the event has caused huge ramifications around the chess world. There have been court cases threatened by the Russian Chess Federation, Tromso organisers, and even FIDE, I think. I haven't been following it closely enough to grasp all the fine details of exactly what is happening.

Various chess news sites have commented on the possible ramifications of the crisis. It is possible that the Tromso organisers decision will stand and the event will go ahead without the defending champions. To me this would be sad and I hope it is resolved. It is equally as sad as the planned 2016 event which is to take place in Baku, Azerbaijan, where it is likely that one of the top teams, Armenia, will refuse to travel. I thought that FIDE (gens una sumas, "we are one people") had once ruled that Olympiads couldn't be held in countries that were in conflict. I guess a border conflict doesn't count as outright war but it still should be taken into account. Perhaps FIDE believes the conflict should be resolved by 2016? Seeing this area has been in dispute between these 2 nations for at least 100 years, it seems somewhat hopeful to believe it will be over in the next 2!

Another possibility is that the Norwegian Olympiad will be cancelled by FIDE and a new venue will be put in place. The Olympiad will then either revert directly to that new venue (Sochi has been touted) or will be postponed and held at a later date. This would indeed be a tragedy, and the death of this particular Olympiad. Many smaller nations will not be able to afford to change their plans. Many countries whose players are not professionals will have had those players securing holiday from work to travel to this event, which might be their international highlight for 2 years, and in some cases, their whole life. This would be a wholly unfair way to deal with this crisis at such a late stage in the proceedings. I heard on Twitter the other day that FIDE were prepared compensate nations if this were the case. GM Ian Rogers, who I don't always agree with on this blog, was spot on when he tweeted

He then followed up with this tweet regarding compensation:

 The third scenario that I've heard suggested is the FIDE President uses his executive powers to over rule the Olympiad organisers and allow the Russian women's team, and of course any other precluded teams to compete. This would seem the best of the 3, if it wasn't for the obvious conflict of interest that Kirsan Ilyumshinov has being Russian himself.

Of course the best scenario is that the issue is worked out behind closed doors with all parties coming to an agreement through negotiation. I guess it is already too late for this and the chess world will suffer a little bit more from hostilities that will remain in the psyches of the aggrieved parties for years to come, like some wild west feud that carries on for generations. A bit like the Kramnik-Topalov situation where they 2 grown men can't pull their heads in and at least be civil to each other.

However, in my little part of the world these things have little affect on my chess life. I play at my local club, and try to teach kids to love the game. I was going to be talking about the Olympiad to some of my students over the coming weeks, but I like to be as positive as possible to these kids who are mostly primary school age. So I think I'll be focussing on the glory days of the Olympiads. Here's the game of the week that they'll be seeing this week, where a little known country joins the Olympiad in 1935. I don't believe that many of the competitors at the Warsaw Olympiad would have thought too much about the Estonian team before it started, or their board 1, a young man by the name of Paul Keres who scored 65% in his first international event on board 1. The Estonian's finished 11th out of 20, not bad for their first attempt.

Here is Keres celebrated game from that Olympiad against the Englishman William Winter, a game which apparently would have done Morphy proud according to a contemporary opinion. Enjoy :)

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