Over the last three weeks, the teams of FIDE presidential candidates Georgios Makropoulos and Arkady Dvorkovich have been involved in a sharp, verbal battle about transparency and federations in arrears, where even the term ‘fake news’ made several appearances.
Our latest update on the October 3 FIDE presidential elections focuses on an exchange of letters between chess officials, which is mainly about chess federations being in debt at FIDE, and possible consequences for the elections.
It all started with a letter by Andrei Filatov, the President of the Russian Chess Federation and a FIDE Vice President, sent on July 18 to FIDE.
In the letter, Filatov said that some chess federations have told him that FIDE has sent them a letter about their debt, and that a deadline was mentioned. Filatov:
“The debt must be covered before July 23 – or the respective federation won’t be allowed to participate in FIDE Olympiad and FIDE President elections in Batumi.”
Filatov also urged FIDE to update the list of federations in arrears on the FIDE website soon.
Andrei Filatov, in the museum of the Central Chess Club in Moscow. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Filatov’s letter was published on the FIDE website, along with a reply from FIDE’s treasurer Adrian Siegel, written on the same day. He wrote:
“In the invoices sent to all federations there is no mention at all that they cannot participate at the General Assembly if they don’t pay prior to July 23rd. Thus, even if the arrears are not paid federations can vote at the elections. This electoral rule has already been applied in the past elections and I don’t know why the Russian Chess Federation tries to make up a case against FIDE’s administration without any facts.”
Siegel wonders whether Filatov’s letter is intended to “mislead the public,” or if the Russian Chess Federation itself wishes to exclude federations with debts.
“…[S]uch an intention is against our Statutes and Regulations and I would personally fight against such a request.”
Adrian Siegel (right) watching Ilyumzhinov being congratulated after winning the 2014 presidential elections in Tromsø, Norway. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
On the same day, Arkady Dvorkovich sent an email to all FIDE delegates with very similar language as Filatov. Using the same first paragraph, Dvorkovich also claims a July 23 deadline set by FIDE.
On July 24, Dvorkovich’s email was published on the FIDE website, along with, again, a response from Siegel, boldly headlined “FIDE requests Mr. Dvorkovich to stop spreading fake news.”
Headlining his letter “Mr. Dvorkovitch [sic] produces fake news to terrify national chess federations,” Siegel says Dvorkovich has spread “false information.” He notes that FIDE has sent their regular invoices mid July, and that exclusion from the Olympiad was not mentioned.
“[T]he date of July 23 is a pure creation and the allegedly consequences have to be considered as fake news.”
Siegel argues that not allowing teams of federations in arrears would be against regular policy, saying it “does not reflect FIDE’s common practice applied for decades.”
Chess.com asked the FIDE delegates by email whether such a letter from FIDE exists, in which a deadline of July 23 was mentioned. None of the delegates that responded had received such a letter.
So where did this deadline come from? Dvorkovich told Chess.com that it was “one of the possible interpretations” of the letter FIDE actually sent. As it turns out, July 23 was the original deadline for the FIDE Secretariat to receive the list of people who needed to be accredited to the Batumi Olympiad, including the list of players. Dvorkovich:
“So, there was a RISK that those lists would not be accepted from the federations in arrears. I hope you do understand the difference between ‘risk’ of having that deadline and a real deadline…”
Arkady Dvorkovich. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
The way they phrased it, Filatov and Dvorkovich did claim that FIDE threatened to exclude federations by mentioning a July 23 payment deadline, which is incorrect. However, the ‘risk’ Dvorkovich is talking about is not completely unrealistic. In previous years FIDE has sometimes threatened to exclude federations from an Olympiad if debts wouldn’t be paid in time, as more than one delegate told Chess.com.
The theory of the Dvorkovich team, and that of the opponents of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in earlier elections, is that the FIDE administration allegedly keeps information about federations in arrears to itself, thereby controlling to a certain extent which delegates would be able to vote.
Filatov and Dvorkovich’s letters should be seen in this light, as well as Bachar Kouatly‘s reply of this week to Siegel’s claim of “fake news.” Kouatly is a grandmaster, the President of the French Chess Federation and on Dvorkovich’s ticket as Deputy President.
Statutes and Regulations
On Dvorkovich’s campaign website, Kouatly doesn’t provide an answer either as to where the July 23 deadline originated from. Instead, he focuses on the topic of federations in arrears, and what the regulations say.
Kouatly refers to the FIDE Statutes, Chapter 02 where it is said that member federations are obliged to pay their membership fees and other FIDE contributions.
(2.5) A member in arrears in the fulfilment of its financial obligations towards FIDE may be temporarily excluded by the Presidential Board, Executive Board or General Assembly.
The Financial Regulations state:
(6.2) A federation that is two years in arrears shall be temporarily excluded.
(6.3) On 1st July and 1st January the Treasurer lists on the FIDE website those countries that are deemed to be over six months in arrears.
Kouatly then asks the FIDE treasurer to give more details about the federations in arrears, and which (if any) have been temporarily excluded before the General Assembly in Batumi.
Bachar Kouatly. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Shaun Press, General Secretary of the Papua New Guinea Chess Federation and an International Arbiter, told Chess.com that because both the phrases “must be excluded” and “shall be excluded” exist in FIDE’s regulations, there will always be different interpretations possible. He argued:
“This of course works in the current administrations favor, as they can decide whether to choose ‘shall’ in the first case, or ‘may’ in the second case. Picking and choosing which rules apply depending upon the circumstances is of course one of the advantages of running the election.”
Once again, Siegel wrote a reply, which was sent to all federations. It can be found on the Makropoulos campaign website but, as is common practice in elections periods, the FIDE administration is also publishing political content on the FIDE website itself.
Kouatly wrongly summarised the FIDE Statutes, according to Siegel. He emphasises that it’s General Assembly/Executive Board/Presidential Board that exclude federations temporarily. Since no federations were excluded (except for Bulgaria, but that was for other reasons), all delegates will be able to vote on October 3.
Siegel then admits that FIDE has not published an updated arrears list by July 1, even though it is required by the Financial Regulations. The treasurer gives two reasons: he says many federations had “problems transferring money” to the fiduciary account in Hongkong, and secondly, because FIDE had “debts with the federations” so that publishing the list “would not reflect the appropriate situation.”
Although the reasons might be plausible and fair, they definitely need more explanation, and it remains to be seen how serious it is that FIDE went against its own regulations. It’s a topic that surely will be discussed at the FIDE Congress in Batumi.
At the end of his letter, Siegel turns to another topic: that of Russian embassies asking for a vote for Dvorkovich.
“Why are Russian Embassies approaching national chess federations, National Olympic Committees and Sports Ministers? Against this background you might reconsider your accusation who became political.”
Such activity by Russian embassies does exist. Chess.com received a “non paper” from one of the delegates, which was sent by a Russian embassy to the local ministry of education and culture, in which Dvorkovich is introduced with lots of biographical details (for download here). The letter ends with: “We ask to support the candidacy of A.Dvorkovich in the election of the FIDE President (Batumi, October 2018).”
In our recent interview with Dvorkovich, he said: “As far as I know, up to now there were was nothing, not even an instruction from Moscow to the embassies abroad to do anything about my nomination.”
Seeing the aforementioned letter, Dvorkovich commented to Chess.com:
“The ‘letter’ looks like a standard text that we have been sending to the federations as well—my biography, and a very short version of our platform ideas. The last sentence is also a very soft one without any pressure. Personally, I do not see anything wrong with that. I thought I have explained that already… Russian embassies support Russian people. No promises in return, so no undue behavior.”
With all the exchanges and open letters between the Dvorkovich team and the Makropoulos team, one would almost forget there’s a third candidate. Apart from the tweet below, Nigel Short hasn’t been involved in this debate.
Short has been actively campaigning in the background. Like the other candidates, he had meetings with many delegates. He has mentioned two federations that are openly supporting him: Macau and the U.S. chess federation.
Meanwhile, Short (whose campaign website is now available in three languages) has started playing again. He is one of the participants of the Abu Dhabi chess festival, where he started with two wins.