SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
THE RISE OF fundamentalism IN FIDE !?
”We are one family” (gens una sumus) has been the FIDE motto ever since 1924 when the organization was founded in Paris. In those days mutual respect and dignity were important words and meant something. Chess was a game of gentlemen, and FIDE was entrusted to protect and promote these noble values and concepts.
Between then and now, however, FIDE seems to have strayed from the course it was entrusted to follow. Years of ineffective leadership from professional chess politicians has resulted in a drastic loss of corporate sponsorship, a steady decline of news-coverage of the game and has seen the media move to marginalize our noble game by excessive exaggeration of stories that bring the game into disrepute.
Even worse, the chess players themselves have lost faith in FIDE and its leadership. Europe feels that a more openly-corrupt and often backward third world has taken control of FIDE and that their valid concerns are being ignored for the sake of pure politik opportunism. Elections in FIDE are becoming increasingly compared to the age old struggle between good and evil.
How has FIDE and its leadershp reacted to growing disillusionment and, at times hostility, towards them by the international chess community? Very badly, in my opinion. Chess players are becoming the targets of an increasing number of Zero Tolerance rules.
Many players feel that the new rules are really designed to stifle open criticism of FIDE thru policies of increased control over the players’ behaviour , humiliating them for doing things that have, for more than 100 years in the western world, been considered legitimate, acceptable and sporting.
Times have changed: now FIDE is the LAW!
One such example is the Zero Tolerance rule for being at the board when the game begins.
Traditionally, chess players had to appear at the board within one hour of the start of the game or risk being forfeited. Being a gentleman’s game, this grace period has become all part of the charm of our noble game. Fischer constantly being late against Spassky in 1972 dramatically increased the public’s interest in the game. Would Fischer show up and play or go home and sulk?
All this changed last year when FIDE politicos, without any prior consulation with the players or the national federations, introduced a law that if any player is late for the start of the game, even 1 second late, then that player is automatically forfeited!
Complaints , ofcourse, were immediate! FIDE backed down a bit by giving the individual tournament organizers the right to not implement this law, provided it was stated beforehand in the tournament rules.
The result is that most international tournaments do NOT follow the new FIDE rule! For example, I am presently playing in an international tournament in Figueira da Foz (Portugal), where one of the most respected and competent international arbiters in the world (Carlos Dias) has decided that the traditional one hour grace period is going to be the rule.
Furthermore, I have not played in a single tournament this year where the Zero Tolerance
rule was used! This situation is reminiscent of when FIDE unilaterally imposed a very fast single time control (in late 2001) on every tournament: tournament organizers simply ignored it and soon FIDE had to embarrassingly retreat! FIDE president Kirsan, in particular, was humiliated.http://www.chesscenter.com/twic/timerate.html
This time, however, it appears that FIDE is not going to give in so easily. Hal Bond, Canada’s Fide representative and Zonal president, wrote that in the recently held FIDE Congress (Kallithea, Greece) an attempt to sweeten the Zero Tolerance rule for tournament organizers by imposing hefty financial fines on those players who show up late for the game was introduced: the first time any player shows up late he will be fined 500 Euros, the second time (not necessarily in the same tournament) a 1000 Euro fine, the third time a 2000 Euro fine and after that a 1-year suspension from all FIDE events!
”The meeting was moving along at quite a fast pace and when the matter was opened up to the floor I had about 2 seconds to be seen with my had raised. I spoke against it and several others jumped in to help kill it… New solutions will be sought.”
Hal Bond: no to bribe money!
This is where the situation stands as of today. However, for now FIDE insists that all official FIDE tournaments use the Zero Tolerance rule. Undoubtedly, in the next year we can expect to see the FIDE leadership re-introduce this money option. Only the first salvo has been fired! I fear for the worse….if FIDE insists on having a vote then how can Europe ,North America and dignity for the game win against the rest of the FIDE dominos?
Zero Tolerance is becoming an increasingly influential force in policy-making in the world. ‘One size fits all’ solutions may be effective when confronting growing school violence and fighting against drugs in sports, but the problem with such policies is that they leave little or no room for mitigating circumstances.
Chess is a gentleman’s game and there are no drug and violence problems to speak of! Its traditions, such as the one hour grace period, are all part of the rich panoramic of our noble game. Showing up late means having less time to make your moves and is punishment sufficient. We should think twice before performing radical surgery on our chess culture and we should be especially wary of crossing the line where we essentially criminalize showing up late for a game and using it as a means of humiliation and self-profit.
In the World Cup currently being held in Khanty-Mansiysk, the Zero Tolerance rules are in effect. A curious incident took place yesterday when two Chinese players were forfeited for not being at the board at the time of start of their games: they were both IN the tournament hall, having a smoke in the smoking area that the tournament organizers had set aside!
”After the first rapid chess tiebreak game Wang Yue and Lie Chao went to the smoking area. An arbiter warned them that their games were starting in three minutes, and then again a minute before the starting gong. But the two arrived two minutes late at the board and lost their games by forfeit. Both were subsequently eliminated.” (chessbase report)
The official bulletin states the reason given by the Chinese grandmasters for being late “is ridiculous: they were smoking and did not know that the game had already started.” The following interview was conducted with the two: How happened that you missed the start of the game?
Wang Yue: I don’t know what happened. I was smoking with Li Chao and some fellow told us: “Guys, I think you are late for your game”. Of course we rushed into the playing hall. But it was already too late.
What did you feel at that moment?
I did not understand what happened. Okay, these are the rules, I cannot break them. But I was shocked. It seemed that the world has stopped.
Did you try to speak with the Arbiter?
Sure, we spoke with the Chief Arbiter. He said: “These are the regulations, we should follow them. The decision is final and nothing can be changed. You should take it, go and prepare for the next game.” I think it was a wise advice.Was the decision fair to your mind?
Yes, this was correct and fair decision. The only decision that could be taken. We cannot do anything. We just need to accept it. In China at all chess tournaments a big screen with the information about the tournament is used. A player can go to the toilet, to smoke or to do something else. But thanks to this screen he always knows how much time he has before the start of the game. Here there is no screen. But we hope that they will use it in future. Most of all I feel pity for Li Chao: he started smoking here, in Khanty, to join my smoking company.Perhaps now it is a good reason to quit smoking? Less chances to get into a trouble and more chances to be healthy.I don’t think so… After such a shock you only think to take a long smoke!How are you going to recover?Nothing special… We will have rest. Tomorrow a long trip back home
Li Chao (sarcastically): Most probably I will carefully study the regulations of the World Cup!
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS