Women’s GP Finals in Gibraltar!
The No-Flag Mystery
Congratulations to Stuart Conquest and the entire Gibraltar chess and business community for organizing the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix Finals after numerous frustrating delays and chaos caused by the pandemic.
The event runs between the 22nd of May and the 2nd of June. Held at the prestigious Caletta Hotel, 80k euros in prize money plus qualification for the next stage of the Women’s World Championship are at stake.
After two rounds the 21 year old Abdumalik Zhansaya is in sole lead with two points. She defeated first Saduakassova with the White pieces, and next Elizabeth Paehtz with the Black pieces.
The case of the missing flags…
The Women’s Grand Prix (GP) series of tournaments is a fundamental part of FIDE’s Women’s World Championship cycle. The top-2 participants of the GP series will qualify directly into the Women’s Candidates Tournament, which in turn decides the challenger to the Women’s World Championship Match.
It is a long story already discussed at length elsewhere here on this blog ( LINK1, LINK2, LINK3) but CAS decided on December 17, 2020 to uphold WADA’s controversial decision to sanction all Russian sports and their athletes. This applies to all World Championships, Olympics and para-Olympics.
The period of sanction was reduced from 4 years to 2 years (starting the end of December 2020), but essentially WADA got everything else that it wanted:
- Russian athletes can not particpate under the Russian flag
- The playing of the Russian anthem is prohibited
- No Russian representative of the government can attend
- Russia can not bid for, or organize any world class event for atleast 2 years.
Under the terms of the decision, Russia’s name will be permitted on uniforms at events such as the Olympics, but the words “neutral athlete” – or an equivalent – “must be displayed in English in a position and size that is no less prominent than the name ‘Russia”.
FIDE spokesman David Llada was either ill-informed or he misspoke when he recently told Peter Doggers (of ChessCom fame):
FIDE can confirm that, due to the WADA sanctions against Russia, Ian Nepomniachtchi will not be allowed to play under the Russian flag at the World Championship match in Dubai.
This ban forbids Russian athletes and event organizers to display publicly the flag of the Russian Federation, the name “Russia”, (in any language or format), or any national emblem or national symbol of the Russian Federation, including on their clothes, equipment, or other personal items, at any event under the denomination “World Championship”.
CAS directly clarified to FIDE that these restrictions do not apply to the qualification stage of any world championship, like the World Cup 2021 and the Women’s World Cup 2021 that will take place in Russia later this year.
These WADA sanctions most definitely DO APPLY to any and all qualification stages for the world chess championships, as WADA made very clear in its February 4th, 2021 response to CAS’s decision: (You can download the pdf HERE.)
Which also implies that FIDE’s planned Sochi events later this summer are violating WADA’s sanctions and will have to be organized in another country.
Of course, FIDE has a reputation for flaunting rules and regulations — including its own(!) — and so I am certain that WADA will likely have to intervene and put FIDE on notice.
As in the recent Women’s World Draught Championship in Warsaw (23rd April to 3rd May 2021):
WADA — which is responsible for monitoring the enforcement of the recent CAS decision — noticed that the Russian champion Tansykkuzhina was playing with the Russian flag and proceeded to contact the Polish organizers and threatened sanctions if this violation continued.
Whether you agree with the indelicate manner in which the organizers took the Russian flag away or not, rules are rules.
Worth noting that this World Championship was re-scheduled from April 2020 because of the pandemic, just like the Candidates Tournament in Ekaterinburg.
In any case, the next day the Polish player Sadowska decided to NOT play with her flag. Probably in solidarity with her Russian counterpart!
Is this why there are no flags in Gibraltar?
Are the non-Russian participants in Gibraltar also showing solidarity by also not playing with their flags on the table? Though there are name plates along the side of the tables — with a little flag for each name — they seem to have been cut out of those pictures that are officially published and included in the daily reporting of the tournament!
Are the Gibraltar organizers trying to fly below WADA’s radar? I asked tournament organizer Stuart Conquest about the flag issue (or really the no-flag issue) but I have not yet received a response.
Note about photos: credits to John Saunders and David Llada.