The Question that Needs to be Asked
With the postponement of the 2020 Summer Olympics and the cancellation of virtually all professional sports, the field of esports is gaining new attention. The current leadership of FIDE want to be part of this.
Already starting this May FIDE will hold the first of a number of official online championships planned for 2020: the ‘Nations Cup‘.
According to statements by FIDE director general Emil Sutovsky in a recent interview published on ChessBase_India, the official ‘Online Chess Olympiad’ will also be held towards the end of the year. FIDE is even considering the possibility of ELO rating future online events.
Considering how quickly FIDE is moving forward with its online activities, a number of questions have arisen as to whether FIDE has really thought out the entire transition process. Or whether it is even desirable.
In particular, how will FIDE be able to fulfill its responsibilites and obligations to WADA’s anti-doping protocols inside an online environment? Since becoming a member of the IOC, FIDE has committed itself to do drug testing for every single one of its official championships.
Everyone recognizes that the use of performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) is rampant and uncontrolled in the esport universe. How will FIDE’s excursion into online chess be able to square the circle with WADA?
Recent statements by both Dvorkovich and Sutovsky only mention IT cheating…which is also an issue in esports, though far less worrisome than PED’s.
What the IOC thinks of esports
The IOC has maintained an open and constructive dialogue with the esport community, and until last December (2019) had even left open the question of one day esports becoming part of the Olympic Games, possibly in time for the Paris 2024 Summer Games.
That possibility was ruled out at a meeting in Lausanne between the IOC and prominent members of the esports community.
A report from the Chair of the Esports and Gaming Liaison Group, David Lappartient, noted numerous areas where the esport community had to make substantial progress first.
Esports lack a central governing body. It is wildly unregulated and for the most part driven by the commercial interests of private gaming stakeholders.
There are a lack of international standards commonplace in traditional sports, and a web of copyright issues with respect to game publishers. Not to mention an absence of anti-doping and fair play oversight or that there are simply too few national federations involved.
Despite this, the IOC wants to remain open to the possibility that things will improve inside the esport community in the near future, and that their cooperation could develop. As an aside, the report also pointed out that many of the esporters should get more involved in physical sports!
Where does that leave FIDE and esports?
Rampant and uncontrolled doping. Lots of digital-cheating. Complete lack of regulation. Absence of international standards. Numerous conflicting commercial interests…
This is the online world that the FIDE leadership wants to become a stakeholder? This seems to me to be in direct contradiction to one of FIDE’s stated goals:
“The present and future of our game depend on the creation of a safe environment where all players feel safe to show the best of their abilities. The fight against cheating is a top priority and FIDE is working hard towards a fraud-free chess community. We must be united in the fight for fair play and consistent in its pursuit.”
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