Why the drama about Ukraine, FIDE?

APRIL 21 — In the end it was India's Surya Sekhar Ganguly who emerged victorious at the Bangkok Chess Club-Thailand International Open Chess Championship 2016 on tie-break over top seeded Francisco Vallejo Pons from Spain after both scored 7.5/9. 

But it was not an easy victory, although certainly a well-deserved one, for the player who lost out on tie-break the previous year despite upsetting the heavily-favoured Chinese superstar Wang Hao in the last round on top board, as going into the ninth and final round there were no less that five players in the lead and seven others half a point behind.

For the Malaysian chess community, it was great news as our No. 1 Yeoh Li Tian has made an International Master title norm — despite the public reservations on social media throughout the event by at least one former No. 1 who was closely following the games — by impressively coming through some very serious tests including three games against 2600+ grandmasters.

The big news in chess was, however, another controversy and probably one that was completely unnecessary.

On the front page of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) website at 10.59am on April 14, 2016 was the announcement of the suspension of services for the Ukraine Chess Federation. 

A screencap of the Ukraine Chess Federation website announcing the suspension of its services.A screencap of the Ukraine Chess Federation website announcing the suspension of its services.That simply means players under that federation would not have their ratings published and be unable to participate in FIDE events.

For some time now there has also been a prominent permanent link on the FIDE website to "Federations in Arrears." Click on it and you will see that Ukraine is just one of 39 national chess federations currently in arrears (non-payment of dues) so why the separate special announcement for this leading chess nation?

The regulations state a possible suspension after being six months in arrears but in Ukraine's case it was in relation to incomplete payment of "the full amount in respect of the Women’s World Chess Championship Match in Lviv has not been paid within the set deadline."

From sources I have learned that this was a result of a bureaucratic delay in the transfer of funds from the mayor's office; from a budget of €405,000, a sum of €60,000 has yet to be received.

I have in earlier columns here, here and here discussed the many issues this Women's World Chess Championship had.

39 national chess federations were found to be in arrears this time around. 39 national chess federations were found to be in arrears this time around. What I have found more interesting is that one of the players has not been given her prize money and that is clearly FIDE's failure as it is their responsibility to hold the amount of the prize fund.

Hou Yifan would most certainly not have been thrilled either that after the match was taken from China with all financial guarantees in place, the €300,000 (RM1.3 million) prize fund was reduced to €200,000. 

A quite stunning revelation of how valuable indeed the Women's World Chess Championship and women's chess is to FIDE is the realisation that the leadership of the FIDE Women's Commission is much too busy to do anything more than self promotion. 

But sometimes it is really hard to understand if anyone in this completely dysfunctional organisation has any clue about anything.

We have 39 Federations in Arrears this time around and when going through the list, it is shocking how many contradictions there are.

On one hand we have sad examples of national federation leadership who also hold FIDE office; for example, Bermuda whose federation president is the FIDE Executive Director Nigel Freeman! 

And from Asia, the FIDE Delegate and General Secretary for Laos is Intalava Vilavane who is a Councillor in the FIDE Development Commission while Australian Jamie Kenmure is not only the proud FIDE Delegate and Treasurer for the Solomon Islands but sits on the FIDE Executive Board and several other FIDE Commissions.

And how can one begin to understand the situation in the Philippines where its Secretary General Abraham Tolentino is also FIDE's General Secretary?

Its appears to be all very selective indeed because while the majority of the named federations have indeed had their players listed as unrated, there are others who have seemingly not suffered whatsoever despite the announced suspension.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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