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FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich has issued an apology after the start of the New Delhi FIDE Women’s Grand Prix was postponed when Zhansaya Abdumalik withdrew in protest at the conditions for the players. Earlier Ukrainian sisters Anna and Mariya Muzychuk had also withdrawn, but were replaced by Nino Batsiashvili and Vaishali.
UPDATE, Sunday March 26th: Elisabeth Paehtz has also now pulled out of the event in protest at the fact that some players would get six Whites while others had four after Zhansaya Abdumalik's withdrawal. The 12-player event will now have only 10 players, assuming no-one else withdraws.
The 3rd of four stages of the 2022-3 FIDE Women’s Grand Prix was supposed to start today, Saturday 25th, in New Delhi, India, but instead FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich has apologised “for the local organisers’ errors”.
Europe Echecs report on what they claim was the issue.
When the first players arrived in New Delhi on March 24, the day before the first round, there was no official transport from the airport and players had to take taxis without knowing where they were going, especially since no FIDE official is present in New Delhi. They arrived at the hotel to learn that the rooms were not ready and that breakfast is not included in the price. Seeing these poor conditions, Zhansaya Abdumalik simply decided to leave. FIDE wanted to replace her with an Indian player — which would have meant four Indians in the tournament — but the players refused.
Zhansaya Abdumalik gave a statement to ChessBase India:
I left the tournament because the preparation for the event was not adequate. I arrived at the airport at 1.30 a.m. and they forgot to meet me. I tried to contact the person who was supposed to wait for me. He didn't check his messages for one and a half hour. I did everything they said in our email before we arrived but there was nothing at the airport. I don't think it was hard to organize transfers for only 12 players when there was a huge Olympiad organized last year for thousands of people. I can't imagine if a top male player was arriving to the tournament and no one is there to pick him up.That was not a good start. The location of the hotel was not great. FIDE knew that unfortunately Delhi has some problems with the air because of pollution. I could see a big landfill from my window where they were putting on a fire or something of that sort. Leaving the hotel is difficult because of its location. The hotel staff told me not to go out because it could be dangerous.
I love India. We had a great Olympiad in Chennai and I have very nice memories from it, but this time something went wrong and I couldn't imagine myself playing there for two weeks. It's one of the best tournaments in the world and I just want FIDE to put more attention on women's chess. It was too much for me and that's why I decided to leave. We deserve to play in good conditions. Everyone knows that I am a fighter and I would never withdraw from such a tournament without reason.
Arkady Dvorkovich, in a letter addressed to all the players except 23-year-old Kazakh Grandmaster Zhansaya Abdumalik, seems to confirm that version of events. It begins:
On behalf of the International Chess Federation (FIDE), I would like to extend our sincerest apologies for the mishandling of the Women's Grand Prix tournament in India. We deeply regret the problems and inconveniences you have experienced, which has led to one player withdrawing from the tournament.
Dvorkovich acknowledges that continuing with 11 players instead of 12 “would require all of the tournament participants and organizers to adjust themselves”, but notes there’s no place in the calendar to rearrange the tournament and that:
It is also important not to create a precedent that the whole event can be terminated and other players’ plans influenced due to the decision of a player to withdraw.
The player most immediately affected by the withdrawal is 19-year-old Bibisara Assaubayeva, also from Kazakhstan, who was due to play Zhansaya Abdumalik in Round 1. Here are the pairings, which are set to change.
If Dvorkovich implied some criticism of Abdumalik, Assaubayeva went much, much further in an Instagram post, that ended:
Of course, there are many questions for the local organizers, but most of the questions are for Zhansaya. About her unsportsmanlike behaviour. Her expressing out-of-place emotions. Her attitude to her colleagues, and to life in general. Her professionalism, in particular.
Athletes should be ready for any force majeure and challenges, and not whine and give up if something goes wrong. If you react, like Zhansaya, to every little thing, then it’s better to quit sport, get married and cook borscht.
That post provoked a response from Zhansaya Abdumalik, who commented on Facebook:
I tried to pay no attention to the repeated unethical barbs of Bibisara Assaubayeva against me, but, apparently, the moment has come to fight back.
Zhansaya points out that Bibisara signed a collective letter to FIDE requesting the cancellation of the tournament.
She stands by her decision to withdraw.
Despite all the ugly lies and hypocrisy of Bibisara Assaubayeva, I do not regret my decision and am convinced that chess players deserve to play in safe and decent conditions.
She ends with a postscript.
P.S. I will definitely get married and will be happy to cook borscht for my husband. I know many wonderful female chess players who successfully combine family life and a professional career, and I sincerely admire them.
The Women’s Grand Prix series had already been hit by another withdrawal, of Anna and Mariya Muzychuk, with neither FIDE nor the players clarifying the reason.
It was speculated that the Ukrainian stars may have been unhappy to face three Russian players, Aleksandra Goryachkina, Kateryna Lagno and Polina Shuvalova in New Delhi, though it’s possible that they simply preferred not to continue in the series after a bad start in the Munich Grand Prix. They finished in 9th (Mariya) and 11th (Anna) places in an event won by FIDE Women's Grand Prix leader Alexandra Kosteniuk.
Another dark cloud on the horizon is the fate of the 4th and final Women’s Grand Prix, which was supposed to take place in Bydgoszcz, Poland in May. The venue has been silently removed from calendars by FIDE, with speculation again that such an event, with Russian players, would have been unwelcome in Poland while Russia continues to wage war in neighbouring Ukraine.
Organisational problems aside, however, the Grand Prix is expected to kick off in New Delhi on Sunday March 26th. If it does you can watch the games here on chess24 from 16:00 IST (6:30am ET, 11:30 CET).
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