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General Feb 25, 2022 | 3:20 PMby Leon Watson

FIDE strips Russia of showpiece Chess Olympiad

FIDE has stripped Russia of its showpiece Chess Olympiad after coming under intense pressure from players, fans and commentators around the world. The chess world governing body decided in an extraordinary meeting today to find a new host for the event following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich and Managing Director Dana Reizniece-Ozola are in Uganda | photo: FIDE

In doing so, FIDE follows UEFA in moving the Champions League final from St. Petersburg to Paris, the FIA in stripping Russia of its Formula 1 Grand Prix and the cancellation of five skiing events in Russia.

The decision to withhold the biggest team event in chess was likely to have been politically difficult for FIDE. The organisation receives millions from Russian sponsors and corporate donors every year and its president, Arkady Dvorkovich, is the former Deputy Prime Minister of Russia.

However, while several sporting organisations have dropped ties to Russian sponsors, no update has been given on whether FIDE will continue to accept funds from its own backers, which include gas supplier Gazprom, the fertilizer giant PhosAgro, and mining firm Nornickel.

In a statement issued on Twitter, the world governing body said of the event scheduled to take place July 26 - August 8: "FIDE Council has decided that the 44th Chess Olympiad, including the competition for players with disabilities and the FIDE Congress, will not take place in Russia. FIDE will do our utmost to find another organizer for the Olympiad and provide more information in due time."

Neither on Twitter, nor on the FIDE website, was any reference made to what is happening in Ukraine.

Mr Dvorkovich is currently in Uganda as part of a FIDE delegation with FIDE's Managing Director Dana Reizniece-Ozola. He was asked by the Russian News Agency TASS to explain the decision, but only referred vaguely to players not being able to travel to Moscow.

It’s my decision and the decision of the whole FIDE Council. The question here is not about my reaction. We took such a decision considering all the circumstances, which are now developing, and realising that the participants in the World Chess Olympiad won’t be able to travel to Moscow at that period. Of course, it was tough to take it, but objectively it was unavoidable. As to whether we’ll be able to hold such events in future I wouldn’t want to make any comment. We’ll have a meeting of the FIDE Council on Sunday where we’ll discuss these questions. After that I’ll be able to say something more.

FIDE Managing Director Dana Reizniece-Ozola, who as a Latvian is also in Putin's potential firing line, gave a very different message on Facebook. She called the events in Ukraine a "brutal incursion", saying the Ukrainian people have been caught in a "vicious game of power".

The English Grandmaster Nigel Short, a FIDE vice-president, also pointed to initial reluctance within FIDE to switch the 190-nation event. He said on Twitter:

FIDE reversed its stance following - but not necessarily because of - a series of public calls for it to act that came from prominent figures in chess. Among the strongest were from within Russia's own chess community. 

Viacheslav Tilicheev, a 27-year-old grandmaster from Krasnoyarsk, said on Facebook yesterday that he will not play for Russia again following the events unfolding in Ukraine, and that he has already told FIDE he wants to play under a neutral flag.

Many more have indicated their opposition to the war.

Russia's top player, Grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi, who plays in the final of the Airthings Masters tonight, described yesterday as the worst "Black Thursday" the world has ever faced.

He had previously told the chess24 broadcast team that the situation was "very sad for me" and called for his country to "be sane".

19-year-old Andrey Esipenko, one of Russia's brightest talents and a player knocked out of the Airthings Masters by Nepomniachtchi, also expressed his deep unease at what is happening.

He said on Twitter: "Really hoped for a peaceful solution to the situation. It's terrible to see everything that's happening".

Nikita Vitiugov, Russia's number 4 and reigning champion, wrote on Twitter: "You cannot defend yourself on someone else's territory. Russians and Ukrainians are brothers, not enemies. Stop the war."

Eight-time Russian Champion Peter Svidler, tweeted: "Silence made today possible. #notowar."

The response of chess great Garry Kasparov, a long-time Putin critic, was swift and predictable.

“Ok, after years of warnings were ignored and hearing "Garry, you were right!" all damn day today, I'll repeat what I said in 2014: Stop telling me I was right and listen to what I'm saying now,” he wrote on Twitter after Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine.

Kasparov also paid tribute to Magnus Carlsen and Play Magnus Group for its stance.

Other Russian Grandmasters, such as Alexander Grischuk, the three-time World Blitz Champion, two-time Russian Chess Champion Dmitry Andreikin, and 2018 World Rapid Champion Daniil Dubov are publicly anti-Putin.

Sergey Karjakin, the Putin-loyalist who appeared to gleefully cheer on the invasion yesterday, deleted his "joke" that caused considerable consternation on Twitter.

Karjakin continued, however, airing his pro-Russia stance with a seemingly sarcastic swipe at comments made to Norwegian TV by World Champion Magnus Carlsen.

Karjakin has not made many friends in chess following his recent tweets and there have been many calls for him to be excluded from future events. Grandmaster Georg Meier even posted this response.

Meanwhile, concern has been growing about the plight of Ukrainian players and those in the chess community in the war-torn country.

Kirill Shevchenko, a strong 19-year-old grandmaster, tweeted this worrying update from Kyiv.

Former Indian national rapid chess champion Anwesh Upadhyaya, who is doing an apprenticeship in gastroenterology at a Kyiv hospital and has lived in Ukraine since 2012, also described his fears.

The International Master told the Press Trust of India:

Did not expect this intensification. It is a full-scale invasion. Never imagined this.

My parents over in India are a worried lot and that's why I had planned to leave in the first week of March.

They have been calling me constantly, as have some of my school teachers. I am here in my apartment alone. And I don't know what is in store. The attack happened all of a sudden. So, couldn't have done anything.

Many more Ukrainian chess players and their families are in danger, and the Ukrainian Chess Federation and members of the national team have made an appeal for Russia to be excluded from chess and for measures to be taken against players who have supported the Russian invasion. 

Appeal to the chess community, FIDE, ECU and all national chess governing bodies!

The Russian Federation carried out an unprovoked treacherous military attack on Ukraine, violating all norms of international law and humanism. The cities and villages of our country, its capital Kyiv, are being brutally bombed by Russian missiles and bombs. Houses are being set on fire, civilians are suffering, and women and children are dying. There are fierce battles with the aggressor.In such circumstances, we believe that the international chess community cannot stand aside from condemning the crimes before humanity that are happening before our eyes. We ask all chess communities to support Ukraine, which is shedding blood for its independence and sovereignty.

We call on the European Chess Union and all national federations to immediately assess these developments. FIDE is not ready to recognize a war as a war and a crime as a crime, and has finally gone bankrupt, literally and figuratively. So far, none of the FIDE leaders has condemned the crimes committed against Ukraine. All bank accounts and sponsors of FIDE have come under sanctions, and FIDE itself remains headed by a close aide to the Russian President Putin - Arkady Dvorkovich.

We ask all national federations to ask FIDE to convene the General Assembly outside Russia and Belarus to condemn the conduct of the FIDE leadership and re-elect its governing bodies, to ban all international chess events in Russia (including the World Chess Olympiad) and to ban participation of the reps of the Russian Federation in new FIDE elections.

We also hope for the appropriate assessment and punishment of famous grandmasters who openly supported the criminal aggression against Ukraine - former world champion Anatoly Karpov, Sergei Karyakin and Sergei Shipov.

Members of the national chess team of Ukraine

Ukrainian Chess Federation

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