Banned Olympiad Teams Get Support (Update: They Can Play)
Breaking Update: Olympiad organizers released a statement Sunday saying that they excluded teams WILL be allowed to play. They do not agree that the FIDE President has the right to invoke the broad powers of rule 6.1, but they nonetheless appreciated his statements that the Olympiad will remain in Tromsø, Norway.
The Russian Chess Federation, the FIDE President, and prominent chess players are all calling for the reinstatement of teams that are currently being barred from next month's Norway Olympiad due to late registration.
As previously reported, the most prominent team that risks not competing is the defending champion Russian women's team.
FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov called on the Olympiad organizers to allow the nine affected teams to play. In a letter posted on the FIDE web site (PDF), he invoked the broad rule 6.1, which gives him nearly unfettered domain over the entire event.
The rule reads: "The FIDE President represents the interests of FIDE and is empowered to take the final decision on all questions relating to the Olympiad as a whole."
Ilyumzhinov's letter also cites some evidence that aids the case for Russian reinstatement. Neither party is contesting that the first April 1 deadline was met, in which federations simply have to inform their intention to attend. At issue is the June 1 deadline, in which teams must submit a list of players.
The president's letter says that on July 7, the Russian Chess Federation was billed for the cost of two teams, a men's and women's squad, which suggests that the organizers anticipated both competing. That invoice was paid on July 11, which was before the organizers posted the news on their web site about disallowing teams. (Ilyumzhinov does not deny that the reason for late registration was GM Kateryna Lagno's transfer from Ukraine to Russia.)
"It is obvious that the issue had been resolved many days ago, even by accounting means, and it is re-opened now for political means," Ilyumzhinov wrote. He goes on to claim that when it comes to missed deadlines, the president decides who competes, not the organizers.
At issue is also rule 3.2, which says that player changes are allowed up to 20 hours before the event begins, with a 100 Euro penalty per name change. In Ilyumzhinov's letter, he offers to pay all the 100 Euro fees for every federation that is affected.
The Russian men's team is not affected, but the question remains why the Russian women were not signed up with a list of five players that could then be altered after Lagno's transfer.
The letter claims that FIDE Presidential Candidate Garry Kasparov played a part in allowing the wrong delegations to sign up from Afghanistan and Gabon. As Chess.com reported on Friday, those two countries have had a contentious fight to choose a delegate.
On his campaign site, Kasparov called invocation of rule 6.1 the "nuclear option" and drew a parallel to past FIDE President Florencio Campomanes using the same broad powers to end his first match with Anatoly Karpov. He also insisted he has nothing to gain from barring federations from competing.
Ilyumzhinov gave the Olympiad organizers a deadline of Monday, July 21 at 11 am CET to confirm that the teams in limbo can compete and that all players will receive visas. The organizers are in receipt of that letter and promised no comments would be made until the deadline.
In a recent interview, the president rebuffed rumors that the Olympiad would be moved.
Meanwhile, the Russian Chess Federation itself released this explanatory letter, also insisting that the invoice was paid for 17 members to attend (10 players plus other coaches and officials). The total amount was 13,600 "Crowns" (Kroner), or about $2,200 USD.
"Due to the above RCF claims that the organizing committee has no legal grounds to ban Russian women's team to participate in the Olympiad in Tromso," the RCF said in its letter.
Meanwhile, one voice of moderation is IM David Levy, participant in six Olympiads for Scotland. In an emotional letter, he called on both sides to find a way to resolve differences to ensure the hosting of "the biggest, and for many players the most important and the most enjoyable of all Chess competitions."
He continued: "Gens una sumus. We are one family. Please do not forget, dear members of the 'Tromso Olympiad 2014' Organizing Committee, that Gens una sumus is the basis on which FIDE was founded, and on which FIDE should be allowed to operate."
Levy called FIDE the "father" of the event for creating it and shepherding its existence since the 1920s. The organizers are the "mother" of the event, "hoping to give birth to it on August 1."
"Sometimes, as is the case this year, parents squabble...Please dissolve the current squabble so that your child, the 2014 Chess Olympiad, is born healthy in two weeks time."