Crimea Conflict on the Chessboard

  • PeterDoggers
  • on 7/6/14, 2:48 AM.

The Ukrainian Chess Federation has sent an open letter to the World Chess Federation (FIDE) “in respect of the exclusive jurisdiction” and “to express grave concern on increased number of serious violations of FIDE rules and principles by the FIDE Secretariat.”

In other words: the Crimea conflict between Ukraine and Russia has now become part of chess politics as well. 

This week received an open letter by the Ukrainian Chess Federation (in PDF here), addressed to FIDE. The issues discussed seem to be the result of the tense relations between Ukraine and Russia, and their national chess federations.

First, the UCF urges FIDE to “express its position as to the organization of chess tournaments on the territory of Autonomous Republic of Crimea (Ukraine) and city of Sevastopol.” Since FIDE holds the principle that only one national chess federation is recognized on the territory of a state, the UCF claims that it still holds exclusive jurisdiction over the territory of Ukraine, including Crimea, even after its annexation by Russia in February. 

The UCF wrote a proposal to the FIDE General Assembly that will be held 11-14 August in Tromsø, Norway and referred to the UN resolution about the Crimea conflict:

In accordance with the Olympic Charter and Chapter 02 of FIDE Statutes, one of the fundamental principles of FIDE is that only one national federation should have the principal authority over chess activities in each country. Taking into account that the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and city of Sevastopol remain integral parts of the territory of Ukraine in accordance with the resolution of UN General Assembly meeting of 27 March 2014 and international law, FIDE affirms that the Ukrainian Chess Federation remains exclusive authority over chess activities under FIDE auspices conducted in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol (Crimea region).

The Ukrainian Chess Federation remains the only national chess federation validly formed in Ukraine. FIDE will consider any attempt by another national chess federation to organize chess tournament under auspices of FIDE or otherwise exercise its jurisdiction in the territory of Crimea region as contrary to the Statutes of FIDE and the Olympic Charter.

However, on the official Agenda for the General Assembly this proposal by the UCF was not included. The UCF claims that it was sent to the FIDE Secretariat as early as 5 May 2014 (the open letter has “2013” but that must be a typo), well in time for the Agenda's deadline. And according to the FIDE Statutes, it therefore has to be included in the Agenda:

“4.11 Proposals of members or FIDE officials or organisations, or affiliated international organisations admitted under Art. 2.8, which are to be included in the agenda for the General Assembly, should reach the Secretariat not later than three months before the beginning of the General Assembly, together with the reasons for the proposals.

Proposals submitted within this time limit must be included in the agenda for the General Assembly.”

The open letter describes the communication between the UCF and FIDE in this matter:

(...) FIDE Secretariat stated first that “Proposal N 1 is not for FIDE, as this is your internal issue” and subsequently that “Proposal 1 is political and thus should not be on the Agenda” and, therefore, such proposals must be excluded from the Agenda. Thus, the FIDE Secretariat (more precisely the FIDE Executive Director Mr. Freeman) violated mandatory provisions of the FIDE Chapter 04 (article 4.11) as it is not within the authorities of FIDE Secretariat to make such a decision and the Secretariat simply is not authorized to take the functions of the General Assembly in assessing the content of the proposal.

All attempts to receive comments of Mr. Freeman in respect of mandatory nature of the provision relating to the inclusion of the proposals into Agenda remained unattended. The only comment was that “As FIDE Secretariat, we are responsible for the Agenda” which is a far-reaching and dangerous conclusion beyond any reasonable interpretation of the functions of the FIDE Secretariat. 

FIDE claims that the issue is political, while the UCF claims it is not. This can be debated, but the UCF seems to have point when they claim that the issue is not “internal.” More than one national chess federation is involved: both the Ukrainian and Russian chess federations.

Lately, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has made the impression that he has excellent relations with the president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, and so it won't be a surprise when future events held in Crimea will be rated as Russian events. Now that the UCF proposal is not on the General Assembly Agenda, the matter cannot even be discussed.

FIDE's policy isn't different from those of other big sports organizations, such as FIFA or UEFA, who tend to avoid intervention and prefer to remain on the sidelines. When former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko was imprisoned shortly before Euro 2012, which was staged in Ukraine and Poland, UEFA officially took “no position.”

The UCF's open letter ends with an issue that is not directly related to the Crimea conflict, but again the UCF and the RCF are involved. It is about a possible transfer of world #7 on the women's rating list, Kateryna Lagno, from the Ukrainian Chess Federation to the Russian Chess Federation. Until this moment it is unclear under which flag she will play at the upcoming Olympiad, but since the UCF is against the transfer, it is unlikely that she will be play for Russia in Tromsø.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is one that affects the whole world, and now it is also fought over the chessboard. At the risk of using a terrible cliche, the two countries definitely seem to have reached a stalemate position.

15413 reads 40 comments
6 votes


  • 2 years ago


    @fabelhaft : I only now saw your comment Smile, the flags of USSR (Karpov) and Russia (Kasparov) were the same size, shown next to their names.

  • 2 years ago


    @kamalakanta: I found the photo! Laughing It is from the 1990 World Championship Match (New-York and Lyon), where Kasparov won their final championship match. The flags issue is also documented in Wikipedia.

  • 2 years ago


    "If Karjakin changed federations only now, it would also be a political statement ..."

    Karjakin did make some comment about how happy he was that Russia had annexed Crimea, I think it was while talking to (Ukrainian...) Anastasia Karlovich.

  • 2 years ago


    I refrain from political statements about the Russia-Ukraine conflict, after all the proposal is allegedly not political. Whatever FIDE does (now or - conceivably - if/after Kasparov is elected) will be controversial. I agree with Gitananda, and see three possibilities: 1) Accepting that Crimea is de facto part of Russia means that chess events can be held - it remains to be seen what kind of events, as any participant will make a political statement. 2) Considering Crimea still part of Ukraine means that no chess events can be held. 3) Would anyone want a disputed territory status, comparable to Kosovo?

    What could be gained from (inevitably) political discussions at the FIDE General Assembly? In a way, the UCF got what they wanted: media attention - and maybe more now than if it had been put on the meeting agenda to be covered as one of many items.

    As to Lagno: She was born in Lviv, but apparently spent her childhood in Kramatorsk and then moved to Donetsk - both in Eastern Ukraine. Anyway, it's her personal decision, no evidence for 'kidnapping' by the Russian federation!? Of course it is - intentional or not - also a political statement. If Karjakin changed federations only now, it would also be a political statement ... .

  • 2 years ago


    "I believe in their matches, they played under the same flag"

    "Although still a Soviet citizen, Kasparov refused to play under the flag of the Soviet Union. Instead, he wanted to use the Russian flag; not the flag of the RSFSR, but the old tri-color—which, incidentally, would be re-adopted after the collapse of the Soviet Union a year later. Kasparov was indeed allowed to play with a small Russian tri-color at the table"

  • 2 years ago


    Have a couple of Russian friends here. Such a pity mixing war and politics with our game of chess here. I wish both sides well. May peace come from the conflict.

  • 2 years ago


    Maybe, the photo on your almanac from a WC match? I believe in their matches, they played under the same flag....but I can be wrong. What year is your photo from?

  • 2 years ago


    I have never thought I would live to witness this kind of thing. I won't reveal why, but this is so pity, sorrow and pathetic at the same time, I can't even describe it.

  • 2 years ago


    You have the beggining - USSR and the end - Russia, but not in the middle, I have that in a chess almanac.

  • 2 years ago


    mcris, it seems they both had the same flag, whether it was Soviet or Russian...





    so there....

  • 2 years ago



    Thank you. It has been fixed. 

  • 2 years ago


    Long ago the rules about which federation a player is associated with were changed. For example, for some years Tony Miles (a Brit) played in the U.S. championship. Later he moved and changed affiliation again.

    Where a player lives isn't even the issue. Today in the U.S. women's championship we had Anna Zatonskih who I have read lives with her German GM husband in Germany.

    And, I have seen a website run by GM Alexandra Kosteniuk which appears to show she lives in Miami, USA and yet she plays under the Russian flag.

    The whole situation is complicated.

  • 2 years ago


    Shouldn't "USC" be "UCF"?

  • 2 years ago


    an apt cliche

  • 2 years ago


    Crimea was annexed by Russia and since they now consider it an integral part of the Russian Federation nothing short of WW3 is going to change that. FIDE cannot take a position on this anymore than they can on any other 'disputed' territory in the world. As a practical matter the Ukraine chess federation doesn't have access to Crimea right now and so all chess there must be governed by the federation that does. Does this sound reasonable?

  • 2 years ago


    I say let us solve all our world disputes on the board

  • 2 years ago


    we should just have them play a chess match against each other... whoever wins gets crimea :)

  • 2 years ago


    Perhaps the FIDE compromise will have Crimea designated as an Alien Area.

  • 2 years ago


    About Lagno, I remember Karpov - Kasparov matches, when Karpov was playing under USSR flag and Kasparov under Russian.

    Even if USC is against Lagno's transfer, I cannot see how they could prevent it, but Wikipedia lists Lagno as being ukranian, born in Lviv, so?

  • 2 years ago


    Corruption and rule breaking will be the norm as long as Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is president of FIDE...

Back to Top

Post your reply: