The Olympiad title defense of the number one women's national team may be over before the event begins. According to a letter released today by the 2014 Olympiad Organizing Committee (COT2014), all teams that did not file the appropriate paperwork by the June 1, 2014 deadline are unable to participate.
The letter, which you can read in full here (PDF), specifically mentions the Russian Women's Team. Addressed to FIDE Executive Director and Treasurer Nigel Freeman, the letter goes on to state that all federations must be treated equally, no matter the size:
"After informing FIDE of our interpretation and position, we have received mails and phone calls from the FIDE Secretariat and Vice President (Israel) Gelfer asking us to allow the Russian Women's Team to participate. Of course, we can understand the embarrassment it can create when a significant and powerful federation like RCF (Russian Chess Federation - M.K.) does not submit a team within the deadline. Still, we as Organizers have a duty to treat all federations alike."
The letter is dated today and signed by these parties:
Besides strict adherence to the statutes described in the 2011 governing contract between FIDE and Norwegian organizers, the letter explains that practical considerations are in place:
"For your kind information, we would like to emphasize that adding one team to the Olympiad increases the cost for the organizer by an amount of 10,500 Euro. A general amnesty for late registrations could possibly include up to 10 teams (the other nine teams are not mentioned - M.K.). This will increase the financial burden for the organizer up to around 105,000 Euro."
As previously reported, the Tromsø Olympiad needed some last-minute funding to ensure it would continue as planned.
In what could be a related event, GM Kateryna Lagno recently completed her transfer from Ukraine to Russia, immediately becoming the highest-rated female in the country. According to reports, the transfer began several months ago, but was completed on July 11, 2014, well after the Olympiad registration deadline.
The June 1, 2014 deadline required countries to list the details of their delegations, as can be seen from rule 3.7.1 (c) in the organizing contract. However, 3.7.2 says that late submissions of "team particulars can be made up to 20 hours before the start of round 1." Teams then pay a late fee of 100 Euros per name. It is not clear if Russia submitted an incomplete list, or no list at all.
As you can see from would-be teammate WGM Natalia Pogonina's Twitter account, as of last week she still expected both would be playing in Tromsø.
COT2014 also takes exception to any changes or reversal by the FIDE president. The strongly worded pronouncement:
"The entire idea that the highest representative of FIDE can overrule and change obligation 'with the stroke of a pen' is unacceptable. If FIDE thinks otherwise, we are looking forward to their legal presentation in the Swiss Court System."
In a recent interview with Lennart Ootes, FIDE Secretariat and Vice President Israel Gelfer said, "Organizers of Tromsø are very disappointing. They are making, they are causing a lot of problems to FIDE, to the whole world of chess."
He cited Olympiad rule 6.1, which simply gives the FIDE president carte blanche over all matters relating to the Olympiad. The rule states: "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."
Gelfer suggested both legal action and canceling the Olympiad are possible measures that FIDE may consider. Watch the interview here -- the Olympiad discussion begins at 2:05.
Interview conducted at ACP Golden Classic by Lennart Ootes.
Update 7/17/14: The Russian News Agency ITAR-TASS reported the names of eight other teams that were similarly denied participation due to late registration: Cambodia, Central African Republic, Gabon, Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire), Oman, Pakistan, Senegal and the Women's Team of Afghanistan.