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FIDE Olympiad Won't Take Place In Russia; Ukrainian Federation Asks For Russian Ban
Left-right: Sergey Karjakin, Ian Nepomniachtchi, and Nikita Vitiugov start their first matches at the 2018 Batumi Olympiad. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

FIDE Olympiad Won't Take Place In Russia; Ukrainian Federation Asks For Russian Ban

PeterDoggers
| 349 | Misc

The 2022 Chess Olympiad, scheduled for July 26-August 9, won't take place in Russia. This was announced by FIDE following Russia's invasion into Ukraine.

Note that you can find Chess.com's stance on this topic here.

This year's Olympiad was supposed to take place in Moscow, alongside the competition for players with disabilities and the FIDE Congress. "We will do our utmost to find another organizer for the Olympiad and, in due time, provide information on the location and dates of FIDE Congress 2022," FIDE writes in a statement on Friday.

FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich provided some background while talking to Russian reporters. He stated that it was a decision of the whole FIDE Council: "It's not a question of my reaction. We made this decision taking into account all the circumstances that are now developing, and understanding that the participants of the World Chess Olympiad will not be able to come to Moscow during such a period. Of course, it was hard to accept it, but objectively it was necessary. As to whether we will be able to hold such events in the future, I would not like to comment anything. We will have a meeting of the FIDE Council on Sunday, where we will discuss these issues. After that, I will be able to say more."

By not holding the Olympiad in Russia, the International Chess Federation took a similar step as the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), which has moved this season's Champions League final from St. Petersburg to Paris. 

Unlike UEFA, which issued a statement condemning the ongoing Russian military invasion in Ukraine yesterday, FIDE thus far has not condemned the military actions by Russia. Instead, in a statement also on Thursday, the chess body said it expressed its "grave concern" regarding the "current rapidly deteriorating geopolitical situation."

FIDE's president Dvorkovich, who held high positions in the Russian government between 2008 and 2018, has been on a tour in Africa this week.

One high FIDE official did take a stand. GM Nigel Short, a FIDE vice president, tweeted: "The Russian invasion of #Ukraine is the most appalling act of aggression against a sovereign nation." 

FIDE's decision to move the Olympiad was published around the same time as a statement by the Ukrainian Chess Federation, also on Friday afternoon, on Facebook.

The federation calls for the European Chess Union and all national federations to "immediately assess [the violent events in Ukraine] in the wake of FIDE's reluctance to call war a war" and notes that "all bank accounts and sponsors of FIDE have come under sanctions and FIDE itself remains headed by the close friend of Russia's Putin—Arkady Dvorkovich."

Ukrainian chess officials are appealing to FIDE "urgently to convene the General Assembly outside the territory of the Russian Federation and Belarus in order to condemn the behavior of the FIDE leadership and the re-election of its governing bodies, ban Russian players from international chess events and ban Russian representatives from participating in new FIDE elections."

The statement from the Ukrainian Chess Federation ends with a request for "the appropriate assessment and punishment of the famous grandmasters who openly supported the criminal aggression against Ukraine," naming the 12th world champion GM Anatoly Karpov, GM Sergey Karjakin, and GM Sergey Shipov.

Karpov was one of the 351 members of the State Duma voting in favor of the recognition of the Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) and the Luhansk People's Republic (LNR). Karpov yesterday emerged on the European Union's list of individuals and legal entities that sanctions were imposed on. The EU sanctions include a freeze of assets of these persons on the territory of the EU as well as blocking them from traveling into the EU.

EU sanctions against Anatoly Karpov.
EU sanctions against Anatoly Karpov.

Shipov, a popular chess commentator in Russia, is a supporter of Putin as well. On Thursday, he wrote on Facebook: "Now Donetsk and Lugansk will be able to sleep peacefully. Eight years of life under the bombs have been completed."

Karjakin openly supports Russia's government. Also on Thursday, he shared his point of view by saying that it's the same as expressed by Russian state media journalist Anna Shafran. In a text on Telegram, she argued that Russian "didn't start the war" and that "any support for the Kiev regime is support for the war."

Karjakin: "I subscribe to every word! You can't formulate it better."

Another tweet by Karjakin, shown below as a screenshot because it has been deleted, was strongly criticized by some of his colleagues.

Karjakin tweet

Many other Russian grandmasters have expressed altogether different views—that of horror and disbelief—and have called for the war to end. The most recent was St. Petersburg-based GM Nikita Vitiugov, who wrote on Twitter:  "I will make my position clear—you cannot defend yourself on someone else's territory. Russians and Ukrainians are brothers, not enemies. Stop the war."

Similar reactions by chess personalities, including those from Russia, also appeared on Thursday. For instance, 2021 world championship contender GM Ian Nepomniachtchi wrote: "History has seen many Black Thursdays. But today is blacker than the others. #нетвойне #saynotowar"

GM Peter Svidler: "Silence made today possible. #notowar"

GM Alexandra Kosteniuk tweeted a black image without a further comment:

GM Alexander Motylev: "NO WAR."

Russian IM Alina Bivol: "Until recently, I believed that this would not happen. I would like to call on chess players all over the world not to hate us for the actions of the authorities. We ourselves understand everything. #notowar"

Note that, while not commenting, several other well-known players have added a Ukrainian flag to their profiles on social media to show support.

Meanwhile, there is growing fear for the safety of Ukrainian chess players—especially because of tweets like the following from GM Kirill Shevchenko, the winner of the 2021 Lindores Abbey Blitz in Riga.

More top grandmasters have commented. One of the first was American GM Hikaru Nakamura: "It has been many years since I was in Ukraine, but to see what is happening now is heartbreaking. Stay strong Ukraine."

Indian GM Vidit Gujrathi: "Tragic & inhumane."

The 13th world champion GM Garry Kasparov, who warned about what is happening this week in his 2015 book Winter Is Coming, has been active on Twitter and other platforms. The following tweet with five threads has been retweeted many times.

Scottish GM Jacob Aagaard, a well-known author and trainer, pointed out what the Ukrainian Chess Federation mentioned today as well: the fact that FIDE is heavily dependent on Russian sponsors, which are often state-owned companies. Examples are gas supplier Gazprom, the fertilizer giant PhosAgro, and the mining firm Nornickel.

Aagaard: "In FIDE we have accepted taking Gazprom money for years. It did not matter politically to what Russia did, of course, and at the time everyone were happy to take them. Now we have to face reality and exclude Russia, as long as it if [sic] financed by war."

Meanwhile, World Champion Magnus Carlsen has commented to Norwegian television: "When you represent a country that does so many strange things as Russia does, you get many ups and downs. Russian players and I both think this is something a country shouldn't do. I have to do my best and I am lucky to live in a country where there is peace."

The moving of the Olympiad was an expected step for FIDE to make, but it remains to be seen what other effects the war in Ukraine will have on the chess world.


Those wishing to direct support to Ukraine may consider these organizations which have a strong track record of providing effective relief in times of crisis and which make it easy to donate.

PeterDoggers
Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by Chess.com in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!


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