Barcza Memorial cancelled after first round; organizer never paid anything

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
II Barza Memorial cancelledThis week the very strong 2nd edition of the Gedeon Barcza Memorial, with GMs Zoltan Almasi (2685), Ivan Sokolov (2669) and GM Evgeny Postny (2648) as its favorites, was cancelled after the first round, when it became clear that the organizer didn't have the money to pay the venue nor the players. As one of the participants, IM Robert Ris gives us a personal account of a small nightmare.

The II Gedeon Barcza Memorial was supposed to take place in Budapest 6th-17th April 2009. It was a 12-player round-robin with GM Zoltan Almasi (2685), GM Ivan Sokolov (2669), GM Evgeny Postny (2648), GM Victor Mikhalevski (2625), GM Eduardas Rozentalis (2595), GM Geetha Narayanan Gopal (2572), IM Gabor Papp (2524), IM Marcos Llaneza Vega (2522), IM Peter Prohaszka (2511), GM Oleg Romanishin (2501), IM David Recuero Guerra (2459) and IM Robert Ris (2432).

Although the first round was actually played, it became clear very soon that the main organizer, Gabor Pali, didn't have any money to pay either the venue or the players. The top GMs were still waiting for their appearance fees and the Ramada Resort Hotel, where the players were staying and where the tournament was held, never received any money from Pali either. On the second day they had to decide to close the playing hall, according to the basic economic rule: "no money, no business".

As a consequence, twelve chess players have been seriously let down and financially harmed. One of them is IM Robert Ris from The Netherlands, who happens to be one of our co-editors for ChessVibes Openings. With such a fantastic field, it was going to be one of the best tournaments he ever played in, but it ended in a nightmare. Here's his personal account:

A few months ago I found out that in April 2009 a 2nd edition of the Barcza Memorial would be organized in Budapest. (After reading the story you will understand why there is no tournament site of such strong tournament anymore!). I noticed an email address of the organizer, Gabor Pali, and decided to write him if there would be a possibility for me to participate. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any reply, until two weeks before the tournament was scheduled. His invitation came quite unexpectedly for me, but I was very glad to get the chance to play in a Category 13 tournament, although I had to pay a huge entry fee (€ 600) + flight ticket (€ 320) all myself.

I started my trip on Sunday, April 5th. Due to late booking I couldn’t get a direct flight to Budapest, so I had to make a short transfer in Prague. Arriving there, I decided to check my phone, and saw to my big surprise three missed calls from GM Ivan Sokolov, one of the players in the tournament. I called him immediately and he told me he arrived at the Ramada Resort Hotel (which was also playing venue) and wanted to check-in, but when informing the reception he came for the chess tournament nobody understood what he was talking about. According to the hotel manager, Pali started negotiations a few months ago, but they were stopped early without signing any contract.

Ivan Sokolov informed me that it looked highly unlikely that there would a tournament going to take place, so the best thing I could do, he advised me, was to take a taxi and book a room 1for one night at my own expense.

After off-loading my luggage in Budapest I was surprised that Gabor Pali picked me up. He told me immediately that the first night I couldn’t stay in the hotel, since it was overbooked. After the opening ceremony, where all players but Sokolov were present (Ivan wasn't even informed about the location) he therefore decided to drop me and a few other players in another hotel for one night and transfer us the next morning.

The next day we checked-out and went to the other hotel. The playing conditions looked really excellent. Everything seemed to be ready for a nice and competitive event.

The 1st round went quite smoothly, despite a slight delay at the beginning of the round.

It seemed that all small problems were more or less solved, but in fact they just started…

Next day, 5 minutes before the start of the 2nd round, Pali arrived in the hotel and announced to the players that the 2nd round would be delayed for one hour, without mentioning any reason. To me all things were quite clear already, since the hotel management even didn’t want to open the conference hall, where we were supposed to play. It was obvious that Pali hadn’t paid anything to the hotel yet.

The players decided to relax in the lobby while Pali went to the bank. Coming back (of course nobody cared about the exact delaying time anymore) he showed some papers to the hotel and sales manager. As I could read from their faces they were absolutely not satisfied what was going on and Pali left again, this time accompanied by the hotel manager. After a while they returned and Pali informed a few players that "today we don’t play, maybe tomorrow double round" while the hotel manager wisely added "maybe tomorrow no games at all".

When hearing this from other participants I decided to have a serious talk with Pali. I explained him that the situation for me was absolutely unacceptable: paying a huge amount to play this tournament and being treated in such a way. Arguments from his side like that he lost potential sponsors in preparation of the tournament and he suffered from private problems, didn’t convince me at all. Losing sponsors in January and inviting me at the end of March lacks any logic. He simply didn’t fulfill any of his promises we agreed before the tournament and I didn’t see anything better than to withdraw myself from the tournament.

About one hour later the hotel manager informed all players that the organizer had absolutely no money, and so the tournament had to be cancelled. The hotel gave him a few chances by extending the deadline, but as the manager stated correctly: "No money, no business."

The tournament being cancelled is absolutely a pity, but what about the expenses all the players made? For me personally it means that I lost around € 1000 for playing only one game. Most of the other players only lost their flight ticket and some starting fee. During the first two days GMs Almasi and Sokolov asked Pali many times to pay their starting fee, but every time he found a bad excuse to delay the payment.

I am very curious what was the reason that Pali did all this to us. As the hotel manager explained, Pali had absolutely no money to transfer. He lost some sponsors during the preparation of the tournament, but still the Hungarian Chess Federation sent him some money (I have been told 2.2 million forint which is about € 7300) which he absolutely misused and/or kept for himself.

After all what happened, it was decided to put up a list with all expenses the players made and forced Pali to sign himself. As he couldn’t escape he signed of course, and promised me he would pay me in the morning at the airport. At 07.45 AM I met him together with GMs Gopal and Rozentalis. Pali told me he transferred the money to my account, which was absolutely impossible, since the banks are closed until 8 AM.

I asked him to pay me cash, so we went to the local currency office. His willingness to pay me cash is already enough proof that he did not send the money to my bank account! Coming there he explained us that he didn’t have his card with him, so he couldn’t pay me cash. Similar problems occurred with Gopal and Rozentalis who also didn’t get anything. Coming back home I was really surprised to hear that Pali informed Ivan Sokolov that he partly paid me back! Absolutely a lie!

At last I would really like to thank the Ignacz family, who showed great hospitality inviting me to stay with them, after being kicked out of the hotel. They did an excellent job by taking care of several chess players and helping to put up the list of expenses.

I would kindly ask FIDE and the Hungarian Chess Federation to take appropriate measures against Gabor Pali so that he will be unable to organize any chess events in the future. Kind regards,

IM Robert Ris

GM Evgeny Postny already played in a tournament that was organized by Gabor Pali, and knew that the man wasn't the most reliable organizer around. However, Postny decided to "give him another chance". The Israeli grandmaster was happy to share with ChessVibes his experience with Pali:

I personally already played in his tournament in 2004 (category 9), also Sergey Erenburg played there, and the tournament was running more or less smoothly, even though we were running after Gabor Pali every day to get our appearence fees untill the end of last round.

So, I personally knew that this organizer is not reliable, but I still decided to give him a chance, as I didn't find any other event to play in April, and also I've been many times in Budapest before, and enjoy the city quite much.

Last year in October, he organised 1st Barcza Memorial, and the tournament went okay, Romanishin told us that he paid everything at that tourney. But, it appeared that this time the guy has no money at all. He didn't book the hotel in advance (the superb Ramada resort hotel) on the north edge of Budapest Pest side. He took all the receipts from all participants (flights, taxis, some other) and promised to give money later.

In the hotel he also promised something, told bullshit about the sponsor, but at the day of the 2nd round the chief hotel manager urged him to pay immediately. By the way, the hotel offered him a huge discount, but he didn't pay either. His credit card has 0 Forints on it - we checked in the bank. We were at his flat, he called some friends, relatives, nobody wants to give him money.

This kind of situation is impossible to figure out for a "normal" person. It is impossible, at least for me, to understand his logic. He paid nothing, didn't get any money from the sponsor, and didn't ran out of the city. He is going nowhere, just says that he will pay at that date, that hour, that sum to that person, and all lies of course.
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