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Dress Code Incident At World Cup: Kovalyov Forfeits [UPDATED]

Dress Code Incident At World Cup: Kovalyov Forfeits [UPDATED]

Anton Kovalyov today forfeited his game with Maxim Rodshtein in round three of the FIDE World Cup in Tbilisi, after being asked to change his attire. Upset about how he was treated, the 25-year-old Canadian grandmaster decided to leave the tournament immediately.

Anton Kovalyov leaving the hotel after forfeiting his game. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

A full report on the World Cup's third round will be posted later. This article is about the dress code incident that took place at the start of the round.


UPDATE 10 September 2017: The Association of Chess Professionals has published a petition which protests against how Zurab Azmaiparashvili dealt with the Kovalyov dress code situation.

The ACP Board strongly condemns and protests the actions of Mr. Zurab Azmaiparashvili in his capacity as World Cup Organiser.

Bullying and threatening the player taking part in your event is unacceptable, doing it right before the game is even a bigger sin.

The dress-code policy in the tournament is vague, and it is not even clear if Grandmaster Anton Kovalyov has violated it - but that's not the point, as up to that moment, he was not even warned about any possible violation, wearing the very same attire in the previous rounds. And then, all of a sudden, he is threatened and insulted. No player can be treated this way and this is unacceptable. Grandmaster Kovalyov felt he got no choice but to leave the tournament, and we understand his decision.

Incidentally, Mr. Azmaiparashvili is not only the Organiser, but also the Chairman of the Appeals Committee. The Appeals Committee, that is the only body that can correct the actions of arbiters and organizers! This should not have happened, and we strongly blame FIDE for creating this conflict of interest.

We do not expect FIDE to act, and we do not believe they will do anything to remedy the situation. We address the global chess community and national federations.

Doesn't chess deserve better? Shall we swallow another bitter pill all again? Shall the players feel themselves like secondary creatures, accept these insults and obey? Isn't it the time to unite and take a STRONG stand? If you feel it's the time to change the situation drastically, please join our protest and sign this letter.

ACP Board


Ten minutes before the start of the round, Anton Kovalyov was approached in the playing hall by Chief Arbiter Tomasz Delega. The arbiter asked the player if it was possible to wear long trousers, instead of the shorts he was wearing, as this wasn't complying with the tournament's dress code.

Kovalyov was surprised, because not only had he worn the same shorts in his games in the first two rounds, but also in the previous World Cup, two years ago. He mentioned this to the arbiter.

Then he started protesting about that he was given the wrong color; he had expected to play with the white pieces. The arbiter decided to double check the pairings at his computer, and confirmed to the player that everything was correct.

Then Kovalyov was approached by chief organizer Zurab Azmaiparashvili, who told him that he should change his attire. When Kovalyov asked why, Azmaiparashvili replied: "Because you look like a gypsy!"

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The argument between Azmaiparashvili and Kovalyov today in the playing hall. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

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Kovalyov leaving the playing hall. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Shortly after, the Canadian player left the playing hall, very upset. 15 minutes after the start of the round he hadn't returned yet, and his game was declared lost.

About two hours later Kovalyov was seen at the hotel's reception desk. He was checking out.

He told Chess.com that he was too upset to give a comment, but he did confirm that he had not been told before that the shorts he was wearing were not allowed.

He also said he would not appeal. It should be noted that Azmaiparashvili is both the organizer and a member of the Appeals Committee of this tournament. It would be a remarkable combination in any non-FIDE organized tournament.

Later Kovalyov posted his comment on the affair on Facebook.

Delega told Chess.com that he hadn't noticed that Kovalyov was also wearing the same shorts in his four games before today's round—two against Varuzhan Akobian, and two against Vishy Anand.

"I saw it today and decided to talk to him about it," said Delega. "He said he did not have other pants with him and that he had worn the same in the previous World Cup, but then he started protesting about the wrong color."

Delega did not have time to discuss the dress code further with Kovalyov. He told Chess.com that he wasn't planning to punish him right away. "It was not my intention to deny the player from playing today."

Azmaiparashvili told Chess.com: "I will talk with the arbiters team tonight. I want to find out why this hasn't been noticed before." (Update: what should also be noted is that Azmaiparashvili said that he did not mean the word "gypsy" as a racial comment, but that it was the same for him as saying "homeless person.")

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Arbiter Arild Rimestad stops Kovalyov's clock 15 minutes into the round, Deputy Chief Arbiter Ashot Vardepetyan is behind. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

The dress code rules are not clear at all. The World Cup regulations (here in PDF) state:

3. 13. 4. Players are requested to note the requirements of FIDE Regulations C.01 (Article 8.1) in respect of their dignified appearance at all times during the World Cup.

This refers to a document which is part of the FIDE Handbook, titled "01. Recommendations for Organization of Top-level Tournaments" and has the subtitle "Regulations for Organisation of Top-Level Tournament," a document that was approved in 1983 by the FIDE General Assembly, and amended in 1991 and 1992. The specific paragraph says:

8.1 The Commission on Chess Publication, Information and Statistics (CHIPS) stresses the need for all chess players to take more care in their personal appearance. The image of the chess player should be a dignified one, and dressing properly would not only show respect for the game, but also to sponsors, potential or otherwise, to make it worth their while to spend their money.
For example, some federations have barred slippers, sleeveless T-shirts and vests in their tournaments. Those with unkempt and greasy hair should be admonished, as well as those wearing old or torn jeans and battered attire generally.

It should be noted that "shorts" are not mentioned in paragraph 8.1. Besides, some players have been wearing sleeveless T-shirts and hoodies during this World Cup. Even though shorts are not commonly considered to be very formal, the actual regulations do not point out why they are less acceptable than e.g. T-shirts.

The players' contract does not specifically mention anything about the dress code, but it does say that by signing, the player commits himself to completing the various stages of the world
championship cycle 2016-2018 "in accordance with the regulations for the World Cup (...) and that regulations "form an integral part of this contract."

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It's not official yet, but Maxim Rodshtein is the first player to reach round four of the World Cup. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Kovalyov was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine to Russian parents. After living for seven years in Argentina, he moved to Canada in 2007 and started playing for that country soon. In an earlier interview with Chess.com he started that he is working on his Masters of Computer Science, also during the World Cup.

As GM Daniel King noted on Twitter, there is a precedent. At the Subotica Interzonal in 1987 Zoltan Ribli protested about Nigel Short's shorts. A compromise was reached beforehand, and this is what should have happened in Tbilisi as well.

The World Cup takes place September 3-27 in Tbilisi, Georgia. Each round consists of two classical games (four in the final), and possibly a rapid and blitz tiebreak on the third day. The total prize fund is $1.6 million, including a first prize of $120,000. The top two finishers will qualify for the 2018 Candidates' Tournament. 

Chess.com relays the games at Chess.com/Live. You can watch also live commentary on Chess.com/TV provided by the Chessbrahs, which includes some of the best commentators on the planet: GM Eric Hansen, GM Robin van Kampen, GM Yasser Seirawan and IM Aman Hambleton.


Correction: An earlier version of this article wrongly stated that Arild Rimestad and Ashot Vardepetyan are Deputy Arbiters. Rimestad is Arbiter, Vardepetyan is Deputy Chief Arbiter.

Previous reports:

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