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Chess Player Sues FIDE For Not Giving Him The GM Title

Chess Player Sues FIDE For Not Giving Him The GM Title

IM Fernando Alberto Braga is taking the World Chess Federation to court in an attempt to obtain the grandmaster title. Braga (59) claims he has fulfilled all requirements, but FIDE disagrees.

How does one become a grandmaster? It's one of the most frequently asked questions by people who are just starting to get interested in chess. International Master Fernando Braga is still looking for an answer.

GM title requirements

Most readers will know about the general requirements to become a GM: one needs to score three "grandmaster norms," and get a 2500 rating or higher. Although it's a highly simplified version of the actual FIDE title regulations, three norms and 2500 is usually what it takes.

To fully understand Braga's case, let's go into detail a bit more:

  • A GM norm equals a performance rating of at least 2599.5 against opponents with an average rating of at least 2380 and from at least two federations different than the player.
  • At least 50 percent of the opponents must be title-holders (where CM and WCM don't count), and at least one third with a minimum of three of the opponents must be GMs.
  • For the title, two or more norms are required covering at least 27 games. For instance, at an Olympiad a title norm counts as 20 games.
  • The 2500 rating doesn't need to be published. It may have been achieved in the middle of a rating period (after one rating list has been published, but before a new one came out).

Braga's achievements

Fernando Braga is an IM from Argentina who is playing for the Italian Chess Federation. A grandmaster title application is currently pending, based on two grandmaster norms: his achievements at the 1992 Olympiad in Manila, and at the Malaga Open in 2000.

He says he has two more norms, scored at the 1984 Radio Rebelde and 1986 Opatija tournaments. According to Braga's lawyer GM Michael Hoffman, these two additional norms were included in the title application. Werner Stubenvoll, the Chairman of the FIDE Qualification Commission that deals with title applications, told Chess.com that he has no records of these two older norms.

But, two norms might be sufficient here. Braga played nine games at the 1992 Olympiad, but claims it should be counted as 20 games according to regulations. Therefore, his two norms would comprise of 29 games, two more than necessary.

He also claims to have broken 2500 in the late 1990s. Playing the Mar del Plata Open in 1997 and 1998, he won more than 30 Elo points but back then these points were never added to his rating because the results of the tournaments were never submitted to FIDE.

However, Braga has received all the necessary documents from those tournaments (of which the games are in the database), and two international arbiters have confirmed that he has reached the peak of 2500. He sees no issues with his GM title.

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Fernando Braga. | Photo: Carmen Nova Hoffmann

FIDE says no

FIDE disagrees, and Stubenvoll gives more than one argument for not granting the title to Braga.

For starters, the 20-game Olympiad rule is a complicating factor. This rule was introduced in 2005 and according to Stubenvoll, FIDE's Qualification Commission hasn't decided that it should work retroactively for earlier Olympiads.

Braga's lawyer Hoffmann claims that not allowing title norms to count for 20 games in earlier Olympiads would be against equality principles. "A beneficial rule like that from the logical and law point of view makes only sense if it counts also for cases in the past."

Secondly, according to Stubenvoll FIDE never received the results of the 1997 and 1998 Mar del Plata tournaments. "Mr Braga sent the final standings to us, but it should have been done by the Argentinian Chess Federation—and we never received anything."

Stubenvoll also told Chess.com that it's much too late anyway for these tournaments to be counted. Paragraph 1.55 of the FIDE Title Regulations says:

Title norms gained before 1.7.2005 must be registered with FIDE before 1.7.2013 or they will be considered to have expired.

According to Hoffman "it shouldn't matter" that FIDE receives such documents at such a late stage.

Conditional title

Braga claims that during the 2013 FIDE General Assembly in Tallinn, Estonia FIDE had already promised him a "conditional title," pending the rating requirement and necessary payment of 330 Euros. After he had sent the documents and transferred the necessary sum to the FIDE account, on 16 October 2013, (a few days after Tallinn), FIDE Accountant Evangelia Perissiou emailed him:

"Thank you for the email, the funds are received. I have forwarded your email below to the Secretariat so they can send your diploma to the address below."

However, back then the Chairman of the Qualification Commission was Ignatius Leong of Singapore, who in 2015 was banned for two years from holding official FIDE positions or participating in FIDE meetings (details on that can be found here).

Meanwhile, the position has been taken over by Stubenvoll, who says he cannot find any proof that the GM title was awarded conditionally in 2013. "It might have been an agreement between Mr Leong and Mr Braga, but the documents I have do not suggest that a title under a condition of rating should have been awarded."

Hoffman told Chess.com: "The problems with FIDE and their refusal policy began in early 2014. We can safely assume that the reasons for the refusal are exclusively political."

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Braga, also a chess teacher, here working on one of his lessons. | Photo: Carmen Nova Hoffmann

CAS case

In March of this year, Braga and Hoffmann decided to go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne. Hoffmann claims that "each day passing without the title causes economical damages for my client, who is a professional chess teacher and player."

The case is underway as CAS 2017/A/5073 Fernando Braga vs World Chess Federation (FIDE). In this early stage, FIDE's lawyers have claimed procedural issues: for instance, they state that there is not "decision" by FIDE that can be appealed, and that FIDE's internal legal remedies haven't been exhausted yet.

Braga and Hoffmann see this as a tactic to prolong the case and exhaust Braga's financial possibilities. Meanwhile, CAS has decided to grant Braga legal aid. Hoffmann: "That is a clear sign CAS shares our point of view that FIDE's internal remedies were exhausted, and we have chances to win the case."

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