Sergey Tiviakov: "I had no choice but to leave the Championship"

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
TiviakovThe already seriously weakened Dutch Championship lost its top seed yesterday, after the third round. Sergey Tiviakov had prearranged a draw for his last-round game on Sunday and had told the organizers that he couldn't attend the closing ceremony and possible tiebreaks. This was not accepted, after which Tiviakov decided to withdraw immediately. ChessVibes spoke with all people involved.

Three rounds have been played so far at this year's Dutch Championship, which has GM Sergei Tiviakov (2670), GM Sipke Ernst (2589), GM Dimitri Reinderman (2572), GM Anish Giri (2552), GM Friso Nijboer (2540), GM Robin Swinkels (2511, IM Frans Cuijpers (2480), GM Karel van der Weide (2462) IM Ali Bitalzadeh (2437 and FM Roi Miedema (2396) on its participants list.

To start with, the tournament has a remarkable location: the town of Haaksbergen, close to the German border, about 10 kilometers southwest of Enschede.

This year's edition is one of the weakest Dutch Championships ever held, with no less than seven players from the top 10 missing. After the withdrawal of its main sponsor, the Dutch Chess Federation had to downgrade the prize fund considerably. The last three years, when the tournament was held in Hilversum, the first prize was € 12,000, € 8,000 and € 10,000 respectively; this year it's € 6,000.

Players who we don't see this year include Loek van Wely, Jan Smeets (reigning champion), Daniel Stellwagen, Erwin l'Ami, Erik van den Doel, Jan Werle and Jan Timman. And now, after three rounds, the tournament organizers had to say goodbye to the only top GM who did agree to play: Sergey Tiviakov. What has happened?

After the opening ceremony, which was held last Friday, Sergei Tiviakov walked over to his townsman Sipke Ernst, his opponent in the last round, and offered him a draw. Ernst accepted, but then Tiviakov added that he could't play on Sunday, because he had to play in the Croatian league on Monday. Ernst suggested him to contact the arbiter, which Tiviakov did. At that point the arbiter and tournament director didn't object (yet).

After the third round (Tiviakov had drawn with Bitalzadeh, lost to Swinkels and beaten Miedema) the organizers told him that they couldn't allow it. As stated in the players' contract, which was signed by Tiviakov, all participants have to attend the opening, closing and all rounds. If he wouldn't appear in the playing hall, his game would be declared lost by default. Tiviakov immediately decided to withdraw from the tournament, which thus lost its top seeded player.

The resuls of Tiviakov will be removed from the tournament table, but his games do count for the FIDE rating list. This means that IM Ali Bitalzadeh, who already played him, can still hope for a GM norm but IM Frans Cuijpers, who was supposed to play Tiviakov in round 4, can't score a norm anymore.

ReindermanAccording to GM Dimitri Reinderman all participants unanimously condemn Tivakov's actions. "He only came with it after the drawing of lots. This way he put the organizers on the spot, leaving them no options: accept it, or let your tournament be ruined." Reinderman added that it's not unusual to prearrange a draw. "It happens. I wouldn't have problems with it, but you shouldn't do it too often."

Sipke ErnstGM Sipke Ernst, who accepted Tiviakov's draw offer, expected to play a few moves on Sunday before shaking hands. "It came to me as a surprise when he said that he couldn't play at all. Prearranged draws happens all the time and intrinsically there's nothing wrong with it. However, one should keep it quiet."

Jan StomphorstAlready plagued by the refusal of seven top players, tournament director Jan Stomphorst was not amused to see the top seed leave. "It's a drama. After having weighed all options, we came to the conclusion that we couldn't accept it. It would establish a precedent that we don't want to have. Besides, already in May he knew that he had to play in Croatia. Why didn't he tell us before?"

"And the strangest thing was that he told me he was happy that his last-round opponent was Sipke Ernst, 'a decent player', as he said. I asked him: 'What would you have done if you had to play FM Roi Miedema in the last round?' 'I would have played', he replied!"

We also called Sergey Tiviakov, who was already back home in Groningen this morning. The Russian-born grandmaster, who speaks Dutch very well, was happy to give his side of the story. "I confirmed my participation in the Croatioan league on March 24th, 2009, long before anything was known about the Dutch Championship. Later, when I told them about my participation in Haaksbergen, they were kind enough to reschedule the first round from September 19th to 21st. This way I could play all 9 games."

"On May 28th I spoke with Jan Stomphorst and Jeroen Bosch [Sports Director at the Dutch Chess Federation, PD], when I already informed them that I had confirmed my participation in Croatia. There and then, Stomphorst promised me that the Championship would be organized in such a way that I wouldn't have to miss the Croatian league. Then, when I received the playing schedule of the Championship, I was of course very disappointed, as the federation didn't fulfil their promise."

Sergey Tiviakov

Tiviakov explains why he decided to play the Championship anyway. "The last round was scheduled on September 20th, which was the day I was to leave for Croatia. I decided that I wanted to play anyway, because I didn't want to disappoint the federation even further, after they had already lost so many top players. I wanted to support them in times of crisis. I thought we would always be able to find a solution."

"When I have to leave on the 20th, I thought, the most logical solution is to play the game on a different date, or simply agree to a draw. When Sipke accepted, I immediately informed the arbiter and Mr Stomphorst. I also suggested that we could play a few moves on one of the evenings, even with live transmission. I didn't get any complaints or anything."

"I started to play the Championship and then suddenly after the third round I was told that it wasn't possible, that I had to play and attend the closing ceremony. But they knew this wasn't possible for me because the ceremony starts Sunday at 19.00 hrs, while the last possible flight leaves 19.45 at Schiphol airport to Zurich, where I will fly to Split on Monday morning."

Tiviakov also makes clear why he signed a contract that stated that he had to be present during all rounds, and the opening and closing ceremony. "It's very normal for a player to miss the closing ceremony. Last week at the Montreal International, a much stronger tournament, both Bacrot and Mazé had left earlier, which was no problem for the organizers.

I don't understand why it is so important for the organizers to have me at the closing ceremony. Besides, with my score and play the chances that I have to play a tiebreak are about 1%. And if I don't play, the other player can simply be declared the champion."

Sergey Tiviakov

The grandmaster from Groningen doesn't like the way the press release on the website of the Dutch Chess Federation describes his motives. "It says I otherwise couldn't go for 'a lucrative offer in Croatia', but I want to make clear that it's not about the money. I am a man of my word. When I confirm my participation somewhere, I play."

"In August 2006, I got an invitation to play in the Staunton Memorial, but I had already told the open tournament in Banyoles, financially much less interesting, that I would come. The same last year, when I had confirmed my participation at the European Union Championship in Liverpool. Then a tournament in Romania offered more, but I said no."

In their press release, the Dutch Chess Federation mentions that they are seriously considering sanctions against Tiviakov. "I think I'm the one who should ask for compensation. They didn't fulfil their promises, which I don't understand. I'm still the strongest player in The Netherlands, I have the highest rating, but still the federation wasn't willing to compromise. It happens all the time that players go for a quick draw, but for some reason they forced me to be present at the closing ceremony."

"I had no choice but to leave the Championship. I don't feel guilty; I don't think I did anything wrong. My only mistake was that I agreed to participate in the Championship in the first place, but I could never expect this behaviour by the federation. I shouldn't have trusted the federation and the promises they made."
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