Turkish Chess Federation accused of bribery (UPDATE)

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Turkish Chess Federation accused of briberyTomorrow the Financial General Assembly of the Turkish Chess Federation will be held. No doubt on the agenda will be an audit, published on the federation's own website, which reveals that the TCF paid for votes to win the 2012 Chess Olympiad. While FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has expressed his support to TCF President Ali Nihat Yazici, grandmasters Suat Atalik and Ivan Sokolov have their doubts. Update: Ivan Sokolov reacts to Ali Nihat Yazici.

On Wednesday a rather remarkable article appeared on the chess blog of the New York Times. An article that basically points out a unique situation within the Turkish Chess Federation: Turkish money was spent in 2008 to get FIDE delegates to vote in their favour, and this has actually been written in an official audit (!) and even posted on the Turkish Chess Federation's website.

Turkish Chess Federation in the New York Times

The audit, titled Denetleme Kurulu Raporu, was posted on November 12th and can still be downloaded as a Word document from the homepage. As Dylan Loeb McClain points out in his NY Times piece, something interesting is written on page 9. It starts with the header Giderler (expenses), followed by a big table full of amounts in Turkish Lira. Below, it has the following note (translation by the NY Times):

It was detected in official documents, records and listings that in order to host the 2012 World Chess Olympics in Istanbul, 177,724.32 Turkish lira was allocated for the rent of the stand, souvenirs, lobbying activities as well as accommodation, transportation and food expenses of some FIDE delegates to vote for our country at the FIDE general council meeting held in Dresden, Germany, in 2008, as approved at the board meeting, and as adequate additional funds were transferred into the federation’s budget by the Turkish Republic prime minister’s Office of Youth and Sports general directorate in 2008, which were spent in accordance with the status of the federation and other general regulations.

Money was missing

During the Olympiad in Dresden in 2008 the Turkish Chess Federation won the right to host the event in Istanbul in 2012 after a vote among FIDE delegates: Turkey beat out Montenegro, the other finalist, by a vote of 95 to 40. The audit now shows that this has been the result of bribery, says Turkish GM Suat Atalik: "It was written by Murat Sengül, who is a member of the audit committee, which, by the way, is part the Turkish Chess Federation.

GM Suat Atalik

What happened is that he went through the finances of the federation, and at some point a big amount of money was missing. But in the official documents, where the decisions of the Executive Board are written, he found this paragraph about money being spent in Dresden, and he copied it into the audit report. He had to copy it from the books, because otherwise he would be getting lots of questions himself." Atalik adds: "Are they that incompetent to put it in the books? Yes, they are completely incompetent."

Official statement

We asked the President of the Turkish Chess Federation, Ali Nihat Yazici, to comment on the New York Times article. Yesterday he sent us the following 'official statement', which was also sent to other chess media:

Official Declaration of Turkish Chess Federation

I have read the NYT report saying that we got 2012 World Chess Olympiad by paying bribes to delegates, according to our own auditing reports. This claim is factually untrue. The Turkish Chess Federation spent around 178,000 Turkish Lira for the 2012 Olympiad Campaign in 2008 – which is not a very large sum when you are bidding for an Olympiad. The money was spent mainly for for our delegation's travel and stay in Dresden, setting up and maintaining a stand in Dresden, the "Turkish Night" party, as well as gifts and souvenirs promoting the city of Istanbul. The Campaign was very successful: I would like to remind readers that the Turkish Federation beat the rival bid from Montenegro by 45 votes: 90 for Istanbul versus 45 for Budva.

All of the expenses incurred by the TCF in the Olympiad Campaign are documented by invoices from third parties, such as airline companies, hotels, catering companies and Dresden 2008 (for the stand). None of the invoices involve delegates to the FIDE Congress, no money was given to a FIDE delegate, and none of their expenses were reimbursed.

Ali Nihat Yazici

Ali Nihat Yazici | Photo courtesy of the Turkish Chess Federation

The reality behind this news that is currently being circulated is that there is a very destructive opposition to my Presidency of the TCF, which I have faced in the last six years. They have failed to win democratic elections and are now trying to take down my management by other means. They want to create an international scandal before the Financial General Assembly of Turkish Chess Federation, which is scheduled for next Saturday (November 27th). The timing of the news push by our opposition is very interesting: just 72 hours before the Financial General Assembly and in a US newspaper. Clearly the aim is to have the report of our auditing committee rejected and to force extraordinary elections to the TCF in three months.

I would like to stress: the Turkish Chess Federation has never paid a penny to any delegates to get their votes. If that were not the case, today I would be the President of European Chess Union. We are sure that more than 150 delegates of Turkish Chess Federation General Assembly will express their confidence in our management and support the work we have done over the last ten years to turn chess from a minor hobby into a major sporting activity in Turkey.

It is worth mentioning that the Financial General Assembly will be broadcast live on Turkish Chess TV on 27th Saturday 2010 at 14:00h CET. Everyone can watch the proceedings.

Ali Nihat Yazici President of the Turkish Chess Federation

Suat Atalik: "His answer is absolutely bollocks. It was a decision by the board. If you pay meals, transportation and accommodation for delegates, what does it mean? It's clearly written: for those who vote for us. They paid about 90,000 Euros for this thing!"

After we spoke to Mr Atalik, today we spoke to Mr Yazici through Skype, and we asked him to clarify his official statement, as it's quite different from what is written in the audit. Yazici: "This sentence was inserted into the audit at my request. It was a board decision. Yes, we helped some delegates who otherwise couldn't come. But the money was spent for the whole campaign. There were twenty people from the Turkish Chess Federation in Dresden whose expenses had to be paid. Yes, we offered dinners to Africans, to Americans, to many delegates, to explain our campaign. But we didn't spend one cent for any delegate to pay their hotel or travelling expenses. It's ridiculous what Mr Atalik and others are claiming."

FIDE press release

Meanwhile, the President of the World Chess Federation has expressed his full support to Mr Yazici in a press release:


Yesterday, I was informed about a blog published in the New York Times written by Mr. Dylan Loeb McClain.

The 2010 World Chess Olympiad was given to Istanbul in Dresden in November 2008 by 90 votes against 45 votes which reflect the big majority of the FIDE General Assembly.

The Turkish Chess Federation has one of the best management teams among the 171 members of the FIDE family. We always use the TCF, and its leadership, as a model and best example for chess development in the world. The TCF has organized more than 140 international events under the leadership of our colleague, Mr. Ali Nihat Yazici, an immeasurable amount of World and European championships in the last 10 years.

I place my trust fully in the leader of the Turkish Chess Federation, Mr. Yazici. That is the reason, I nominated him not only to the position of Vice President of FIDE, but additionally to the position of Chairman of Chess in Schools Commission.

FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

I have been informed that today and yesterday in Turkish Media some newspapers used the article published in NYT and they claim that the 2012 Istanbul World Chess Olympiad is under inspection. This is completely untrue, and as long as I am the President of FIDE, nobody may take away the 40th Chess Olympiad from Istanbul.

The reason that the FIDE GA in Dresden granted the 40th Chess Olympiad to Istanbul was not only the excellent and honest Campaign run by the TCF in 2008, but also, the incredible support of Turkish Government, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and Is Bankasi. We are confident that the Olympiad in Istanbul will be one of the best organised Olympiads in chess history.

I may assure you that Mr. Yazici as always conducted himself in an exemplary manner and the campaigns by the TCF for various tournaments were always at the highest level possible.

I want to clearly express this for all the world chess media and Turkish Media to clarify my comments in the article mentioned above.

I understand that the timing of that news published in the world and in Turkey is much related to the financial general assembly of the Turkish Chess Federation on the 27th November 2010. I give my full support to the outstanding and excellent leader of Turkish Chess, Mr Yazici.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov FIDE President

Suat Atalik: "Yazici is backed by Ilyumzhinov because he covers almost all the official FIDE tournaments. He did many youth events, the World Team Championship, the first FIDE Women Grand Prix, and now he's doing the Women World Championship [which will be held in December in Hatay, Turkey - CV]. At the same time he is backed by the reigning party (AKP) thus he is also backed by the official sports organization. Whenever he organizes something he also provides people from the sports organization accommodation in good hotels, provides them with good food, etcetera and he provides FIDE people with good jobs at events. So in the upcoming Women World Championship the Appeals Committee is Kutin, Makropoulos and... Yazici."

European Chess Union presidential elections

While it remains unclear whether FIDE delegates received money to vote for Istanbul 2012 back in 2008, according to Atalik it's 'not the first time Mr Yazici has used such techniques', as he describes it: "Another example is about the European Chess Union presidential elections in September in Khanty-Mansiysk, where Yazici was running for President. Two months before the elections Yazici met with IM Kemal Osmanovic of the Bosnian Chess Union. They gave a proxy vote to Yazici after they received money: first 15,000 Euros, then another 10,000 Euros. The strange thing was that in Khanty-Mansiysk, the Vice President of the Bosnian Chess Union, IM Zeljko Bogut was present, so why would they need a proxy vote? Many people in Bosnia who were connected to this case publicly admitted that they received donations – a first payment in August, and a second just before the Olympiad."

We also spoke to Bosnian-born grandmaster Ivan Sokolov today, who confirmed this story: "It is 100% correct. The Bosnian Chess Union received 25,000 Euros. However, whether this was bribery cannot be proven of course. The amount was not just meant to buy the vote; I understand that some Bosnian youth players participated in a championship organized in Turkey, so this way the Turkish Chess Federation got part of it back quickly. But the transfer of this money connected to the story of the proxy vote makes it suspicious. I mean, why would you give a proxy vote to Yazici directly, while you have your own representative in Khanty-Mansiysk?"

GM Ivan Sokolov

GM Ivan Sokolov | Photo Jorge Armestar Marroquin

Sokolov said that the Vice President of the Bosnian Chess Union, Mr Bogut, flew all the way to Siberia to find out that his vote wasn't needed. "So he was very angry, as you understand. At the draw call he confirmed his presence, and then when the proxies were counted, Yazici decided to withdraw his proxy vote. It's clear that something was going on. It was the first time that I attended such a FIDE meeting [Sokolov was on Robert von Weizsäcker's ticket for the ECU elections - CV] and in an interview with a Bosnian newspaper I said that it's a pity that Bosnia is making history by being the first European country involved in such matters."

Mr Yazici about this matter: "Yes, I helped the Bosnian Chess Union to find money for their debts. But, and this is important, not a cent from the Turkish Chess Federation was spent. I found them an international sponsor, a Bosnian company, but I didn't pay for the Bosnian vote. And I voluntarily took back the vote in Khanty-Mansiysk."


Mr Yazici says that he has received many complaints over the years, but nothing has been proven. "A few years ago Suat Atalik sent several allegations to a prosecutor. It was ordered that the Support and Youth General Directorate Inspection Committee, a governmental inspection body for sports, would check on everything we were doing in the federation. This inspection committee checked us for 15 months, between November 2008 till March 2010, and they found nothing. Nothing!"

Tomorrow the Financial General Assembly of the Turkish Chess Federation will be held. Atalik is not sure about the outcome. "Theoretically, if the books will not be approved, the federation will fail and after a two-month transition period there will be new elections. But, from the 130 delegates who will vote, only about 10 of them know something about chess. So maybe the result will be decided by other factors than chess..."

Update: in the comments GM Ivan Sokolov reacted to Ali Nihat Yazici: Mr. Yazici says that TCF has helped delegates arrive to Dresden who otherwise could not have come, while in the same statement TCF president says that TCF did not spend a single cent on delegates travel costs. My question is: how do you help someone travel from point A to point B without spending any money on that person travel costs? Perhaps, Mr. Yazici has sent delegates one of the famous Aladdin Flying Carpets. Yes, it is correct that Mr. Yazici voluntarely withdrew Bosnian proxy at the latest FIDE congress- but what options did Ali Nihat have? Bosnian Chess Union vicepresident and designated delegate for 2010 FIDE congress Mr. Bogut was physically present and willing to vote. Insisting on the proxy would have caused a major scandal in Bosnian-Turkish relations (apart from the fact that a legality of the proxy, with delegate physically present and willing to vote, is very questionable). Bosnian delegation had (apart from delegate Bogut arriving) a number of people (man+woman teams) physically present on the ground in Khanty and the only logical reason for TCF president to get a Bosnian proxy is that Mr. Yazici wanted to make it sure to get his moneys worth. Such a practice is not unusual for current FIDE administration, on the evening before the election in Khanty , I was talking in Olympia hotel to one of the African delegates who could not attend the FIDE congress the very next morning, but instead the very same morning had suddenly to travel back home and had given a voting proxy. Delegate from Africa travelling all the way to Siberia to attend the FIDE congress and than giving a proxy and on the morning of the Congress travelling back home to Africa…and even openly telling me this to be part of the “agreement”…please…. So, such a practice of collecting a proxy in order to make it sure to get “invested” moneys worth is definitely not new , however with Bosnian case is (to the best to my knowledge) the first time this practice happening in Europe. “International Bosnian Company” Mr. Yazici was generous to find to help Bosnian chess is another mistery. Company with no name, not mentioned anywhere, not asking any marketing/advertisement,…. just dumping 25.000,-euros to help Bosnian chess….. In order to buy TCF presidents story somebody has to be born yesterday. By the way statement of FIDE president: ” as long as I am FIDE president nobody may take away the 40th chess OL from Istanbul” – perfectly fits in a dictatorial picture already created.
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