What would a week in the chess world be without an open letter or two? Resisting the urge to yell "Catfight!" I post below one from two Georgian WGMs from June 4 protesting the way the recently completed women's world championship was organized, or not organized. Today FIDE sent out a reply in the form of a letter signed by the event's winner, Antoaneta Stefanova, and the other finalist.
A cynical student of FIDE would wonder whether they received their prize money before or after agreeing to sign this letter, but of course we aren't that cynical yet, are we? Ahem. What was clear from the beginning of this mess was that FIDE and its leadership [sic] bet on the wrong horse in Georgia with Abashidze and had to save face in a hurry when their thug-du-jour had to run for his life. (Mentioned in the DD here and here.) It's great that they managed to get the event together at all, and from all reports it was run smoothly in Elista. But that doesn't mean they can sweep the entire disaster under the carpet. Full text of both letters below.
ACP Board [Fri Jun 04th, 04:27]
Our slogan is "FIDE without Azmaiparashvili"
ADDRESS TO FIDE, ECU, ACP, ALL WORLD NATIONAL CHESS FEDERATIONS, ALL COLLEAGUES AND CHESS FRIENDS
By the International Grandmasters Ana Matnadze and Lela Javakhishvili
We would like to share our deep concern regarding the situation in Georgia Chess Federation, the conduct of the 2004 Women's World Chess Championship and, in particular, immoral and unjust behavior of Mr.Zurab Azmaiparashvili, the Vice President of FIDE.
As you know, the Women's World Chess Championship was supposed to be held in Batumi, the capital of Georgia's Autonomous Republic of Ajaria. Due to the political tensions in the region, the Georgian government could not provide security guarantees for the participants of the competition. Georgia's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Sports and Culture have both made official statements regarding this fact.
By the time when Mr.Azmaiparashvili invited the president of FIDE Kirsan Ilyumzhinov to Ajaria to sign the contract with Mr.Abashidze (the head of Georgia's Autonomous Republic of Ajaria, who governed the region in an increasingly dictatorial manner) regarding the World's Women Championship in Batumi, Mr.Abashidze had bascially declared full disobedience to the central government. He blocked all of the main roads, banning Georgian government officials from entering the region. He also violently dispersed peaceful demonstrations in Ajaria. For this very reason, the Georgian government could not guarantee security for the participants of the Championship. President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili during his meeting with Mr.Ilyumzhinov in Tbilisi, suggested to move the World Championship instead to the country's capital Tbilisi. President Saakashvili guaranteed provision of all security guar tees, as well as the necessary sum of 700,000 USD.
However, this offer was refused. Instead the championship was moved to Elista, the capital of Kalmykia. Later FIDE board members informed the public from Batumi that the winners of the World Championship would receive a special prize named after Aslan Abashidze.
This decision, which we protested, came at the time when Mr.Abashidze's security forces blew up key bridges isolating Ajaria from the rest of Georgia and brutally dispersed a peaceful rally of students and teachers. Mr.Azmaiparashvili returned to Tbilisi after the mass demonstrations in Batumi forced Aslan Abashidze to resign and flee Georgia. At the time when the entire Georgia was celebrating the bloodless revolution and liberation of Ajaria from Aslan Abashidze's regime, Mr.Azmaiparashvili enthusiastically told the world that in addition to the Aslan Abashidze's prize, the official name of the championship itself would be "Aslan Abashidze's Gift to the World Chess."
We protested these decisions. Azmaiparashvili responded with usual for him aggressiveness towards an opinion different from his own. He treated us in a hostile and intimidating manner, using inappropriate and vulgar language and bringing to tears our mothers who were also present at the meeting. Mr.Azmaiparashvili also pressured us into refusing to participate in the championship, hence forcing us to give up our right to the competition which we gained absolutely independently from both Mr.Azmaiparashvili and Mr.Abashidze.
Participation in the World Championship was extremely important to us, but because we believed we could not be protected against Mr.Azmaiparashvili's aggressive behavior in Elista, we decided to refuse to take part in the championship. We changed our minds only after Nana Alexandria, a famous Grandmaster who has always served as a great example to us, asked us to reconsider our decision and Georgia's Ministry of Sports and Culture and Board members of the Georgia's Chess Federation decided that Nona Gaprindashvili would bare personal responsibility for our protection from Mr.Azmaiparashvili's aggression. Unfortunately the arrangement did not work. In Elista, Zurab Azmaiparashvili and his wife Marina Milorava continued to put psychological pressure on us. Upon our arrival, we had problems with accommodation and would have had to spend the night in the street if it were not for the kindness of our Georgian friends and colleagues. In Elista, Azmaiparashvili's wife Marina Milorava was in charge of the logistical support.
Remarkably, Mrs.Milorava serves as the Vice President of Tbilisi Chess Federation. Due to the recommendation of her husband Zurab Azmaiparashvili she is also the Secretary General of the Black Sea Chess Association and is FIDE's International Organizer.
We believe that all Chess Federations around the world must be informed about the above-mentioned facts. It is our strong belief that the Chess World both in Georgia and across Europe would be much better off without involvement of an aggressive and biased person like Mr.Azmaiparashvili. We believe that a man who abuses his position and attempts to influence negatively chess players and their careers should not be part of the management and decision making process at either National federation level, or especially at FIDE.
This is why we call for all Chess Federations and professional chess associations around the world to support our cause, to share our slogan "FIDE without Azmaiparashvili" and to comment on this letter.
P.S. Any suggestions or opinions warmly welcome.
[SENT OUT BY FIDE, JUNE 9, 2004]
TO FIDE, ECU, ACP, ALL COLLEAGUES AND CHESS LOVERS
We were very much bewildered, after having attentively read the open letter of the Georgian Grandmasters Matnadze and Javakhishvili, published on the ACP site under the motto "FIDE without Zurab Azmaiparashvili”. We would like to send our following comments as our reply to this letter in our quest far the fair play and without mixing political implications of such a declaration:
1. Z. Azmaiparashvili , a professional chess player, who continues to play in various top tournaments, at the same time uses his energy for the promotion of the chess movement and is an organizer of numerous tournaments not only in his own country, but all over the world. His contribution to the popularization of chess as a sport is invaluable.
2. The said Women's World Chess Championship, the hosting of which was initially planned in Tbilisi, then Batumi, where Mr. Azmaiparashvili and Mr. Aslan Abashidze had spent so many efforts, did not take place in either of these cities not because of the fault of the organizers, but due to the change of the political leadership of Georgia and following events. After the decision was taken to transfer the Championship venue to Elista in the same dates, Mr. Asian Abashidze behaved in a courageous manner and did not take back his word to sponsor this tournament, which brought on him the gratitude not only of the participants of the Women's World Championship, but of millions of fans of this ancient game. The cooperation between the FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Aslan Abashidze during the period of more than 5 years, has brought its yield and now we arc in a position to declare to the world that the Women's World Chess Championship did take place and the organization of this large scale event, despite the time pressure, has been excellent.
3. We, undersigned, would like to thank Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, Asian Abashidze and Zurab Azmaiparashvili for their activities for the sake of chess movement and express our hope that this fruitful cooperation shall receive in the future its continuation in the realization of further numerous projects and tournaments.
Women's World Chess Champion
Antoaneta Stefanova (Bulgaria)
Women's World Chess Vice Champion
Ekaterina Kovalevskaya (Russia)