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Shame, Thievery, and Anarchy

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Not mincing words, that headline comes from one of the coaches of the US World Youth team that just finished well in Belfort, France. I'd already mentioned one report of miserable conditions at the event from the president of a different federation. But coach Aviv Friedman gets into the details on the record today. 100F (38C) degree playing conditions, poor transportation, over-charging for miserable hotels, bad pairings, the list goes on. Aviv's entire three page letter is below. The conclusion:

"Shame on you, Jean Paul Touze! [President of the organizing committee.] Shame on all of the committee members and on whoever authorized this bid! You showed no respect for people, no respect for kids, no respect for chess, and no competence. I can only hope you never have another chance at any official event."

He also notes that this isn't related to the result of the US team, which was quite good, including the first gold medal in quite a while, by Alex Lenderman in the U-16.

Others are posting links to similar reports below. Here's one from the Scottish federations site.

Shame, Thievery and Anarchy at the World Youth Championships in Belfort, France. - Aviv Friedman

Having recently returned from a coaching assignment for the US team at the World Youth championships in Belfort, I’d like to write about some of the outrageousness many have experienced.

A sign of things to come started months before the actual event. The arrogant organizers headed by the president of the organizing committee Jean Paul Touze decided to be as skimpy as possible on the details and logistics on their website which necessitated writing emails of inquiry – many of which went completely UNANSWERED and others got replies but with very little help or answers offered.

Some delegations travel through a few time zones (The US being one of them) and so arrive a day earlier than the others to combat jet lag. Traditionally, going back as far as I can remember, the organizers understood that and arranged for proper pick up (mind you, each person, player, visitor or coach pays 100 Euros for accreditation and travel that more than covers this!) but here of course the organizers refused. After some correspondence they promised to do so if all travel info is given to them well in time, which of course it was.

Naturally, on the 17th of July, most of our people, many of whom traveled for many long hours, were NOT picked up, despite the promises. Many had to pay well over 100 additional Euros for taxis from the Basel airport to Belfort.

Upon arrival to our hotel, located 2 KM from the playing venue, we quickly realized the difference between ‘comfort’ and ‘standard’ – the rooms were small, without air conditioning, or even a table and chairs to work with the kids, and the shower was the size of a coffin. Obviously, had we known of this we could have made other choices – even paid extra, but I suppose it was just too much for the organizers.

I must add that the hotel owners and staff were quite embarrassed about this, and did all they could to help us in our needs. Their good will, which unfortunately did not rub off on the organizers, proved invaluable.

Amazingly, we quickly realized that we were the lucky ones! Some other delegations stayed as far as 50(!!) KM from the site, some in far more ridiculous conditions than us: Dilapidated hotels and college dormitories with communal bathrooms in the hall that cost sky-high prices. ALL ROOM prices were considerably higher than if one was to book himself and when you consider the usual kick-back from hotels to the organizers, this amounts to nothing more than robbery! 89 Euros a day for single, 70 (per person) in a double and 59 (pp) in a triple are incredible prices for what the delegations got. In Crete last year, with all delegations in one venue and 5 star conditions and organization, prices were lower than normal list prices and less than what all paid for the much lower level places in Belfort! [A cursory online check of Belfort hotel rates backs this up. Double and triple occupancy rates in 2-3 star hotels are 55-75 Euros per room. And these are mostly rooms with A/C and television. – Mig]

The playing venue was an ice rink alongside a tennis club where everyone was to eat lunch and dinner. The food was bad (some of our people got sick) and extremely not kid-friendly. Lines were often long, and the area was of course poorly ventilated, but the true jewel in the crown was the playing area itself. On nice days it was semi-reasonable, but on the hot days it was nothing short of a Turkish bath. As the delegation sat and melted in the analysis area, the poor kids were playing in temperatures around 40 degrees Celsius (~104 F) with high humidity. No water was supplied, no sanitary conditions near the chemical bathrooms outside, and of course over crowdedness. One of our nine year olds who did have some water, did not dare drink it for fear she’d have to use the bathroom where there were long lines… The worries of a nine year old at the World Champs!

On some days the shuttle buses did not arrive to pick us up for the round, and so we had to scramble with city buses and taxis, frantically trying to make it – quite ‘fun’ for a delegation of 31 players and over 70 people in all. On one especially stormy day we arrived soaking wet, late for the start of the round. It took some strong words of insistence to give our players the time they lost on their clocks.

During all this, the organizers blamed anyone and anything under the sun except of course, themselves! It was always the Federations’ fault, the delegations, the players, and the weather, anything but them. Worse yet, there wasn’t much of any good will shown and the only recourse at time was (as we quickly learned!) to either yell and use strong words or simply threaten to pull all of the players out. That last one (which we applied) got the organizers to change the first round mess of pairings where titled and rated players were not paired right and some players even paired in the wrong section (!) “Oh, we’ll just fix it tomorrow” was the initial answer – never mind if some poor kid loses a game to someone years older than him and has his event ruined. The motto of the championship was “Pas de probleme! Mais c’est impossible” (No problem! But it’s impossible.)

I can go on and on about how the organizers kept all of the heads of delegations (and arriving players) in a pouring rain till they finally allowed the on-site registration to begin, but I am sure by the now the picture is more than clear. Conditions were terrible, the organization was below amateurish and their attitude was miserable, and they madly overcharged us all. Everyone I spoke to, players, coaches, parents, heads of delegations, all agreed it was the most poorly organized and run event they have ever attended. In all the many years of traveling to world events in one capacity or another, it certainly was the worst one.

Shame on you, Jean Paul Touze! Shame on all of the committee members and on whomever authorized this bid! You showed no respect for people, no respect for kids, no respect for chess, and no competence. I can only hope you never have another chance at any official event.

Aviv Friedman
A coach for the US team
Teaneck, NJ USA

P.S. Our team did quite well and better than usual with one gold medal (after many years of dry spell) and some top 10 (and top 5) finishes so this is not a ‘sour grapes’ letter. It really was awful. Lastly, it is worth mentioning that our federation did everything by the book, making sure that all payments and forms were filled out and sent well in advance in an exemplary fashion.


So, Mig, does posting this item constitute "bashing" the French?

Perhaps only in a world run amok with political correctness...

Well, I think it says more if a french person is offended by the fact that an event was poorly run in his country (or if he thinks this doesn't constitute poorly run at all) about the french person than Mig. Why anybody would assume an attack on the way an event was run in france as an attack on the entire country I cannot understand? Feel free to bash my president all you want, I won't take it as an insult to my country, I PROMISE!!!!

Let's not preemptively defend the item from trolls. It's clear to anyone with common sense that this has nothing to do with France and everything do with the actions of some organizers who happen to be French.

Surely you jest. 2 km is about a 25 minute walk for a reasonably fit person.

Next year it's Russia and I hope you enjoy that more.

Bravo Aviv! Keep telling the truth!!

nigel the canuck

There have been scathing comments from members of the Canadian, British, and Australian delegations as well. Check out this site for more details: http://members5.boardhost.com/ChessTalk/

Sounds like an episode of survivor as opposed to an elite chess event. 2km(and indeed that's what the Olympiad in Calvia is supposed to have been like) isn't ridiculously far, but 50 is. What I don't understand is why someone would take it upon himself to organize a tournament and then not do their best to satisfy the participants(evidently the treatment was just rude). This is somehow incomprehensible to me. Still, from seeing some of the over-zealous parents of the prodigies over here, I can see how it could grit on a person and how demanding they can be.

I still cannot believe that any foreign delegation was 50km away. That is unbelievable!

A Turkish bath for a playing hall? How does one concentrate? Believe me... I've played in hot tournament sites and it's easy to drop a piece (like I did once in an ending)... no oxygen for the brain!

It makes you wonder if anyone visited the venue and inspected conditions before awarding the bid.

"Well, I think it says more if a french person is offended by the fact that an event was poorly run in his country (or if he thinks this doesn't constitute poorly run at all) about the french person than Mig. Why anybody would assume an attack on the way an event was run in france as an attack on the entire country I cannot understand? Feel free to bash my president all you want, I won't take it as an insult to my country, I PROMISE!!!!"

I assume this is in reference to my earlier post in another thread. You see, the problem is that I am not French. You'd wish I be, but I am just not. Sometimes reality can get in the way of even some good French bashing... ;->

J.P. posting from Jamaica Plain, MA, USA.

P.S. I am curious. According to your vision of the United States, do all citizens bear English sounding names like John Smith? Is anyone with a name from a different origin disclafied from U.S. citizenship?

So, Jean-Philippe is saying his earlier posts weren't patriotic nonsense, just troll nonsense. Big improvement.

Coach for the Latvian team Verners Putka writes about the same things here (in latvian):

Latvians stayed 40 km from the site.

I've heard about miserable conditions and scandalous behaviour of the organizers from members of the Polish team. And President of France was a member of the honorary committee... Shame indeed.

Hi, i am a French chess player and read with high surprise all the reports from the different chess federations. JP Touze is a well known organizer in France and has always been recognized as acting very professionally. For instance, he organized important tournament in belfort in 1990 staring Kasparov, Karpov...
But this was long time ago and it seems that he lost his organizations skills. The below-described conditions are unacceptable !
Please accept our apologies for this bad belfortain event and consider it as an isolated one, France having demonstrated ability to organize important events in the past.

Regards from France

Chess Player wrote: "Surely you jest. 2 km is about a 25 minute walk for a reasonably fit person.

"Next year it's Russia and I hope you enjoy that more."

I read this as a dig at Russia. Maybe I'm being defensive. There are a lot of bad things about Russia, trust me. But as far as organizing such a tournament, I'm fairly certain the Russian hosts will put together a better event than the one described in these angry reports. Russia may not be as well-off as France, but at least the latent inferiority complex Russia has in relation to the West (embodied by the phrase: "U nas ne khuzhe" or "We are no worse") will probably motivate the organizers to provide maximum hospitality and prove that they are worthy hosts. From what I've read about the French event (and, to be fair, I've not heard the hosts' account), it sounds like the organizers aren't even trying.

I should have noted in that previous post that while Russia certainly has a lot of negatives (dying towns, rapidly declining birthrate, doctors and teachers paid peanuts, to name a few), the people are wonderful here, and I don't plan on leaving anytime soon. And Russians are the most hospitable people I've ever met, so I'm quite confident they'll put together a quality event.

Life in the gulag didn't seem to bother these kids too much (from a team that stayed at 45 km as well)...


The Moscow 1994 wasn't the best one organized though was it? You don't see many Westerners wanting to go to the Aeroflot tournament either... hopefully it will be better but it might not be. I think tournaments should offer young chess players good incentives to play.

Umm, Mark, I think the reticence of Westerners to go to Aeroflot might have less to do with conditions (which in 4 years of reading about Aeroflot I have generally heard described as good) than with the opportunity(?) to spend a week in Moscow, in the middle of winter, getting bashed by nine opponents who are either top-class GMs or REALLY, REALLY hungry, hugely underrated Russian youngsters. For a prize fund you won't - trust me - even get within sniffing distance of...

This is fun?!


I do not have some white-only vision of America, this would be incredibly difficult being half Colombian, but regardless I won't deny that comment was target at you Jean-Philippe, but I think given your comment and the extent to which the comment was NOT ACTUALLY FRENCH BASHING that assumption was not unreasonably, although apparantly it was incorrect. I'm sorry if I offended you, but it seems once again you draw an attack from a comment than was not intended to attack.
As for the conditions, I was in Bogota, Colombia visiting my grandparents last summer and decided to go check out the Pan Ams the first day, after my experience I did not go back. So there were two tournament rooms, one downstairs for the U16, U14, U12, U10, and one upstairs for the U18. The room downstairs parents were not allowed past this caution tape and there was this giant window outside that parents were crowded around as if they were trying to see their favorite celebrity inside (and they were, weren't they?), but otherwise that room had reasonable playing conditions. However, the room upstairs for the U18 was horrible. The room had no lightbulbs and was being lit only by natural light from a circular window no larger than 8 feet in diameter for a round starting at 4pm (I hope none of those games went past time control). Immediately outside the room they were serving some food/coffee for the entire hotel so people were gathering right outside the door and talking, it was incredibly loud, however, they could not close the door to reduce the noise as they were dependent on some of the light coming in from this area to help light the room. I cannot say anything about the sleeping conditions, but if they were staying at the hotel it seemed like a nice place. I'm not quite sure what some of these organizers are thinking, but is it possible that they don't have the same motivation to organize a nice event for children? If so this is quite disappointing. Once again, the kids seemed less bothered by it than the parents did, although that tournament hall was rediculously loud, but I bet they still would have forfeited a kid if his cell phone went off :-).

Mr fluffybunny feet, the 'conditions' I spoke of partly included the weather. Adams was at a disadvantage compared to Soviet players when the FIDE knockout was played there because of the cold. And yes, a lot of strength in depth and tough opponents.

I wonder why the US has yet to put in a bid for the World Youth given the success of the SuperNationals with 5300 players! Of course, it is quite different having to deal with the international paperwork and working out the logistics, but it certainly is possible.

Let me share a story...

I remember the under-26 World Youth Team tournament in Chicago back in the early 80s. It was said to be the first World Championship event the US had held! As a young player, I visited the tournament which was held at the historic University of Chicago. I was very pleased to interact with so many international players there. I saw Artur Yusupov and Jaan Ehlvest (playing for the USSR)... both would later become big stars. Lev Psakhis, Smbat Lputian, Sergei Dolmatov and Zurab Azmaiparashvili also played for the USSR, who dominated the event. Margeir Petursson was playing for Iceland. The playing conditions appeared very comfortable.

I remember playing a blitz match with one of the Jamaican players and a single game with a Canadian player. I also played and analyzed with players from Botswana and the Bahamas. For some odd reason, I remember seeing on the chart a player named "Othman Othman" (actually a Libyan player). Marvin Dandridge who was also visiting, jokingly introduced me to another player as an "IM from Pakistan." (smile)

At a local Chicago chess club, the Columbians showed up with (then IM) Alonso Zapata coming and giving 5:3 blitz odds. I played one of the Columbian players and produced a wild game sacrificing my queen for three pieces. The game had to be interrupted, but what fun! I heard some of the players also went down to Harper Square, an outdoor chess park.

These wonderful memories are so clear in my mind that I refuse to believe that such tournaments cannot be a success. I wasn't a participating player, but by all indications, it seemed to be quite a hit. One last memory was the players from different countries playing Monopoly in the lobby!

Given the Calvia Olympiad and the last couple of World Youth tournaments, I suppose there is still a lot to learn. Hosting countries certainly miss opportunities to enrich their local chess community when they fail to create a hospitable tournament full of good memories. Memories are all we have.

Just a few quick comments:

1. To the last poster: the 2004 World Youth was held in Crete under 5 star conditions and flawless organization, it is only this year's that was awful.

2. My complaints are aimed directly at the organizers. It has nothing to do with them being French. If anything, my experience with the locals has been the second best part of the trip! I wrote about our hotel staff and how great they were. Others from the local proprietors to the old lady who spoke no English but went out of her way to tell us we were waiting for the wrong stop of the bus, were simply awesome.

HB Challenge for example was smooth and in general I think the tournaments in the USA are well run and comfortable. Why we don't have many prestigious tournaments(category 16+ round robins as well as these monster events) seems to all come down to a question of sponsorship. Even the World Youth or Olympiad would cost a tremendous amount of cash to put on. Does anyone have any idea of how much exactly?

Also probably to the point now that I think about it would be that most of the star chessplayers in the Olympiad and in the World Youth are living in Europe. The expense for them to come to the States would be much higher.

Hi DP!

You're right about the distance, but I believe the Olympiad is quite a special tournament. Most top players have played in the U.S. as well, but I believe we should keep the little guys in mind as well. (smile)

For the past four tournaments, it has been held in very interesting places... Yerevan, Istanbul, Bled, Mallorca. I'll reserve my Mallorca experiences for another thread. Most Olympiad tournaments have been held in Europe and none in the U.S. (although there was a rumour that the 2004 Olympiad was going to be moved to Florida when Menorca fell apart).

There is a very good website called "Olimpibase" which has done an excellent job at archiving the tournament since its inception. Great reading!


It appears that the chess world has problems with success stories lately. Olympiads are probably the best tournaments to promote chess. Hopefully, Turin and Dresden will be a success, but there was concern about the cost at some of the General Assembly meetings at Mallorca.

How long have World Youth tournaments been held? Seems as if there should be a formula by now.

Coach for the Danish team (Jacob Kaaber) writes about similar problems on the website: www.dsu.dk (in Danish!)

Actually, running a World Youth Championship in US would not be a reasonable idea due to the extremely high transportation costs participants from Europe (as well as other regions except North and South America) would incur. And Europe participants make up a vast majority of the players. So it makes sense to have the event alternate between European countries.

They have held the Olympiad in South America.

Biggest issue is that of getting a US visa.

As a Frenchman, I'd like to thank Aviv Friedman for making it clear that this has nothing to do with France in general - even though everybody here feels very much ashamed about the whole thing, especially considering the number of relatively large chess events usually well organized in our country.
Indeed, the very first complaint I saw was issued on day 2 of the championships by the representative of NAO Chess Club, currently the strongest club in France. Many people at the time tended to think that he was simply trying to stir up trouble with J-P Touzé, not an uncommon pattern in the small world of French chess in the last 15 years or so, but it turned out that his were widely shared views.
My feeling is that our federation, though not directly involved in the organization, should apologize to its foreign counterparts.


You've only repeated an earlier post by DP, but I differ with your reasoning. While there may be more European players, most FIDE federations are non-European. Should European federations always have the geographic advantages? Besides the euro stands stronger than the dollar.

Now peachtree brings up an interesting point about visas, but there is also the same problem in Europe. In fact, in one of the sessions at the General Assembly in Mallorca, many nations brought up this issue of visas in Europe (including the expense).

Since when has FIDE made it a policy of picking locations where players can actually attend? Anyone else remember where the FIDE WCh was last year? No jewish players or player who had an Israeli visa on their passport could attend. Please though FIDE, make sure it's not too expensive for european players to attend, that's CLEARLY more important.

Just a few pics to show that the conditions of play where OK.

Winner of the Girl's under 16: Anna Muzychuk (Slovenia)

Incredible talent from China: Jie Wang, under 10 champion


Europeans can afford to play in USA. If the Chinese and Indians can play, then the Europeans can play. There is no place there will be 100% attendance. Europe is more expensive than the U.S. and out of range for many federations, yet these nations (a lot poorer than European countries) still attend. Europeans can afford to play in the U.S.

Contrary to what Mikhail says above, there are probably more chess players in China and India than in all of Europe. Does that mean we should have all the international tournaments in these countries? That is not logical.

In terms of Libya, your information is incorrect and it has been debated at length on many discussions. From what I understand, Jewish players DID compete in the FIDE WCh KO and those with Israeli passports were sent invitations. Many Jewish players (Boris Gulko, who wrote a passionate letter and many other players) voluntarily pulled out because they protested the conditions for Israeli players. A thread on Milov just re-opened.

Milov's letter http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=2566

FIDE's response

Do a search on this blog on "libya" and you can follow these debates.

I'm actually not of the opinion that it's too expensive for european players to play in the United States, I was merely making the point that equality and non-exclusion doesn't seem to be one of FIDE's concerns.

Latest development: JP Touze is actually considering a libel suit vs Aviv Friedman, saying he went "far beyond" normal criticism.

http://ppn.notzai.info/viewtopic.php?t=177 (sorry, that's in French, but there's a link to Daily Dirt there, I'm only reciprocating)

Well, JPT's efforts at sueing just about anyone who does not agree with him are one of the most entertaining features of the French chess world anyway...


Daaim, the situation regarding Libya and the Israelis is far from clear. The fact that the Israeli players received invitations is almost irrelevant, because the conditions under which they were to travel to Libya would have made no sense to anybody who wanted to play. When one of the heads of state declares that they will never allow the "Zionist enemy" into Libya, then it is quite evident that Israeli players are not welcome, regardless of what FIDE says. Many have learned well not to put faith in the claims of FIDE, and the fact that Kirsan kept saying that all was well when the hosts, themselves, were not quite so inviting leads one to believe that FIDE was speaking without the consent of the Libyan organizers, which is nothing new for Kirsan. There were NO Israeli players in Libya, and to say that this was purely based on choice or political protest is naive. They knew that it was not a secure situation, and that they would be going at their own risk. Would YOU trust Kirsan to keep you safe? I'd rather trust Enron officials with the U.S. Social Security Department. The Israelis were no more safe than Americans travelling to Middle East countries are right now. Sure, the defiance might be there, and the desire to prove that it is all exaggeration may be there, but for practicality's sake, no reasonable person will get on the plane for these destinations under similar circumstances.



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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on August 1, 2005 5:42 PM.

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