Emil Sutovsky: "The ECU Management Has to Accept Mistakes"

Время публикации: 04.04.2012 22:28 | Последнее обновление: 06.04.2012 21:06

Live recording: 02.04.2012, 15.10

E.SUROV: It’s 15:14 Moscow time. Good afternoon to everyone who is listening to us live. This is Chess-News and Evgeny Surov is at the microphone. As promised, we have Emil Sutovsky – the President of the Association of Chess Professionals.

E.SUTOVSKY: Good afternoon.

E.SUROV: This is great. I can hear you very well, as if you are in the next room. Emil, it was very easy for me to prepare for this interview because I didn’t even have to think of the first question. Several of our readers posed this question in their comments to our online materials. So, in summary, it’s something like this: “Where was the ACP during all the scandals at the European Championship? Where was the ACP?” And to elaborate further, there was also this phrase: “Where was the much praised President of the ACP?”

E.SUTOVSKY: OK, let’s start about where the ACP was. The ACP was playing chess. I am, like most of my ACP colleagues, is an active grandmaster and played in the European Championship. So it wasn’t possible to demonstrate significant activity, especially since nothing can be changed during a tournament. All the rules, for what they’re worth, were approved before the tournament. You could have challenged them with some loud statements but it wouldn’t have changed anything. On the other hand, now is the time to take concrete actions. There is something to think about and I have a certain vision on what to do and how to do it. It’s very difficult to suggest and do anything during a tournament. The only thing that I had a chance to do was to speak to a large number of players and confirm that the problems were not limited to those who got a default and felt uncomfortable. This situation is adversely affecting 99.9% of players.

E.SUROV: Which situation are you talking about?

E.SUTOVSKY: In reality, the first person who described it well even before the tournament was Alexander Motylev. He wrote a great article dedicated to the tournament in Wijk aan Zee. But after that he deliberated about the European Championship and pointed out several facts confirming that not all is well in the chess kingdom. Of course, there is nothing good to say about the European Championship where every year the players’ conditions are getting tougher while the prize fund is getting smaller. It’s possible to credit the organisers with trying to provide a nice playing venue but apart from that there were many serious issues for complaints.

Still, I wouldn’t have started with the rules that caused a stir, but with the fact that the European Championship is turning into some Swiss tournament that makes little sense. Anyone can play as long as they pay an entry fee and the tournament is growing very big. While, as a regular participant, I can see that the prize fund is going down every year. The main prize fund was €120K net in Rijeka, €113K net in Aix-les-Bains, and €90K in Bulgaria minus 10% deduction, making it €81K. This is equivalent to 1.5 times prize fund reduction and it’s serious. With this in mind, the European Championship is starting to look like some kind of typical open where many players have to participate due to its status of selection to the World Cup. This, of course, cannot leave a nice feeling. Besides all this deterioration there are additional obstacles for the players. And that, I think, certainly needs to be addressed.

I said before that the ACP’s capacity is such that it wants to cooperate with everyone. The simplest thing to do would have been to write a large open letter and say: “We will boycott your tournaments if you hold them like that. You can’t do that, it’s appalling!” – and so on. It’s very easy to do but it’s not constructive. I think we need to find a more realistic approach. We can address various points one by one now.

E.SUROV: OK, let’s discuss them one by one. What exactly didn’t you like about the organisers of the tournament?

E.SUTOVSKY: First of all, I think that the zero tolerance rule is not justified in open tournaments. It’s even arguable if it’s justified in all-play-all tournaments, although it’s possible to demand from players living in a same place to be present at the start of a game. But zero tolerance rule doesn’t even apply in all official FIDE tournaments. For example, only cautions were given during Grand Prix series. And the draft of the new Grand Prix series also only considers cautions. I don’t know how that will end up. So I think it’s an inappropriate punishment. For example, during the candidate matches in Kazan, Gata and I were forced to walk down the stairs from the 6th floor to avoid any problems. What was there to do? You could get stuck in a lift and then have to explain to someone if you were really stuck in a lift or not. The same happened in the hotel at the European Championship. I was once waiting for a lift but it wasn’t coming so I ran down the stairs and arrived to the board only 2-3 minutes before the start of the game. What could I do? Some large tourist group had just arrived. I was right not to wait for the lift.

It’s completely unjustified in open tournaments. Why? I can explain. When we are told that the sponsor gave money and wants to see a return on investment, then let’s do it this way. I’m currently organising an ACP tournament and know how it works with the sponsors who provide money. I’m not even talking about the European Championship which is self-financed by charging the players. If we are saying that the sponsors want to watch the games then let’s organise a European Championship where all games are transmitted live. But at the European Championship there were 175 games every day and only 46 were going out live.

E.SUROV: Excuse me, but who would be interested in a game on the 136th board?

E.SUTOVSKY: I don’t want to upset anyone, but a respected grandmaster and a young star Anish Giri is followed all over the world. He spent nine or ten out of eleven games on the boards which were not live. Mamedyarov spent seven games like that. Navara spent seven or eight games like that. What do you mean – “who would be interested?” And if it’s not interesting then why are there the penalties. The famous game Baron-Safarli was played in the second hall. OK, the tournament wasn’t going well for them and they were on “-1”, I think. They were playing on a plastic board with plastic pieces. The first hall was comfortable while the second was substantially different. You wanted to get out of there as soon as you got there. By the way, I read reports from Elena Klimets. We are on friendly terms and discussed various things. But she described everything in such an attractive light as if this town is the best in the world. I don’t think many players had the same impression.

E.SUROV: She was saying that about the town though rather than about the game.

E.SUTOVSKY: It’s the same about the town. It’s not that important. I don’t want to accuse the organisers. Organisers conform to the rules that are given to them. In that respect I have more complaints towards the management of the European Chess Union. Like many chess players I had mixed feelings when Danailov was elected as the President. On one hand he has an odious reputation in the chess world but he really has achieved a lot as well. He obtained money in Sofia and for the Grand Slam. Those are serious achievements. Also, the Chess in Schools program is a big achievement during his time as the President. Everyone is talking about it and it’s great that he and Kasparov are promoting it so well. But I don’t understand how the European Championship could fall to the level of having half the prize fund while the players are persecuted.

You wouldn’t even believe what happened. I can still vividly remember one of the incidents. It was a wonderful moment. It was the first and luckily the only game which I played on a plastic board, which was memorable in itself. There was a young and well dressed guy, with glasses, who was obviously a supporter although it was possible to think that he was a chess player. He walked around watching the games and looking serious. Suddenly, his phone rang. He ran out of the hall and three arbiters chased after him – fair enough, forgetting to switch off the phone is really out of order. I was walking out of the hall at the time and saw this. There were three arbiters – one Romanian and two Bulgarians. They were discussing while running: “Is it a chess player?” The look in their eyes showed such desire to catch him and not just to default him but to practically shoot him!

I think that what we’ve now come to is some kind of domination of the arbiters, it’s laughable to talk about it. It’s as if these people get a satisfaction from their power over the players. It’s really quite strange! And when someone on your forum is discussing that someone is late for work or not doing their work properly…Guys, lets be honest. This is the European Championship which, judging by the prize fund, is not interesting for anyone except the organisers. If we can find more or the equivalent money for the Women’s ACP tournament…

E.SUROV: Wait a minute, Emil. Are you saying that we would come to the game on time depending on the money? Where is this boundary? 100K – we have a right not to turn up on time, but 120K – we should probably do. Or what do you think?

E.SUTOVSKY: No, wait a minute. I was just talking about the right to agree a draw and how it relates to the whole world watching the tournament. If we are talking about the rules of arriving to the game then I have a clear view: all participants must have equal conditions. However, 350 people never live in a same hotel (except during the European Championship in Rijeka which was organised very well), and the pricing policy of the organisers is such that not everyone can stay in the official hotel and, therefore, the conditions are not equal. Some have to travel to the playing venue and some have to walk. Evgeny, you may remember the living conditions of the Georgian women’s team at the Dresden Olympiad. If so, you would easily understand why Georgians were not happy that it took them 1.5 hours to get to the playing hall. It’s the same thing here. If all the players have equal conditions then the question about applying zero tolerance… I think it would be more appropriate to give a caution first and to default only after that. It’s up for discussion. It’s possible to default straight away. But it’s not justified in open tournaments. There must be a reason behind every rule. Can you explain to me, what’s the reason in this? I can only think of one reason, let me know if you can find another one. It only happened twice during the whole tournament. In one of the rounds, the minister of the Bulgarian government made an official opening move in front of all the players and Danailov did the same in round six. There is no other reason. So spectators would be affected, but who are they? Would the internet spectators be affected because a round starts 5 minutes later? There were no spectators in the hall. OK, maybe 5-10 supporters were there who could choose any of the 175 games to watch and enjoy.

E.SUROV: Emil, but we want to have as many spectators as possible.

E.SUTOVSKY: Evgeny, we won’t achieve anything by defaulting. OK, explain to me, why would we get more spectators if we default someone?

E.SUROV: Because they want to be entertained.

E.SUTOVSKY: We are talking about late arrivals. We will talk about draws later. I’m purely talking about late arrivals. Explain to me please, what’s the advantage of having zero tolerance? Besides the fact that the players are all anxious, constantly looking at their watch and arrive 15 minutes early.

E.SUROV:I’ll say it from a perspective of a journalist. I don’t like it when I’m only allowed to take photos in the first 10 minutes and the players are not present. I’m now talking about some tournament where late arrival is allowed. And some of the players intentionally don’t arrive on time to avoid photo cameras.

E.SUTOVSKY: You are too young, Evgeny. Garry Kimovich Kasparov introduced this fashion – he always intentionally arrived late to avoid being photographed. But it’s not about that. Let’s get to the bottom of this and understand it. All journalists and chess players need to be clear about this. An all-play-all tournament, a match and an open have almost nothing in common. It’s like the Slav and the Grunfeld, it’s as if they are both important and main openings. But their structure and principles are completely different and the games are different. It’s the same thing here.

E.SUROV: Emil, I think opens also differ. Because this open has a name of the “European Championship.” Imagine this… We want to get as many spectators as possible, right? Some person who doesn’t visit chess sites every day suddenly sees an information about the European Championship! It’s a very powerful name.

E.SUTOVSKY: I can honestly say that this time there were no more than 20 spectators present at every round. None of them were affected because there were 50 games on the electronic boards which is what the spectators are mostly interested in. So what if one player arrives one minute late, or five minutes, or even thirty minutes late. I understand that in an all-play-all tournament a show is affected when five or three people don’t arrive on time. I realise all that very well.

Moreover, there is a very important legal point. We can argue about various oddities. But from a legal point of view I don’t understand how it was possible to include in the regulations. The problem is that this tournament was a part of the selection towards the World Championship cycle. So, it’s really an initial stage of the World Championship. And there is a contradiction. The zero tolerance rule is actually in the regulations and organisers can apply it or not or even modify it. However, the threefold repetition rule or, rather, Sofia rules are not in the regulations of the World Championship. Moreover, this point was discussed at the meeting of the FIDE Commission for World Championships and we agreed that Sofia rules are necessary because what happened in Kazan wasn’t very good. But it should apply only to tournaments with a very limited number of people, as otherwise it causes all sorts of nonsense.

Also, no one reporting on this tournament, including Elena Klimets, mentioned this unbelievable phrase. Do you know that the chief arbiter is a very nice person to talk to but gets amazingly transformed on the job? He said before one of the rounds that short draws will not be accepted by the arbiters even with a threefold repetition. So the rules of chess are being ignored. Go and ask for a draw but I won’t accept it! Imagine this: I prepared the Zaitsev Variation. I played Rf8 and get Ng5 in return – Re8 – Nf3. Now I can’t repeat that because I’m risking a default! And in any kind of Slav where you repeat Nh5-Bd2, Nf6-Bf4. So it’s just…

E.SUROV: I can object to that because in the Zaitsev Variation there are other moves apart from Re8 and they happen in practice, including at the high level. But this isn’t relevant.

E.SUTOVSKY: One second! Since you’ve started giving pure chess objections...

E.SUROV: Well, there is the move Nd7.

E.SUTOVSKY: Sorry, but that’s not the Zaitsev Variation. You can play that if you like but don’t advise anyone. What is this: Bb7 – d4 – Nd7?

E.SUROV: No, no, there is…

E.SUTOVSKY: There is just Nd7 – the Keres Variation. But it has nothing to do with the Zaitsev Variation.

E.SUROV: No, I’m sure of that’s how the repetition can be avoided by black. Is it not the Zaitsev Variation?

E.SUTOVSKY: So you recommend that I play an inferior move because of arbiters and new trends, because I can’t agree to a draw, right?

E.SUROV: OK, it’s not about that. I just wanted to say that if you wanted to dispute the demand from the arbiters then it’s better to choose the variation of Ruy Lopez with the queen sacrifice, Bh2 check and it’s not possible to deviate. Do you understand?

E.SUTOVSKY: Yes, I do. It was played in one of the games there. It’s not about this, Evgeny. It’s just that anything is now approaching an absurd situation. Everyone applauded to Danailov when these rules appeared. And the idea is great. I guess that you, as a chess journalist, are following my career. I’m not guilty of quick draws and wanting to finish early no matter if I’m playing well or badly. And I support the desire for an entertainment. But let’s not overdo it. At the moment there is no simple solution. The ACP management could formally say “stop this disgrace” – but no one would listen. I think the only right solution would be to write a competent letter (I think we will do that and may get it legally checked), put it up on our website and invite everyone to sign it. We have 850 members and I think we’ll find several hundred people, if not more, who would support this. Let’s see if they dare to publicly ignore the opinion of several hundred strongest grandmasters. We can always talk about anything. In reality, anything new needs to have some kind of logical meaning rather than introducing something just because someone wanted it. At this point in time there isn’t a single chess professional in the European Chess Union. There is only one tournament organiser – Danailov. Although there are many people with whom I have great relationship. That’s the former President of the French Chess Federation Jean-Claude Moingt, it’s the Executive Director of the Israeli Chess Federation and an arbiter Almog Burstein, and so on. It’s also Sava Stoisavljevic. There was serious work going on when we were discussing the European Championship discounts for the members of the ACP. Anyway, it’s not right to decide something like that in one swoop. Many people already said that they will not play next time. It shouldn’t be like this. Let’s not overdo it. There is an idea and a rational side to Sofia rules. Well done to Danailov who implemented it in 2006 in his tournament. But how is it relevant to the European Championship? Make it an elite tournament. It depends directly on a prize fund because if it’s 200K rather than 81K net, like we had, and if all but top five of the strongest players participate, and if 100 boards go out live then you can set demands. We will be holding the Women’s World Rapid Championship in Batumi. Apart from the $100K prize fund (similar to what we had at the European Championship) we are inviting 30-40 players. In this case we have a right to demand something from them. We are not demanding anything. No one is paying an entry fee or the ACP fee. But at the European Championship the players paid the entry fee and the European Chess Union fee as well as fourteen days for the hotel. That’s quite a lot considering that the prizes were not very big. And the line-up was very strong. You had to get “+5” for a decent prize. That’s a lot! Any result below 2750 left you with nothing. And all these demands are on top of that. And the next thing is the dress code which is a good idea.

E.SUROV: One moment. Let’s speak about the dress code a bit later. I just want to finish off the started topic. I’ll tell you something from a spectator’s point of view that cannot be argued about. There was an intriguing fight for the first place at the previous European Championship. I sat down with an anticipation to watch the fight of Judit Polgar who I support, but she agreed to a draw after 10-15 moves. So she disappointed me.

E.SUTOVSKY: You are so funny, Evgeny.

E.SUROV: There was a real intrigue this time because we didn’t have short draws. Don’t you think that was thanks to the rule? The players subconsciously didn’t want short draws. I’m not interested in the details, I just want to see an interesting game as a spectator.

E.SUTOVSKY: OK. I have an interesting question: are you just so naïve or… No, I’m not going to continue…

E.SUROV: No, I object.

E.SUTOVSKY: The problem is that about a third of the top boards agreed to a draw before the last round. They just sat down and played out 40 moves. That’s it.

E.SUROV: Who are they?

E.SUTOVSKY: I’m not going to name the names. I know them. And if I name them now then they will get 0-0 and there will be an investigation by the ethics committee and so on. I’m not just saying this, I’m officially declaring this. You can have a look at some amusing games. There was a game, luckily on a plastic board near me. It was one very strong Russian grandmaster with the rating of 2640 against not so strong Russian grandmaster of 2550. They played out 41 moves in about seven minutes. Now try to pick on that. Did they play 41 moves? Yes. What about Smirin against Maze who didn’t agree to a draw in advance but just played. They were forced to repeat the position from the 16th move because of what they reached on the board. They decided not to call any arbiters and just repeated their moves 24 times. Was it very interesting to watch? Have a look. Have a look at the top boards where there were real games but they were only imitating real fights. They just made moves with pieces towards the centre and trying not to blunder anything. Have a look at how many games ended on the 41st move. Don’t give me this naivety. Well done to Inarkiev as well as Vallejo who really fought. But those are exceptions. There were a lot more exceptions at Aix-les-Bains compared to simple draw agreements. Once more, if someone wants to agree to a draw in advance then they will (there are quite a lot of people like that at “+4” and “+5” whenever they don’t feel the fighting spirit). They will agree to a draw no matter what the rules are. They would make 40 boring moves and pretend to fight. So what’s next? That’s not fighting against evil, you’d never achieve anything like that. The idea of banning short draws is so that there are no draw agreements once a real fight has started, to avoid the situation when one of the players offers a draw in an unclear position just because he doesn’t want to continue. Mamedyarov said that he saved many games like that. He got bad positions and then offered draws, and his opponents agreed.

E.SUROV: OK, you’ve convinced me.

E.SUTOVSKY: That’s why it’s not a good argument. There is one other serious problem to which many turn a blind eye and prefer not to think about – that’s a fight against cheaters. These days any pocket device can outplay super grandmasters but nothing is being done against it.

E.SUROV: Have you had any incidents? I’m asking you as an expert…

E.SUTOVSKY: I am a sceptic in this case. There are people who are ready to accuse everyone and there are people who think that everyone is honest and an angel. I’m somewhere in the middle. I can’t really say if there were incidents or not. But let’s say that there were some cases which seriously undermined my faith in humanity. They were very suspicious. It’s not about whether there were individual occurrences of this but that’s nothing is being done about it. That’s a lot more important. In 90% of cases it would cost $2K-$3K per tournament. And we are told that the tournament’s budget is in hundreds of thousands. Let’s believe that. Well, spend another couple of grand if that’s the case. I can tell you as an authority that I worked on this problem when Kamsky had to play in Bulgaria. We employed a specialist for several thousand. Of course, I can tell you now that it won’t stop all possible types of cheating. But it would stop con artists. Of course, if your preparation is for the candidates matches or for winning the World Cup then non-linear detectors wouldn’t be enough. But it would be sufficient in 90% of cases. And let’s face it, people who plan that kind of trickery are very rarely high-flyers. Let’s fight against this somehow. All calls to action are demonstrably being ignored. We still haven’t seen the anti-cheating regulations that FIDE has been preparing for the past couple of years. Perhaps, that’s quite difficult to formalise from a legal point of view.

E.SUROV: The issue is that there isn’t yet an effective way to fight this problem even though Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has talked about it several times.

E.SUTOVSKY: Kirsan Nikolayevich talks about cheating at the highest level. If there are special agents involved, of some countries I won’t mention, then you obviously can’t solve this with simple methods. It’s a very expensive and complex question. Is it worth spending the money and so on. We are talking about people playing in opens who obviously don’t have an option of obtaining help from special agents to help them win a tournament. They just use simple methods. Again, I won’t mention the names but everyone knows about them anyway. I can honestly say that this question bothers many chess players - not one, or five, or ten. It’s a much more pressing problem than being late for a game, a dress code or an agreement to a draw.

E.SUROV: OK, I agree. What about the dress code? Were there any problems?

E.SUTOVSKY: No, there were none. Again, it’s a good idea, it’s important that people look respectable at a chess tournament. But there are two problems. Unpredictable things start to happen as soon as you give a free hand to the arbiters (as we’ve already seen with draw agreements). “Short draws will not be accepted” said the arbiter before the start of the last round. That’s against the rules of chess. Tournament rules cannot contradict the rules of chess no matter what organisers come up with. So, if tomorrow an organiser decides that you can castle a king across an attacked square then let’s close off the Benko Gambit, and so on. The same applies to the dress code. An arbiter may decide that someone doesn’t look quite right for some reason, that something is creased or he’s wearing a sports t-shirt. There’s a very fine line and it’s difficult to define. I think the idea is good but the consequences can be quite alarming. It was difficult to predict that someone would get defaulted because they didn’t request a draw correctly. The Bulgarian arbiter said it straight to the grandmaster Tukmakov: “We are in charge and we decide”. But the original idea for having arbiters was that they shouldn’t be needed most of the time. And if they are needed then they should have a positive attitude towards the players. Ideally, they should understand the game. For example, arbiters like Nana Alexandria or Anatoly Avramovich Bykhovsky find chess games interesting and have good relationships with the players. But the feeling at the European Championship was that many arbiters, who were mainly failed chess players, took their unrealised ambitions out on the players who achieved something. And the same arbiters were very nice to talk to but got completely transformed by having some power.

I think that the ACP will definitely fight against this. We have to appeal to the logic in the first instance. The ECU management are not stupid but will they be able to accept their mistakes. I hope so.

E.SUROV: So, about your actions. You’ll write a letter and let’s assume it will be signed. What specific demands and objections will you have in there? One thing that I clearly understood is about abolishing the zero tolerance rule for opens. What else?

E.SUTOVSKY: The threefold repetition is the rule of chess and there shouldn’t be even a discussion on whether an arbiter should allow a draw or not. I don’t even know what to call this. My view is that a ban on draws until the 40th move is also not justified in open tournaments. And the situation with the negative prize fund trend is not very nice. What is the European Championship turning to? So go on then, raise prize funds at the World Cup and reduce them at the European Championship. People would still come because the World Cup has very high prizes while the European is a part of the selection. Europe is the strongest continent. 70-80% of the strongest chess players live in Europe. Why do we not have all the strongest European players attending? Why is it turning into an ordinary open where anyone can play? Why are there obligations to the sponsors if everyone pays their way? I didn’t see a single sponsor there. As I understand, the sponsors were the Bulgarian Ministry of Sport and the local government of the city of Plovdiv. It’s great that they help chess but if you added up all the payments made by the players then you’d see that it’s not such a rosy picture. If the ACP ran their tournaments in the same way then we could have taken €100 administration fee from each player. And why not? We have the best hotel in Georgia and the highest prizes ever in women’s chess. The question is whether you are holding a tournament just to make money or whether you support chess and want to earn money along the way. There is a difference.

E.SUROV: I have two questions. The first one is easy, just as a warm-up. Over the last 45 minutes of talking to you I got the impression that you stored up a lot while playing in the tournament, so you really wanted to say it all out loud.

E.SUTOVSKY: No, I’m not blaming my unsuccessful performance on…

E.SUROV: No, I’m not talking about that.

E.SUTOVSKY: Besides, I spent all of my games at the top, on the electronic boards. It was comfortable to play and the playing hall was fine. I don’t have any complaints about that. No, I wasn’t affected by these thoughts. It’s just that tens of people appealed to me, 6-7 people said to me every day: “What is going on…”

E.SUROV: OK, here is the second question. You’ve said quite a lot of criticism towards the organisers.

E.SUTOVSKY: No, I repeat, not towards the organisers.

E.SUROV: Towards the system.

E.SUTOVSKY: Yes, towards the system. I think many good ideas were adopted but not properly thought through: “Let’s have the European Championship with these new rules”. “OK, let’s do it.” “And let’s use defaults.” The arbiter who defaulted Safarli and Baron, thought about it a little and said: “You know, I think defaults are not enough. We should have done something more about it.” Tukmakov asked: “Maybe shoot them?” He replied: “No, we are not in Russia. Maybe we should disqualify them from the tournament.”

E.SUROV: Next question. Have you thought about saying all this before the tournament? The prize fund, the conditions and all the rules were known before the tournament. And so on.

E.SUTOVSKY: I agree that to some extent this is a justified criticism, but not completely. First of all, the regulations were published about two-three months before the tournament. By then it wasn’t possible to change anything. We had the dates and the regulations – what can you change?

E.SUROV: You encouraged the players. You took some actions together with the organisers in order to get more participants.

E.SUTOVSKY: I will say this again. It wouldn’t have been right to encourage the players not to come. Even next year we are not going to boycott the tournament. I think that a boycott is the last resort, only to be used if you are being completely ignored. From our side, we tried to make sure that the participants who were coming at least saved some money. That was useful for thirty or so participants, the members of the ACP who saved €100 each. It wasn’t a deciding factor for them on whether to play or not. But for some it was the factor in considering whether to live in the official hotel or not. Well, the official hotel was quite nice and comfortable. Although, many still preferred the budget option because it was possible to find an inferior but acceptable hotel for €30-€35 instead of €60 per night for the official hotel. But we gave an option to the players. The ACP, obviously, didn’t profit from that at all. The organisers were agreeable and we thank them for that. They could have said: “We’ll give you nothing”. But in this case we found an understanding. It’s not good to just criticise everything, I’m not going to portray the organisers in a bad light. I just think that someone should be able to accept their mistakes. And that someone is the management of the European Chess Union in my view. As there is an obvious antagonism from the chess players towards what’s happening. That’s not my opinion and not the opinion of the ACP Board but it’s the opinion of the European Championship’s participants. That’s why I’m suggesting for this to be formalised in a general letter rather than as a position taken by the ACP Board. The ACP Board consists of only a few people which is different to the hundreds of grandmaster members.

E.SUROV: It makes sense. Let’s have a look at the questions posted to our web site. Of course, they are all about the same topics which we’ve already discussed. So we’ll miss out repeated questions. The Ukrainian grandmaster Yuri Vovk is asking about prize funds: “So we have to fight for an increase in prize funds in the men’s European Chess Championships. Does the ACP have any concrete plans to change this?”

E.SUTOVSKY: Yes, this topic has been discussed by many. Ilia Smirin told me several times as it seemed to touch his masculinity: “How is it possible that the girls have 150K while we have 90K?” It’s certainly not logical. I sympathise with women and have very good relationships with many women chess players, but it really doesn’t make sense. There were 104 players in the women’s tournament while the prize fund was about 150K. We had 350 players in the men’s tournament, 15 players over 2700 and I don’t even know how many 2600-level players. This shows that something is not quite right. Ali ran the tournament like that to prove something to Danailov, to show how he can do it. Although, I don’t know when Ali got the rights to hold the Championship in Gaziantep. Maybe it was during the old ECU management. I don’t want to make anything up. Anyway, it’s not about that. The question is what the ACP can do about that.

E.SUROV: Yes, about specific plans.

E.SUTOVSKY: OK, here are some specific thoughts. We can make it a law that prize funds in men’s tournaments cannot be smaller than in women’s tournaments. But this sounds quite absurd. Should we demand a minimum prize fund for a tournament? We can do that, but what should be the minimum prize fund? That’s not clear. Are we not going to have a European Championship if we are told that organisers haven’t got the minimum? That’s a good question, I can’t answer it straight away. I agree that the situation is illogical. Evgeny, you write about many tournaments. 12K first prize after tax – that’s laughable! That’s less than any big open – Aeroflot, Gibraltar… This is the European Championship. But I’m not yet ready to specify concrete actions that I would take. Guys, I’ve been playing chess for 11 days and you always portray me as an energetic President. I am the energetic President but I also remain a chess player. I couldn’t switch from playing to solving these global problems during the tournament. And since the tournament I’ve written several tens of letters and we have started working on the best way to react to all this. But we haven’t got the answers ready yet.

E.SUROV: Michal Krasenkow also wrote about the money in continuation of this topic. And he has a specific suggestion at the end: “If millions are found not just for the World Championship but also for the World Cup then it should be easy to find € 500,000 prize fund for the European Championship. All that the ECU has to do is to set a bar at that level.”

E.SUTOVSKY: I have very warm feelings towards Michal Krasenkow as he’s one of the last people to believe that it should be possible somehow… But no, it’s very difficult to fight with the dragon. 500K is completely unrealistic. I just know that it’s completely unrealistic. It would be a big progress if it was 200K. No one was complaining when the prize fund was 120K. I can guarantee you that everyone except the top five would come if the prize fund was 200K. Maybe even someone from the top five would come. So yes, setting a bar for a prize fund is one of the possible options, but we won’t be talking about that sort of money, that’s unrealistic. Although, we do want that. Danailov found a lot of money for the tournaments as an organiser and co-organiser. Why, as the President of the ECU, he can’t find the money for the European Championship in order to make it a meaningful competition? And the same goes for the European Cup. Do you remember, there was a talk about changing the European Cup into the Champions League? We have 7-8 teams with a large budget, a big will to attract the stars and play in a super tournament. Instead, we still have the same 7-round Swiss that has elements of lottery to it. I think the most important thing here is the political will. If there’s going to be an attitude: “we’ll teach those chess players to arrive on time, dress appropriately and play full hours” – then the antagonism will grow among the chess players. I think that the direction of the ACP’s work should be not so much about pointing out the mistakes but to minimise the growing gap and to return to where we started with minimal impact.

E.SUROV: I just received a piece of paper and it has three words on it. Guess what?

E.SUTOVSKY: I’m too scared to even think.

E.SUROV: Still, what options can you think of?

E.SUTOVSKY: “Let him sing!”

E.SUROV: That’s a good guess, I like it. But it’s not quite that. Actually, it’s four words [edit: four in Russian but five in English]: “Emil is right on everything.” Is it nice?

E.SUTOVSKY: Yes, it is. I think it’s enough to think with a little bit of logic to be right.  I haven’t said anything special. And more importantly, I rely on the opinion of many guys with whom I’ve discussed this. Otherwise it’s just becoming an absurd situation. People started to be late on purpose – they get into the playing hall and don’t sit down at the board. Grandmaster Stocek absolutely wasn’t late for his game against Alekseenko, he arrived and got to the board a bit later. He wasn’t fighting for any prizes, he just wanted to do this. So the thing that was meant to instil order among the chess players wasn’t just unsuccessful but it caused severe antagonism. You just can’t do this: you want to take three times over and demand something new on top. It just doesn’t happen that way.

E.SUROV: I suggest we finish at this point. Or would you like to sing something?

E.SUTOVSKY: No, no. Maybe I’ll sing in Batumi. I’m inviting all the listeners. You see, the girls are lucky again. It’s not because we like women more (although we love women more), it’s just because this year FIDE gave us the rights to the Women’s Championship. We thank them and will try to fully realise our hopes and aspirations to make the tournament a celebration. If we ever get the rights to the men’s Wold Championship, at least for the rapid or the blitz, then we’ll try to please the participants who are tired of intrusions from various bureaucrats at different levels.

E.SUROV: Emil Sutovsky has invited all women to Batumi and now we end our live Chess-News transmission. Many thanks everyone.

E.SUTOVSKY: All the best.



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