Martha Fierro and Tony Miles

I had not seen Martha Fierro in a long time, so when I saw her at the Marshall Chess Club this past Sunday, I was reluctant to broach an embarrassing subject. Finally, after building up all the courage I could muster, I asked her about it.

The subject was the article by Grandmaster Tony Miles which has recently been published in Chess Cafe at

This article has unfavorable things to say about both Martha and her mother, who are two of the nicest and most pleasant personalities in chess. I had been surprised to read the article because, among other things, it says: "they (the Fierros) treat players like animals! They are only interested in money."
Martha Fierro
Martha Fierro

Essentially, the complaint by Miles was that he had been invited by the Fierros to play in an international chess tournament in Ecuador, that the tournament had been canceled, that he had not been paid, and that he has not been reimbursed for the airline ticket he had to buy to travel to the tournament in Ecuador.

Because of all these terrible things happening to Miles, he concludes that what may be needed is "greater FIDE control over chess".

This article by Miles follows a similar article by Miles regarding a chess tournament in India. He published an article about that event in Chess Cafe as well. His complaint was that he was supposed to be paid his fee upon his arrival in India. When he got to India, he was told by FIDE Vice President Ummer Koya "tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow" until near the end of the tournament,.when finally Miles dropped out in disgust and did not complete his schedule. His fellow grandmaster, Alexander Baburin, did play all his games but was equally upset.

So, we are painted this picture of Miles being repeatedly cheated by chess organizers. In the same article about Martha Fierro, Miles also expresses complaints about the organizers of tournaments in Hawaii and Trinidad, but, he says, regarding the case of Martha Fierro and her mother, "The real nightmare was Ecuador."
Tony Miles
Tony Miles

When I spoke to Martha and her mother about this on Sunday at the Marshall Chess Club, I was astonished at how different their version of the story was from what Miles wrote. This prompted me to go back and reread the Miles article to see exactly what he did say and what he did not say.

I was surprised to realize that in his article he admits that Martha Fierro called him before he flew to Ecuador and told him that the tournament had been canceled. Nevertheless, he flew to Ecuador anyway, even though he knew that there was not going to be a tournament there.

The Miles article says: "She proposed that, since I could not change my ticket, I would give some simuls and press conferences in return for which they would cover my expenses and reimburse my ticket.

"Skipping the gory details, I did the simuls, but I am still waiting for my ticket to be reimbursed."

Actually, the chess tournament was sponsored by the Ecuadorian airline SAETA. That airline gave Miles the ticket for free. This explains why he could not change it. However, the SAETA ticket was for Miles to fly from Miami to Ecuador. Miles wants to be reimbursed for his ticket from London to Miami.

On this point, Martha said that she had asked him before he flew to Ecuador how much the ticket had cost from London to Miami. Miles had told her "700". Martha had said that she and her mother would reimburse the money.

Miles flew to Ecuador and later Martha's mother gave him $700 dollars. Miles objected, saying that the amount was 700 British pounds. It turned out that Miles had stopped off to visit a friend in Chicago, and for that reason his ticket had been much more than the price of a normal ticket from London to Miami. Also, even 700 dollars, much more 700 pounds, would have been an outrageous price to pay for a ticket from London to Miami, especially since Miles had known about this event for months and could have bought a ticket well in advance.

Martha and her mother did not ask Miles to produce receipts showing that he actually paid 700 British pounds. In his article, Miles mentions that tournaments in Hawaii and Trinidad were also canceled. Miles may have flown to the US for other reasons.

However, the worst thing about the Miles article is that Martha Fierro and her mother were not the organizers of the event. The Fierros are not known as chess organizers. Rather, Martha is a chess player. They had wanted Miles to attend and had recommended him to the organizers (a mistake they will probably not be making again) but they were not responsible for the event and the $700 they paid to Miles was money out of their own pockets.

Martha explains that she has a good job and her father does as well, so they were able to pay from their own money, even though they had no real responsibility or obligation to Miles.

Martha Fierro is 22 years old. Although she is a chess master and is one of the top rated female chess players in the world, she is not a chess professional. She has a regular job. She happens to be one of the most beautiful and is easily one of the nicest female chess players in the world. It is stunning the amount of opprobrium which Grandmaster Miles heaps upon Martha and her mother in his article.

Miles does not even spell her mother's name right. He says that her name is Elsie. She has never heard that name and does not know where Miles got that from. Her actual name is Martha, the same name as her daughter.

In addition, the article by Miles contains the following paragraph:

"Igor Nataf, who was also supposed to play in this abortive event, and was also considerably inconvenienced by the Fierros, commented to me in disgust that 'they (the Fierros) treat players like animals! They are only interested in money.' "

Martha and her mother say that Igor Nataf was not invited to the tournament. He had nothing to do with this at all. He was merely a friend of Miles. He is 21 years old and may have wanted to come, but there was never any agreement for him to attend.

Often, cases like this turn on the question of whom to believe. However, in this case, I feel certain that Martha and her mother are right, based primarily on reading between the lines and noticing what Miles does not say.

For example, Miles says: "I am still waiting for my ticket to be reimbursed."

Miles implies or suggests that he got zero. However, it turns out that he received 700 dollars but he claims that he should have received 700 pounds.

Also, the most damning part of the article comes where he quotes Igor Nataf. Miles claims that Igor Nataf was "inconvenienced" by the Fierros. In what way was he "inconvenienced"? Igor Nataf is not a famous chess personality. It seems unlikely that anybody would pay money to have him fly to Ecuador to play chess.

Why is it that all of the other famous grandmasters whom Miles says were scheduled to participate have not voiced any complaints?

I asked Martha how she happened to invite Miles in the first place, when there are many former Soviet grandmasters who are stronger than Miles and who would love to have such an opportunity to visit Ecuador.

Martha said that she knew and liked Miles and recommended him, not knowing the reputation Miles has had for decades for getting into disputes with chess organizers. Miles once even renounced his British nationality and claimed to have become an American because of a series of disputes with the British Chess Federation. He got it back later.

Martha adds that in addition to the $700 dollars, Miles received his hotel room and meals in a five star hotel, plus he was given a seven-day vacation to the famous Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. The tickets to the Galapagos Islands were provided by SAETA.

However, Miles ran up bills for drinks at the bar and for his Internet access, which is virtually free in America but costs $10 per hour in Ecuador. Miles expects Martha and her mother to pay those expenses as well.

Martha Fierro says that in the past she has invited British Grandmaster Nigel Short and American Grandmaster Nick De Firmian to visit Ecuador. They got exactly the same deal that Miles received, came to Ecuador and were very happy about their trips. Martha is surprised at the bitterness of the complaints by Miles and that he has even written a published article about what he calls "the real nightmare" in Ecuador.

What is most disturbing about the article is the conclusion, where Miles quotes Nataf as saying: "They are only interested in money".

Miles viciously attacks a young woman who tried to help him as a friend and who paid money out of her own pocket, with no chance of remuneration. He accuses her of being "only interested in money" when the true situation seems to be exactly the opposite.

I have often seen Martha Fierro paying high entry fees to enter chess tournaments where she has no chance to win a prize. Miles, who has a history going back decades of personal disputes and of savagely attacking chess personalities in the press, is the one who seems willing to sacrifice personal friendships for the sake of money.

Sam Sloan

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