Xie-Galliamova: From Beginning to End By Sun Lianzhi

The Women's Candidates Final Match between Xie Jun and Alisa Galliamova was concluded without any move made on the chessboard. For not turning up for the match Galliamova was forfeited and Xie Jun was declared the winner despite not having a fight and became the challenger for the world championship. When the match was started, Xie Jun waited quietly for one hour (According to the FIDE regulations, if either player is absent after one hour from the start of the first match game, the absent player shall be forfeited. The player present shall be declared the winner and the challenger). This match was really short. However, the chess struggle off the chessboard started since February but although the smoke is gone, the clouds are still there.

On 19 February, when we knew that FIDE shall be meeting from 22 & 23 February in Manila for the Presidential Board to discuss the match, we submitted our offer to organise the match from 8 to 23 August in Beijing or another major city in China. We offered a prize fund of US$120,000 surpassing the previous record of US$100,000.

After submitting our offer, we even asked if there was any other offer. The answer was that the Russian Chess Federation was also submitting an offer. So we thought that there would be a repeat of the same situation 8 years ago when Xie Jun faced Alisa Maric when the match was shared between the two federations. (At that time, the match was played over 8 games; the first part was played in Yugoslavia and the second part in Beijing. Xie won 4.5 to 3.5). On 2 March, FIDE Executive Director called us to inform us of the decision of the Manila Presidential Board. He confirmed with us that the Presidential Board on 22 & 23 February 1998 had decided to award the right to China to organise the Women's Candidates Final Match from 8 to 23 August with a prize fund of US$120,000. The entire match was to be played in China. We even asked about the Russian offer and was told that they did not have sufficient funds and hence had to withdraw their offer. Making an offer only to withdraw it later is quite normal. As long as there are no subsequent problems arising, there is no lost of face.

To be honest, before making our offer, we received interest from several potential sponsors but we did not make any agreement. After successfully clinching the right to organise the match, we faced the uphill task of finding an appropriate sponsor. We started to work on the organisational framework and other details. In the beginning of May, we discussed the possibility with the city of Shenyang to organise the match as the major programme during the 1998 China Shenyang Asian Sports Festival in August. We had earlier decided to organise the Asian Chess Open during the Sports Festival and felt that it was best to avoid the clash of two major chess events in China. In order to have our best preparations for the match, on 6 May, faxed FIDE requesting to postpone the match till November or December. Mr Omuku informed us later that our request was rejected by the Executive Council meeting held on 15 & 16 May in Slovenia. He also said that the Executive Council insisted on the original dates because the world championship between the challenger and world champion Zsuzsa Polgar had to be completed by November. He further confirmed that the match should be played according to the schedule already accepted by the Presidential Board.

After receiving the instructions from FIDE, on 9 June, the Chinese Chess Association proposed to organise the match from 14 to 29 August in Shenyang. The match was rescheduled to start one week later in order to coincide with the opening of the Asian Sports Festival and the Asian Chess Open.

Surprisingly, on 24 June, Mr Omuku faxed us the request of Gallimova to FIDE and that she did not wish to play the entire match in China. She had appealed to her President of the Republic of Tartarstan to put up another US$120,000 so that half the match could be played in Kazan, in the Republic of Tartarstan, Russia.

In view of the importance and magnitude of the match, and the rights of the players to agree on thevenue, Mr Omuku appealed to us to share the match with Kazan as per the dates already set out by us; that is from 14 to 29 August. In addition, the same fax stated that the FIDE President had agreed to our nomination of International Arbiter Ignatius Leong as Chief Arbiter for the entire match.

Upon receiving this fax, we were astonished as well as though of it as a joke. On 1 July, we faxed FIDE to express our opinion. We stated that in February we had already submitted our offer to organise the match. In May, the Executive Council reconfirmed that China shall organise the entire match. Both players may have the right to agree on the venue but this should be done before FIDE announced the venue and not after. How could the discussion of choosing a venue be done now especially since this decision was taken four months ago. What about the preparatory work already in progress made by Shenyang. And what of the contract made by the Shenyang organisers, the sponsors and the respective departments. The Chinese press had announced the match in China and all preparations were already in progress. Much damage would be inflicted if all the contracts have to be changed.

We asked that Galliamova respected the decisions of the Presidential Board and the Executive Council and that she come to Shenyang, China to play the match so as to avoid an unpleasant situation.

We realised that maybe FIDE did not wish to reject the Russian request to share the match and FIDE thought and felt that Mr Leong was the best person to help resolve the matter. Mr Leong is General Secretary of the Singapore Chess Federation and International Arbiter. Not too long ago, he was Adminsitrative Manager of FIDE. He is knowledgeable in FIDE regulations, and has vast experience in organising competitions and understood the framework of FIDE. Moreover, he spoke fluent English and Chinese and at the same understand little Russian. He would be a good choice to negotiate an agreement between FIDE and China. Taking these factors into consideration, it was normal for FIDE to seek Mr Leong's help to negotiate subsequently with us. On one particular conversation, Mr Leong explained to us that in order to uphold the prestige of FIDE, the match should go on with the Russians putting up US$120,000 for the prize fund and that perhaps we could put up less as a form of compromise for us to share the match with Kazan. In addition, it would be left to us to decide as to which part of the match we wish to organise; the first or second part. Subsequently, on 7 July, FIDE faxed us the following message:

After thoroughly discussing Mr Leong's suggestions, the FIDE President proposes the following:

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