Open Letter of Mr. Omuku to GM Seirawan

Subject: Open letter to President Ilyumzhinov

Dear Yasser:

I have read both your extensive interview with Chris Depasquale, which was published on the Club Kasparov site as well as your follow-up open letter to the FIDE President. As you know very well, it is the policy of FIDE not to join issues with commentators on chess matters, especially when it is our deep conviction that most of these comments are either deliberately false or malicious, simply because we are faced with a lot of challenges in FIDE and it would be better for us to channel our energies to the more positive pursuit of our objectives. However, I am prepared to make an exception for you, simply for the reason that in the few moments that I have had the opportunity of discussing important questions relating to chess and FIDE with you, I have found your views to be made with the best of intentions; for the brighter future of our noble sport and FIDE. Unfortunately, after reading through your thought provoking interview, which had touched on amongst other things, a number of wide ranging issues on the future of chess, and your recent letter to the President, I want to say with the greatest respect, that you came to the wrong conclusions on various issues you addressed while commenting on the activities of FIDE because you are either not well-informed or aware of the facts.
FIDE Executive Director Emmanuel Omuku

Permit me to preface my response to some of the specific allegations you made against the President and the current Board of FIDE, especially in the light of the rather scathing remark you made to the effect that FIDE's image is at its lowest ebb by summarizing the efforts of the President and his colleagues in a rather difficult time, to uplift the image of FIDE and of chess. By far, the greatest achievement of FIDE under the current leadership was the recognition of chess as a sport by the International Olympic Committee. While the effect of this may not be immediately apparent, five to ten years hence, when chess will have started featuring alongside other sports in national, regional and possibly at the Olympic Games, the worldwide impact on chess development will certainly lead to greater multiplier effects from the base to the top.

The introduction of the knockout system of the World Chess Championship has made it possible for a greater cross-section of our top players to earn reasonable income from this event on an annual basis. It is also very clear to all, that the system is transparent, without any influence of any player or official on who will become the eventual candidate. It will certainly take some time to nurture this system and for it to gain wider acceptance. But you will agree with me that the current schisms in the chess world are having a negative impact on its development and, it should be obvious to everyone that once we are able to put our differences aside, FIDE and all its constituent parts, will benefit from the positive aspects of this system. I can tell you, Yasser, from my peculiar vantage position, that it was this system that formed the focal point of the President's strategy to demonstrate to the IOC that chess was truly a sport during the 1997/98 World Championships in Groningen and Lausanne.

The Board has liberalized the youth and junior events by making it possible for as many talented young players to compete against the very best in several categories of age groups at Continental and global levels. Only recently and after a series of consultations, the FIDE President approved the inauguration of the World Chess Cup and Women's World Chess Cup series, to be competed for by the best 24 male and female players across the globe. The first in the series is scheduled to hold in Shenyang from 1 to 13 September 2000. In so doing, the President and his colleagues have set in motion, the introduction of a series of World Chess Cup events with the possibility of having up to 4 World Cup events each year in the continents of FIDE.

Without blowing its trumpets, the Board has quietly been holding discussions at the highest levels in the corporate world to obtain worldwide sponsorship for chess. I am also in a position to inform you that we are making appreciable progress in this direction.

There is the added fact that the current FIDE leadership has carried out structural reforms by amending the FIDE Statutes in such a way that there is now greater certainty with respect to the electoral process and the decision making process of the General Assembly. What was achieved by the legislative reforms in Kishinev and subsequently in Elista, is that it is now possible for all interests in FIDE to be involved in our decision making process and our decisions have virtually been unanimous. I challenge you to show me any Federation today, which can say that there is no certainty or respectability in the FIDE Statutes from 1997 to date. The reality is that the Board and the President usually invite and consult as many interests as possible, when taking decisions at meetings of the Board. Of course, we acknowledge that there are problems as a result of the Board's principled stand on the need for equality of all players and Federations, but it will soon be realized with time, that FIDE is very much united with its National Federations under its new Statutes. Meetings of FIDE are now held in a very constructive manner, totally devoid of the conflicts of the past. Again, Yasser, I ask you to let me know of any Federation, which came back from a FIDE meeting since 1997 and complained of any form of abuse of process.

The main problem that FIDE has to deal with today and which has taken a lot of the energy and time of the FIDE leadership, is that some players have sought to use their position to obtain more privileges than they deserve against the interest of their colleagues. On the other hand, the Board is prepared to vigorously pursue the implementation of the principle of equal treatment in the overall interest of FIDE, its National Federations and players. In the end, when the dust will have settled, our goal of protecting the rights of all players and Federations, the very principles on which FIDE was founded, will have become clear to all that we shall take a principled stand against those trying to usurp the rights of others.

I propose to now deal with the specific issues raised in your open letter and interview:

Problems with some payments in the 1999 World Championships

This matter was dealt with at great length by the FIDE President on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of FIDE and it is an established fact that all outstanding payments and transfers were effected before 30th December 1999 as promised by the President. Do not forget, Yasser, that the actions of some of our top players and the negative propaganda in the media make it more difficult for FIDE to secure sponsorship for the World Championship. In the end, the FIDE President has had to call in his personal guarantee. In spite of all this and the inconvenience suffered by both FIDE and some players, as a result of the delay in remittance, FIDE remains the one body, which sees its matches through and ensures that all prize monies from its matches are paid. I am also in a position to confirm that FIDE has since received its 20 % share of the prize fund as well as all outstanding payments.

Yasser, I am again in a position to also confirm that this thankless job of securing sponsorship for chess and FIDE, has, as a result of the efforts of the FIDE President, garnered in a total sum of over USD 20,000,000 between 1996 and 1999, with a substantial part of this money going to our top players. The records are there to speak.

Titles and Ratings

The FIDE Board and officials share exactly the same concerns with you on titles and ratings. However, instead of making specific allegations here and there especially, in the absence of clear evidence that people are prepared to substantiate, efforts are being made by the Qualification Commission, the Titles and Ratings Committee and the FIDE Board to put forward regulations that will ensure that no one will get ratings and titles that they do not deserve. This is not something simple and we understand that the most important weapon in this fight is that people must follow their conscience in respecting the principles of our regulations.

It is therefore most unfair for you to make comments regarding the role of the Qualification Commission and Titles and Ratings in the issuance of titles and ratings to our players. I can tell you that both QC Chairman Mikko Markkula and Titles and Ratings Committee Chairman Kevin O'Connell, are great sticklers for the rules and their principles and high moral standards do not allow for the simplistic "you vote for me and you get FIDE title" as you allege.

Just to give you an insight in to the recent problems surrounding the Myanmar ratings as widely publicized.

We were faced with a sudden increase in the ratings of the Myanmar players. The QC and the Presidential Board and indeed the General Assembly of FIDE took a look at the problem. One of the remedies suggested at the time, was the introduction of the 100 point rule. Meanwhile, there were rumors of all sorts that were making the rounds that there was cheating in the games of the Myanmar players, but no one was prepared to come forward with any credible evidence to enable FIDE act. At the same time, we realized that with the introduction of the 100-point rule, we were actually throwing away the baby with the bathwater for those genuine cases of talented players, who actually achieved the ratings. In the end, the Titles and Ratings Committee Chairman came forward with a proposal under the rating system, which enabled him to adjust the Ratings of players in Myanmar based on their performance in recent international events against foreign players and yet, I am told by the experts that it is quite possible to achieve those high ratings without any form of criminal intent on the part of the players playing against each other in their country, well within the rules! Besides, it is a well-known fact that there is a general inflation of the entire rating system and this problem is now being addressed by the Qualification Commission in addition to the other problems you have enumerated. Indeed, as part of ongoing efforts in this direction, a meeting of Ratings Experts is scheduled to hold in Dortmund, 14-16 July 2000 to study amongst other things, some of these problems with a view to proffering solutions on the way forward.

Recent conflict with some top chess masters

I am pleased to note that you concede that not all of the recent fiascos are all together FIDE's fault. Yasser, speaking from experience, one thing is very clear to me, even with the best of intentions, including stretching one's patience to the limits, conflicts are bound to occur between some players and the governing body. As you know very well, the cases between FIDE and Karpov and Polgar are now subjudice. In keeping with our principles of showing respect to the courts, I shall not comment on the merits of each case. What I can only disclose is that both players have engaged the services of the same lawyer, Mr. Alban Brodbeck, the gentleman who once sued FIDE on behalf of GM Victor Kortchnoi.

It is not enough, Yasser for you to leave the question in the air, whether or not World Champion Alexander Khalifman and Women's World Champion Xie Jun are supportive of FIDE and its policies. What specifically have they said to you to warrant the statement you made? You also list Anand, Kramnik, Shirov, Morozevich and Galliamova as "being amongst those with angst towards FIDE". Pray, let us know what specific allegations these players have against FIDE and if indeed there is any merit in support of their bad blood towards FIDE. It is also incorrect to regard the FIDE leadership as arrogant, when it is a well-known fact that our doors are always open to all including you, Yasser, and the President and the entire FIDE leadership enjoys excellent relations with all these players you have enumerated above.

Memorandum on Commercialization of FIDE

I believe there is a misunderstanding here or you are not fully aware of the developments surrounding this document. It is a well-known fact by all and sundry, that chess is lacking in commercial sponsorship. I recall how we even discussed this matter at length during the World Chess Championship in Las Vegas and how we pointed that we all missed a wonderful opportunity for chess to have big time sponsorship, had Fischer continued playing after his brilliant victory in the World Championship of 1972 etc.

Last year, was the only period in FIDE's history when it became active in trying to find partners to exploit our commercial possibilities. It is easy to understand that people who are interested in investing money in such a project will want to secure their investment in the best way possible. Towards this end, a position paper was written for the President with a critical look on the activities of FIDE, from the outside. The President then endorsed the document to members of the Executive Board and National Federations for their input. It was never the intention of the President to impose this document on the FIDE membership, he made it very clear that he was asking for the input of national federations and the generality of the chess world. In the end, after receiving proposals from a lot of well meaning individuals, it was the FIDE President himself who proposed at the Board meeting in London, 13-14 May 2000, for a special Committee to be created to study the various inputs and finalize a consensus proposal for the General Assembly.

The Committee met recently in Lausanne and the President in his circular letter of 31 May 2000, informed all National Federations that he was particularly encouraged by the positive tone of the outcome of the meeting in Lausanne. While a lot of work still needs to be done and another meeting is scheduled before Istanbul, I believe that this Committee is actively working for a proposal that will secure FIDE's future, that of all National Federations and players as well as other interests. If you had been in close contact with your National Federation on these developments, you will have found out that there was really no need for you to attack the President and the Board for what they have done so far. For your information, and for the records, the Committee has the following membership:

1. FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos - Greece 2. FIDE Treasurer David Jarrett - England 3. Mr. William Kelleher - USA 4. Mr. Morten Sand - Norway 5. Mr. David Anderton - England 6. Mr. Egon Ditt - Germany 7. Mr. Artiom Tarasov - FIDE Commerce 8. FIDE Executive Director Emmanuel Omuku - Nigeria

The Committee also benefited form the expert opinions of GM Valery Salov and Rating Administrator Casto Abundo at the meeting.

I can also inform you, that those people, who are not in a hurry to pass judgment on FIDE, have vented an initial positive reaction to the new document, which I have not been authorized by the Committee to make public until most questions have been settled. I can only take this opportunity to thank in particular, a great FIDE veteran and indefatigable worker for chess, Zone President, Phil Haley for his very constructive input as well as all those, who have worked very hard to improve the document.

2000 World Chess Championships

Speaking to the issue of the decision of the Presidential Board to award the hosting of the 2000 World Chess Championships to India and Iran with the finals in Teheran, I can understand your personal political views on this matter, but this position cannot reflect the policy of your federation, your Government, the world of sports and the United Nations. We do not want to be drawn into any speculations regarding the issue of Baghdad and this recent decision of the Board, which addressed specific concern:


From the foregoing, you can understand that the current Board tries to get every one involved in the decision making process and to insist that people must follow FIDE's principles besides the clear cut wordings of FIDE's rules and regulations. The Board has set up a democratic structure and is working very hard with its experts to protect the titles and ratings of players all over the world in co-operation with our large base of delegates from the 159 member Federations of FIDE. Concerning the talk of a replacement organization to FIDE, let me quickly state that this is not the first time that this proposal has been made and we all know very well the results of these efforts. Any talk of a replacement of the present Board can only be done by democratic means. And in this matter, it is only the FIDE General Assembly as the supreme organ of our organization that has the right to decide.

Contrary to the impression that you have about FIDE, for the first time in our history, FIDE and its member Federations are united. I admit that we have problems as an organization and that sometimes, the best of intentions are misunderstood and we really need to clarify our positions in order to understand each other better. In spite of all this, we have a clear target where we want to go. We have achieved the respect of the sports world and along these lines, we are insisting on principles and not personal favors in the interpretation of our Statutes and regulations. FIDE under the current leadership has by itself evolved a very democratic statute, which helps us to make decisions and run free and fair elections.

We have the great majority of the players supporting our actions, because they understand that FIDE is the only body, which can protect their rights. This majority of players may well represent the silent majority, but we believe that in the end those who do not really understand our principled position on issues will come to terms with what is right. The attitude of the current Board is to respect all opinions and in this same spirit, your opinion is highly respected, but I hope that in the future you will try to seek clarification and obtain information from us in order to prevent a one sided view of the state of affairs of our organization, which I must admit, you have shown a clear intention in the past to support. As always, Yasser, our doors remain open.

Yours in chess,

Emmanuel Omuku
Executive Director

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