Yasser Seirawan replies to John Fernandez

Yasser Seirawan has asked me to post this:

Dear John Fernandez,

Thank you for your message.

Section D has nine categories of events (Roman Numerals I-IX) with 34 separate listings. If we take the first of these listings, "D.I.02 Zonal Tournaments," we will have quite a number of tournaments. I'm not sure how many Zonal tournaments exist. The US Championship is one zonal tournament and the Canadian Championship is another zonal tournament and so on. The last category, "D.IX Grand Prix," is another category that could have many events. I don't know how many Grand Prix tournaments there are, or will be.

Let us agree that Mr. Parr and his concerns about drug testing for US Swiss events are wrong. That indeed, future drug testing will be limited to Section D events ONLY. We can calculate that Section D events ONLY could easily number not just 34 separate events but possibly double this figure. That isn't to say that all, "D.I.02 Zonal Tournaments" will be drug tested. The US Olympic Committee for instance does not recognize chess as a sport and therefore doesn't require that the US Championships be drug tested. Nevertheless the sheer number of separately listed Section D events and their multiple numbers should give us all pause for thought.

Mr. Parr has harped about a FIDE Medical Commission hungry to grow. You and I, however regrettably are forced to admit that on this point, he is right. Drug testing is now in its earliest stages with just a smattering of events tested to date. It will take quite awhile for all nine categories of Section D to be fully vetted. Suppose that over the next ten years, drug testing for EVERY Section D event ONLY is completed. By that time, the FIDE Medical Commission would not only have grown to be the largest item of the FIDE budget, it might well become the majority of the FIDE budget! At this point, ten years hence, we could speculate, (Mr. Parr certainly would), that the FIDE Medical Commission might expand the Section D listings to include zonal qualifiers. If the model of the US Zonal that exists today is still intact in ten years, then the US Swiss qualifying events to the US Championship/zonal tournament would be tested. Mr. Parr's concerns of today wouldn't be entirely misplaced, in this futuristic example, would they?

For me, the testing of Section D tournaments ONLY, certainly causes me to pause and think about the future that awaits the world of chess. It is very clear that drug testing of Section D tournaments ONLY is going to be a very expensive undertaking. I have been informed that between 5 - 10% of the competitors in Bled are to be tested. With say only 1,000 competitors, that is between 50 and 100 drug tests to be conducted in Bled. The expenditures aren't only on the test analysis, there are costs related to gathering all the samples. Yes, the snoops, as Mr. Parr calls them, in the bathroom stalls, will want to be paid for performing a less then agreeable job. If we take a high cost average of $500 for each test and we allow for 100 tests, that will be $50,000. A fair amount of money will be wasted. Fortunately, it is money of the Slovenian National Olympic Committee (NOC) wasted and not our own. It is sad to think that for that amount of money, the NY Master series could run for years to come, discovering many new talents in the process. Including arbiters! (Better not to think about such waste.)

On another note, I would like to commend you for your messages and your efforts. You have been far more eloquent in your support of drug testing then any FIDE official. Furthermore, you have put the USCF's FIDE team of Eade, Doyle, Kelleher to shame. With stars in their eyes our FIDE team informed USCF members of IOC Olympic status and of going for the gold. To some of us, the message of our USCF FIDE team was ludicrous. Even insulting. As we now know, the IOC Winter and Summer Olympic games are out of reach for a decade to come.

You on the other hand have made a far more cogent argument for drug testing of chess players. You have explained that a number of NOC bodies, recognize chess as a sport. That at least one handful and possibly two handfuls of NOC bodies, support their National Federations with financial grants. Thus a certain number of federations that receive recognition and financial support from their NOC have financial and potential sponsorship reasons to favor drug testing. That for these reasons, and for others, possibly including national laws, these federations will vote in favor of drug testing at FIDE's General Assemblies. Indeed, certain delegates may be required to obey the laws of their nation and vote accordingly.

You have also stated that you are against drug testing chess players. Why? Is it because there is not a single scientific study that has proven the link between taking a harmful drug that would help you play better chess? Is it because the punishments for testing positive are severe? Is it because the problem of "drug enhancing abuse" amongst chess players does not exist? Is it because drug testing is a violation of our human dignity? Is it because drug testing requires that you prove yourself innocent? Is it because drug testing is both expensive and a waste of time? (No, this latter question is out of place, you have explained that drug testing costs would be funded by NOC bodies.) Let me stop my speculations and simply ask you, why are you so dead set against drug testing?

Yet you crave IOC recognition of chess as a sport. Why? I speculate that you believe that with IOC recognition, the world of chess will suddenly be wide open to corporate sponsors anxiously tripping over themselves to support chess. But this isn't true. While IOC recognition is of vital importance to NOC and related bodies, it is not of vital importance to sponsors. What sponsors crave is media recognition for their marketing dollars. Specifically television programming. Create a successful, highly viewed, television chess show and sponsors will clamor to advertise on the show. Television ratings are the ticket to large corporate dollars. Successful television chess shows could occur with or without IOC recognition.

Today, in America, the most successful sport, on television, is American Football. It is a multi-billion dollar business. To my knowledge it has thrived for decades without IOC recognition. How is that possible?

The popularity of chess, over the course of my own career, has waxed and waned around the globe. In 1972, at the height of the Bobby Fischer boom, chess was quite popular, the Shelby Lyman chess shows on PBS were some of the most watched chess shows ever made. Sponsors were eagerly poised to leap forwards to support chess. This occurred without IOC recognition.

During the late 80's, the days of the Grandmasters Association (GMA), millions of dollars were raised for a series of World Cup tournaments. After winning the World Cup, Garry Kasparov defeated Anatoly Karpov in 1990 for a three million dollar match. This occurred without IOC recognition.

Today, the IOC recognizes chess as a sport. The Moscow 2001/02 FIDE World Championship had drug testing. The Bled Olympiad and other events intend to have drug testing, yet sponsorship for chess is, in my view, in the doldrums. Why?

In the US, America's Foundation For Chess (AFFC) has raised a lot of money for chess, even without the benefit of USOC recognition. Why?

In writing this message, I am not out to "win" a debate. Nor do I want to be called a moron and to be told to go to hell. I hope this message will provoke serious thoughts about the future of chess. What do we, you and I, want chess to be like in 5, 10 and 20 years?

I think we all want prosperity for chess and its professionals. IOC recognition combined with mandatory drug testing is not going to raise the prestige of chess, quite the opposite: it is going to lower it. Today, the IOC defines sport as an activity that by drug manipulation an athlete might enhance their performance. By this definition, chess doesn't qualify as a sport. Indeed, such a definition is quite degrading to sport and sports persons.

Chess can do very well on its own. What we have to do is restore the rift that exists in chess and regain the prestige of our World Champion title. It is the crown jewel in chess and it has been lost. The chess world has many jewels and they need polishing, they do not need to be soiled.

Sadly, I must confess, I do see a time, not today and perhaps not in the next 5, 10 or 15 years, but at some point, a drug will be created that is both harmful and powerful enough to enhance cognitive ability to such a significant level that chess players could play better. At that point, armed with clear scientific evidence that such a drug exists, chess players will have to test themselves against that particular drug. It will be a sad day for chess. Fortunately, that day is not today.



PS: I'm not sure if I've posted this properly to our group of eager, inspired readers. Could you help by also posting it? Thanks John.

-----Original Message----- From: John Fernandez [mailto:jfernandez@jfern.com] Sent: Saturday, October 19, 2002 7:20 AM To: fide-chess@yahoogroups.com Subject: Re: [fide-chess] Re: What FIDE Can Test

Put simply, your entire analysis is simply invalid due to the fact that the preamble specifically states:

"WHEREAS the Anti-Doping Disciplinary Regulations applies to FIDE, its members and Participants in FIDE competitions for which regulations are prescribed in Section D of the FIDE Handbook (FIDE Competitions)"

Section D events only. Whatever is said in ANY of the articles has to abide by the preamble of the document. Somehow inferring that FIDE can test in non Section D events when the document itself specifically states that it only applies to Section D events is at best an embarrassing omission.

For the sake of those who don't know the specifics, Section D events in which Americans participate are the following:

D.I.02 Zonal Tournaments D.I.03 World Championship D.I.04 Women's World Championship D.II.01 Team Championships D.II.02 Continental Team Championships D.II.03 African Team Championships D.II.04 Panamerican Team Championships D.II.05 Asian Team Championships D.II.06 European Team Championship D.II.07 Chess Olympiad D.II.08 World Chess Team Championship D.III Asian Women's Championship D.IV.01 European Club Cup and European Club Cup for Women D.IV.02 Asian Cities Championship D.IV World Cities Championship D.V.01 World Junior Championships D.V.02 World Boys Under 18 Championships D.V.03 World Boys Under 16 Championships D.V.04 World Youth (Girls) Under 10,12,14 Championships D.V.05 European Junior Championships D.V.06 Panamerican Junior Championships D.V.07 Asian Junior Championships D.V.08 African Junior Championships D.V.09 Asian Boys Under 16 Championships D.V.10 European Youth Championships D.V.11 Panamerican Youth Chess Festival D.V.12 European Youth Rapid Championships D.V.13 World Youth Rapid Championship D.VI.01 World Junior Team Championship D.VI.02 Children's Olympiad D.VII.01 World Senior (Women) Championship D.VII.02 World Amateur (Women) Championship D.VIII World Cup for Rapid Chess D.IX Grand Prix

John Fernandez

UPDATE: On October 23, the USCF passed an important resolution on Drug Testing by FIDE.

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