As Chess Olympiad Approaches, Problems Surface
By DYLAN LOEB MCCLAIN
The biennial Chess Olympiad does not start until Sunday, but problems and conflicts have already arisen.
The biggest ongoing issue is getting to Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, the site of the Olympiad. As the city is in a remote location, the World Chess Federation had organized charter flights to carry teams there, but the schedule for the flights has changed repeatedly. The latest change occurred only two days ago, as pointed out in an article on Chessvibes.
As the article notes, the repeated changes are not just making it difficult to get to the Olympiad, but also more costly, and that is creating financial hardships for some of the federations that do not have substantial resources.
In addition to the logistical problems, several countries will be without one of their best players and one team may not be there at all.
Azerbaijan was expected to contend for a medal, possibly even gold, but a rift between the national chess federation and one of the country’s top players, Vugar Gashimov, who is ranked No. 26 ranked in the world, has led to his suspension from the team.
A report on the Web site Chess in Translation, which translates Russian stories into English, says that at least part of the reason for the falling out is because Gashimov played for a team affiliated with Garry Kasparov during the Spanish Team Championships, which ended last month. Though Kasparov is from Baku, he is half Armenian and, according to comments in the article, some people in Azerbaijan clearly dislike him.
The Philippines has also suspended one of its top players, Rogelio Antonio, apparently for going to play in the United States and thereby missing two large tournaments in the Philippines. (Evidently, the Philippines federation, like the one in India, requires participation in certain national events.) Antonio claims that the president the federation, Prospero Pichay, gave him clearance to play the tournaments in the United States. Pichay disputes that.
Another player who will not be playing for his country, though it was not unexpected, is Viswanathan Anand of India, the world champion. Obviously, his absence will considerably lessen the country’s chances at a medal.
At least the Philippines, Azeri and Indian teams are going; the Romanian men’s team may not play at all. There are reports that the team has gotten into a fight with its federation over payment of appearance fees and the covering of expenses. Susan Polgar’s blog has what it says is a Google translation (from Romanian into English, with the predictable problems) of the letters from each side.
All the discord and issues somehow do not seem to fit with the slogan of the World Chess Federation: Gens Una Sumus (we are one family).
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