The greatest outrage in chess history: The persecution of chess players by chess players
The International Chess Federation (FIDE) has recently announced several measures against the Chess Federation of Russia, in reaction to the invasion of Ukraine. The FIDE council of February 27, canceled competitions scheduled in Russia. Former World Title contender, Segey Karjakin, was sanctioned for making public statements. Former World Chess Champion, Anatoly Karpov, has been stripped of his title of “FIDE Ambassador for Life”.
More recently, on March 16th, FIDE announced the suspension of the Chess Federation of Russia (CFR) and Belarus Chess Federations (BCF). The purpose of this article is to show that FIDE violated its own Charter and regulation with these decisions.
- The FIDE Charter is the supreme rule of FIDE and cannot be superseded by any other regulation
- FIDE targetted chess players based on their political opinions, in violation of its Charter
- The FIDE Code of Ethics is only applicable to competitors during competition
- FIDE executives did not follow legitimate procedure as specified in FIDE Charter
- FIDE must follow its own regulation and not the International Olympic Committee (IOC)
- FIDE violated the principle of neutrality and acted hypocritically
- FIDE disregarded its mission to promote chess and the right to play chess
The FIDE Charter is the supreme rule of FIDE and cannot be superseded by any other regulation
Chapter 7 of the FIDE Charter reads as follows:
7.3.1 “The FIDE Charter contains the primary rules and the main principles of the organisation and cannot be superseded nor derogated by any other FIDE rule, regulation or decision.”
7.11 “All FIDE members, organs and officials must observe FIDE rules and regulations.”
In other words, no regulation can supersede the Charter, which must be followed by all organs and officials.
Article 2.4 of the FIDE Ethics and Disciplinary Code, by which Karjakin was sanctioned, declares:
2.4 “To the extent of any inconsistency or contradiction between the provisions of this Code read with its Appendix and the FIDE Charter, the relevant provisions of the FIDE Charter shall prevail.”
In conclusion, both the FIDE charter and the FIDE Ethics and Disciplinary Code point at the charter as the prevailing rule.
FIDE targetted chess players based on their political opinions, in violation of its Charter
FIDE targeted Sergey Karjakin and Segei Shipov for their political opinions. Eventually, they sanctioned Karjakin to six months off the board, forcing him to miss the most important tournament of a chess player’s career: the Candidates Tournament that qualifies for the World Championship. However, FIDE charter specifies very clearly that no person can be discriminated on the basis of their political opinion:
4.4 “FIDE rejects any kind of discrimination against a country, private person or group of people on account of (…) political opinions, or any other reason.”
FIDE documents state that Karjakin violated article 2.2.10 of the Ethics and Disciplinary commission:
2.2.10 “Disciplinary action in accordance with this Code of Ethics will be taken in cases of occurrences which cause the game of chess, FIDE or its federations to appear in an unjustifiable unfavorable light and in this way damage its reputation.”
The fact is that Karjakin never mentioned FIDE or the game of chess in his statements. FIDE Council wrongly assumed that his public identity of a chess player was enough to sanction him on these grounds. The problem is that this interpretation allows FIDE to sanction any chess player based on their contrarian political opinions, which goes directly against FIDE Charter.
The FIDE Code of Ethics is only applicable to competitors during competition
We have already seen that the ban was against FIDE charter, to which all other FIDE rules are subordinated. Moreover, the regulation used was not applicable. Only competitors in FIDE tournaments are subject to the Ethics and Disciplinary Comission, but Karjakin made his statements in other public fora. The Code of Ethics reads as follows:
1.4 This Code of Ethics is applicable to:
- FIDE office bearers,
- member federations, delegates and counselors,
- affiliated organizations
- organizers, sponsors
- all competitors in FIDE registered tournaments.
The Code of Ethics does not apply to chess players within their personal lives, only within their engagement as sportspersons.
FIDE executives did not follow legitimate procedure as specified in FIDE Charter
FIDE council didn’t find any violation by the CFR or the BCF, of any point of Article 11, Obligations of Member Federations. Neither did they report the a lack of fulfillment of financial obligations. Article 13 states that the FIDE council can only suspend a member Federation temporarily, and contingently to the approval by the General Assembly, in the next cases:
- Member obligations as expressed in article 11 are violated (Article 13.1).
- The member federation defaults on its financial obligations (Article 13.2).
Therefore, FIDE council could not unilaterally make a decision on matters of cessation or suspension of a member Federation, as stated in the following point:
13.3 “In other matters the confirmation of the suspension or the expulsion of a Member Federation can be decided by the General Assembly only for compelling reasons related to severe violations of its duties, following an advisory opinion by the Constitutional Commission”.
Only the General Assembly can suspend Member Federations, and only for severe violations
So only the General Assembly could make a decision on this matter, and only for severe violations which did not occur. FIDE disregarded this procedure and went on to suspend the CFR and the BCF based on a decision by the FIDE Council alone. Notwithstanding, the two Member Federations had the right to appeal this decision before it was put to a vote, as stated by article 13.4:
13.4 “Decisions by the General Assembly on the suspension or expulsion of a Member Federation shall be made before any other order of business. Decisions on expulsion requires a two third majority of valid votes. The Member Federation whose suspension or expulsion is requested has the right to submit written defences and to be heard before the decision, in front of both the Council and the General Assembly”
FIDE Council could not suspend any Member Federation without the approval by the General Assembly. In addition, the suspension could only have taken place in the case of severe violations of Article 11, Obligations of Member Federations, which did not take place.
FIDE must follow its own Charter and regulation and not the International Olympic Committee (IOC)
IMPORTANT: Taking into account the current recommendations of the IOC, the FIDE Council suspends the national teams of Russia and Belarus from participation in official FIDE tournaments until further notice. 1/5
— International Chess Federation (@FIDE_chess) March 16, 2022
FIDE announced that their decision was prompted by a recommendation of the IOC. However, the recommendations of the IOC are not binding for FIDE, as expressed by the first Principle in Article 4 of the Charter:
4.1 “FIDE is a democratically established and fully independent organisation, based on the principle of equal rights of its members.”
As an independent Organization, FIDE must follow its statutes whenever they conflict with the guidelines by any other organization, including sports authorities.
FIDE violated the principle of neutrality and acted hypocritically
The current FIDE administration knew perfectly well that “all boycotts (are) in breach of FIDE charter”. In fact, these words exact words were expressed in a public Statement by current FIDE Vice-President Nigel Short. A motion by the FIDE president was approved by General Assembly, roughly a year and four months ago. It expressed with clarity a prohibition on all boycotts.
“Chess connects national cultures and traditions, and should not be used as a tool for division, boycotts and discrimination.”
FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich expressed it in his own words in the next way: ““we cannot tolerate boycotts (…)”. ““Everyone should adhere to FIDE charter and principles.”
As mentioned before, the first principle of Chapter 4 of FIDE charter states that FIDE is an independent organization, based on the principle of equal rights of its members. The Principles also assert that FIDE must promote relations among member associations (4.8) and be neutral (4.9):
4.8 “FIDE shall promote friendly relations between and among member associations, clubs, officials and players.”
4.9 “FIDE observes strict neutrality in the internal affairs of its members but has the right and duty to evaluate their compliance with FIDE principles and their obligations towards FIDE.”
FIDE disregarded its mission to promote chess and the right to play chess
In addition, Chapter 10 on the Rights of Member Federations states that members have the right to take part in FIDE competitions. Therefore, FIDE could not prevent players or teams from a given Federation to play their competitions without an official suspension or exclusion. We have already seen that the suspension was unjustified, consequently FIDE violated its own charter in all possible scenarios.
FIDE also violated Article 2 of the Charter, Mission and Role of FIDE. In it, several roles are specified related to the promotion of chess (2.5) and the use of chess as a tool for education and social development. Importantly, the Charter defines the means to the attainment of peace, which should be achieved through cooperation, and not division, of chess devotees (2.6).
2.5 “The mission of FIDE is the diffusion and development of chess among all nations of the world (…)”
2.6 “FIDE supports close international cooperation of chess devotees in all fields of chess activities, thereby also aiming to improve harmony and promote peace among all peoples of the world.”
Finally, the chapter on boycotts of the FIDE Handbook reads as follows:
2. “In accord with its Statutes, FIDE reaffirms its commitment to the right to play chess and opposes all organized actions that would hinder that right.”
FIDE didn’t follow the Handbook, and instead deprived the largest chess federation in the world from access to competitions. The attainment of peace should have been sought through cooperation of chess devotees, and not through divisiveness and illicit ostracism.
Conclusion: FIDE Charter has been violated multiple times by FIDE officials
FIDE carried out a persecution of chess players for political reasons, in contravention to their own Charter. Furthermore, the suspension of member Federations did not follow the legitimate procedure. FIDE followed guidelines from other sports institutions, instead of following its own regulation. They violated the principle of neutrality and acted with a double standard. Finally, they neglected their mission and role by sanctioning the largest Federation in the World and depriving chess players of their right to play. Both Member Federations were sanctioned without fault or error and for purely political reasons. This is the first time a large scale injusticed of this magnitude is conducted by the International Chess Federation, the greatest outrage in chess history.
- FIDE Charter
- FIDE Ethics and Disciplinary Commission
- 6. https://www.fide.com/news/1638