Friday, 20 March 2009

How far does FIDE's writ run?

One of the interesting side issue in the Mamedyarov-Kurnosov Aeroflot Open blow up, was that the notion that 'FIDE should do something' about false accusations of cheating. Why I find this interesting is that normally the chess community want FIDE to be less intrusive in the running of chess events, not more. For example, the vast majority of players I've spoken to think FIDE's attempts at imposing a 0 minute forfeit time on all chess tournaments is ridiculous, and the "move first, write second" rule isn't that popular either.
Of course it is understandable that there is a body that have codified the rules of chess (and that body is FIDE), but how far beyond that can they go? Even FIDE recognise that there is a distinction as the Laws of Chess are divided into the "Basic Rules of Play" and "Competition Rules". They even allow exceptions to the Competition Rules for FIDE rated events (eg events held in the USA).
An interesting test of FIDE's reach was in the case brought against GM Nigel Short by FIDE Vice-President GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili. In a newspaper interview Short referred to Azmai as a 'dunderhead' and made mention of a couple of other controversial incidents that Azmai was involved in. Azmai filed a complaint with the FIDE Ethics Committee over the interview. Short argues that the Etics Committee had no jurisdiction in the matter because "in giving an interview to a journalist he was not acting as a player or as a FIDE officer or as a member of a affiliated organisation". The Ethics Committee rejected this argument, in part because "Mr. Nigel Short is both a very famous chess player, who participates to many FIDE rated tournaments, and the President of the Commonwealth Chess Association, an organization affiliated to FIDE."
Nonetheless the Committee tossed out most of the complaint, as part of it concerned personal opinion, and parts of it concerned other, disinterested, parties. However they did regard 'dunderhead' as a breach of the Ethics Guidelines and gave Short a warning.
Now although I am not a lawyer, this seems to be a real stretch to me. It sets up two classes of individuals in the chess world ie those who have nothing to do with chess administration, and those that do. If you are in the first group, and are not playing in a FIDE registered event, you can pretty much say what you want about FIDE officials. But if you are in the second group you have to choose your words more carefully. And as the FIDE Code of Ethics extends to "member federations, delegates and counsellors" this is quite a large group.
Indeed, as I am on a couple of FIDE committees (as well as being Secretary of the PNGCF) and a number of commentators to this blog hold positions on "member federations", it may stymie some of the more colourful comment directed at me!

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