Grandmaster Mikhail Kobalia:
The time is ripe for the chess world to change
Senior coach of the Russian youth team voiced opinion on his FB page about management of the largest children's and youth competitions held under the auspices of FIDE. Other famous coaches have added their comments as well. We invite colleagues to join in the discussion of this vital topic.

Attending the youth World Championships as a Russian team coach since 2011, I have many questions to ask of the organizers of these competitions, held under the auspices of FIDE:

1. Non-observance of the declared calendar of competitions has become a routine, with terms and sometimes venues changing almost every year. Given that the Russian delegation is usually quite numerous, it creates a lot of difficulties. In fact, it turns out that until the official regulation is published (about 3 months before the start of the event), information on the FIDE calendar should be viewed as provided for general reference only. This is not to mention the fact that competitions sometimes nearly overlap, making room for rest or preparation out of the question.

2. Some Championships have the playhalls utterly overcrowded, leaving children almost no room to place their scoresheets. This said, certain halls are stuffy to play at, while others yet are unheated, making children wear jackets for that reason. FIDE representatives, assigned to observe compliance with the required conditions, would just shrug their shoulders, getting away with their usual "what can be done about that"? That brings forth a reasonable question: if there is nothing you can do – why are you there in the first place?

3. Another sensitive issue is arbiters. Their qualification often leaves much to be desired, whereas lack of command of the official FIDE languages is nothing to be surprised of. Even so, how can you change the tiebreak criteria on the fly that directly bear on the distribution of prizes or include into a competition a crowd of "dead souls" just to raise the number of participants to a record high?

4. The most sensitive and discussed topic of late is cheating, which draws attention of the entire chess world. FIDE is formally actively involved in this process, there is even an anti-cheating and an ethics Committees. However, what do we see in reality? I have repeatedly observed that spectators could simply establish a direct visual contact with players from across the adjacent spectator areas, where no control is exercised over the use of electronic devices. Well, spectators are spectators, but players are often given a perfunctory check at best: if one takes it into his head, bringing any device in would be no problem whatsoever. Needless to say, a broadcast delay belongs to one of those measures that even some arbiters seem to have never heard of before.

5. It is no secret that on top of registration fees established by organizers, each player is also obliged to pay the fee established by FIDE, which is not that small an amount after all. The situation being what it is, any talks about children support sound quite strange, because FIDE is known to profit from children at these tournaments. If anything, it is possible to at least give out worthy prizes to Championship winners? How on earth is a world champion not entitled to a Cup and a medal?! Instead, some organizers would hand out jam jars, yet others some plastic plaques. In my opinion, it is nothing short of a disgrace, especially if compared to the European championships, which see children awarded with laptops, gadgets, etc., let alone cups, medals and certificates of achievement.

I do not claim that all World championships feature low levels of management– there have taken place nearly impeccable events as well. However, if we consider the situation as a whole, it becomes obvious that FIDE turns a blind eye on many issues to the detriment of tournament participants.

Why did I choose this very moment to give it a limelight? I believe that there is a need for change in the chess world. It is clear that the current administration of FIDE, which has been in power for decades, has nothing for us in the way of positive shifts. Therefore, the only hope is that the upcoming elections will help alter the situation and give chess a new impetus for development.

Grandmaster Alexander Baburin (Ireland): I agree completely! I attended several World and European Children's championships back in the 1990's. Conditions used to be poor, board and lodging in particular. The feeling was such that the tournaments were simply farmed out to local organizers, whose primary train of thought was directed towards making money. It is so sad that so little has changed since then...

Grandmaster Alexander Galkin (Russia): I completely agree with Mikhail. Instead of searching for politically correct terms, crap must be called crap. The previous year's management of the U20 World Cup in Italy was one such complete crap.

Grandmaster Igor Glek (Russia): Mikhail's interpretation is completely to the point. The main reason lies in the fact that the present FIDE administration has been too long in the office, lack of competition being another reason. If some FIDE commissions undergo periodic replacements (alas, sometimes due to natural causes), the administration as such has not. In fact, Makropoulos and his Greek office have been in power for so many years now... Macro, of course, is very smart and has pretty decent knowledge of the chess world, but with all the time that has passed he has lost almost every bit of incentive, save for the financial one!
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