FIDE Congress Final Report: Grant on Commissions and Optimism

Batumi 2018 will be remembered for the great performances by both USA teams at the 43rd Chess Olympiad, where the Open team earned silver medals, and Fabiano Caruana, Irina Krush, and Jennifer Yu earned board medals for their excellent results on their individual boards.  Jennifer also earned her final IM norm!

Jennifer Yu, with her bronze medal

A fifteen minute taxi ride away, the 89th FIDE Congress was held at the Sheraton hotel in Batumi, Georgia.  FIDE Congresses are an annual event with dozens of commission meetings, similar to the committee meetings at the annual US Open.  Furthermore, with the biennial Olympiad and quadrennial FIDE presidential elections both converging in 2018, the Batumi FIDE Congress was extremely well attended.

In the first half of the Congress, our extensive delegation sought to represent the interests of US Chess, participate in the various commission workshops, and confirm that our title applications were in order.  As previously reported, US Chess members earned twelve new player and arbiter title upgrades at this FIDE Congress.

Commission for Women 

We previously reported on US Chess, the FIDE Commission for Women’s encouraging meeting.

The participants in the Commission workshop noted that there is a lack of women in FIDE at all levels of the organization. This includes players, coaches, and organizational leadership. None of the three candidates for President is a woman.

US Chess was well-represented at the Commission meeting with Ruth Haring, Sophia Rohde, Beatriz Marinello and Carol Meyer in attendance.

US Chess was able to show the Girls in Chess video to the participants noting that it was well received. Several people also made the point about our emphasis on growing the base of girls in chess

Find the full report at this link. 

Commission for the Disabled

On September 27, Steve Immitt and Sophia Rohde attended the FIDE Commission for the Disabled meeting, chaired by GM Thomas Luther.  It should be noted that US Chess has an Accessibility and Special Circumstances Committee which won the 2018 Committee of the Year award.

Beatriz Marinello (USA), who organized the 2017 and 2018 FIDE World Junior Championships for the Disabled in the United States, proposed to the Commission to run the event for the years 2020, 2021 and 2022, and this was accepted.

The International Olympic Committee has taken great strides through the years to implement special competitions for the disabled, and chess competitions could also follow this example.

FIDE Instructor Turgay Seckin Serpil of the Turkish Chess Federation made a very impressive presentation on “Chess Without Boundaries,” which focused on chess for visually impaired players.  He stated that “chess is bigger than a strategy game” and “chess is a language [for] how to connect with people.”

The Turkish Chess Federation organized a national blind chess championship this year with over 500 players, and they hope to soon have events for visually and hearing impaired players.

Commission Chairman, GM Thomas Luther, told the meeting that he has produced an anthology on Chess for the disabled, which has currently been translated into six languages.  He also stressed the need for teaching materials and translations in sign language.  He said that more chess sets for blind players are needed, and that “talking clocks” will be included in the next generation of DGT clocks.

GM Luther eloquently encapsulated the spirit of the Commission and the meeting by concluding, “It’s just fantastic to have international tournaments for the disabled.”

Rules Commission

On September 29, the FIDE Rules Commission met, led by Chairman IA Ashot Vardapetyan (Armenia) and Secretary IA Tomasz Delega (Poland).

Since changes to FIDE rules can usually only be made during FIDE election years (every four years), many rules and articles were discussed and proposed to the General Assembly.

Article 3.3 was slightly revised to make it clear that in disputes between the Chief Organizer and the Chief Arbiter, the Chief Arbiter would have the final interpretation as to whether the tournament is in compliance with the FIDE Laws of Chess.

A proposal was submitted to only allow players to take a maximum of one half-point bye in a FIDE-rated event, even regular events not offering title norms (known as FIDE “L3” events).

Of course, this proposal would have been significant for US Chess organizers who run FIDE-rated events.  Even though the Rules Commission voted in favor of the change, at the General Assembly, a coalition of arbiters and delegates spoke strongly against this recommendation and worked to get it amended.

Fortunately, after discussion with the Rules Commission leadership, new language was introduced and approved, in which organizers may now declare their own rules regarding byes in FIDE-rated events.  Special thanks to IA Holowczak (ENG), IA Andrew Howie (SCO), IA Stewart Reuben (ENG), FA Nick Faulks (BER), Allen Priest (USA), Michael Khodarkovsky (USA), IA Steve Immitt (USA), and IA Grant Oen (USA) for their work on the counterproposal.  One of the reasons US Chess sends representatives to the FIDE Congress is to make sure the voices of our members are heard!

To be clear, organizers of FIDE-rated events, even norm events, may continue to advertise their own rules regarding half-point byes.  However, in the case that no such rules are advertised, the default rules are the FIDE Competition Rules, in which players are limited to one half-point bye.  Going forward, it is strongly recommended to ensure that advertising for FIDE-rated events includes such relevant bye information.

The second part of the 2018 FIDE Congress was the General Assembly.  Held every four years, the GA is a three-day meeting, open to delegates from FIDE’s 180+ federations, who vote in the FIDE elections and deliberate on current issues.  US Chess President Allen Priest and Delegate Michael Khodarkovsky were our official representatives at the General Assembly, with Michael casting US Chess’ votes in the various elections.  US Chess ED Carol Meyer, Zonal President Ruth Haring, and FIDE Events Manager Grant Oen were present as spectators.

Continental Meeting for the Americas at the 89th FIDE Congress

FIDE Presidential Election

The presidential election lasted almost the entire first day of the General Assembly.  It looked to be a historic election, as Kirsan Ilyumzhinov would officially be replaced as FIDE president, and for the first time in decades, there were three candidates.  Georgios Makropoulos (Greece) was the incumbent candidate – “Makro” has held leadership positions in FIDE since 1986.

Arkady Dvorkovich (Russia) and Nigel Short (England) were the other candidates.  Each ticket consisted of six members, including a President, Deputy President, 2 Vice Presidents, a Secretary, and Treasurer.  GM Short’s ticket, which was endorsed by US Chess, included US Chess’ Ruth Haring.

Much was discussed in the Constitutional Commission meeting and in the General Assembly regarding what would happen if none of the candidates reached the required “50% + 1” vote majority.  It was agreed that the FIDE statutes affirm that in the case of a second (runoff) ballot, all three candidates would still be listed, but a simple plurality would decide – the person with the most votes, regardless of whether they achieved a majority, would win. Ironically, the three presidential candidates “agreed” to follow the statutory approach and as such, the discussions about what to do were not even necessary.

This discussion was soon proven moot during the candidates’ 15 minute election speeches.  Nigel Short announced that he was withdrawing his candidacy and pledged his support to the Dvorkovich ticket.  The several hour voting process then commenced between the two remaining candidates.  The election featured a secret ballot, private security area (no electronics), and three election scrutineers, led by IA Carol Jarecki, who represents the British Virgin Islands.

In the end, Arkady Dvorkovich won the election with 103 votes to Makropoulos’ 78.  Thus, the new FIDE leadership positions include FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich (Russia), Deputy President GM Bachar Kouatly (France), Secretary Enyonam Sewa Fumey (Togo), Treasurer GM Zhu Chen (Qatar), and Vice Presidents Mahir Mammedov (Azerbaijan) and GM Julio Granda Zuniga (Peru).

The following day, new President Dvorkovich immediately set forth two of his campaign promises.  He proposed to the Constitution Commission to amend the electoral regulations to set a two-term limit for the FIDE presidency, even if an individual is to leave office and return.  This will limit any one president from being in office for more than eight years.  Mr. Dvorkovich also proposed to abolish vote proxies, requiring federations to cast their vote in person at the General Assembly.  Both proposals were ratified with great support and applause from the GA.  It seems that much reform is in the cards for FIDE.

There are several new FIDE Vice Presidents, half of whom were appointed by the Dvorkovich ticket, including GM Nigel Short.  There are also elected Vice Presidents – congratulations to US Chess’ Delegate Michael Khodarkovsky, who was elected with the most votes to be a FIDE VP for the next four years.

One of the biggest benefits of becoming FIDE President is appointing many positions in FIDE’s leadership as well as the various commissions.  The presidential commission appointments will hopefully be announced in the coming weeks.  US Chess has nominated many of our members for the commissions in hopes of helping FIDE’s new administration as well as representing the interests of US Chess.

There were also elections for some of the elected FIDE commissions.  Congratulations to the following US Chess Presidents, past and present, who were appointed to commissions for the next four years: Gary Walters – Constitutional Commission, Allen Priest – Verification Commission, Ruth Haring – Ethics Commission (Ruth was also re-confirmed as our Zonal President).

Overall, the 89th FIDE Congress in Batumi, Georgia was very successful for US Chess – many of our players and arbiters earned new titles.  While observing our Olympiad teams earn some hardware and rating points, our Congress delegation collaborated with international colleagues in dozens of commission workshops and made guided recommendations to the General Assembly.  With the passing of the guard in FIDE leadership, it is exciting that US Chess will have a FIDE Vice President and several commission members serving FIDE and US Chess.

The next FIDE Congress will likely be in November 2019, followed by the 91st FIDE Congress held alongside the Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia in August 2020.

Steve Immitt and Carol Meyer contributed to this report.

Next up for Grant Oen- the World Youth Championships in Greece, where US Chess will send a strong and large delegation, sponsored by Two Sigma. 


  1. Did anyone from Guam(native island of Ray Robson), Puerto Rico(island of Julio Kaplan at the time he became World Junior Champion) or the United States Virgin Islands(where the Pan American Seniors and Veterans Championships will be held in December) make any international title norms or earn any international titles? These areas are as I electronically type these words parts of the United States(although they are separate entities for purposes of international chess).

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