Live From the 88th FIDE Congress in Antalya, Turkey

Walter Brown, Grant Oen, Ruth Haring and Michael Khodarkovsky
The first half of the 88th FIDE Congress at the beautiful Avantgarde Hotel in Antalya, Turkey has been a great experience.  On a personal note, it is great to meet, face to face, the many contacts I have made through my work as the US Chess.  During the breaks, I have been observing the accompanying European Club Cup tournament just across the hotel lobby, where players such as Super GMs Vladimir Kramnik, Ding Liren, Alexander Grischuk, and Sergey Karjakin are competing. It is my pleasure to report on the various commission meetings I have taken part in at my first FIDE Congress.  I am part of the US Chess delegation, along with USA Zonal President Ruth Haring, USA Delegate Michael Khodarkovsky, and FIDE Qualification Commission Councillor Walter Brown.  Also in attendance is International Arbiter (IA) Carol Jarecki, member of the FIDE Arbiters’ Commission, who is the delegate from the British Virgin Islands. Technical Commission On Sunday, October 8, I attended the Technical Commission (TEC) meeting which was led by Chairman Bharat Singh (India) and Secretary IA Andrzej Filipowicz (Poland).  Living up to its name, the meeting was very technical in nature.  We opened by discussing the recent changes to the FIDE Handbook regarding the technical suggestions for the organization of chess tournaments topics, such as the size and shape of equipment and number of arbiters suggested per tournament.  Mr. Filipowicz introduced the proposal of adding technical regulations for school tournaments into the FIDE Handbook. Reviewing the integrity and validity of various tiebreak methods was next on the agenda, with the tiebreak ramifications of having an unplayed game (bye, forfeit win, etc.) being a particularly interesting point.  IA Hal Bond, Zonal President of Canada, stated that the Progressive Tiebreak system (known as the frequently used Cumulative System in US Chess tiebreaks) was perhaps unjustly removed from the technical regulations of the FIDE Handbook at the 2003 FIDE Congress in Halkidiki, Greece in favor of Buchholz tiebreak systems.  Professor Anantharam Rathinam of India brought to our attention that the Progressive tiebreak can be  easily calculated and thus using it as a primary tiebreak may lead to malpractice or thrown results among potential medalists. Other issues raised during the TEC meeting included the language barrier that can arise between arbiters and players, particularly in youth championships in which junior players may only speak their native language, and the move counter option on digital clocks when set for multiple time controls. GM Arkadij Naiditsch (Azerbaijan) and GM Csaba Balogh (Hungary) of Chess Evolution presented their new software, equipment, and clocks to the TEC.  Chess Evolution is developing software and systems which will rival DGT with regards to live broadcasts of chess tournaments.  It will be interesting to see how the market will react to this, as DGT has a strong commercial relationship with FIDE. Other chess software and applications were brought to the attention of the TEC, including ChessKast, an android app used for digital chess notation (similar to Monroi), which is already being used at a much more affordable price point in youth tournaments in India.  Anti-cheating measures regarding this software were, of course, very important in this discussion.  Overall, the TEC meeting was interesting to me as an FA and occasional organizer, but had little to do regarding our US Chess members as compared with the next meeting. Arbiters’ Commission That afternoon, I sat in on the Arbiters’ Commission (ARB) meeting, led by Chairman IA Takis Nikolopoulos (Greece) and IA Werner Stubenvoll (Austria), who stood in for ARB Secretary IA Aris Marghetis (Canada), who was not able to make it to Antalya. The FIDE Arbiter Lecturer applications for several IAs (none from USA) were summarized, but some were rejected since all FA Lecturers must be International Arbiters with at least “B” Classification, and some applicants were not. After summarizing the arbiter titles and classification upgrades, Chairman Nikolopolous then discussed that in a future set of regulations, ARB will be recommending that for arbiter title applications with only swiss tournaments, large international swiss tournaments (100+ players) defined in 2.1.3 in the Regulations for the Titles of Arbiters must have players from at least two federations to be considered for an FA norms, and from at least three federations for IA norms. It was also mentioned that there is an ongoing project between the Arbiters’ Commission and the FIDE Elista Office to move the arbiter classification and license status of all arbiters to the searchable and downloadable FIDE Monthly Rating List and Database. The ARB ended the meeting by handing out the 5th edition of the FIDE Arbiters’ Magazine, now available online here (pdf) which discusses the new FIDE Laws of Chess starting July 2017, and briefly summarizes the arbiter shortcomings in the 2017 Canadian Zonal tiebreak game.  I am very happy to report that all of our arbiter title applications and classification upgrade requests were given a “thumbs up” by the ARB and are slated to pass at the FIDE EB meeting later this week. Qualification Commission The most important meeting for the American delegation was certainly the Qualification Commission (QC) meeting, which was led by Chairman IA Werner Stubenvoll (Austria), Secretary FA Nick Faulks (Bermuda), Councillor IA Walter Brown (USA), Councillor IA Gunther van den Bergh (South Africa), and FIDE Rating Administrator Vladimir Kukaev (Russia).  Our entire delegation (Michael, Ruth, Walter, and I) attended this meeting Monday afternoon to make sure that certain items would be addressed.  Walter Brown, former US Chess/FIDE Rating Officer, is a councillor on the QC, which certainly helps.  Also in attendance were many national rating officers, high ranking arbiters, important commission members and officials such as FIDE CEO Geoffrey Borg (Malta) and FIDE Executive Director Nigel Freeman (Bermuda).. A very important item on the American agenda for this meeting was the application of minimum ratings for Direct Titles under FIDE Title Regulations 0.62.  FIDE had established new Title Regulations for the winners of certain chess championship events starting July 1, 2017.  Prior to July 2017, players who won the gold, silver, or bronze medal in certain events, e.g., the Pan American Youth Championship, were entitled to “Direct” FIDE Titles and/or Norms, without any other requirements.  But, the July 1, 2017 change also required minimum ratings before titles were awarded.  Unfortunately, many qualifying tournaments were held worldwide after July 1st, and this change took place in the middle of the qualification cycle After discussions led by US Chess and Canada, and supported by other federations, the QC decided that winners of direct titles will only be subject to the minimum ratings for events starting after January 1, 2018.  Thus, titles earned by young American players at the 2017 PanAm Youth, North American Youth, North American Junior U20 and the World Cadet Championships, which were previously subject to minimum ratings, will now be submitted for approval.  This is very good news for many of our young players! QC Chairman Werner Stubenvoll stressed the importance of federations having strong and knowledgeable rating officers in order to avoid late registration and submission of events.  Since FIDE works on the basis of a monthly rating list, it is very important that federations submit tournaments for rating in a timely manner. A review of the FIDE/Elo rating system was brought up, but then tabled until the next FIDE Congress, pending additional research by professionals such as Jeff Sonas.  The relatively new K-factors in the FIDE rating system have been seen as beneficial.  In light of the Grand Chess Tour’s new Universal Rating System, considered by some to be a direct rival to the FIDE Rating System, the QC noted the importance of keeping the FIDE rating system as accurate, simple, and easily calculated as possible. Some readers may remember the controversy regarding the rating of a match between Nigel Short and Hou Yifan, in which the last game of a match was eventually not FIDE-rated since the match was already mathematically decided at the time when the last game was played.  Mr. Stubenvoll made it clear that the organizers may request that all games in a match be rated, subject to approval of the QC Chairman. For the changes in FIDE Laws of Chess in 2021, the QC has recommended that FIDE title tournaments (events that can offer norms) must be played with a 30-second increment.  On behalf of some of our organizers, I asked the QC if delay could be included in this regulation change.  Secretary Nick Faulks mentioned that the commission views increment and delay as principally the same regarding this requirement, and that 30-second delay will be permitted for title tournaments starting in 2021.  However, unless something changes, events without increment or delay of at least 30 seconds will not qualify for norms starting in 2021. Finally, the pairings of the recently concluded Isle of Man Open were discussed.  Fans who followed the tournament will know that random pairings were used in Round 1, which led to some very strange pairings – World Champion Magnus Carlsen faced a 2100 player on Board 1, while GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Vladimir Kramnik met on Board 2, a matchup that was surely not expected until the second half of the event had it been paired traditionally.  Chairman Stubenvoll established that going forward, in according with the Systems of Pairings and Programs Commission, the QC will not accept title norms from events without true swiss pairings.  In other words, the randomization of any subset of the pairings should not be done for tournaments which produce title norms. So far, the FIDE Congress meetings have been very interesting, and indeed quite favorable for US Chess, as none of our title applications have been declined.  Of course, the recommendations by the commissions are still subject to a very likely FIDE Executive Board approval at the end of the Congress.  In the next few days, our delegation will attend meetings by other commissions such as Anti-Cheating, Systems of Pairings and Programs, Events, and the Commission for World Championships & Olympiads. Another report will soon follow by another member of our delegation. The FIDE report of the Congress, with many photos, is available here.  

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