BOTW: 2017.09.12

There are many posts about the Azmaiparashvili Incident at the 2017 World Cup.*

The basics, including links to the rules and comments from the Organizer are on the CFC Newsfeed. Since then, the best are:

Anton's two posts on facebook:

and Zurab Azmaiparashvili's Statement on the event homeage:

The contrast between the two different views is fascinating. Anton's perspective -- dignity is more important than money -- and Zurab's -- money and power makes the law -- are an irreconcilable difference between a 20th century Western understanding of civilization, and a long-surviving pre-modern mentality. It is not simply that Zurab is a crude bully and his FIDE backers are unwilling to admit he has done anything wrong because they want to protect FIDE's image. Rather, from their pre-modern view of the world, they have done nothing wrong: Zurab gets money for big events, so Zurab gets to be the Big Bad Boss. 

While it is comforting to think that Anton will be supported because his complaint is just, there are still a lot of places in the world where money and belligerance pass for competence and authority. Readers might be able to think of a few without prompting.

*Note: Calling it the "Kovalyov Incident" would avoid ambiguity, since there are no other Kovalyov incidents, but that would suggest Anton was to blame. Calling it simply the "Azmaiparashvili Incident" wouldn't narrow it down enough... though adding "at the 2017 World Cup" mightn't be precise enough either, since the event is ongoing. Maybe FIDE and chess journalists could start numbering Azmaiparashvili Incidents!? 

 Ironic Photo Of the Week

2017 World Cup skittles room screencap:

(left) Nona Gaprindashvili, Women's World Champion 1962-76, and Georgia's most famous woman.
(center) Mighty Zurab, GM, European Chess Union head. and Georgaia's most famous chess organizer, wearing Bermuda Shorts.
(right) World Champion Magnus Carlsen (Norway).
(not pictured) Georgia's Most Famous Man was unable to be present, having died in 1953, but seems to have been there in spirit.

Gaprindashvili was playing and talking so loudly in blitz game that an interview with Carlsen had to be stopped. In the center, Mighty Zurab suggests they resolve the problem the old-fashioned way: by combat.

Irony?: Anton was told to change his Bermuda shorts because an Arbiter said they did not conform to the FIDE dress code, which is explicitly intended to attract sponsors. Anton was then told by Mighty Zurab Himself that he was dressed like a gypsy. 

 Below is a translation of the Russian Sport-Express story on the Azmaiparashvili Incident at the 2017 FIDE World Cup. 

It was the first place that brought the video of the shorts-wearing Zurab to attention.



Anton Kovalyov 25 was born in Kharkov, played for the national team of Argentina, and in 2013 - for the Canadian team. In the world ranking he is not even in the first hundred, falling notably short of the landmark 2700 points (2649).

For the past four years, Kovalyov has not played chess professionally but only in official tournaments for his team[s]. The grandmaster lives in Texas and studies for a master's degree. For the World Cup, by his own admission, he did not prepare a single day. And even arrived in Tbilisi with one backpack -- why, they say, take a lot of things, if you're not going to stay long?

And then real miracles began. In the first round, in two games Kovalyov confidently knocked out of the competition US representative Varuzhan Akobian. And then he did not face just anyone, but the 15th World Champion Viswanathan Anand. Here, they said, the fairy tale ends... but Kovalyov continued to amaze. In the first game, with black pieces, he defeated Anand. And in the next game, as White, managed to hold a draw. So, in fact, the grandmaster who had finished his career without even beating a top-100 in classic chess, beat a world champion! And he did it, playing in shorts.

"Why am I wearing shorts?" - commented Kovalyov after the victory over Anand. "Yes, I came here for a short while, so I put on what I have." To tell you the truth, I do not really want to stay here for long, because I'm studying, and education is much more important for me. But if you have to, then you will.

"The Organizer was aggressive and called me a Gypsy"

Actually, this interview was a time bomb for Kovalyov. Until then, very few people paid attention to him, and even less to his outfit. At the World Cup there are more than 50 games being played at once, and Kovalyov is not the kind of person who was closely watched during the starting days. But then a curious story began to emerge: Anand's victor, and even in shorts!

In the third round, the Canadian grandmaster had to play against Israel's Maxim Rodshtein. He is beatable opponent for Kovalyov. In the event of advancing to the next round, in addition to the money already earned, Kovalyov would add 7,200 dollars. For a chess player of Kovalyov's level, this is a significatnt amount. So, Anton had reason to play, and not to rush home.

For the first game against Rodshtein, Kovalyov appeared exactly in the same clothes he had played before, that is, in a shirt and shorts. Recall, for four games at the World Cup this did not cause the organizers any complaints. Moreover, Kovalyov dressed in a similar style in the previous World Cup -- and then there were also no warnings, let alone disqualifications. But this time it was different. Next, we quote the story of Kovalyov himself about the incident, published on the social network.

[the article translates into Russian Anton's frst facebook post]


Then the tragicomedy began. Zurab Azmaiparashvili, seeing the departing Kovalyov, at first believed that he went to change clothes. Only then it turned out that the Canadian grandmaster decided not to go to the game at all and left the tournament. So Rodshtein, without even playing went into the next round, and Kovalyov flew back to the United States.


Kovalyov now enjoys the most powerful support -- almost all chess players defend him. And not because they also want to play in shorts. Simply, Anton emphasizes that never before (!) during the World Cup did the organizers make complaints about clothes. That is, it turns out,  it was possible to play four games in shorts, but the fifth was impossible?

[the article has an excerpt from a facebook post by Russian GM and exceptional online commentor Sergey Shipov reporting how members of the Appeals Commitee at a Zurab-run event -- an Appeal Committee which guaranteed a conflict of interest by including Zurab Himself -- were paid much more than others who worked much longer hours.]


Well, the most "killer" evidence from the World Cup: at the competitions in Tbilisi, Zurab Azmaiparashvili himself was noticed ... in shorts. Only, unlike Kovalyov, he had them purely white, not colored. As they say, find ten differences ...

YouTube Video



In general, the discussion about the dress code in chess has long been ripe. This is now almost the only sport where participants dress without any restrictions. In the rules of the World Cup it is written that the appearance of the participants should be "acceptable". What is included in this vague concept? Who decides that shorts are "unacceptable", but, for example, a crumpled T-shirt is okay?

Despite the growing popularity, chess seems to remain in the last century. For example, the great master Vasily Ivanchuk likes to play in his bare feet. A few years ago, in a match against Kramnik at the Olympic Games in Istanbul, he came in a suit and a baseball cap.

"If you are Carlsen or Kasparov, you may be late for the game, they will not turn the clock. If you are Ivanchuk, you can wear everything that comes to your mind. If you are Kovalyov - you will be thrown out of the tournament"

 - the opinion of the head of the Association of Chess Professionals, Emil Sutovsky.

Maybe it's time for chess to move towards other sports? Why, for example, in athletics or football are the smallest details regulated, down to the size of advertising patches, the height of gaiters or the length of the jersey? Why does figure skating or rhythmic gymnastics prescribe the length and depth of the cutout of dresses, the length of sleeves and the like? But in the chess regulations, instead of all this there appears one single word:  "acceptable", which can be understood as you please.

The most logical for chess is the dress code adopted in large companies: shirts and mandatory classic pants for men, office dresses for women. Actually, many leading grandmasters, like Norwegian Magnus Carlsen and Russian Sergey Karyakin, dress exactly that way. Because they already have a number of sponsors and understand the importance of forming their own image and sport in general.

But so far there is no clear regulation --- shorts, hijabs, flip flops and classical suits have the same right to exist. It is a pity that Kovalyov in Tbilisi has not been able to prove this.