This coming weekend I am going to the Begonia Chess Tournament which is a chess competition in Ballarat, a town in regional Victoria. I went to this tournament last year, it was my first long format tournament and it was where I became FIDE rated. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the tournament and the organisers have managed to persuade Nigel Short, a well known chess player from the UK, to come along. Nigel Short is a vocal critic of FIDE, he believes it is riddled with corruption and presided over by a lunatic. He would like to see FIDE cleaned up so that the organisation can better promote the game of chess in a more open and transparent way. His influence rests on his past games and his current FIDE rating.
It is odd, therefore, that the Begonia Chess Tournament, which last year was FIDE rated, is not going to be FIDE rated this year. Many players who are trying to improve, myself included, would like it to be FIDE rated so that we can strive to improve our ‘official’ rating. I would argue that almost all players would like to see the competition FIDE rated since they all hope to do well. A FIDE rated competition has gravitas and gives young players an opportunity to prove their skill in an official way. Something that someone like Nigel Short, supporting a better FIDE, would surely be happy with.
So why, given the important 50th anniversary, isn’t the tournament FIDE rated this year? Surely this would be the least we would expect. Well there has been some discussion about this on chesschat, an Australian chess web forum. The link is here and in the thread an IM states:
“Regarding tournament being not FIDE rated, it makes absolutely no sense. If it is because of contravention of July 2014 FIDE rules about ratings, once again it makes no sense since the 2015 Begonia Open was FIDE rated. I think it might be not FIDE rated because of enquiries from top player/s, since they don’t want to take risk of losing rating points, which sounds pretty pathetic, however, I don’t see any other reason that could explain it. It will be very much appreciated if organizers could clarify this situation, thanks.”
The response was:
“The committee for the 2016 BEGONIA OPEN has received a number of queries as to why this 50th anniversary tournament will not be FIDE rated.
Every endeavour has been made this year to ensure that this historic event is memorable in every possible way. Part of that included making special invitations to attract titled players both from Australia and overseas. It also included inviting many past winners of the tournament to compete again.
Whilst FIDE would agree to rate the tournament, the committee and the major sponsor were particularly concerned about the impact of the playing conditions on titled players and the possible adverse impact on their FIDE rating. It was felt that the gruelling playing schedule over such a condensed period, particularly the 3 games set down for the Sunday, did impose an unreasonable demand on those players.
The committee would like to advise that no player has made the matter of FIDE rating a condition of their participation in the tournament. Whilst the cost of FIDE rating the tournament is not insignificant that also was not the main consideration.
Some players may be concerned that they do not have the opportunity to gain a FIDE rating or ratify it, but the tournament will continue to be ACF rated.”
If ‘specially invited titled players both from Australia and overseas’ are concerned about impacts on their FIDE ratings or if the committee are so worried that these players would be concerned about their ratings then I think it’s feeble. All players play under the same condition so a ‘grueling’ schedule for one player is ‘grueling’ for another. Any chess player worth their salt should be willing to put their points on the line. This must be better for chess, for FIDE and for anyone who wants FIDE to grow and to become more open and transparent. Give me the attacking 93 and 91 year old players from my last two posts any time over a titled player unwilling to risk FIDE points.