‘Apology clause’ may stretch AICF-players impasse

FIDE’s latest decision to restore the ratings of the defiant Indian players has irked AICF.

Days after the world chess federation (FIDE) restored the international ratings of 54 players, there seems to be no immediate end to the long-standing impasse between the suffering players and the All India Chess Federation (AICF).

Despite a nine-year old legal battle, the bone of contention now is the clause in the AICF’s Players’ “Re-registration Form” which reads, “I apologize for any contraventions committed by me of any of the directions, bye-laws/regulations of the AICF.”

The players, including Karun Duggal and Gurpreet Pal Singh, the prime activist, are challenging the clause. “AICF penalised the players for “violation” of its constitution in 2010 when there was no  clause pertaining to participation in tournaments not authorised by AICF. The constitution was amended on June 8, 2011 and the said clause was included. Since we had not violated any of AICF rules, in force in 2010, where is the question of an apology now?” asked Gurpreet.

AICF secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan, however, was equally firm. “If you want to play in India, you have to be a registered player of the AICF. For those re-registering, there is a clause which seeks an apology. Rules can’t be changed to please everyone,” Chauhan asserted.

Grandmaster Abhijit Kunte had a point, “When the AICF has followed the directive of Competition Commission of India (CCI) and recently removed the clause pertaining to unauthorised tournaments, why should AICF insist on an apology?

The players cause received a huge shot in the arm when five-time World champion Viswanathan Anand said, "I am very happy that the players have gotten their rating back. I had spoken to the FIDE president (Arkady Dvorkovich) during the Shamkir event to help resolve the matter. I hope, in future, the federation and the players can resolve these issues by working together and open dialogue."

For the uninitiated, between October 28, 2010 and April 9, 2011, the AICF sent three lists of players totalling 120 to the FIDE and sought deletion of their international rating. The AICF found these players taking part in, what it described as, “unauthorised tournaments.”

At the behest of AICF, FIDE eventually deleted the ratings of these players. Since then, a number of players returned to the AICF fold following its directive of submitting the prize-money won by them in those tournaments. Later, some others followed suit by tendering letter of apologies. In return, AICF wrote to FIDE to restore their ratings.

FIDE’s latest decision to restore the ratings of the defiant Indian players has irked AICF.

“We have written to the FIDE and opposed the restoration of ratings. It is true that FIDE removed the ratings (in 2010) at the behest of AICF. It is equally true that FIDE retains its right to restore ratings,” agrees Chauhan.

FIDE’s decision to restore ratings was mainly due to the efforts of British Grandmaster and its vice president Nigel Short. He understood the matter and backed the Indian players.

In Short’s words, “Given that the court has already ruled in favour of the plaintiffs and against the AICF, it would be profoundly unjust and immoral to continue to deprive these chess players of their Elo ratings, unless or until an appeal court decides otherwise. To do so would be petty, vindictive and unbecoming of a great chess federation.”

Short, in response to AICF’s accusation that FIDE was “interfering in a domestic matter”, was categorical: “It must be stated that FIDE is involved, and has been since the very beginning – naturally at the instigation of the AICF. It was, of course, D. V. Sundar (a FIDE vice president) who, in voluminous correspondence with David Jarrett and others, repeatedly requested FIDE to strip a large number of players not only of their Elo ratings — as if they were not punishment enough — but  also of their FIDE IDs.

“Indeed a perusal of the court documents shows that the actions of FIDE have at various times been represented — or rather misrepresented – by AICF officials. For example, for the AICF to imply that FIDE, even under the previous administration, would of its own volition strip Gurpreet Pal Singh, Karun Duggal and many others of the ratings without prompting from the AICF is disingenuous, to say the least.”

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