12 March 2009

Chess in Africa - Today's Concerns

My previous post in this series, Chess in Africa - Early FIDE Initiatives, mentioned efforts in the 1970s to bring the African continent into FIDE. The most recent FIDE Congress, held during the Dresden Olympiad in November last year, brought to light issues that face African chess today. One issue involved the Olympiad itself. [Numbered paragraphs and quoted passages are from the 79th FIDE General Assembly Minutes and Annexes.]

11.5. 79th FIDE Congress and 38th Chess Olympiad 2008: Mr. Buthali raised the visa issue of African teams. Africa teams met serious challengers. There had been delay in communication from their side, but FIDE should consider the prevailing situation and there was some degree of insensitivity. Visa requirements were very strict sometimes, Olympiad is supposed to be all inclusive. He was disappointed as we have a team of inspectors from FIDE who report to Presidential Board and this should have been picked up by them.

Mr. Gelfer said the visa problem is something which the General Assembly cannot solve, it should be solved on a higher level.

I can't imagine what 'higher level' could be invoked for visa issues, which are a recurring problem. They played a role at the World Championship knockouts in both Las Vegas 1999 and Tripoli 2004. In 1999, the USCF wasn't in a position to offer assistance in procuring American visas, except to point to the relevant regulations, and I imagine most national federations would be equally helpless.

Another issue is a direct result of an emerging FIDE policy. It arose during a discussion of the brand new Women's Grand Prix.

11.12.3. Grand Prix 2008-2009: [...] Annex 77 is a proposal of UAE, for the Women’s World Championship, for 2010, 2012, 2014. They are ready to organise a World Club Cup and open a new FIDE office in Abu Dhabi. They nominated Dr. Sulaiman Al Fahid to the new post of CEO Commercial Affairs.

The President said he had discussed women’s chess with Dr Fahid and he agreed that he could organise these events and there will be no problem with visas etc. Next year he will open a new office in Abu Dhabi and he will cover all expenses. No money from FIDE is required. [...]

Mr. Buthali said he had a query regarding the FIDE office in Abu Dhabi. He was concerned how far we should go with satellite offices and how they would operate. Should we have an office in Africa, we need to be guided.

The President said the aim is to open 165 offices, one in each Federation.

Mr Makropoulos said it is a good idea, but he agreed with Mr Buthali. We need to control the situation and we should have a proposal to show how we control these offices for the next Presidential Board meeting.

A FIDE office for each federation does indeed sound like a good idea until we realize that many of the smaller federations have trouble paying their dues. How can they be expected to support an office? There's more to chess than the World Championship, and one of FIDE's strengths is the attention it pays to all levels of chess competition.

11.22. World Youth Championships U-8, U-10, U-12, U-14, U-16 and U-18 2011: Deadline for bids is 31st May 2009. Only African and American Federations will be permitted to bid. General Assembly approved that 4 year cycle of bidding by Continents be implemented from 2011. European federations can bid every other year, whilst the other Continents can bid in the intervening years.

I'm not sure where FIDE is going with this. It again sounds good to rotate various championships through the four FIDE continents -- Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas -- but interest levels in chess and budget constraints are not allocated evenly throughout the world. Consider the current Grand Prix cycle, where it looks like all six events will have taken place in ex-Soviet republics, assuming they are held at all.

11.41. 2011 All Africa Games: The event will be organised in Zambia from 7 to 31st August 2011. Chess has 11 medals. It is intended that Zambia will also bid for the Continental Championships.

Annex 71 has details on the 2011 All Africa Games, along with the list of sports, where chess is one of 26 disciplines including karate, badminton, tennis, and basketball. Who said chess isn't a sport?

A Continental Meeting for Africa also took place during the Olympiad. The minutes are in annex 72 and its appendix, the 'African Chess Union Report'.

15. Report of African Continental President: Continental President for Africa Dabilani Buthali presented his report. The Continental Meeting had discussed preparation for various events, as well as restructuring. In 2009 there will be the inaugural African Youth Championship. General Assembly approved the report of the Continental President including the draft CACDEC budget.

Among the many challenges facing Africa that I gleaned from the minutes were financial (fees, arrears, CACDEC budget), political (role of federations in the continental group, profile/image, expectations), and organizational (individual, youth, junior, and team championships). There is no mention of a women's championship and the sole reference to women in the entire report is a reminder of a '2007 Executive Board decision that 20 percent of CACDEC budget be spent on enhancing the capacity of women'.

I'll look at CACDEC in the next post in this 'Chess in Africa' series. Of particular concern is the inability of continent officials to spend CACDEC funds that have been allocated to Africa.

No comments: