For several hours, chess took the back seat after the late withdrawal of Kazakhstan’s Zhansaya Abdumalik left the host All India Chess Federation and the World Chess Federation (FIDE) facing an embarrassing situation ahead of the FIDE World women’s Grand Prix chess here.
Peeved at not being received at the airport, Zhansaya, the 2017 World junior girls’ champion, decided to withdraw from the event. She did reach the hotel with her companion but later chose to return home.
After some players suggested the cancellation of the event, the FIDE president Arkady Dvorkovich stepped in, apologized and maintained that the event would go on as planned.
Earlier, explaining her decision to pull out, Zhansaya claimed, “I left the tournament because the preparation for the event was not adequate. I arrived at the (Delhi) airport at 1.30 am and they (organisers) forgot to meet me. I don’t think it was hard to organise transfers for only 12 players when there was a huge Olympiad (in India) organised last year for thousands of people.
“The location of the hotel was not great. It’s one of the best tournaments in the world and I just want FIDE to put more attention on women’s chess. It was too much for me and that’s why I decided to leave. We deserve to play in good conditions.”
Tournament Director Bharat Singh Chauhan candidly admitted that Zhansaya was not received at the airport and she reached the hotel with her companion.
On the allegation regarding the hotel, Chauhan was equally defiant. “It is the same five-star hotel where the players stayed during the second India-Australia cricket Test match (last month). This hotel has hosted several international chess events like the World junior championship, Asian championship and several editions of the Commonwealth championship among others. Even the boxers and officials for the ongoing Women’s World boxing championship are staying in the same hotel. The hotel maintains a very high standard and therefore, the question of offering sub-standard playing conditions does not arise.”
Meanwhile, Dvorkovich took to social media and wrote to Zhansaya, “Ï apologize for the situation. The information provided earlier was sufficient but the organisers were not prepared. This does not mean that FIDE is not to be blamed. I understand that there is practically no chance to persuade. If you still have the strength – play. With respect and hope for mutual understanding – Arkady.
After Zhansaya decided to withdraw, German player Elisabeth Paehtz wrote to Dvokovich and suggested the cancellation of the event. The letter also carried the names of Aleksandra Goryachkina, Kateryna Lagno, Bibisara Assaubayeva, Polina Shuvalova and Zhansaya Abdumalik.
However, later in a letter, Bibisara said she had not signed any such letter.
The letter stated, “things in women’s chess, especially regarding professional organisation and care of the tournaments in the past went in a very unfortunate way. Some of us are emotionally down and upset.
From the professional point of view as well as speaking for our colleague Zhansaya Abdumalik, we would suggest cancelling/postponing the event.”
In response, Dvorkovich issued a statement in which he apologised for the “mishandling of the Women’s Grand Prix tournament in India” and regretted “the problems and inconveniences you have experienced.”
“Considering all the arguments in place, we have decided to continue (with the event.). FIDE will appoint an additional coordinator to be at the full disposal of the participants of the event. Also, all affected players will be provided with compensation, such as covering any additional expenses they may have incurred or will incur during the event.”
Dvorkovich announced the event would go on with 11 players, with an unchanged first-round pairings. However, the last-minute withdrawal of Elisabeth has reduced the field to 10 players.