The European Team Chess Championships for men and women are currently going on in Iceland, with most of the top players defending the honor of their national flags. Despite having two ex-world champions – Veselin Topalov (ELO 2803, second position in the world) and Antoaneta Stefanova (ELO 2519, fifteenth position in the women rankings) – the Bulgarian teams cannot be found in top 10, top 20, or even top 30 of the ETCC standings. The simple reason – one of the few countries in Europe that did not send a team to the competitions in Iceland is Bulgaria.
This has provoked the Bulgarian chess community to come up with an open letter to the Minister of Sports, signed by numerous GMs and IMs.
To Mr. Krasen Kraev, Minister of Sports,
On the 12th of October in Reykjavik (Iceland) started the European Team Chess Championships for men and women. For the first time the Bulgarian national teams are not participating. Why? We turn to you to find out :who and when took the decision our country not to participate in these competitions? Well in advance we want to note that excuses like “there is no money” cannot stand, as during this year in Bulgaria we have had dubious tournaments, for which the BCF has spend much more than an ETCC participation would cost.
Dear Mr. Minister, why in the past year the leaders of BCF have self-excluded from the international chess life? Why didn’t Bulgaria have a representative at the FIDE Congress in Dubai or the General ECU assembly in Montenegro? At these forums our country has been mentioned in negative context multiple times. Why didn’t anyone go to defend us? We, as players in international tournaments, can feel the attitude of the organizers and other players towards our country.
Do you know that in the past two years the National Team Championships have been played in a reduced format – instead of six players, there are only four players per team, while other countries play their events with full teams, which gives them the right to play in the European Club Cup? This event took place in Skopje this year, but Bulgaria did not have representatives yet again. […]
Who, Mr. Minister, takes such crucial decisions for Bulgarian chess? At the moment Bulgaria does not have a representative at the ETCC, while at our country live more than 30 Grandmasters […]
Our national teams have not had training sessions, they do not even have coaches! Friendly matches have not been organized for more than 10 years. Until when will this continue? Aren’t the National teams the front of a given sport? Do we have any other sport in Bulgaria, where National Teams do not participate in European and World events even if they have the right to do so?
Dear Mr. Minister, what is your commentary on the decisions of the ECU General Assembly in Bar? We are constantly being asked at international events what is happening with Bulgarian chess, and we do not know what to say. In the international chess community it is being talked that there are ongoing criminal investigations, which could lead to the freezing of its membership in them. If that happens, we will not be able to participate in any competitions. […]
We turn to you to do the needed to defend the name of Bulgarian chess. We hope that we will receive adequate answers to our questions.
Signed: GM Alexander Delchev, GM Atanas Kolev, GM Boris Chatalbashev, GM Vasil Spasov, GM Ventsislav Inkiov, GM Vladimir Petkov, GM Grigor Grigorov, GM Evgeni Ermenkov, GM Kiril Georgiev, GM Krum Georgiev, GM Milen Vasilev, GM Momchil Nikolov, GM Nikolai Ninov, GM Petar Genov, GM Petar Arnaudov, GM Peter Drenchev, WGM Adriana Nikolova, WGM Emilia Dzhingarova, IM Velislav Kukov, IM Veselin Pantev, IM Dimitar Dochev, IM Dimitar Marholev, IM Zhivko Bratanov, IM Ivailo Enchev, IM Kalin Karakehayov, IM Nikolai Milchev, IM Plamen Mladenov, IM Sasho Nikolov, IM Spas Kozhuharov, IM Tervel Serafimov, IM Tihomir Yanev, WGM Elitsa Raeva, WGM Liubka Genova
(Note: the letter is very emotional and we have tried to keep the translation as close as possible to the original. You can download the original text here)
The list of players that signed the letter includes the core of the most active Bulgarian GMs, IMs, and WGMs. This internal “revolt” comes after a series of scandals that rocked the Bulgarian Chess Federation. Everything started one year ago, when the alleged corruption scandal, including election lists manipulations, was aired to over 2 million viewers in the prime time show “Masters of the broadcast”. Scandal after scandal unfolded as a signal for missing 450 000 eur was filed in the ministry while Georgiev, Stoinev and Stoichkov brought the issue to the public attention at a detailed press conference where they emphasized that ECU warns for illegal European Chess Union Ltd. created during Danailov’s presidency
The Bulgarian Chess Federation was not happy that the matter has been revealed to national media and imposed bans to Georgiev, Stoinev and Stoichkov for for “undermining the prestige” of the federation. All this was followed by a wave of mass boycott and clubs coming with open letters, while only Topalov stood in support of Danailov.
With another investigation against BCF recently announced and the protest of players following the ETCC fiasco, things look grim for the Bulgarian Chess Federation.