Chess events perhaps aren’t famed for their organisation, but it’s still unusual to find all the participants of a major tournament going on strike before the final round is played. That’s what happened in the Cotroceni Women’s International that recently finished in Bucharest.
At first glance, the tournament had all the makings of a success. The 10-player round robin event brought together some of the stars of the women’s game, including the Muzychuk sisters, 3-time US Champion Anna Zatonskih, top Polish player Monika Socko, and Valentina Gunina, a member of the Russian team that won the recent Olympiad. It was also being held, as Romanian WGM Alina L’Ami pointed out in a nice preview, in the residence of the President of Romania, apparently with his personal backing for the event.
The other factor that should have helped was that in the absence of Linares, and with the Women’s Grand Prix in Dubai coming to an end, there was little competition for publicity from the chess media. As it happened, however, the event was barely covered. Perhaps the official site provides a partial explanation. Although the games were broadcast live, the website is only in Romanian and has limited content: a couple of interviews with players and, strangely, photographs so far only from rounds 1-4 and 8 (unless stated, the photos in this article are taken from the official site). They show the players almost exclusively at the board in a hall with no spectators. It seems that was due to the difficulty of gaining access to the building, but it would still have been easy to present the event in a more compelling fashion.
Nevertheless, it was only in the last round that an outside observer might really note that something had gone wrong. At first glance, the five quick draws perhaps don’t raise any eyebrows, until you look at the tournament situation (see the usual excellent coverage at TWIC).
So what actually happened? That was revealed in an interview Evgeny Surov of Chess-News.ru conducted with Irina Turova and Valentina Gunina on the evening after the final round. Their flights weren’t until the next morning:
Surov: But as I understand it, some people had earlier flights? Otherwise you wouldn’t have had to make such quick draws in the last round?
Turova: Of course. For example, I was playing Monika Socko and we had literally 40 minutes left for our game. Of course, I wouldn’t want to win a point like that without a fair game. From the first day onwards the organiser was promising us money. Each day he’d deceive us: tomorrow, tomorrow…
Surov: You’re talking about appearance money for taking part?
Turova: I’m talking about travel expenses. For example, I flew from Arkhangelsk. My outlay was something like 600 euros for travel alone. That money wasn’t paid, never mind the appearance fee…
As you can see, the problem turned out to be the tournament organiser. Surov goes on to question why the players had agreed to take part in the tournament, having had less than ideal experiences in the past:
Turova: He gave me the money eight months after the last tournament…
Surov: Who’s he? Why not name him.
Turova: It’s Dan Pasarelu. In June my husband [Maxim Turov] and I won an open tournament in Romania. At the closing ceremony he said that he didn’t have any money. And there were quite a lot of Russians there. As far as I know, Gavrilov, a master from Moscow, still hasn’t received his money. Pasarelu asked us to keep quiet, to wait…
The Romanian Federation was apparently on our side. They suggested that we wrote a protest letter and then they’d disqualify him, but in that case he wouldn’t, of course, give us our money. We didn’t know what to do. We even wanted to turn to the Russian Chess Federation for help. In the end we received something like 80 e-mails, and in each of them there was some deception: “tomorrow”, “in a week”, and so on.
Surov: But in the end did you get your money or not?
Turova: We got it in February. But you know yourself that our nerves aren’t made of steel.
Surov: But still, after that situation you nevertheless agreed to travel to Romania?
Turova: The thing was that the organiser was apparently someone else here – a Deputy. They wrote that it was the “President’s Cup” and that everything would be at the highest level… That’s why I believed them. And I only agreed because it was a strong round-robin tournament, and we don’t have many of those.
Full article here.
Special thanks to one of the bloggers for pointing this out to me.