Interview with Lothar Hirneise, President of the ACO

What is the ACO?

The Amateur Chess Organization (ACO) is a new world chess organization which will organize world championships for amateurs, youth, and teams starting in 2012.

What are the basic ideas of the ACO?

99% of all chess players have less than 2400 ELO and earn their livelihood not with chess. We´ll be here for exactly this group of chess players, doesn´t matter if young or old. The priority of the ACO is to promote amateur chess worldwide and to bring amateur chess closer to the general public, also with the help of effective media events. The ACO stands, in the first place, for fun in chess and for social exchange among chess players.

What led to the founding of the ACO?

The idea for the ACO came from chess enthusiasts from several countries in 2009. The main point of our former discussion was that we thought (and still think) that it’s unfair that 99% of all chess players are amateurs and the only world chess federation is dedicated almost exclusively to professionals’ and (elite) youths’ performance.

There have been conflicts within FIDE during recent years, for example, about the world championships cycle or the extreme dominance of certain individuals within FIDE which were and are not conducive to the sport of chess.

Which tournaments will the ACO host?

From 2012 we will annually organize multiple ACO world championships, including the “ACO World Amateur Chess Championship” which will be played in seven rating groups, the “ACO World Youth Chess Championship” (U08 to U20), and the “ACO World Amateur Team Championship” played in four rating groups.

Where will these world championships take place?

To meet the demands of ACO (to bring chess closer to the public with the help of effective media events), we have decided to organize our world championships in spectacular and world-famous places. We made this decision with respect to the fact that the last major chess events were held in less-known places like Kazan, Jermuk, or Astrachan. Therefore our World Amateur Chess Championship will take place from the 6th until the 15th of July 2012 in Dubai. The award ceremony with the gala dinner will take place in the ballroom of the finest hotel in the world, in the exclusive seven-star Burj Al Arab. This will be a truly unique event, not only for players but also for all accompanying persons.

We were also thinking about the World Youth Chess Championship and what would be the best for the children and their parents regarding the venue. Therefore, we will host our first youth world championship at the favorite place of all children – at Disneyland in Paris. To make it possible for all children and young people to participate, the world cup will be held in the summer of 2012, from the 4th to the 12th of August.

The third world cup will be the “ACO World Amateur Team Championship.” This tournament will take place over New Year´s Eve of 2012, and it will be a huge event with the greatest New Year´s Eve chess party in the world! All games will be played in teams of four. There are no restrictions for the composition of a team. The exact venue is at the moment not clear yet. However, more detailed information will be posted soon on our website at

What conditions must all players meet to be able to participate in your World Championships?

From 2013 this will be possible only through a qualification on a national championship. In our anniversary year 2012, however, we want to give as many players as possible the opportunity to be live at a world championship. The exact conditions can be found on our website But for space reasons there are participants´ limitations by all championships.

Chess at a seven-star hotel and at Disneyland – can a normal chess player afford something like that?

Absolutely yes! We can offer for our participants an extra-reduced price for the stay at Disneyland, which surely won´t be more expensive than the FIDE World Youth Championship 2012 in Maribor, Slovenia. In addition, the ACO World Youth Chess Championship in Paris is logistically much easier and cheaper to reach than the FIDE World Junior Championship in Maribor, as all international airlines fly to Paris and the rail link is excellent too.

But also the World Amateur Chess Championship in Dubai, including the gala dinner at the Burj Al Arab, we can offer for a unique special price thanks to generous sponsors.

What role does performance chess play in the ACO?

That depends on the definition of performance chess, and we should consider the youth and adult chess differently. When it comes to adult amateurs in chess, don´t you think that someone with 1700 ELO is on the board fighting just as hard as someone with 2500 ELO? If you look at the many draws of the grand masters, you can sometimes tend to believe that amateurs fight on board harder than professionals. In the case of adults, the support does not mean that someone with 1800 ELO rises in two to three years to 1850 ELO. It means that he keeps, even after two to three years, his desire to play chess. Try to think about the large loss of members that all chess clubs complain about. In my own club, there is currently only one men’s team. Four years ago we had five teams.

It looks a little bit different by the youth. Of course, the ACO will encourage also the youth´s performances, and it has commissioned one of the best youth coaches in the world, GM Zigurds Lanka, as the national youth coach for Germany. We want to establish this concept of cooperation with top trainers in other countries as well.

As for the youth world cup, to play chess at Disneyland means for us, not that the kids will come to our world championship just to have fun, but that they will play because they seriously want to become the world champion! But in addition to chess, we also want to offer these children a unique entertainment. In our view, there is not a better place for this than Disneyland in Paris. Our aim is to make each ACO World Championship a memorable event, for the players as well as for the accompanying persons. Not everyone can be the world champion, and that’s why the Olympic motto, “It´s the taking part that counts,” to ACO is a great importance.

What are the plans of the ACO at the national level for amateur chess players?

In autumn of 2012 we are starting as a test run for other nations, the German Amateur Chess League. In this league will be completely avoided the current federation´s organization structure to let friends play together in a team, even if these are not members of the same club. To participate, each player needs just three more chess enthusiasts to form a team. Dates and venues will be determined by teams independently within a framework set by the ACO. To guarantee a homogeneous skill level, the teams will be divided into skill-level groups. These teams will then have one month to report the result. Teams are not tied to fixed times and dates, but they can organize their league games freely and independently. This system leads to better social contacts, since it is also allowed to play at private places such as in an apartment or in the garden, and the players can get to know each other better after the game. The league also meets a big need of many league players, namely not to have to play chess on Sunday morning at nine o´clock.

What is the relationship of the ACO to the FIDE?

The ACO is a fully independent organization, and we see ourselves as a complement to the FIDE, not as competition. We are open to any cooperation, and enjoy working together with national associations, tournament organizers, and chess players all over the world. Of course, we are aware that the ACO is for the FIDE something new and that some officials will see us only as a competition. But I can say that we all share the same goal: to promote chess and to bring this great game and fun to as many people as possible. If some officials do not understand this, of course, we will accept it and show that we will be pleased to work together with everyone who loves chess as much as we do. But in any case, we will not abandon our way and will do everything possible to promote the amateur chess worldwide.

The ACO has no federal structures like the FIDE, but is rather a company as professional boxing organizations or Formula 1. What are the advantages?

The advantages are obvious. Avoiding the federal structure’s power struggles within the organization will be prevented. What a great extension these may achieve, we all could notice last year at the FIDE presidential election in Khanty-Mansisk. The biggest advantage is the quick decision making and implementation of agreed measures. Especially in our fast-living world, decisions must be made ​​locally and promptly, and not until after the next election. These obsolete structures lead in many sports, unfortunately, to more and more blockades instead of benefits. Another crucial advantage over existing federations is that all management, marketing, and IT tasks are performed by professionals. You can also see on the success of Formula 1 or the various boxing organizations that these organizational structures fit much better into the 21st century.

What plans does the ACO have for the future?

Planned are other national and international chess events for amateurs and an innovative training system for students and instructors. For the design we were able to commission, among others, the world-class coach Zigurds Lanka, the future national youth coach in Germany, as already mentioned before. In addition, we have developed a new Internet platform for chess players in a multi-year collaboration with a leading IT company. Next year we will go with it online. The platform offers a unique combination of an online chess community, the opportunity to compete with other players in live chess and online chess, as well as many unique features that allow and promote social interaction with each other. I cannot reveal everything, but we plan to be purely and simply, the best chess community in the world.

Our CEOs GM Falko Bindrich and IM Tobias Hirneise, who are responsible, among other things, for organizing the world championships, are also working with mathematical experts on a new global rating system.

Can you finally tell us something about yourself?

I myself am an enthusiastic amateur chess player, and I came about 10 years ago to chess tournaments, especially through my two sons Jens und Tobias. Professionally, I have run for 14 years the international non-profit organization Cancer 21. Previously, I was active in the boxing scene, and among other things, I´ve sponsored various Olympic Games as an official sponsor. If you would like to know more about my person, you are welcome to visit my homepage

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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