On March 1st, the official website of the Russian Chess Federation (RCF) published interesting news: the 7th Tal Memorial chess tournament will take place in Moscow from June 7th to 19th. This is an annual super-tournament in which many “big names” participate. It always attracts huge attention from the chess world. There are 10 top players who are directly invited to compete for the highest place.
This year’s tournament, however, is different because the organizer leaves one spot in fan’s hands to vote for their favorite player whom they want to see at the tournament. The organizer set up a list of 13 players from various countries to be voted by fans via the Internet. An opportunity to attend such a high-class tournament is definitely an honor for every chess player so I was happy to know that I was one of the 13 candidates, although I felt that Internet-voting might be subjective and unfair.
To be honest, I didn’t have time to follow the voting because I had been concentrating on my own tournament, the HD Bank Open Chess tournament in Vietnam. My friends told me that they voted for me, as well as informed and persuaded others to vote for me. I was very grateful for that. However, I soon found out that my name had been excluded from the list for some unknown reasons. Only until March 15th, which was the voting’s deadline, RCF announced that the top spot went to the English player with 3,860 votes.
At the end of the announcement I found an explanation for my case. They said I was excluded from the list because my supporters had voted unfairly by using computers to vote automatically.
This might happen due to a technical problem of the website, or an over-zealous attempt from a fan. In either case, it was unfortunate. Yet, I was really surprised by RCF’s decision. Obviously they have all the rights to set up a voting-list or nominate a player.
But when they run such voting, they must have clear regulations and execute them strictly. If, for example, they find a number of illegitimate votes, they should eliminate them but still have to count the remaining legitimate ones. In my case, they simply removed the candidate who didn’t commit any fault at all.
To me, this is clearly an unfair and disrespectful decision. That I didn’t hear any word of explanation from RCF for more than 10 days afterwards is also strange. The whole thing is even stranger considering the fact that Vietnamese chess fans later could not vote for any other chess players in the list (RCF possibly used an IP-blocking for all computers in Vietnam).
From this experience, there are two important issues we need to think about. First, when voting for such events, fans should vote honestly and seriously and organizers need to have explicit and fair rules which show respect for candidates, especially when organizers themselves set up a list of candidates. Second, it may not be appropriate to have such voting for such a prestigious chess tournament when there aren’t clear rules or effective ways to control the voting.