But as the "normal" world celebrates its Olympics, we in the chess world watch our forthcoming Olympiad in Istanbul degenerate by the day. The chess Olympiads got off to a bad start from the beginning, with the very name "Olympiad" being a misnomer, that merely demonstrates the ignorance of those who coined it. As the late Dutch GM, Lodewijk Prins was fond of pointing out, for the Ancient Greeks, the "olympiad" was not the event itself, but the four-year interval between Olympic Games! Perhaps our Ernie was involved in choosing the name?
But moving on from that, the Olympiads have become increasingly controversial in recent years. Burgeoning size has meant ever-increasing costs to host the event, and with FIDE dominated by Third World countries and congenitally incapable of securing sponsorship from any Western countries or corporations, the Olympiad has more and more often been held in run-down ex-Soviet backwaters, such as Elista and Khanty-Mansisk, or dubious third-world dictatorships.
On top of that, many top players cannot be bothered to turn out in Olympiads, especially top players who represent relatively weak countries, or countries which have no sponsorship with which to pay appearance fees to their players. Anand has not played for India for years, whilst this time round, Magnus Carlsen is reluctant to play for Norway, both because of money considerations and fear of jeopardising his Elo rating against the relatively weak opposition that the Norwegian team is likely to face. As a result of these difficulties, Norway have apparently decided not even to enter a team, despite the fact that they are due to host the next Olympiad in 2014.
But the biggest problems this time arise from the fact that the event is being held in Istanbul, Turkey, fiefdom of the dreaded Ali Nihat Yazici, head of the Turkish chess federation and now seemingly one of Ill-Lunatic's most dedicated supporters. "Comical Ali", as he has been dubbed, has already banned English arbiters from the event, as "punishment" for the ECF's support for the recent court case against FIDE in Lausanne. Now he has gone one step further, and put down a motion to suspend the ECF, plus the six other federations which have supported court action against FIDE. If successful, this would, inter alia, deprive English players of their FIDE ratings and also prevent English organisers from running FIDE-rated events.
Ali Nihat Yazici, who could turn out to be the best friend English and world chess has ever had. (photo: chessbase.com)
Actually, in the long term, the best possible outcome for both English and world chess would be for Comical Ali's motion to succeed. In the short run, it would hit English players and organisers, but there is an excellent chance that it would also result in the splitting of the Western democracies from FIDE, and the establishment of a new organisation, free of the dominance of Third World-supported space travellers and dictators. Such an organisation would have an excellent chance of being able to market chess properly and attract respectable commercial sponsorship, which in the long run would benefit the top players and everyone else too. If that happened, and the new organisation were seen to be successful and able to raise money for chess, the Third World countries would soon be clamouring to join, and could be admitted as non-voting members. In the end, FIDE would wither on the vine, as people voted with their bank accounts, and we could be left with a respectable and respected world chess organisation, rather than one at the mercy of the likes of Ill-Lunatic and Comical Ali. Of course, that is an ideal outcome, and may not happen, but there is at least a chance. There is no chance of a future at all within FIDE.
In the meantime, it is 100% clear that England should withdraw its teams from the Istanbul Olympiad next month. By going, we lend credibility to Comical Ali 's event, as well as ensuring that we will be comprehensively shafted every step of the way - stuck in the worst hotel, miles from the venue, etc, etc. As every past Olympiad player knows, there are myriad ways in which Olympiad organisers can make life extremely unpleasant for any country they do not like. Furthermore, the ECF does not have the money to send teams to the OIympiad anyway - the federation does not have two halfpennies to rub together, and is currently in the process of setting up a compulsory membership scheme, in a desperate attempt to shore up its crumbling finances, following the withdrawal of the last vestiges of Government funding for chess. The last thing it needs now is to waste thousands on sending teams to an Olympiad in Turkey, where they will be about as welcome as a bacon sandwich at a Bar-Mitzvah.
It is not as though we have a realistic chance of a medal. The Men's team, of Adams, Jones, Short, Howell and Pert is missing only McShane of the top five, but even they will be the first to admit that a medal is only a remote possibility, that would require almost the whole team to be on top form at once. The Ladies team is missing all of the top four players, and, with all due respect to those selected, there can really be no justification for spending scarce resources on sending a reserve team along, especially to such an unwelcoming environment.
But the biggest consideration is neither medal prospects nor money, but simple morality. We cannot possibly justify supporting an event run by the likes of Yazici, in present circumstances. So we should withdraw our teams. But we won't, of course, because that would require some moral fibre on the part of the Dear Leader and his cronies at the Egregious Chess Federation, and nobody but a fool would expect that.