STATEMENT BY THE FIDE ETHICS COMMISSION IN REGARD TO THE KOVALYOV CASE
This statement is released on occasion of the meeting of the FIDE Ethics Commission (EC) in Antalya, Turkey on 9 October 2017. Its purpose is to make known the EC’s decision in case no. 2/2017 and the reasons for the decision in the light of the wide-spread interest in the matter.
On 9 September 2017 and shortly before the start of the third round of the FIDE World Cup in Tbilisi, Georgia, an unfortunate altercation took place between the head of the organisers GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili (“the organiser”) and one of the players GM Anton Kovalyov of Canada (“the player”). This resulted in the decision by the player to withdraw from the tournament.
On 27 September 2017 the EC received a formal complaint against the organiser of alleged breaches of the FIDE Code of Ethics from the Chess Federation of Canada (CFC). The CFC asserted that it was acting “in and for itself and on behalf of GM Anton Kovalyov”. The complaint was not supported by any statement by the player.
The EC chairman requested from CFC a power of attorney or letter of authorisation under the signature of the player enabling the CFC to represent his interests. The CFC’s submissions were also sought on the issue of whether CFC in its own capacity enjoys standing to act as the complainant.
In addition, the EC chairman announced to the parties in terms of Rule 8 of the EC’s Procedural Rules that an oral public hearing was necessary and that such public hearing would take place at the FIDE Congress in Antalya on 12 October 2017.
Subsequently the CFC advised that the player is not willing to participate in the public hearing, whether by his personal appearance in Antalya or by way of video-conferencing. The player also failed to provide the CFC with written authority for the federation to represent him.
At the outset the EC wishes to make it clear that the decision of the player not to participate as a complainant in the proceedings before the EC is the player’s prerogative. No doubt GM Kovalyov has his reasons and his decision must be respected.
However, without authority from the player, it is not possible for his federation to proceed with the complaint on his behalf. Also, the standing of the CFC to act as the complainant in its own capacity, is dubious. It is required that a complainant must have a direct and personal interest which was adversely affected. CFC claims that the negative sentiment arising from this incident will prejudice its efforts in Canada to popularise the game and to find sponsors for future events. It is debatable whether this represents a sufficiently direct interest, but in the light of the further consideration mentioned hereafter, it is unnecessary for the EC to decide the issue of CFC’s locus standi and the issue is left open.
The major obstacle to this matter proceeding before the EC is the lack of a statement from the player as to what exactly transpired between him and the organiser and his unwillingness to give evidence in this regard at the hearing. One only has an idea of the player’s version from remarks made by him on facebook. This does not form part of the evidence before the EC. In any case, these remarks lack important details and do not constitute a reliable factual account on which the EC can be expected to make findings against the organiser. The EC cannot decide disciplinary matters on hearsay evidence or third party constructions as to what has happened. Although the EC is not a court of law and there is no requirement for sworn evidence, at the very least the EC must be satisfied that a truthful and factually accurate version has been placed before it.
The result is regrettably that the complaint by the CFC, raising important issues of general concern for the better functioning of FIDE, cannot be admitted for want of a prima facie case due a lack of reliable evidence. This is not a decision on the merits of the complaint.
However, it is obvious that the incident between the organiser and player has revealed a number of grey areas in tournament administration and every-one agrees that there is a need for greater regulation on matters such as the dress code for players and officials at different types of events, clarity regarding the responsible persons to enforce such regulations and the appropriate handling of a situation where a player is held to be in violation of the regulations. All of these aspects will receive attention in the meetings of various FIDE Commissions currently taking place here in Antalya.