A recent audit of the Turkish Chess Federation reported that the federation paid voters to help win an election for the right to host the Chess Olympiad in 2012.
Rumors of corruption have long plagued the chess world, where it is a commonly held assumption that elections of officials and decisions about where to locate tournaments are determined by bribery. But the disclosure by the Turkish federation may be the first time that anyone has admitted it so matter-of-factly.
The Olympiad is a national team competition held every two years, and one of the world’s premier chess events. Turkey won the right to host the event in Istanbul in 2012 after a vote among delegates of the World Chess Federation at the Olympiad in Dresden, Germany, in 2008. Turkey beat out Montenegro, the other finalist, by a vote of 95 to 40.
Holding an Olympiad does not create a financial windfall â€” indeed, the host may end up losing money as is common for the host country of the regular Olympics. But staging an Olympiad does confer prestige and winning the vote was considered an achievement for the Turkish Chess Federation.
Whatever the merits of the Turkish proposal, it appears that its success was ensured by paying delegates to vote for it, and the price was $120,000, or 178,000 Turkish lira.
Two weeks ago, a financial report called Denetleme Kurulu Raporu was published on the Turkish federation’s Web site. Near the bottom of the report, which was conducted by an auditor of the federation, there was a footnote, which The Times had translated into English. It reads:
It was detected in official documents, records and listings that in order to host the 2012 World Chess Olympics in Istanbul, 177,724.32 Turkish lira was allocated for the rent of the stand, souvenirs, lobbying activities as well as accommodation, transportation and food expenses of some FIDE delegates to vote for our country at the FIDE general council meeting held in Dresden, Germany, in 2008, as approved at the board meeting, and as adequate additional funds were transferred into the federation’s budget by the Turkish Republic prime minister’s Office of Youth and Sports general directorate in 2008, which were spent in accordance with the status of the federation and other general regulations.
It could not be determined whether paying delegates to vote for Turkey violates Turkish law, but in an e-mail, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the president of the World Chess Federation, which is also known by the acronym FIDE (for FÃ©dÃ©ration Internationale des Ã‰checs), said, â€œPaying for votes is not allowed by FIDE and by its members.â€ He said that he was unaware that the Turkish federation was claiming that it had done so and FIDE will look into it.
Calls to the cellphone of the president of the Turkish federation, Ali Nihat Yazici, as well as an e-mail to him to ask about the disclosure in the audit report were unanswered.
Four years ago, Mr. Yazici, was part of the Right Move campaign headed by Bessel Kok to unseat Mr. Ilyumzhinov as president of FIDE. Mr. Kok and Right Move lost. Mr. Ilyumzhinov was recently re-elected at the Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.
After his defeat, Mr. Yazici wrote a letter to the chess community alleging Mr. Ilyumzhinov had bribed the voters, without providing evidence to support his charges. In an e-mail, Mr. Ilyumzhinov wrote, â€œI can’t comment on vague and unfounded allegations. All questions should be directed to Mr. Yazici.â€
Part of Mr. Yazici’s letter, again translated into English for The Times, read:
Nonetheless, there were choices we made that brought this result, but I do not necessarily call these mistakes. Our first choice was choosing to lose at the expense of not bribing â€” which we never regret.
Our second choice was to turn down all three offers presented to our group by Kirsan. We are not sorry about this either.
The first (offer) was to get together a group, made up of three from us and three from them, which is against the FIDE status. The second offer was the one I directly received and cannot prove the source. It was the end of this November that I received a phone call from someone with Russian accent, saying that if I withdrew, Gurevich would play for Turkey and 50,000 euros would be paid. It was during the World Cup.
Another offer I got was three months ago. The same person, on the phone, suggested three times more money (than in the first offer) as well as a more senior position. I guess you would guess how I responded.
The last offer made to our group was on June 1. It was again unification. We refused them all. I feel honored about this. Because:
1. From the very beginning, the foreign ministry and all its missions around the world supported me and my group. I truly lived the meaning of the phrase by our Great Leader [Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic] â€œHow happy for one to be a Turkâ€ with utmost pride.
Given the responsibility attained by this phrase, it was just a natural thing for me, as a candidate with the support of such a country, to remain in the race until the very end, and not to indulge with any immoral deals
2. For the first time in FIDE history, an election was held properly. In reality, no position can be more honorable than being the director of the world No. 1 federation. All these positions were to succeed in the world, just like we succeeded through hard times in our country. I want to do the things we’ve done in this beautiful country also for the world. And so we will. However, without compromising even a bit on our understanding of morality, honesty and honor.
3. This is a revolt. It is a revolt against immorality, desperation, not giving in to helplessness. This will never end. â€œRight moveâ€ soul took off 8 months ago and will continue.
Since Yazici wrote the letter, he has become a staunch supporter of Ilyumzhinov and is now one of FIDE’s vice presidents. And the chess player he referred to in his letter, Mikhail Gurevich, a former Soviet player who lived in Belgium from 1991 to 2005, now plays for Turkey.