Ali Nihat Yazici: "If you mess on your own doorstep, you should expect counter-actions!"

Text and photos: Evgeny Atarov

In the second part of our converrsation in Istanbul with Turkish federation President and FIDE VP Ali Nihat Yazici, we discussed the two biggest issues of recent months: his Olympiad ban on arbiters from the 7 countries which sued FIDE, and also the "Atalik affair", which has become a big issue in his own country. .  

- Returning to chess matters, arbiters from various countries were refused accreditation at the Olympiad and there were many Turkish arbiters instead. Many players were not convinced of the latter's qualifications. What do you have to say about this? 

- First, we followed the rules. If people doubts the arbiters' qualifications, I can only say I am surprised, because we are a highly experienced federation. We have more International FIDE arbiters than anyone! 

So, it says in the rules that over 50% of the Olympiad arbiters must be from abroad. That will be the case in Norway and Azerbaijan. We followed this rule and prepared our arbiters. We had numerous seminars and training courses. I worked 20 hours a day here, but have not heard of one single incident involving Turkish arbiters. We have the chief arbiter, many senior arbiters, and they have kept everything under control...In reality, there have bene no problems with Turkish arbiters. On the contrary, I have received a letter of congratulation and much praise. 

Those who say there are problems are just looking for something to criticise. They maya s well say "Ali promised weather of 40 degrees heat, and it is only 30!" That's what it is like! 

- But you know well that the arbiters are hostages to the situation. It was not they who sued, it was their federations. 

- It is a problem, of course. I have nothing personally against these arbiters, who didn't get here because of the problems between FIDE and their federations. When we banned arbiters from these 7 federations, we were using the following criterion: FIDE has 2468 international arbiters (I am one of them) but none have an automatic right to be at the Olympiad. 

There are various considerations. One arbiter may have great experience. Another may be from an African countryy, and needs experience to take back home and help develop chess there. A third may represent one of the active federations, such as Russia, to whom we give 5-6 places. There are many factors, and everyone can point to one. Especially if your federation is involved in the development of the international federation. 

If you damage the home where you live, why should you be surprised at counter-measures? It is not logical. First you sue FIDE, costing it €1,2 млн., you don't apologise, sonsidering it the natural course of things, that it is your right. And, moreover, you sue not because you have bene harmed or suffered some loss, or have been wrongly treated, but merely because Garry Kasparov asks you to, and guarantees to fund you. This was made clear to the General Assembly by Leo Battisti from France (it is interesting that Garry Kasparov was first supposed to be the French delegate, but he was then replaced by Battisti). It is obvious to me that all these court cases were initiated by Kasparov...and it is equally clear to me that you cannot take your family to court, because someone sponsors you to do so, and then say that you want to sit down at the same meal-table with them! Sorry! ...If you harm us, you have to understand that there are limits. If the Turkish Federation had not reacted, there would not have been a General Assembly decision on how to react to such court cases. 

- Are you pleased the General Assembly adopted these documents?

- ДYes! I said today that there were many federations, such as Malawi, Burundi, Palestine and Togo, who had great difficulties coming to Istanbul. They are very poor countries, whose federations have a budget of maybe just $500 a year, and they spet 5-10 thousands Euros out of their own pocket to come here. Many others could not come - Madagascar, Senegal, Seychelles, etc. They did not come, because they could not find  €500-600 for each player. Can you see that we could have helped them, if it had not been for these court cases? 

I would not object if federations like France, Germany, Switzerland, USA or Ukraine received millions from FIDE and spent it on chess. I would say that is good. I have spent a lot of money on court cases in Turkey, but I do not complain, because it was for the good of chess. But I get angry when, instead of bringing benefit,  such money ends up in the pockets of lawyers.

So I think that someone should defeinitely react. You can read my statement and then you will understand. I want them to understand, that if they continue like this, it will have bad consequences for them. 

This is why I wanted the GA to consider the proposal to ban these seven federations. But I never actually wanted to ban them, and that is why I withdrew my proposal today, without waiting for the debate. But I wanted to warn them, and be heard! 


I do not want people to leave chess, but there should be some reasons. People should understand that you cannot just create trouble for the sake of it, for pleasure or for your image. Because how does it look? "Ok, I can't become FIDE President by democratic means, but I am rich - I can bankrupt FIDE! It will collapse and there will be a catastrophe." 

This is unethical. You should not abuse your civil rights and refuse to accept democracy. ..You will see, I am nervous, because I do not have the English words for this. I can explain it better in Turkish. 

Imagine these seven federations come to me and ask "Ali, you want us out?". I answer, "No. But do you get the message?" Silence.  They still don't understand. Nobody says they are sorry, that they were used by garry Kasparov. It would be good if they sdaid so, but nobody thinks or says that they are guilty. 

I am very upset at this moment. They just don't get it!

I am sure that next time, these federations will think twiice before doing this again. But, in chess, does it happen that after losing, you forget to shake hands?! They lost in court, and they could at least admit that and say they respect the court. 

But accepting the result does not mean agreeing with it.

At the end of the day, I feel sorry for those people who were unable to be arbiters here, because of the actiosn of their federations. But I want to ask them: why didn't they raise these questuon with their federations?  Why not ask "Why are we suing FIDE?". This is my question to them. This is the right way to deal with these matters. I repeat: I feel sorry for the arbietrs. .

- But don't you worry that after such unpopular actions, many people in chess regard you as a dictator, who forces his own opiniuons through and uses whatever methods he thinks appropriate? 

- First, I am President of the Turkish Federation. I represent my federation, I sign letters in its name. We have top-class lawyers, judges, businessmen. The Board of the TCF chooses the GA and consists 890% of chess clubs. They vote, we follow the democratic path. So the Turkish Federation cannot call me a dictator! 

You hear that I am a dictator? But what do you think I get out of this? I have never been paid for my work. Only once was I paid, in Tirana, when I was a member of the Appeals Committee, at the Koneru-Hou Yifan match. That was like being put in prison with a stipend. It was a very active time for the federation and I was working flat out on the Olympiad. 

I will try to avoid such posts in future. What benefit did I get? A political cereer?? ! When I attack anyone or take measures against anyone in the Federation, I know I am losing a potential supporter. I know that none of these seven federations will back me in years to come. They will not forget what I did, that's the reality. I am not Don Quixote. 

Some say I am a dictator, because I punished some players in Turkey.

- But would you agree that the Atalik business has become a very loud issue? What has he done to you, to make you chase him and try to disqualify him totally? 

- Ok, let us talk about this...I am President of the TCF, which includes 235, 000 players. Our disciplinary panel baned Atalik for 3 months, because he did not ask permission or even inform us, when he planned to play abroad. 

- But why should a chessplayer need his federation's permission?

- We are in charge of him. This rule applies not only to chessplayers, but in other forms of sport in Turkey. That is how the whole of professional sport is run. If you want help from the federation, you must follow its rules. 

- OK. But how did things get as far as banning him?

- He then insulted the leadership and he insulted the federation, accusing us of being corrupt. For this, he was banned for 6 months. 

Then he again went abroad without permission, for which he got a 15-month ban. But normally, a player who goes abroad to play, without permission, would not get a 15-month ban. But this was a deliberate and repeated act of defiance - and our sports system says that, in such a case, the punishment is doubled or trebled. 

- Have any other turkish players been in a similar situation?

- No. This was the first time. Further, I would tell you that not one player in Turkish history, including Atalik, has ever requested permission and been refused! Even his wife asked persmission...
They played in the Vienna Open, just before the Olympiad, She asked permission, he did not. Ok, at that moment, he could not have done, because his membership of the federation had been terminated. But I am speaking of the reality. .


I don't know about other countries, but in Turkey, chess is 100% sport, so in our work, we follow the principled of sports organisations in general . Atalik decided to fight his case in the supreme sports court, as allowed in the constitution. I don't know any of the people in the court, I have not even spoken to any of them or visited their offices. But...despite all this, they upheld the TCF decision! Atalik can still challenge the rule requiring sportsmen to obtain permission to play abroad, but I don't think he will win that either. 

Turkey is a civilised democratic country, and you can challenge any law in court. He has not done so! Therefore, I ask you: what should we do? If a player abuses his position, shows total and open disrespect to the leadership and federation, insults his teammates, friends and colleagues? How can one insult 16 and 18-years old girls, accusing them of cheating to obtain titles, together with the trainer of the women's team? He has insulted organisers not only in Turkey, but also abroad.  .

He has insulted everyone in turn! In the end, we could just close our eyes and give him permission. We have never refused him permission. He talks about human rights, and I am sad, because I am also a human. So are my other players, and trainers such as Adrian Mikhalcisin - he is also a human. So is estratos Grivas, Geogry Makropoulos, Kirsan Illumzhinov...we are all humans There is no democracy, where one is allowed to attack everybody in turn. That is impossible. If you are a doctor and kill one of your patients, you will get three months. If you do it again, you'll get six months, and so on. To my mind, Atalik is a man who has killed professional ethics. .

Someone can phone me and say what he likes. I will never do anything. This is a subjective judgement of the situation, not an objective one. We at the TCF follow general accepted principles and laws. I have to follow Turkish rules.

Continuation to follow.