Chess fed­er­a­tion fum­ing over treat­ment of Cana­dian grand­mas­ter

Packet & Times (Orillia) - - SPORTS - SID­HARTHA BAN­ER­JEE Ko­va­lyov

MON­TREAL — Canada’s chess fed­er­a­tion says it has filed a for­mal com­plaint over the treat­ment of a Cana­dian grand­mas­ter at a sig­na­ture event just min­utes be­fore he was to play one of the big­gest matches of his ca­reer.

An­ton Ko­va­lyov, 25, said in a Face­book post he pulled out of the World Cup in Ge­or­gia on the week­end be­cause an or­ga­nizer com­plained to him about his shorts and called him a Gypsy.

The Chess Fed­er­a­tion of Canada has protested Ko­va­lyov’s treat­ment to FIDE — the World Chess Or­ga­ni­za­tion — as well as to the or­ga­niz­ers of the $1.6-mil­lion event.

Ko­va­lyov said an or­ga­nizer be­rated him about his shorts just min­utes be­fore his thir­dround match.

The Ukraini­an­born Mon­trealer, cur­rently a univer­sity stu­dent in Texas, had worn the shorts in pre­vi­ous rounds with­out in­ci­dent.

“The is­sue were not the shorts but how I was treated,” he wrote.

He went on to ex­plain that or­ga­nizer Zurab Az­maiparashvili was hos­tile and ag­gres­sive and used the “Gypsy” slur as an in­sult. The grand­mas­ter said he was sub­jected to bul­ly­ing and racial taunts and de­cided to leave in­stead of do­ing some­thing stupid.

He for­e­ited his prize money in the process and, in a later Face­book post, said his fam­ily was out $3,000 be­cause of his de­ci­sion.

The Chess Fed­er­a­tion of Canada rep­re­sen­ta­tive said it is seek­ing a diplo­matic so­lu­tion, given the Olympiad — a team chess cham­pi­onship — will be put on next year by the same or­ga­niz­ers.

“Our player has def­i­nitely been wronged and our fed­er­a­tion is very an­gry about it,” Hal Bond, a mem­ber of the group’s ex­ec­u­tive, said in an in­ter­view. “I’m hop­ing that an apol­ogy will be forth­com­ing from the or­ga­niz­ers.”

Ko­va­lyov had a solid shot of mak­ing the next round, said Chess Fed­er­a­tion of Canada pres­i­dent Vlad Drkulec, adding Ko­va­lyov is ar­guably Canada’s best player right now.

“He’s prob­a­bly Canada’s best chance for a su­per grand­mas­ter,” Drkulec said in an in­ter­view, not­ing he knocked off a pre­vi­ous world cham­pion from In­dia in an ear­lier round.

Ko­va­lyov didn’t re­turn a mes­sage seek­ing com­ment, but did ad­dress the shorts is­sue in his post. He said he didn’t bring any pants with him to the tour­na­ment be­cause they no longer fit. If told or asked sooner, he would have gone to the mall to buy some.

“But in­stead I was treated like garbage,” he wrote. “I was too stressed out by the way I was treated and the threats of be­ing pun­ished by FIDE no mat­ter what I do, so I choose to leave be­fore I do any­thing stupid.”

While there is a dress code in chess, Bond said those rules aren’t spelled out.

“They want the play­ers to ap­pear cam­era-friendly and pho­to­genic and not dress in a man­ner that brings the game into dis­re­pute, or dress in a man­ner that does el­e­vate its sta­tus to where we’d like it to be seen,” Bond said. “But the code isn’t well writ­ten and some of the codes are vague.”

The out­come is a shame, Drkulec said, be­cause Ko­va­lyov’s run could have been a good-news story for chess, par­tic­u­larly in North Amer­ica.

“It’s a very frus­trat­ing sit­u­a­tion and in­stead of talk­ing about a Dis­ney-like sit­u­a­tion where some­one’s beat­ing the top play­ers, we’re talk­ing about shorts,” said Drkulec.

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