Arkadij Naiditsch: “Why the German A-team will not participate in the Olympiad”

Due to financial problems and organizational failure by the German Chess Federation, the four German top players won’t play at the upcoming Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk. This is what Arkadij Naiditsch tries to make clear in an angry open letter which he sent to ChessVibes. The German top grandmaster doesn’t mince words.

Open letter by GM Arkadij Naiditsch
Why the German A-team will not participate in the 2010 Olympiad

Cc: Prof. Dr. Von Weizsäcker

This letter is not addressed to anybody directly. As a player of the German National team I would like to make some things clear about my hard working Federation and its President, Prof. Dr. Von Weizsäcker.
Let’s start with the fact that nobody from the German A-team is going to participate in the Chess Olympiad this year. These players are Georg Meier, Jan Gustafsson, Daniel Fridman and me, Arkadij Naiditsch. Why? The easy answer is that the biggest chess federation in Europe, about 100,000 active members, couldn’t manage to find money to pay the players.

So, the next question is “how could this happen”? This question is easy to answer as well: nobody in the federation has been doing anything for at least five years. The German Chess Federation has no sponsors at the moment, so the money is only coming from their members. Generally, even this should be enough to have a great and lazy life, but the main problem is the meetings attended by huge amounts of hungry officials that are being held almost monthly in expensive hotels.

Let me now become a bit more direct, because I would like to single out a few people with whom I have had to deal with personally.

1) Mr. U. Bönsch – National Coach
The first Olympiad that I played in was in Turin, 2006. I played on the first board for the German team and Mr. Bönsch was already an experienced and well-respected trainer. But the strange thing was, all he ever did was distribute the line-up for the next match and make a great black tea that we drank together every evening. Not once did he make the slightest effort to help anybody from the team chess wise.

So, year after year, the chess help from Mr. Bönsch remained the same: nothing but tea. In my opinion, our national trainer could be a hero in any teahouse!

2) Mr. Klaus Deventer – responsible for finding and distributing money for the national team. In German: Leistungssportreferent.
With regard to finding money there isn’t much to say. I think Mr. Deventer in his crushing career in the Chess Federation never even gave it a try.

In distributing money for the national team he has clear methods and opinions. That is, the national team should play for free!! By the way, to be clearer, Mr. Deventer is the individual who is responsible for fighting for us to get money. So, from a 110,000 Euro budget he manages for “top chess” in Germany, less than a quarter is left for the Olympiad for male and female teams combined.

Strangely, Mr. Deventer is a very important man in the federation. Personally, I could never understand what he is actually doing. And I think after many years of deep thinking, I finally got a little clue about his function; it is to try to stop anybody from being a professional chess player in Germany. Mr. Deventer really hates this. Rarely it is possible to meet somebody as unpleasant as Mr. Deventer.

3) Mr. Ralph Alt – Tournament Director
Mr. Alt is a famous public prosecutor in Germany. He is the organizer of many official tournaments in Germany, such as the National Individual Championship.

He only has one problem: he is always scheduling these championships to match his holidays. So, sometimes he gets lucky and there is nothing running at the same time. No such luck this year. He held the German National Championship at exactly the same dates as the European Individual Championships. A normal reaction would be, what the heck? Easy answer: Sorry, holidays are holidays. Can’t move them! So nobody participated in it from the A-team and the young German player Niclas Huschenbeth managed to win the title. Congrats to him as he showed great fighting spirit in the tournament.

My last German Championship was in 2007. In that year Mr. Alt showed absolute class. He found a city in Germany that has no train or bus (or anything else) connection. So taxi was the only way to reach it. Respect for Mr. Alt!! This is really not so easy to do. Give it a try.

4) Mr. Jörg Schulz – fifteen different positions!!
Personally, I didn’t have much to do with Mr. Schulz as he has always been responsible for the German Youth Chess Federation. (Deutsche Schach Jugend). Slowly, over the years he took over about fifteen different positions within the federation and is almost completely in charge of the whole money flow now. Bravo to Mr. Schulz!

For example, he created a chess company that is paying the players for participating in the European Team Championships as well as Olympiads. The company is making no money but paying us. Wow, really great job by Mr. Schulz.

That’s all from the main German Federation Crushers! There might be few more that I don’t know, but they are probably in hiding.

About Mr. Prof. Dr. Robert von Weizsäcker I will write a bit down below. First you will have to read his great letter that he wrote to the four of us (German A-team). For other people in the Federation, there are so many that deserve a few choice words, but I think it wouldn’t be fair to the few people who are trying to do something for German chess. Anyway, my many thanks to these few.

Dear readers, I hope you now have a bit of an overview of what is going on in my Federation.

This year, the A-team has said that we will not play for the funny money they are offering and asked for conditions. It drove almost all the guys in the Federation completely crazy! How is it possible that we will not play?? Do we have to cancel now a few dinners? No way we gonna do that!!”

Mr. Deventer immediately wrote a very long and boring letter, where he is comparing us with soccer players and asking us to play almost for free because the German National Soccer team is also not getting their normal salary for going to Africa. Funny, no? I guess then we have to compare Mr. Deventer to a Russian oligarch and ask him to support us from his own budget?!

Afterwards, we half-heartedly attempted to find sponsors ourselves, which didn’t work out. So the result was, of course, that the German A-team is not going to play the 2010 Chess Olympiad.

This is when Prof. Dr. Von Weizsäcker is coming into the game (he has been the German Chess President for the last two years).

So far, according to the words of Jan Gustafsson (all the contact was going through him) our President supported us, the players.

But on June 29th we received a letter from Prof. Dr. Robert von Weizsäcker that completely shocked me. Up to that point my opinion of our President was quite positive; he seemed to be a man with an understanding of chess players.

Here is the letter [translated into English by CV - German version in PDF here]:

Concerning: Chess Olympiad Khanty-Mansiysk

Dear members of the men’s national team, dear chess friends,

In answer to my letter of May 19th, 2010 Mr Gustafsson answered by email on June 10th, 2010 that, on the given conditions you are not willing to play in Khanty-Mansiysk. Besides, he has started an initiative to find a sponsor as soon as possible, something that was clearly supported by me. To my knowledge this initiative hasn’t had the desired effect.

If no last-minute sponsor will contact Mr Gustafsson soon, this means the German Chess Federation won’t be able to send you to the Chess Olympiad. I wouldn’t only regret this terribly, but I’d be personally disappointed as well.

I can only partly understand that you keep on insisting on demands that, despite great efforts, couldn’t be fulfilled by either the German Chess Federation or the company.

Therefore I would personally like to ask you to reconsider your position and accept the same terms as two years ago. In case you’re still prepared to accept this, please declare this to the team captain not later than July 2nd 2010. After that he will be forced to nominate other players. I would have liked to push this deadline up front, if there wasn’t a deadline set by FIDE to enter the team.

At this weekend’s meeting of the Top Sport Commission it was decided that your status as selected players would become inactive for the time being, if you’re not prepared to play the upcoming Olympiad under the current conditions.

This would imply that any course of action to support you as top players would become impossible. Furthermore, for the year 2011 the team captain was requested to check whether the criteria for future support, i.e. the willingness of all players to cooperate with the federation, are still being met. I fully support this decision because in my opinion we cannot simply move on.

Support by the German Chess Federation, which partly involves a longer period of time, is naturally associated with the expectation to engage in an appropriate manner and in a responsible way for German chess.

On the other hand the German Chess Federation doesn’t want to close all doors. In any case it would be useful to have a meeting after the Olympiad, to which our Top Sport Coordinator will invite you, to discuss the situation. Still I hope that all these considerations won’t be necessary. The decision is yours.

Best regards,
Yours truly,

Robert von Weizsäcker.

Cool, no? Let me clarify a few things:

Prof. Dr. Von Weizsäcker found 0 Euros in two years of being the President of the German Chess Federation. (Maybe he simply has no time, being a Professor at a few universities?) The huge support he is threatening to cancel is this: for myself as German number one (my current ELO rating is 2684), the German Federation covers about half of my expenses for playing in exactly one tournament, the European Championship. That amounts to about 800 Euros a year, nothing more.
Now, of course, their direct threat to cancel all that help is making me sleep badly and giving me nightmares. Next time, maybe if I cover the coffee bill I hope Prof. Dr. Von Weizsäcker and my hard working Chess Federation will not cancel the important support for me?! We will see in the future if they have any mercy.

As we know, Prof. Dr. Von Weizsäcker is running his campaign for the ECU Presidency, and many European countries are giving their support to him. Now, the logical conclusion would be since he could do absolutely nothing for chess in his own country in two years, or again had no time for it, which, of course, led to the same result, can he do something for Europe? I would say probably not. So here comes the idea. Maybe we could open a charity foundation for the German Chess Federation and for Prof. Dr. Von Weizsäcker? Many people are sending small amounts for “saving the forest” so maybe it could work with my dear Federation and Prof. Dr. Von Weizsäcker, too? It is hard to find anybody coming across as more poor and helpless than the German Federation.

Hope you enjoyed reading my statement. And please don’t get the idea that I have exaggerated. I really did my best to stay as close to the facts as possible.

Grandmaster Arkadij Naiditsch

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