Suat Atalik's case: Open letter to FIDE and the chess community
The ACP Board recently received a letter from GM Suat Atalik, from Turkey, requesting a reaction concerning his recent case with the Turkish Chess Federation (“TCF”) and the Greek Chess Federation (“GCF”)
Mr. Atalik informed us that his national chess federation, the TCF, has inflicted him a 15-month ban from national and international events following his infringement of applicable Turkish regulations. Reportedly, the reason behind the ban was Mr. Atalik’s denial to ask for permission to play abroad and his refusal to sign an undertaking. The TCF’s decision was supported by the Turkish Judiciary.
Mr. Atalik also reported that, upon request of the TCF based solely on its internal ruling, the GCF contacted tournament organizers in Greece asking them to deny the participation of Mr. Atalik in their events.
ACP’s understanding of the case
It is the understanding of the ACP Board that this is a very sensitive case that demands the utmost attention by the whole chess community, especially FIDE, as it may become a dangerous precedent. We are already witnessing a vicious attempt at introducing a new rule, that aims at enabling an automatic ban of a player from all FIDE events based on the decision of his national chess federation (the proposal is included into the Agenda of the FIDE Congress in Istanbul).
Before delving into the case it is worth noting that Mr. Atalik has been a member of ACP since 2003 and his case perfectly reflects our motto: “Injustice done to one is a threat to all”. Mr. Atalik is in fact a chess professional and has contributed to the development of the game as a player, opening expert and commentator for many magazines and books. His love for the game has surpassed the 64 squares, and he married a colleague chess player, WGM Mrs. Atalik. Most obviously, Mr. Atalik is also a human being endowed with inalienable rights recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Among these, the right to work (Art. 23) and the right to a fair trial (Art. 10).
Apparently, Mr. Atalik’s ban was based on his non compliance with internal administrative procedure. However, in the ACP’s view, in the case under examination Mr. Atalik did not damage international chess in any concrete way, either by behaving improperly in a tournament, attacking other players or cheating, nor he has been caught in any doping test.
Under the eyes of the chess community, and in the absence of a specific ruling in this sense by FIDE, there is no reason for Mr. Atalik to be punished at the international level.
Also, it should be noted that the sanction applied by the TCF is as severe as the FIDE ruling against IM Marzolo, who was involved in an organized cheating affair that affected the whole international chess community. In the eyes of the professional chess community, the TCF’s decision appears way too harsh.
Be that as it may, within its jurisdiction (i.e. within Turkey) the decision is valid and enforceable and Mr. Atalik is bound to suffer its consequences if the TCF were not to soften its position or void its act in the immediate future.
However, there is no reason why the TCF ban should be valid outside of the Turkish borders. Outside the Turkish jurisdiction Mr. Atalik should be free to play wherever he wants, based on the assumption that no other federation or organizer can be forced to ban a player from their events based on a decision that bears no effects in their jurisdiction, unless the ruling is recognized by the relevant supranational entities and enforced within all affiliated chess federations.
The chess world has a supranational governing body named FIDE. Among other things, FIDE has provided for similar cases in its regulations (FIDE Handbook, Appendix F – see Appendix 1). The provisions therein are self-explanatory.
Also, FIDE, as all other sport federations that are members of the IOC, is subjected to the rulings of the Tribunal Arbitral du Sport (“TAS”). Recently the TAS ruled that a member of any chess federation is allowed to run for a seat in FIDE regardless of the authorization of his own federation. If a person that is boycotted by his own federation can be the subject of political rights at the international level, it appears obvious that this same person can also play chess outside of his national jurisdiction if boycotted by his federation, in the spirit of the Gens Una Sumus motto.
FIDE, national federations and the chess community at large should take into consideration the following:
- That the TCF has banned Mr. Atalik on internal administrative grounds. The decision is valid and enforceable within Turkey, although it appears excessive in the light of other rulings within the chess world (i.e. the Marzolo ruling);
- That the internal affairs in Turkey and the decisions by Turkish courts are not binding for other chess federations worldwide;
- By illegally extending the Turkish ban abroad (i.e. in Greece), in the absence of a fair trial, Mr. Atalik is being impaired to practice his profession, and is thus being deprived of an inalienable right;
- That the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Statutes and regulations of FIDE, as also a recent ruling by the TAS, clearly indicate that the actions perpetrated against Mr. Atalik are not justifiable;
- That there is a risk of establishing a dangerous precedent and that it is unacceptable that other federations should follow the same steps.
In the light of the above, is the ACP’s understanding that FIDE has the duty, the right and the power to approach the TCF and the GCF, and request them to review their positions against Mr. Atalik based on common sense, FIDE statutes and international law.
More specifically, the ACP hopes that the TCF will reconsider its ruling and soften its position against Mr. Atalik, also based on the important ruling by FIDE against Mr. Marzolo. In the same way, the ACP hopes that the GCF will cancel its decision against Mr. Atalik which appears to be in violation of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the FIDE Statutes.
Finally, the ACP requests FIDE to consider the following actions in the supreme interest of chess:
- Start conversations with Mr. Atalik, the TCF and the GCF with a view to reaching a bona fide agreement that is satisfactory to all parties involved;
- In case the negotiations above should not produce any acceptable solution, enforce its Statutes and regulations, and issue an announcement on this case as soon as technically feasible and preferably within 2 weeks, considering the current violation of Mr. Atalik’s personal right to exercise his profession;
- Clearly state that a decision issued by a national federation regarding one of its players can not bind under any circumstances other federations or organizers, unless officially supported by FIDE and after all due process of law, granting the right to a fair trial.
The ACP is actually confident that negotiations between FIDE, the TCF and the GCF will lead to a reappraising of the case and to finding an adequate solution for all parties involved.
Last but not least, ACP asks the chess community to openly express its opinion about this case, and expects all major chess sites to publish this open letter.
ACP Board. Paris, August 7 2012.
FIDE Handbook, Appendix F