Silvio Danailov: "Reaching New Frontiers"

Время публикации: 02.11.2011 23:54 | Последнее обновление: 05.11.2011 23:35

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E.SUROV: This is Chess-News. My name is Evgeny Surov and honestly a long-waited guest, president of the European Chess Union, Silvio Danailov is now on the line. Greetings, Silvio! 

S.DANAILOV: Hello, good afternoon!

E.SUROV: You became the president a year ago. I’ll ask you about what has been done during this year and what is the role of the ECU in the world chess nowadays, especially how important it is for chess players. I will definitely return to these questions but above all I would like to know forthcoming. Recently FIDE Congress took place in Krakow and as I know you attended it. We don’t really know what was discussed there; actually, we hardly know anything about it. So an immediate question crosses my mind: in your opinion what is the reason of not talking about it officially? That’s an important event while the public doesn’t know anything about it.

S.DANAILOV: it’s really hard for me to speak for FIDE, because that’s their job to give an answer on what has happened there and what were they talking about at the Congress. I feel uncomfortable to speak for them. They do have a website, so PR should be working and keep informed press and media. We have that and we did that, we’re preparing a newsletter which gives information about our activities every week. So, I don’t really know why they hadn’t informed anybody about the Congress. 

E.SUROV: But do you support transparency?

S.DANAILOV: Absolutely. The first thing that I did when I became the president I said that we would have a PR service with the PR director, so we appointed Mr. Khristov to be the PR director. Every week we’re sending newsletters – we’ve already sent around forty-eight newsletters – for informing about what is going on in Europe.

E.SUROV: As I understood, one of the key issues of the Congress was about costs of chess players, organizers, federation – that’s what we’ve been writing about before the Congress took place. Could you tell us what was approved or disapproved during the Congress?

S.DANAILOV: A month ago when all that decisions came out… Well, this is the procedure there: committees have to submit their suggestions in written form and only after that the Congress has to approve them. When the decisions were submitted for further consideration a lot of European federations, including Spanish and Dutch federations, considered in official letters – not only letters but in calls as well – that shouldn’t be done for it could bring chaos into chess world. I also wrote an official letter in my name and in the name of the European Federation, in which I said that it’s needed for the arrangements to be seriously thought over before being suggested or approved at the Congress. And happened the thing I was expecting: FIDE committees themselves hadn’t offered anything from the things suggested before. So, as long as the committees didn’t propose those items, the Congress didn’t consider them. 

E.SUROV: Oh, that is they simply didn’t put it on the agenda?

S.DANAILOV: They didn’t put it on the agenda because the committees themselves understood that’d be too early, they had to consider everything carefully and unhurriedly.

E.SUROV: OK then, what issues were discussed?

S.DANAILOV: I can’t say there was anything new. For instance, financial matters: FIDE explained that it has officially spent 900 thousand Euros on the trial with five federations.

They’ve spent 900 thousand Euro for the lawyer; and then they continued explaining that there will be another trial: federations of England and Georgia are going to proceedings because FIDE President nominated five vice-presidents and according to the FIDE regulations he was allowed to nominate only two candidates. That was one of the questions: why the expenses are so big – more than million? That money comes from all federations, while it’s spent on lawyers and other things.

E.SUROV: Did I get it correctly – federations of England and Georgia are going to have proceedings with FIDE?

S.DANAILOV: Yes, you’re right.

E.SUROV: Is that because Kirsan Ilyumzhinov nominated five instead of two vice-presidents?

S.DANAILOV: That’s it. […]

E.SUROV: I’ve learned from my sources that Kasparov’s name was repeatedly heard in connection with embezzlement.

S.DANAILOV: Really? What do you mean?

E.SUROV: Supposedly he is blamed for the fact that FIDE has to spend extra money. Unfortunately I can’t be more specific as far as I simply wasn’t there. Actually, I supposed you to tell more about that. 

S.DANAILOV: They think…Well, there are five federations: French, American, Swiss, English and German – FIDE spent 900 thousand Euros on the first trial with them. Now the second trial – it’s against Georgia and England – takes place and again there will be big expenses. FIDE has a supposition as if Kasparov supports these federations and sponsors their legal expanses.

E.SUROV: How did the trials with five federations end?

S.DANAILOV: As I know – I don’t know details – none of them win anything. That means FIDE proved that the president's nomination was correct, but juristically the five federations won. […]

The fact is that on a simple question of Hamers, Dutch federation’s delegate: “We would like to know what were 900 thousand Euro spent on item after item” – there was no answer. That’s really a huge sum of money and FIDE is not that rich federation for spending 900 thousand Euro on lawyers. And there will be another trial which also will be expensive. As I understand they have financial problems.

E.SUROV: And what is the financial situation in ECU? Did it get better or worse during the year of your presidency?

S.DANAILOV: It’s hard to change a lot only in one year. Of course I’m trying, but…At least it’s not worse. […]

Everything goes slowly and the results will be seen at the end of my presidency. […]

E.SUROV: In an open letter published in March the president of the Turkish Chess Federation Mr. Ali Nihat Yazici – as I understand you have uneasy relationships – said that you have debtors. Some federations owe you money, but you don’t take it from them and at the same time you haven’t found a single sponsor for the six months of your work – that’s what he has written. Do you agree with him?

S.DANAILOV: Yes, we have debtors, but FIDE also has a lot of debtors. There always are debtors and that’s a normal process. The debtors pay off their debts little by little and that’s normal too. If they don’t pay off then they are not allowed to vote. So, as usual most of the debtors pay off their debts before the General Assembly. That’s why I don’t see a problem here. Of course, the federation has financial difficulties, but they are overstepped sooner or later. That’s a normal process as in any other business. People have debts in any kind of businesses. As regards to sponsors, that’s true that I haven’t found them yet, but European Union was established in 1985, it has 26-year history and during this period nobody has found any private sponsor. I'm sorry but I need time. You start to play and firstly you become IM and only then you become GM. I can’t come and find thousand sponsors immediately; this is a job that needs time. One can evaluate my work at the end of my presidential term, but not from the first six months.      

E.SUROV: By the way, what is your presidential term?

S.DANAILOV: Till the next Olympiad-2014.

E.SUROV: Aha, four years.

S.DANAILOV: Yes, four years.

E.SUROV: What is the main task of ECU? How would you define it?

S.DANAILOV: To begin with, Europe is the most active continent and the largest number of competitions takes place here. […] So what is the goal? I’ve always had one goal – make chess a real professional sport and try to bring it on another level – not only as a sport or game, but on the level of social life. To promote it not only as sport, but as culture and method for upbringing children; and of course to create a commercial product that can be sold. Nobody has done that as yet. […]

E.SUROV: Regarding to this professional commercial level. As I remember, you sold rights for broadcasting the match Topalov – Anand in 2010. That is, not a single webpage could broadcast it without buying the right, am I right?

S.DANAILOV: Yes, you are.

E.SUROV: You think… Well, I understand that from the management point of view – that’s probably right, but still chess now is kind of a niche that… I just can’t imagine if there are a lot of editions, especially Internet-editions that can afford that. Maybe that’s quite a contrary – you are not promoting chess but making it in a situation when it’s less showed?

S.DANAILOV: Why? Nothing's that complicated. I have sponsors, I have a website. My sponsors want people to visit exactly their website in order not to lose advertisers. That’s normal: I found money, I found sponsors, and we’ve organized everything and then – why we should be serving out our labor for free? I don’t understand why people think chess has to be for free. I have to work, sponsors have to work, a big federation has to work and organize everything; and then our product is not just taken – if it’s just taken I can understand that – but these people are selling it to their audience. I think that is called theft in any language. I’m trying to explain that but I don’t really understand why people don’t get it. It’s really easy, it works as in any other business. Why doesn’t TV broadcast for example football for free? For the same reasons. People have to understand: if you want to watch a good performance, as it was the match Anand – Topalov – and that was a very good chess performance – you have to pay for it. It costs a lot of money to organize it and to make everything work out. The prize fund was two million Euros.

E.SUROV: Returning to the story of General Assembly of ECU that took place in March, as I remember there was an item about the author’s rights on the moves. Do you support instituting such a rule?

S.DANAILOV: Absolutely. We have a commission that worked out the rules and now we will suggest this idea to General assembly in Greece, I think it will be approved. […]

E.SUROV: But how it is supposed to work? For instance, there is some European chess tournament, let’s say European Club Cup, so, the website which won’t pay for broadcasting the games wouldn’t be allowed to spread moves that were played in the games of this competition – did I get it in a right way?

S.DANAILOV: In general that’s the idea, but I think it’s early to talk about that. The idea is that you have to ask us for the permission at the minimum. If you don’t get that permission you can’t broadcast the games. You shouldn’t obviously pay. You can put our advertisement; you know there are different kinds of barters. The main principle is: you can’t steal. That is true for any of the websites. You have to ask: “Can I?”. […]

E.SUROV: But it’s about author’s right of the organizers not the chess players? You know, Evgeny Sveshnikov stands for the chess players to have author’s right on their games for many years.

S.DANAILOV: That’s completely different. Evgeny Sveshnikov is right, but I’m talking only about the organizers. That’s because organizer invites chess players, creates conditions for the players to have a good prize fund, hotel, a large playing hall and so forth. […]

E.SUROV: Recently we often – I would even say very often – see you together with Kasparov. That’s about your new undertaking “Chess in schools”, could you tell us more about it? Are you in close collaboration with Kasparov?

S.DANAILOV:  When I was elected… Of course I had election program and one of the main points there was “Chess in schools”. I personally never had chess at school; I was mostly into professional chess. I’ve been a manager, promoter, organizer, I created Grand Slam and so on, everybody knows that. But as for “Chess in schools” I’ve been an amateur. I knew that Kasparov had a fund in America and that it successfully worked there; and chess nowadays is in almost in every school in US. Michael Khodarkovsky is working there. They have a great experience. I contacted them and offered cooperation for creating the same project in Europe. That’s because I have some contacts in European Parliament in Brussels. He agreed, we started to work and “Kasparov Chess Foundation” was opened in Europe. He found a Belgian businessman, one of the best managers in Belgium Jan Callewaert who agreed to be the head of ECU in “Chess in schools”. Polgar and Malcolm Payine have also joined it – serious people who love chess and who want to work. At the same time sponsors found 100 thousand Euros for everything and this committee created a very good program which we successfully presented a month ago in Brussels in front of 150 European deputies. So, I’m very-very glad because I think that we‘ve done a great job during the year. Now there will be a written declaration of the deputies on official adoption of chess in 27 EU member countries. The European Parliament with 780 deputies has to vote for this program next year. We need 51% for approving it which means we need approximately 390 deputies to vote positively. And then chess will officially become… I mean European Parliament will make a recommendation for all 27 EU member countries to adopt chess in schools as an official (two hours per week) subject for children under the age 6-9 or 6-12.

E.SUROV: As a compulsory subject?

S.DANAILOV: No, that’s a subtle point. Of course hat would be perfect, but for the moment that’s unknown. That can be an elective subject which is strongly recommended. The European Union will allocate money on this as long as it has a fund for culture and education. If everything will work out we will reach new frontiers, chess will be on a completely different level – a social – level. […]

E.SUROV: Do they have chess as a subject in Bulgaria?

S.DANAILOV: No, not yet. They have it in a lot of schools but that’s not centralized. Armenia is the only country in Europe that has already done it. I’ve been to Erevan recently, everything’s great there; they have a wonderful chess board! Chess has been adopted as a compulsory subject in all schools. Everything works great there. They’ve done a lot; everything worked out there thanks to the President of the country Serj Sargsyan, Grandmaster Smbat Lputian and the whole Armenian federation. […]

E.SUROV: Could you tell us what’s the difference between your “Chess in schools” and the program of FIDE “Chess in schools”? After all, they’re promoting almost the same.

S.DANAILOV: I don’t know what kind of program they have.

E.SUROV: So, one can say you compete in that?

S.DANAILOV: No, why? Our work is centralized and I don’t know how they work. That’s because I haven’t seen their program “Chess in schools”. As I know they had some sort of plan or experiment to adopt chess in schools for one year and only in three countries: Slovenia, Slovakia and Sweden; but there’s nothing else I can say simply because I wasn’t interested in that. Honestly I don’t know, you know Europe is 54 federations while FIDE consists of 160. That has to be much harder for them.

E.SUROV: Your relations with FIDE can’t be called perfect, right?

S.DANAILOV: What do you mean by this “can’t be called perfect”? I think we have normal, working relations. Of course our opinions can differ. I’m saying what I think and if they’re good in something I congratulate them, but if they’re not that good in something then I criticize them. They do the same. I think everything’s fine and I don’t really see a problem.

E.SUROV: Returning to court cases, as we know the president of the Turkish federation filed an appeal against your organization. How would you comment that? What are your forecasts? When will those trial proceedings take place if they will take place at all?

S.DANAILOV: We’ve been sued… That’s interesting: FIDE was sued because it flaunted regulations: they nominated five vice-presidents instead of allowed two; and we’ve been sued because we did everything according to the rules of law. So, we’ve been sued simply because the person is not satisfied with our decision, well, that’s his right. I’m absolutely confident that we will win this court case.

E.SUROV: What decision do you mean?

S.DANAILOV: I mean the decision according which European Children Championship 2013 will be held in Montenegro and another one - the Club Championship will take place in Greece. That’s because according to the documents they had the best proposals and that’s why everybody voted for them – 9 against 0. So, we observe the laws. A few days ago we’ve won another court case against Croatian Chess Federation which charged us with the “wrong” decision of giving European Club Cup 2012 to Israel, Eilat. We won this court case and we will also win the court case against Turkey, I’m absolutely confident about that. […]

E.SUROV: Ali Nihat Yazici says that’s not just disagreement and it comes from your rivalry on the elections of the president of ECU. Do you agree with that?  Is there a grain of truth in his words?

S.DANAILOV: From my perspective – absolutely not. When the elections were over there was signed a contract with Turkish Chess Federation and according to it Turkey had to host European Individual Women’s Chess Championship. They officially refused it in December – three months before it had to start. I could sue them but I didn’t do that, simply because I don’t want to lose my time and energy on that. As you know, we’ve organized a brilliant championship in Tbilisi thanks to my Georgian friends and our close friend Mair Mamedov who sponsored everything. We’ve been lucky because there were anniversaries of Chiburdanidze and Gaprindashvili so we could celebrate that. So, I don’t have anything personal towards Mr. Yazici. The elections are gone – I simply forgot.

E.SUROV: But if there’s nothing personal why that – I won’t call it a war – confrontation continues?

S.DANAILOV: We shook our hands a long time ago. We talk often – on the phone. There aren’t problems between us. That’s normal, that’s like political parties or the government and the opposition. We won the elections but we have opposition; and there are a lot of people in opposition who think we’re wrong in lots of things. […]

I still hope that they'll organize European Individual Women's Championship in Turkey next year. We agreed them to receive…

E.SUROV: To receive a right?

S.DANAILOV: They had that right, we only confirmed it. Yazici said they would make a record prize fund of 150 thousand Euros. No problem, I’m very happy and I said “Go-ahead!”. We haven’t signed contract yet, but I hope everything will be fine and the championship will take place in Turkey.

E.SUROV: Sure you are happy, 20% or how much is that will be remitted to ECU, am I right?

S.DANAILOV: I’d say that’s not the most important thing. The most important is that for the players… We made a record prize fund at this championship this year; and if everything will work out we can do even more next year. So, we’re working for chess.

E.SUROV: Are you still Topalov’s manager?


E.SUROV: You probably know that lot of people support Veselin, Russia with its Russian speaking chess lovers is not an exception; so of course they’re asking during the past year or a year and a half: what has happened to Veselin? Why is he playing so rarely? And why his results in those rare moments when he plays aren’t, frankly speaking, outstanding?  

S.DANAILOV: It has a simple explanation. He was greatly disappointed with his lost match to Anand because there were only two games – forth and eighth – in which Anand played really well, the rest of the match he spent on defence. So, Veselin thought that he missed a very good chance, especially in the 10th and 11th games in which he had an immense advantage, although he was unable to use it in full. He had to draw the last game but he decided to take chances and he lost. That was a hard blow to him as long as he really considered himself stronger than Anand and he thought he’d win the match. Of course in his own county in front of his spectators… That was a real blow for him. So, he lost interest. You know that kind of matches take a lot of energy as well as moral and physical strength. He lost interest and motivation for playing for several months. Then he married and of course when you get married you want to give a treat your wife and yourself, you want to have fun…

E.SUROV: So, Mr. Danailov our conversation turned out to be mostly about ECU and some political issues. Maybe you’d like to comment the events that happened five years ago, you probably know that recently Mr. Kramnik made some commentaries, including on our website, so if you would like to use an opportunity and comment them… or maybe you’d like to do that some other time and separately, I’m always ready to give you that opportunity… Well, simply as you wish.

S.DANAILOV: No, we’re not interested in that. I think everything has been said in due time. We don’t have any interest in that; we have a lot of other things to do. We’re not interested in answering or talking to Mr. Kramnik. He’s free to do whatever he wants, he doesn’t exist for us after Elista. […]

E.SUROV: I see, thank you very much. Usually players are asked about their future plans and tournaments, so, what are the nearest big plans of your organization? Should we be expecting any surprises?

S.DANAILOV: Now there will be held European Club Cup and then the usual schedule again. We’re trying to expand it, to enlarge the prize funds; we’re trying to make chess more popular and we’d also try to make all European tournaments to have Sofia Rules. Adopting the rights on the games and compulsory dress-code, in order the players not to come to the game as if to the ring, is also in our plans.

E.SUROV: Do you mean all European tournaments?

S.DANAILOV: Yes, because people should understand that this is a professional sport and if you want money then you have to respect the sponsors and organizers and appear in public presentably, attend press-conferences, deal with journalists and so forth. This is the most important. We also have other plans, there are a lot of plans, however, I don’t understand why people think that I’m a magician and I’ll do everything in a year. That needs a lot of time and it gives results but not at once. […]

I’ve already suggested all the things I’ve just talked about to the General Assembly, which has already worked on them, so there won’t be any problems.  

E.SUROV: When will it take place?

S.DANAILOV: November 5th.

E.SUROV: During the European Championship!

S.DANAILOV: European championships will be more professional than before, but that will be true for the next year.

E.SUROV: So, you think that all of your plans will be approved, don’t you? You sound confident.

S.DANAILOV: You can’t ever be absolutely sure, but on the last Assembly we agreed that in general they (plans) are right. They simply decided the committee to offer some concrete suggestions. The committee has already made these suggestions and of course I’m waiting to get the “go-ahead” from the General Assembly.

E.SUROV: Thank you very much! This was Silvio Danailov.

Full version in Russian


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