Ekaterina Atalik: "We Don’t Expect Support from Anybody Other Than Our Lawyers"

Время публикации: 09.07.2012 07:53 | Последнее обновление: 09.07.2012 07:54

Е.SUROV: It’s 18:07 MSK Time, I’m Evgeny Surov and I’m talking to Ekaterina Atalik – a chess player, WGM and GM Suat Atalik’s wife, who is quite famous these days. However, the issues that put his case in the top stories of recent days is not funny at all, I would say they brought him wider fame than earlier. Katya, hello!

E.ATALIK: Good evening!

E.SUROV: Do you agree with what I have just said?

E.ATALIK: Yes, I completely agree with you, because Suat almost gave up playing chess several years ago. I thought a lot people forgot about him, but here you are - such an interest towards our family.

E.SUROV: Wait, but if he practically gave up playing why is he fighting for cancellation of Turkish and Greek Chess Federations’ decision and, in general, why does he need participation in any kind of tournaments?

E.ATALIK:  Let’s say he stopped playing actively and that was connected with the factors including TCF and all the things that happened to us. He mostly concentrated on his coaching career, but as any other chess player who dedicated his entire life to chess, of course, he wants to participate in the tournaments; he still practices a lot, even more than I do, every day. So, of course he wants to play at the tournaments.

E.SUROV: Ekaterina, you know, I have to ask you something. This is the first time you are on the air of our radio and, let’s agree, we haven’t heard much about you in chess reports for last few years; so, I think that not all of our followers know you well. Could you please briefly tell us a bit about yourself, like who are you, how did you come to chess..

E.ATALIK: First of all I was born in Kirov, Russia. My maiden name is Polovnikova, so earlier I was Ekaterina Polovnikova. I started playing chess when I was 5. I was very successful, I’ve been the Champion of Russia among women several times – if I’m not wrong I’m fivefold Champion. I was European Champion and I was also among the winners of the World championship. I got married with the Turkish GM Suat Atalik in 2005. I've changed my surname and started to play for Turkey

E.SUROV: I would add that you became the European Champion when you were already playing under Turkish flag. As I remember that was in 2006.

E.ATALIK: Yes, I won European Championship in 2006 and brought Turkish chess the biggest success in its entire history.  

E.SUROV: So, after that I guess we heard about you less and less. And now I even suspect that not everyone knows who is the chess player Ekaterina Atalik. What happened?

E.ATALIK: Suat and I signed a contract with the Turkish Chess Federation in 2005. Everything was going well. I won the European Championship in 2006, we were actively participating in the tournaments. But in 2007 we started to experience problems. First of all, TCF stopped the fulfillment of the contract terms. In 2008 Suat openly stated that the President of Turkish Chess Federation Ali Nihat Yazici misuses his official status for private profit. So he supported Ali Nihat’s direct rival at the elections, namely everything started after this.

E.SUROV: What did you mean under “misuse of an official status for the private profit?”

E.ATALIK: In 2007 Turkish Ministry of Youth and Sports organized Ali Nihat Yazici’s work checkup. He was accused of eight paragraphs. Honestly, I don’t remember all of them, but I can recall some. According to Turkish law, if the organizer gets some extra money during the tournament – for instance, money for some transfer or money for excursions (the organizers always get that kind of money) – these extra money should be returned by the organizers into the state treasury. Ali Nihat failed to return some money got during several large events. Another accusation, I remember that for sure, was connected to the credit cards. The following system works in Turkey: if you are buying things with your credit card you are getting bonuses - for example 2% from the price of your purchase. Ali Nihat Yazici was buying everything needed for the federation with his own credit cards. You just imagine what amount of money he was operating with! For instance, air tickets, chess equipment, and so on and so forth. He was using those bonuses for his private profit. Those are just some of the accusations he was charged with, but eventually this case was slowly and quietly suppressed. 

E.SUROV: So, would it be correct if I say that before those accusations and your husband’s decision to support Yazici’s challenger, you were on good terms with him?

E.ATALIK: Well, yes, our relationship wasn’t bad, it can even be called good.

E.SUROV: So, despite that you started to, if using modern slang, “come down on him”?

E.ATALIK:  I don’t know if that expression is appropriate – my husband, as a lot of chess players know it, is one of the most fair chess players in the world. He’s also fair generally, apart from chess; so when he sees any kind of injustice or theft, he just can’t let it flow. His impression on the person changes accordingly. He’s not afraid to show his position and opinion on the people, even if he knows that he is going to state his view against, for example, the whole corporation.

E.SUROV: So, after all that happened Mr. Yazici won the elections and, if I got it correctly, started to take vengeance on you, did he?

E.ATALIK: I think yes, you may say it so, because just before the elections TCF broke the contract with Suat unilaterally, which was illegal for it was signed for ten years and at that time it worked for only three years. Suat sued the federation and won the court literally several weeks ago, maybe a month and a half ago. Suat received a compensation for TCF’s illegal deeds.

E.SUROV: The federation paid it to him, right?

E.ATALIK: Yes, you’re right.

E.SUROV: Maybe, that was… Well, we’ll gradually come up to that 15-months disqualification, which is valid now.

E.ATALIK: Yes, a lot of things happened before that disqualification – that is the period from 2008 to 2012. First of all, immediately after the elections, when Ali Nihat Yazici again adverted to power, Suat and I stopped receiving invitations to any kind of official tournaments. We were disqualified from the Turkish national teams, which made them weaker, because Suat and I always were the strongest players of the country. For example, when the first Women’s Grand Prix started in 2009, the TCF violated FIDE’s rule and included Betul Yildiz as a nominee from Turkey. Although, the rules regulate that the nominee should be from Istanbul – I live in Istanbul and I had to play there. Secondly, if there’s no nominee who lives in the assigned city, you can invite the player with a defined rating. As I know ELO should be no less than 2350. Yildiz’s rating at that time wasn’t even 2300.

E.SUROV: And she is playing in the current series as well…

E.ATALIK:  Yes, she is. You can check it, I think, Suat and I aren’t playing neither in the individual competitions, nor for the Turkish team from 2008, which means we can’t participate in the European championships. I missed a lot of important tournaments including Grand Prix, Women’s World Championship, Women’s World Team Championship. So did Suat.

E.SUROV: Ekaterina, did you try to sue the federation for that, I mean the situation with the Grand Prix.

E.ATALIK: That’s a good question, because Suat had his personal case against TCF and I also had my own trial. I mean that I also sued TCF. I broke the contract with them after I wasn’t included in the Grand Prix Series and after I wasn’t sent to the European Championship. My trial is almost done, moreover, according to the results of all three assessments, if everything goes well, I will win it, because all three assessments recognized my rightfulness.

E.SUROV: Rightfulness in what?

E.ATALIK: There were several points, one of them was my non-inclusion in the Grand Prix Series and the Individual European Championship. Another item was TCF’s failure to fulfill the obligations stated by the contract. The court recognized my rightfulness in all of those cases upon the results of three assessments.

E.SUROV: But still – those are assessments, not the court decisions. 

E.ATALIK: That is true, the court decision differs, but I said, if everything goes well, the court will take into consideration results of the assessments. There were three of them. For instance, there were only two assessments in Suats case, but in my case TCF insisted to hold the third one. Thank God, three assessments is a maximum in Turkish judicial system. So, now we are just waiting for the court decision.
[…] Suat’s permanent disqualifications started in 2008. Firstly, TCF got an idea that every Turkish player had to ask it for permission if he/she was planning to play abroad. So, we have to write this kind of notification to TCF before going abroad: “I, [name surname], want to go to some tournament which is held [place]”. The TCF has to response, for instance: “Good, you can go.”
In 2008 Suat went to the Greek League and wrote this kind of a letter to the federation and got the answer from the General Secretary of the federation: “We wish you luck in the Greek League”. But after he came back, we found out that he was sent to the disciplinary committee. That was for the first time. Then he was punished for three months – as if he didn’t let the federation know he was going to play in the Greek League.
We actually made a terrible mistake then. After Suat got an approving e-mail from the general Secretary he just deleted it. He couldn’t even imagine that would cost him three months' disqualification. The TCF said it didn’t receive any e-mails from Suat and of course, that it didn't send any approval e-mails. So, Suat didn’t play chess inside Turkey for three months.
Then in 2010-2011 he was disqualified for 6 months. That was because he, supposedly, criticized Ali Nihat’s work during the financial assembly of the TCF. In 2011-2012 he got another 6 months disqualification for he again played abroad without asking the federation for the permission. And now that 15 months disqualification.

E.SUROV: But now he’s not asking for that kind of permissions, is he?

E.ATALIK: No, he is not. After that incident with the Greek League he said he wouldn’t ever do it again. Actually, TCF has toughened its policy and started to demand from the Turkish players to sign the obligation which consists of several paragraphs. For instance, one of the paragraphs says: “We are going to the tournament and we pledge to pay for ourselves.” Another one: “We pledge not to criticize TCF, Turkish players, the officials working in TCF.” So, this is a totally antidemocratic pact, which violates any kind of freedom of speech. Now, if we want to go play abroad we are forced to sign this kind of obligation.

E.SUROV: Each player of the TCF has to do that, right?

E.ATALIK: Yes, every player of TCF. Except Suat.

E.SUROV: Continuing the topic, I just found a questions left on our website by Yakov Zusmanovich.  So, he asks: “I know that earlier Suat Atalik played for Bosnia and Herzogovina, - he writes. – Do you plan to leave Turkey and change the federation?” And I also had this question which crossed my mind during our conversation – have you thought about just changing the federation and leaving TCF?

E.ATALIK: Yes, of course, we were thinking about that. But Suat decided to fight till the end. He thinks that changing federation would be equal to giving up. I was planning to change federation and I even appealed to Russian Chess Federation, I guess not everyone knows that. I asked them to take me back, because Turkish Chess Federation's attitude towards me is evident; their politics is also evident - they want to stop our [with Suat Atalik] chess careers. RCF didn't refuse my request, but it also didn't help anyhow. [...] We’ve been talking a lot with Mr.Tkachev on the phone, he is responsible for everything connected with transfers. I asked him to explain my situation to FIDE. My case is special: it's not just my baseless wish to change the federation, that's almost a request for the political asylum. I wanted to play and I knew that staying in TCF, I wouldn't be able to play freely. Tkachev promised to write a letter to FIDE, after that we haven't communicated.

E.SUROV: But did you explain your situation? When you were asking for…

E.ATALIK: Yes, I wrote down everything in an open letter, I attached all the documents I had, I told about the trials and I said that I haven’t played for the Turkish federation for already several years. But FIDE’s regulations now are very strict. Changing the federation now is really hard. I need to pay €12 thousand for changing it. €10 thousand will go to TCF as a compensation for their decision to let me go. Which is ridiculous in this kind of situation, don’t you think so?

E.SUROV: Yes, it is. When was that? When did you ask that Levitov?

E.ATALIK: That happened last year. I guess it was in December. All that started in November-December. I appealed to them saying: please help me, including with the judicial issues. They said they are ready to welcome me back in the RCF, but I should do everything by myself. That’s it.
[…] So, I had to do it all by myself, I mean to appeal to FIDE and TCF, and I actually did that getting a quite funny response: “Read the FIDE regulations, you will find everything there.”

E.SUROV: I see. So, after that you… Well, what are you hoping for?

E.ATALIK: Well, I don’t know how all this will finish. I think something will change if some of the officials will leave their posts. I think that is the only way out, because nowadays, it’s really hard for the chess players, especially for the individual ones, to fight against those bureaucratic machines and organizations like Turkish Chess Federation or FIDE. You saw what happened with Suat's participation in the Greek tournament. We didn’t expect that at all.
[…] We were just shocked to get that letter. When Suat got it I was with him, if you could just see his reaction! I see him like that extremely rarely. Of course we were shocked, because…OK, according to TCF’s decision he’s disqualified from playing inside Turkey. This decision works on the territory of Turkey. So, here’s the question: how it is connected to the Greek Chess Federation?

E.SUROV: We actually published the response of the Greek Chess Federation on our website. I mean the letter where the GCF’s decision is explained. Was that explanation enough for you?

E.ATALIK: Yes, they wrote that explanation, but this is what I’m going to say: some independent federation’s decisions shouldn't be connected to other federations at all. For example, we have red FIDE regulations carefully and even FIDE – although it is an international chess organization – stands for maximal neutrality in the issues connected to specific federations and the things that are happening within them. If FIDE would decide to disqualify some player from all the international tournaments that’d be another case; but how can some specific federation meddle in other federations business? This is what I don’t get. Maybe they want to unite? I don’t know.

E.SUROV:  Ekaterina, are you a member of ACP?

E.ATALIK: No, I’m not.

E.SUROV: And your husband?

E.ATALIK:  Neither is he.

E.SUROV: Can I ask why?

E.ATALIK: It’s hard to say why. But we just didn’t see any sense in that. As he, so I – we, I guess, entered ACP long time ago, but we didn’t see any sense in staying in it, because nothing was actually done there. Well, maybe that will change after Emil Sutovsky was selected as the President, I don’t know. But… I haven’t actually discussed that with Suat. I don’t know. Maybe we’ll think over that. If they position themselves as an organization that should defend chess players’ rights, then, maybe it has some sense.

E.SUROV: I was just told that ACP’s website shows Suat as its member.

E.ATALIK: Really? I knew he entered it once. And he even paid membership fee by the time he was registered in it; but then we haven’t paid that fee for years, so I don’t know, maybe they didn’t exclude him.

E.SUROV: So, you don’t know is he in or not. But it’s probably not about that. My question regards to your expectations: do you expect any support, act or reaction from ACP?

E.ATALIK: Well, we don’t expect support from anybody other than our lawyers. Actually, there aren’t a lot of people in our world, except lawyers, that you can rely on.

E.SUROV:  That is almost a new aphorism. I thought you can rely on yourself.

E.ATALIK: Well, will you go to the court in order to defend your rights alone? You know, I also changed my attitude to jurisprudence. Earlier I was quite skeptical about that. But then we were lucky to have such a good woman lawyer in Turkey – she won Suat’s case and I hope, she will win my trial as well. So, I really, really rely on the lawyers now.  […]

E.SUROV: So, here’s a question from our reader “Are you going to play for the Turkish team at the Olympiad which will be held in Istanbul?”

E.ATALIK: That’s a good question. In May, quite unexpectedly for us, I got an e-mail from the Turkish Chess Federation with the invitation to the training session dedicated to the Olympiad, which will take place in Istanbul in August. I responded that I surely want to play at the Olympiad and that I’m ready to join the team. But I would like to get some guarantees first. So, I asked them to send me an invitation to the Olympiad and the statement that they guarantee my participation in it. I got an extremely interesting answer: “In order to play for the Turkish team, firstly, you have to participate in the training session. We will evaluate your performance at the training session and see your current shape.” I’m at the top of the Turkish rating list and the difference between my ELO and the rating of the 5th ranked player is approximately 500 points. So, it was a very interesting letter – they want to see my performance. And at the end they wrote: “Don’t forget to take your jumpsuit and sneakers with you.”
[…] We discussed that with Suat. I was actually positively geared up for the event, but Suat just said that he is worried about my safety. He said: “If you will go there and live with all those players and officials in one hotel – they will just find a reason.” He added: “You still won’t be able to play at the Olympiad – they will just find a reason.”
[…] And at some point, you know, we were afraid that they could make up some story. For example, stating that I’ve offended someone or stole something. So, at that moment  all the players and officials would be there, in other words, a lot of witnesses, who would confirm their accusations, whilst I would be all alone.

E.SUROV: Another question from our reader: “Does human meanness have limits?”

E.ATALIK: Generally speaking, human baseness has no limits.

E.SUROV: Are you saying that from your own experience?

E.ATALIK: Yes, I would probably give you a different answer before I’ve arrived to Turkey, but when I came here my world-view regarding the human meanness has changed to worse.

E.SUROV: Thank you very much. This was Ekaterina Atalik who, if I got it correctly, relies on her lawyer more than anyone else in her life.

E.ATALIK: Yes, I rely on my husband and my lawyer.


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