The event was troubled from start to finish. Last October, we had the controversy that I documented in two posts: Hijab Hubbub and Hijab Hubris. The final word was announced shortly afterwards in Visit of FIDE President to Tehran, Iran (fide.com; November 2016).
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov arrived in Tehran on October 24. The next day, he spoke live on Central Television in Iran, after which he held talks with the President of the Iran Chess Federation, Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh. [...] The FIDE president spoke with reporters of Tasnim News Agency. In replying to the question of how he relates to the need to wear hijabs by women chess players, Ilyumzhinov said: "There are 188 members in FIDE, each of them has the right to hold chess competitions. All these countries have their own laws and customs, under which the tournaments are held. FIDE adheres to the belief that these laws should be respected."
Of course, all countries have the right to hold chess competitions. That doesn't mean that FIDE is required to hold prestigious, high visibility events in those same countries. By Ilyumzhinov's logic, even the most repressive countries in the world have 'the right to hold [FIDE] chess competitions'. This might fit Ilyumzhinov's personal interest, but it's clearly not in the best interest of chess.
A few weeks ago, rumors started to swirl that the players had not received their prize money. This was confirmed in List of Decisions of the 2017 1st quarter FIDE PB (fide.com; March 2017), where 'PB' means Presidential Board:-
- 1PB-2017/3. To pay the prize money for the Tehran WWCC from FIDE money.
- 1PB-2017/4. To give a two-week deadline for the Iranian Chess Federation to send the money they owe to FIDE failing which the services for them will be frozen.
'WWCC' means Women's World Chess Championship. Not only were the players expected to play under a restrictive dress code, they did so for free. At least one of them got to be called Women's World Champion; the others got zilch.
FIDE's current problems aren't exclusive to women's events. At the beginning of the month, when I reported on the 2017 Grand Prix, Sharjah, I ignored controversies surrounding that event. See, for example, Leonard Barden's FIDE Grand Prix struggling in Sharjah as big names stay away (theguardian.com; February 2017), or Colin McGourty's What went wrong in Sharjah? (chess24.com; ditto). 'What went wrong?' started with...
- Too many short draws
- The Swiss system with only 18 players
- Top players missing
- The prize fund
- etc. etc.
...and ended with no.11...
- A dysfunctional website ('failed to meet the most basic of standards')
And I thought I was alone in detesting the Worldchess.com site. Add to all of this another flap emanating from the 1st quarter FIDE PB, Did He Resign?, and it's again clear that FIDE has gone badly astray. In the 'Resign?' post, I asked,
When was the last time a chess story grabbed so many mainstream press headlines without once mentioning the name Magnus Carlsen?
Now I remember. It was the hijab kerfuffle.