The World Chess Federation has extended the bidding deadline for the 2017 Cup and the 2018 Olympiad until April 15th, despite having received two bids before the original deadline of April 1st. One of the bidders, the South African Chess Federation, has filed a complaint.
On Sunday March 30th, the day of the last round of the Candidates’ Tourament, there was another FIDE event taking place in the Ugra Complex in Khanty-Mansiysk: the first-quarter FIDE Presidential Board meeting. One of the topics was the bidding procedure for the 2017 World Cup and the 2018 Olympiad.
In September last year the bidding was opened with an announcement on the FIDE website. The deadline was set for the end of March: “Bids should reach the FIDE office no later than 31 March 2014, 13:00 GMT, by email, fax or registered post (...)”
FIDE received two bids, both at the very last moment. One bid came in about 24 hours before the deadline: that of the Georgian Chess Federation, with a budget of “over US $20 million”, according to a press release. Another bid was received just two hours before the deadline: that of the South African Chess Federation, with a budget of US $12 million.
But before these bids came in, FIDE had already extended its deadline by fifteen days. This decision was taken during the Presidential Board meeting, which took place two days before the deadline.
“The meeting was held literally just before the deadline,” FIDE Executive Director Nigel Freeman told Chess.com. “We still hadn't received anything from anybody. In order to ensure that everybody that wanted to bid had a chance of bidding, we prolonged it to ensure that they did so.”
The South African Chess Federation was not amused, and sent an official protest to FIDE by email on Wednesday, April 2nd:
“On behalf of the South African Chess Federation, we want to officially protest against the extension of the deadline for submitting bids for the 2017 World Cup and 2018 Olympiad. As per the email below, the South African bid was submitted on time. We humbly request you to reconsider this decision as it is making a mockery of the FIDE policies and procedures.”
Instead of waiting until the deadline had passed before making decision, FIDE decided to pull the plug two days before. “We had two [bids] that we were certain of, and one that we were adviced that was in the offering,” Mr Freeman explained. “We were fairly sure we would get two bids but we were worried that we might only receive one and the other might come late or something. We felt it was best to give everybody a chance.”
Hendrik du Toit, the President of the South African Chess Federation, explained to Chess.com why he submitted a protest: “I find it highly irregular. We submitted our bid two hours before the deadline. Then we noticed a mistake: we had forgotten to attach the budget documents. We sent these just in time: three minutes before the deadline of 31 March, 13:00 GMT. I can understand if they extend the deadline when they have not received any bids, or in case the information is insufficient, but it is just strange.”
Former top grandmaster Zurab Azmaiparashvili, who is the Deputy Minister for Sports in Georgia, is also surprised by FIDE extending the deadline. “I cannot understand it. My decision would be to wait until the deadline, and then make a decision. I am not criticizing, but this would be more pragmatic.” Mr Azmaiparashvili is not angry though: “I don't care if more bids come. We make a good offer, so why should I worry?”
During the Olympiad in Tromsø there will be a General Assembly of FIDE's member federations, where the delegates will vote on the bids that have come in. In the same week the FIDE Presidential elections will take place. The two votes are not completely unrelated, says ECU President and FIDE's Continental President for Europe, Silvio Danailov: “It is known that Zurab Azmaiparashvili is very close with FIDE, while South Africa supports Garry Kasparov.”
If South Africa wants to stay in the race, they will need to re-send their bid one more time, as Mr Freeman said: “They claim they sent it, but we still haven't received the budget. We received the first email, but neither the [FIDE] office nor myself have received the second.” The South Africans, as any other chess federation, have ten more days to do so.