Interview with Rupert Jones

ECF FIDE Delegate Candidate – Rupert Jones

As many of you will undoubtedly already be aware, Yorkshire’s Rupert Jones has been nominated as a candidate for the ECF post of FIDE Delegate which is currently held by Nigel Short. Here Rupert responds to Nigel’s bullish election statement and puts his case forward for why he is the right man for the job.

This interview focuses on the upcoming ECF elections, you can see a more general interview with Rupert conducted earlier this year here.

Both have issued Election Addresses ahead of the upcoming ECF AGM which takes place on 13th October 2012 at 1.30pm at the Ibis Hotel in Birmingham which we have also reproduced for your convenience.

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[wptabtitle]Interview – Rupert Jones[/wptabtitle]
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Why have you chosen to stand for the post of FIDE delegate?
At the Finance AGM in April I sensed anger at the lawsuit the federation brought against FIDE. I was also angry. As a result I feel the membership need to have an alternative position to vote for in the debate about how we engage FIDE. I understand that there is a certain amount of alarm at the way FIDE operates but I don’t think lawsuits are ever the answer. Secondly I have been involved with things FIDE since I was 25. It’s something I have a lot of experience of and so if the members feel that a more negotiated response is the way to go then maybe I am can represent that.

What do you think is the role of the FIDE delegate and what do you think you can bring to the role for the benefit of the ECF?
The role of the FIDE delegate is to act as a bridge between the English Chess Federation and FIDE. Within that you must represent the interests of the ECF within FIDE as well as explain FIDE’s goals and methods to the ECF. That means in my case if I am elected it will be on the basis of trying to improve the relationship between FIDE and the ECF. For example there are no new English faces on any of the FIDE Commissions and within the general FIDE membership a lot of countries are angry with the ECF’s recent stance. I would like to see these two things change. Further I would like to make FIDE more relevant to our members and one small way is for example to get more of our players as FIDE Qualified trainers. During Olympiads many developing nations are looking for experienced players to coach them and if they are FIDE qualified then they become entitled to the grants provided to pay them a salary. At the moment because of recent hostilities we have essentially only one qualified FIDE Trainer who also happens to be the only person qualified to run FIDE Trainer Courses. This really needs to change.

What do you think the ECF should make as their main priorities in regards to FIDE?
The ECF should try and find a way to influence FIDE from within. So if I am elected then seeking this way of doing things will be what the electorate wants. And that is what I will pursue. As I have already said this means for example getting more English folk involved with FIDE and this is best done by getting them as core members of the commissions. Also we need to take more advantage of the fact that the CEO despite his Bermuda connections is English. We also need to make our members aware of how FIDE relates to them. How many of our young IM’s and GM’s are aware that if they become FIDE Qualified Trainers they can earn over E1500 for coaching a developing team at an Olympiad and this is on top of getting free accommodation etc. Also these opportunities will come up for non Olympiad events as well as teams seek coaches for say the African Games where chess is a full medal sport as well as other continental events. At the moment we only have one FIDE qualified trainer such has been the animosity between the two bodies.

How do you think your previous experiences with Yorkshire and the ECF will help you in the role if you are elected?
Well maybe there is something similar to defending the ECF in Yorkshire as there is to taking a more FIDE stance within England. I remember going down to the 4NCL on the Bank Holiday Monday and being asked by more than one person about whether the NCCU and Yorkshire would break away from the ECF. I replied let’s wait and see until after our various AGMs. At the AGMs I argued my pro ECF points and lo and behold I wasn’t the only one and the NCCU, Yorkshire and the Leeds Chess Association did not break away. So I guess I am used to arguing what might seem to be the minority position. Let us also not forget that when I was on the ECF I argued strongly that we should support the Bessel Kok campaign and after a vote was taken that is what we did.
You have recently represented Papua New Guinea in the Olympiad and are registered under FIDE as a PNG player. How do you justify your decision to run for an ECF post when you are a foreign-registered player?
It is no secret that I represent Papua New Guinea and if I had been standing for an unopposed post within the ECF no one would have said anything about it as happened when I was International Director. I am an ECF member and have been ever since I returned from Botswana in 1997 when I returned to living in Leeds.

You have previously written an article for us about your role as a FIDE development officer, encouraging chess development and funding in smaller nations. You have also been a vocal opponent of the recent ECF vs. FIDE lawsuit as it cost FIDE money which could have been spent on developing nations. How do you respond to critics that suggest that if you are elected, there will be a conflict of interest and you will put developing nations’ interests ahead of those of the ECF?
This maybe suggests to me that there is an alternative standpoint that you will seek conflict with developing nations. I have always stated that the way forward is to work with and within FIDE; to get more of our folk (and especially from a new generation) onto our Commissions. If you are going to do this then is it such a bad thing to be seen to be with the developing nations rather than against them. Being against them might be how the developing countries see it. So on the contrary if you think that change in FIDE can best be effected from within then it can only be a good think to have an International Delegate who is familiar with the developing chess world. Whether you like it or not you do need their votes to achieve anything.

Nigel Short described you as an “opportunist who will wear whichever flag suits [you]”. Is this an unfair comment?
I found this funny. Anyone who knows me knows how loyal I am to my teams whether that be Yorkshire, the White Rose or Alwoodley etc. I was once even described as being a Yorkshire nationalist. I have a uniquely mixed heritage. Brought up in PNG, of Australian and Yorkshire parents with a Botswana/ Zimbabwean wife and a son who can count himself as half Ndebele/ Zulu. I don’t see ‘nationalism’ in quite the same light as others may. I would like to clear up something as it relates to my registration with PNG. I was at the Majorca Olympiad with England in October 2004 when PNG approached me and said that they were a man short and could I play for them otherwise they would have to default board 4 in all matches. They approached me as I am PNG born and was nearly 11 when my parents moved to Leeds. I do not think anyone else in English chess given the opportunity would have turned it down if they had the birth qualification. I was certainly never going to represent England at chess. As for Botswana that is where I lived for 12 years. I played a big part in building up that Federation and never had any intention of returning to the UK until my wife took ill and passed away in April 1997 leaving me with a very sick child (aged 19 months) who would most probably not be with us anymore if I had not taken the decision to return to the UK. To hear these comments coming from someone who does not even live in the UK is well… More recently my namesake Geraint Jones has also represented PNG in the world 20-20 Cricket Qualifier. He only lived one year in PNG.

Finally, you have always been involved with organising, captaining as well as playing chess. Why do you enjoy it so much?
This is because ‘chess’ is what I know. Where I have gone I have made chess friends and connections. Chess eased me into my new life in Botswana when I went there in 1985. In 1997 when everything was falling apart it was my chess and cricket that kept me going. Never mind the dreadful loss of my wife; the upheaval of moving continents was also a horrible experience especially once the autumn leaves of 1997 started to fall. So what could I do and one of the things was to organize something ‘chessy’. After chats with Angus Dunnington what came out of it was the White Rose in the 4NCL. In those first few years with my son being very young the weekends at the 4NCL were my social escape and I loved them even though I was never strong enough to play for my team. That relationship with the game has continued. And with that has been all my friendships through chess which I have made over the years and which gets me out and about all over the globe. Chess has been very good to me and in return it is something to which I can give back.[/wptabcontent]

[wptabtitle]Address – Rupert Jones[/wptabtitle]
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Election Statement by Rupert Jones Standing for FIDE Delegate C17.12.7.1

I have decided to stand as I think it is important the membership of English chess has a clear choice. The choice is between one of hostility & fight towards FIDE, which I feel antagonises, or one of dialogue & attempting to change things from within. I was not happy about the ECF’s lawsuit against FIDE in 2011. From my attendance at the Finance AGM in April I could sense that many others felt the same. This is something I have felt in Yorkshire &the NCCU where we have had our own fight against isolationists on other issues. I have never thought lawsuits, especially in a sport as financially starved as chess, is a way to go. I see parallels between English chess & their fight with FIDE and the English FA & FIFA. The FA is not winning theirs! We do have another example & one that shows that gradually working on change from within can work and that is through the excellent example set by our NOC.

My objective if elected is to get dialogue between the ECF and FIDE going once again. For me this means working hard to get more ECF people, especially from a new generation, onto FIDE Committees. We have a lot of talented individuals whose experience in domestic chess should be serving the wider international community. You already look at the wonderful example set by Jana Bellin (Medical Commission) and the years of excellent and dedicated service by Stewart Rueben (numerous other committees). However, English chess is more than just them. I also feel the negative attitude towards England in the wider developing world also needs to be addressed especially if we want to make friends & influence people. Another area that needs to be addressed is getting more FIDE qualified trainers so that our great reserve of GM & IM talent can get more paid opportunities coaching teams at events such as the Olympiad. This is why I feel well qualified for this job. I have had involvement with FIDE since my first Olympiad in 1986. I was Botswana’s FIDE delegate in 1991, 94, 95 and 1996. In that time I have built up good contacts. I was zone president, Southern Africa (1994-98) & since 2006 have been secretary of the Development Commission. For the first time, if elected, England will have a delegate more familiar with the developing chess world than the developed. If you feel building bridges is the way to go then this has to be a good thing.

This brings me to my FIDE voting record. Some may perceive me as being pro FIDE. Firstly let me remind everyone that it is the board that decides & the delegate will only do as the board bids. However I will always try & argue for what I feel is the best way to go. With that in mind my track record shows a lot of opposition to FIDE. In 1994 as Botswana Delegate & Zone President I got the whole of my Zone to support the Kouatly campaign for President. We felt strongly that that was the right thing to do. The 1994 elections were by far the most dramatic ever with meetings & General Assembly going on till after 2am. It was the elections where Campomanes & Kasparov formed a very late alliance to stand against Kouatly. The election was very close &long drawn out. At the crucial moment the votes that helped Campo cross the winning line came from England and the USA. In the end my zone ended up on the losing side. This did them no favours. So one thing I learnt from that was not wanting to hear about the moral superiority of the supposed western chess nations. In 1995 as a member of the Central Committee I voted against Campo in the vote of no confidence & in 1996 I ended up on the opposition ticket led by Sunye Neto that stood against Kirsan. In 2006 as International Director I argued strongly that the ECF board should support Bessel Kok’s campaign. The vote was won 6-2. However I did have serious doubts about the Karpov campaign in 2010.

Those of you who do not know me then let me introduce Myself. I am the co-founder with AJ Dunnington of the White Rose team in the 4ncl started upon returning in 1997. My involvement in the successful ‘White Rose’ continues. I was International Director between 2003 & 2006. My most important contribution was getting the ECF to pay minimum players fees out of their own budget. This was radical at the time & stopped the situation that happened with selection for European Champion ship in Plovdiv (Sept2003) where players were written to & asked if they would consider playing for free. The entire European Championship in Gothenburg 2005 was financed by the ECF. I have served as President of the NCCU & Yorkshire. When taking on the Yorkshire President’s (& vice Pres) role I encouraged a number of good people to get involved with the committee. Yorkshire at the time was perceived to be loners both in the NCCU &especially in the ECF. I led the committee to build bridges with the ECF & Yorkshire supported the membership scheme & later ran its own MO. I continued to do the same when becoming NCCU President. I have since argued for the Yorkshire, Leeds league & the NCCU to support the new ECF membership &game fee proposals. There were many who thought the North (& Yorkshire) would isolate itself from the rest of the country & were surprised when it did not happen. Chess in the county has flourished, winning 3 county championship titles in 2009, (I captained the OPEN team) & 2 teams reaching the 2012 finals (we lost both matches including my U160s). We have 6 Yorkshire based teams playing in the 4NCL. Yorkshire is in very capable hands and looking outward as continued county championship successes, growing local leagues, improving junior chess development and above all excellent website testify to. A lot of excellent talent is waiting ready to serve the country & the world. I live in Otley, near Leeds.[/wptabcontent]

[wptabtitle]Address – Nigel Short[/wptabtitle]
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2012 FIDE Delegate Election Address, by Nigel Short. C17.12.7.1

Since 2006, when the Belgian businessman Bessel Kok ran for the FIDE Presidency, the ECF, in common with the majority of Europe and North America, has been opposed to the continued reign of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. The Russian’s constant hobnobbing with dictators, bizarre claims of space-travel and constant promises of fantastical projects are an embarrassment to the chess world. Unsurprisingly, in this unappealing environment, corporate sponsors have been highly reluctant to associate themselves with our noble game.

It is against this background that I was elected ECF Delegate to FIDE, in 2009, in part, I believe, because ECF members expected a more robust and less equivocal stance than that of my predecessor and because they also understood the advantages of being represented by someone who is recognized and respected throughout the chess world. I have visited one hundred countries and I personally know the majority of FIDE Delegates.

I was deeply involved in supporting the Anatoly Karpov 2010 campaign, devoting several months of my time, for no pay, to canvassing for votes in places as far afield as Central America and Africa. For all his flaws, I believed that the Former World Champion presented a far more credible image for chess than the incumbent. Karpov lost, but a momentum has been built up by his campaign organiser, Garry Kasparov, whom I fully expect to run for FIDE President in 2014. Garry has been working tirelessly behind the scenes in preparation for this during these last two years. I have also been quietly working, in places such as Pakistan and Peru, and the fact that the FIDE President has quickly followed me to these countries just months afterwards perhaps gives an indication of the regard in which I am held as a campaigner.

The sharp criticism which FIDE received during the Vice-Presidential court case in Lausanne, Switzerland (see the Delegate’s report), has obliged FIDE to become more accountable. This has directly led, this September, to the biggest redrafting of FIDE statutes in a generation. Much of the work was done by Ms. Ank Santens, the lawyer who represented the ECF in Lausanne. With better statutes and fairer electoral rules now in place, the neutral venue of Tromso, Norway, 2014, will present the best opportunity yet of ousting the disastrous Kirsan Ilyumzhinov from office. If re-elected, I intend to support Garry Kasparov, whose high international profile and business acumen will help transform the sponsorship landscape dramatically for the better. I would therefore kindly ask Council to support me until 2014. I have no intention whatsoever of continuing as Delegate beyond that date, unless, of course, there is a change of regime.

Which brings me on to Rupert Jones… In countries with less lax regulations than ours, the fact that he is registered for and represents another country would automatically disqualify him from seeking office. It is ironic that he was playing for Papua New Guinea in the Olympiad at the time of the announcement of his official nomination for the post of English Chess Federation Delegate to FIDE. Rupert’s support for Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in the 2010 Presidential Election, against the recommendation of the Papua New Guinea General Secretary, was amply sufficient for PNG to abstain. Be under no illusion -Rupert’s election would be met by jubilation in FIDE headquarters.

If he were elected, he would at least bring experience to the post, as he has acted as the Botswanan Delegate to FIDE in the past. He is also currently Secretary of the Development Commission, which doles out money to small federations. Such things, however, do not necessarily square with the aims of the ECF. The election is essentially a choice between an Englishman who has represented his country for his entire career, or an opportunist who will wear whichever flag suits him. Notwithstanding the fact he was nominated from with the UK, he has tacit support from without. In short, you can either vote for the English representative in FIDE or the FIDE representative in the ECF.

Regrettably I will not be able to attend the Council meeting on October 13th. I have a prior commitment with an ECF team of juniors in Potsdam that weekend. I have therefore asked David Anderton to be my proxy. Best wishes!

Nigel Short.
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Features editor for the Yorkshire Chess website. I collate and write atricles about all the latest chess activities in Yorkshire and beyond. I've also been known to shove some pieces myself from time to time!

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