Delhi GP runs into controversy after player withdrawal - Hindustan Times
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Delhi GP runs into controversy after player withdrawal

By, New Delhi
Mar 27, 2023 10:40 PM IST

Zhansaya Abdumalik, a Grandmaster from Kazakhstan, pulled out of the tournament citing poor treatment from the organisers.

The third leg of the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix in Delhi — the first time that a Grand Prix is being held in India — has run into controversy after a Grandmaster from Kazakhstan, Zhansaya Abdumalik, pulled out of the tournament citing poor treatment from the organisers. Her withdrawal resulted in the start of the tournament being postponed from March 25 to 26. The tournament, originally involving 12 players but now down to 10 participants, runs till April 5.

The tournament, originally involving 12 players but now down to 10 participants, runs till April 5 | Image for representation (REUTERS)
The tournament, originally involving 12 players but now down to 10 participants, runs till April 5 | Image for representation (REUTERS)

The 23-year-old, who is the first woman from Kazakhstan to become a Grandmaster, said that she withdrew because the local organisers hadn’t prepared adequately for the event. Her main grievance was that the All-India Chess Federation (AICF) did not send anyone to receive her at the Delhi airport and arrange for her commute to the Leela Ambience hotel in Karkardooma, where all the players are put up for the tournament. She also said that she was unhappy with the location of the hotel and that her room was overlooking a garbage dump.

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Bharat Singh Chauhan, the tournament director of the Women’s Grand Prix, explained the organising committee’s version of events.

“Her flight landed a bit earlier than expected. The people who were there to receive her couldn't meet her at the airport. We apologised for whatever inconvenience she faced. She also complained that the hotel is on the outskirts of the city. But it is a five-star hotel. All the boxers who came for the world championships were staying there. I don't want to go into it further because the tournament has started,” Chauhan responded to the allegations.

Abdumalik, ranked 13th in the world, further alleged that the players were not provided official transport from the airport to the hotel. When they finally reached the hotel, they were told that the rooms were not ready, said the Kazakh player.

Chauhan disputed Abdumalik’s allegations. “We have a contract in place with Meru cabs for the tournament. The other players were taken in cabs to the hotel. And as far as rooms are concerned, there are check-in times that every hotel has. It may be that a player arrived early and had to wait for some time for the room to be readied,” he said.

On Sunday, when the first round of the tournament was held, Elisabeth Paehtz did not turn up for her game against India’s R Vaishali due to the imbalance that the withdrawal of Abdumalik created.

“I cannot accept that every player does not start the tournament with the same conditions,” Paehtz told ChessBase India. “The intended solution of new pairings with a fair distribution of colours failed due to the ultimatum of a single player. Even though I would get 6 whites and 4 blacks, it is unfair for the other players. I wanted a fair and equal tournament for everyone.”

After a few participants raised their concerns about the event to Fide, the international chess federation president Arkady Dvorkovich said: “On behalf of the International Chess Federation (FIDE), I would like to extend our sincerest apologies for the mishandling of the Women’s Grand Prix tournament in India. We deeply regret the problems and inconveniences you have experienced, which has led to one player withdrawing from the tournament.

“Considering all the arguments in place, we have decided to continue with the Women’s Grand Prix tournament in India. We believe that such a decision is best under the given circumstances, even though the withdrawal of a player would require all of the tournament participants and organizers to adjust themselves. We will conduct a thorough review of the guidelines and standards for organising women’s tournaments, and make sure to strengthen the connection with players, as well as further improve the proficiency of the event-organising team.”

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