Interview With Mr. Ali Nihat Yazici

Candidate for the post of ECU President

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Chessdom: Mr.Yazici, thank you for accepting the interview. Last year in Novi Sad, you were the first to announce candidacy for the post of ECU President. Why did you take up this challenge?

Ali Nihat Yazici: Mr.Urosevic, Thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain my opinions about the forthcoming European elections. I have been President of the Turkish Chess Federation for the last ten years. We have worked hard and achieved a lot. From almost zero, we have built up a federation which is very strong now. I want to bring my experience to bear on the whole of Europe.

The TCF today has more than 180,000 members, 30 full time professional staff, 47,000 trainers, over two million children in our Chess in School programme, excellent media and web site coverage and a 2009 operating budget of around €6.5 million.

Now that the TCF is running smoothly, almost mechanically one can say, my team and I want a new challenge, we want the adrenaline rush from solving the problems we face, in making the ECU a very strong, stand-alone chess organization.

Chessdom: Can you introduce the team of We R Europe?

Ali Nihat Yazici: You know me, and anyway it is not nice in my culture to advertise oneself, so I will move straight on to the other team members.

The Deputy President will be Peter Rajcsanyi from Hungary. Peter’s past career in Government, banking and the foreign service gives him an experience and tact second to none, and he will not only provide a solid sounding board for advice and direction, especially on legal issues, but also deputize brilliantly for me in events I am unable to attend.

GM Evgeny Bareev from Russia does not really need an introduction; he is a big star and very modest but with great ideas for change and improvement. We are very proud to have him with us, a fantastic personality. He will be the new Vice President and responsible for European Chess Academies, youth development and liaison with professional players.

My General Secretary or my brother? Geoffrey Borg, from Malta. He is ultra-professional with all paper work, very well organized, serious, a guy who works 28 hours per day – if I said only 24 hours, I would be demoting him to the level of a normal human being :)

Last but not least, Joan Antoni from Andorra. Joan is another very experienced professional manager. He will be Treasurer. We want to use the tax advantages of Andorra. We are not so rich as to afford to pay out high taxes in Germany. We are a European organization that may move to any place in Europe which gives us good conditions. The Prime Minister of Andorra has already given us the green light for this move.

So, those are the people on my ticket. There are many people working behind the scenes. Some of them are very well known, like Kevin O’Connell from Ireland, now living in France. He is the chief editor of our website. I want to thank him for his excellent job.

But there are many more in the background, you cannot imagine how many e-mails we are getting per day. The desire to work for change and improve things is immense and we have welcomed everybody into the family. And there are others, but it would not be fair to expose them to attack from the opposition. We will thank them openly as soon as the election is over.

Chessdom: What are the main points of your programme?

Ali Nihat Yazici: The main concept is to make the European Chess Union a very, very strong institution, without any dependence on FIDE or any single federation. There are many other issues, but for those I suggest that you visit our website. That way you won’t miss new additions to our programme and I won’t run the risk of distracting you now from our principal objective.

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Chessdom: You have introduced an idea of “All Flags Raised in Championships”. Can you explain to me what that means?

Ali Nihat Yazici: The European Individual Championships (both women and open categories) have been organized for a decade now, but only 35-40 federations take part. We want to change the system, so that all federations will have a minimum of one free place. Step by step, we will then move to a system of additional free places that is correlated with success. It will certainly not lose its spirit of a strong open event; anyone who wants to participate will be welcome.

However, we do not want the national champions of any member Federation desperately hunting for a grant or subsidy, in order to be able to play in this event. We want to support all national champions and their federations on this, so to begin with, each federation will have a free place if they organize a national championship. Subsequently, we will increase the number of free places; rather like UEFA’s football competitions, more success will bring more free places.

To do this we need money. The Individual Championships cost the organisers money and ECU has always been hard pressed to find organizers due to the high cost of these events. The solution is that we bring to the table substantial sponsorship. No, we do not mean money from the pockets of Kirsan, Karpov, or the Turkish Chess Federation. We should not depend on any individual or any institution, for sound economic reasons as well as for political reasons.

We will introduce sponsorship on the continental level. We already have a guarantee for €300,000 annually, but this is just for starters, and it is peanuts if you consider our four-year plan. I do not want any organization of which I am the leader, to have an annual budget of less than €2-3 million. This will allow the ECU to fulfil its development objectives across all 54 members.

Chessdom: The team of We R Europe has visited almost all European federations. What is the feedback you have received, the main needs of national federations?

Ali Nihat Yazici: Feedback? Incredible… Amazing.. we will win this election by a very big margin in the first ballot. We do not underestimate our opponents, both have good teams of nice people, yet it seems that they are starting to attack me personally, lowering the tone of the campaign. Nevertheless, we continue to respect them.

The second part of the question: Ok, Europe is very strong in chess, and I would be proud to be the new President of this continent. There are many very hard-working and efficient people in the federations’ management. They fall in love with chess. They are eager to succeed. They want to do something. But they need assistance. For some it is funding, in other places it is management consultancy, in many places it is a Chess in Schools programme and almost all want help to build up and develop the popularity of our sport.

In some countries, for example Serbia, chess is very well respected and the federation is an associate member of their National Olympic Committee, but there are a dozen, almost all in Northern and Western Europe, where chess is not even recognized as a sport. We will resolve those problems tactfully together with the Federations.

We want to start a revolution and introduce customised services. We will be the tailor, and for each federation we will cut and sew the finest hand-made suit! The new management of the Russian Chess Federation is eager for this – do not be surprised if, within four years, the RCF’s budget will be around €10-15 million. Sure, there are some sleepy federations, but we will pinch them gently and wake them up. We must not allow them to remain asleep, not if we are going to realize our common dreams in Europe.

Chessdom: If you win the support of the ECU delegates, what will be your first moves after the election?

Ali Nihat Yazici: We will call an Extraordinary General Assembly in Istanbul early next year. We will cover all expenses for the delegates, and there, we will commence our revolution in budget, structure and procedures. There, we will also formally sign the first €300,000 sponsorship agreement.