Chess official speaks out after embarrassing prank
A lead chess official has addressed comments he made to a pair of Russian pranksters posing as Ukraine Minister of Sports Vadim Gutzeit.
To Vovan and Lexus, whose past victims include UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and Elton John, FIDE Director General Emil Sutovsky appeared to suggest that he was the instigator behind the processes that saw Russian grandmaster Sergey Karjakin banned for six months and Russians being forced to perform under neutral status as a response to the military operation in Ukraine that Karjakin voiced support for.
To Match TV in Russia, however, Sutovsky, who has Soviet roots from being born in Azerbaijan when it was still part of the USSR, denied accusations of Russiaphobia and insisted he has always supported Russian chess stars.
"Actually, the situation is quite simple," Sutovksy claimed. "FIDE, unlike many sports federations, did not disqualify Russian and Belarusian athletes. I personally defended and continue to defend the right of Russian chess players to continue playing in international tournaments, albeit under a neutral flag.
"Yes, this excludes the performance of national teams, but at the same time it allows athletes to continue their careers, to compete in championships," Sutovsky continued.
"[FIDE president Arkady] Dvorkovich is criticized for this – they say, he defended his own. Yes, and I had several sharp public discussions with Western colleagues who proposed to remove all Russians from chess," Sutovsky revealed, saying he considered this approach to be "wrong" and still defends this position "despite the criticism" addressed to him which makes accusations of Russophobia "ridiculous".
"The fact that I believe that Karjakin deserves to be disqualified is not Russophobia in any way," Sutovsky went on. "You can’t simultaneously shout at every corner 'sport should stay out of politics' and just as often talk about supporting the [military] operation, as Karyakin does".
"This causes serious damage to the chess world. If anyone's actions worsen attitudes towards Russians around the world, it's Karjakin's," Sutovsky claimed, saying that it is "thanks to these actions" that the attitude "towards Russian chess players in the world is becoming much worse".
"Characteristically, not a single leading Russian grandmaster supported him, most of whom openly opposed the special operation," Sutovsky noted, while also protesting that the pranksters did not manage to extract information from him in spite of "trying in every possible way" as he merely "honestly stated" his position.
"Karjakin's statements that I am jealous of his chess successes are truly absurd," scoffed Sutovsky.
"That is, I zealously defend [Ian] Nepomniachtchi's right to play in the Candidates Tournament, but for some reason, for some personal reasons, I decided to take revenge on Karjakin? It's funny," Sutovsky concluded.
The Candidates Tournament will be played from June 16 to July 7 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Madrid with the winner qualifying to challenge defending world champion Magnus Carlsen, who beat Nepomniachtchi this year, in the World Chess Championship 2023.