Saturday, 17 October 2020

The Leagues Dispute

With the most discussed topic of these days being whether chess players should be able to play in more than one National Team Championship, I thought to begin a new series of posts which are to describe my experiences playing in Leagues all across Europe.

I consider myself a lucky chess professional. Over the last 10 years, I have played for clubs in many countries, among them Germany, UK, France, Turkey, Greece and many others, including my own- Romania. I have met different people with all kind of values and traditions, each unique in their own way. I like to think about it as of a ‘University of Leagues’. Each ‘course’ had its ‘good’ or ‘bad’ professors and they all have taught me valuable lessons!

It is very difficult for me to understand the idea behind the FIDE President’s statement that chess players should be forbidden to play in more than one League…

Photo from The Polish Extra League, Krakow, 2020
It feels strange to even have to explain it, as it seems rather obvious that this idea is totally unfeasible. While it makes sense in sports like football, hockey, handball, where the season is divided in matches to be played all year long, every week or so, in chess- a League has from 7 to 11 rounds usually. These games are being played during the same amount of days. Therefore, the math is very simple- if a League has 9 rounds- there are 9 days of competition. Many professionals play in a few Leagues during a year in order to make a living, as 10 days of work out of 365 are obviously not enough. Let’s say you have 3 or 4 leagues, that would mean 36 days of work- still not enough, right? That’s why there are official tournaments like Individual and Team National, Continental and World Championships where if one’s good enough, he can represent his country and add another 40-50 working days to his calendar. Ok, it makes for 86 pay days. What about the other 280? Well, everyone has his own approach- one plays a commercial tournament per month, where he earns money only if playing well, others prefer to train hard and play less but aim for the ‘jack pot’ in the higher mentioned official events.

If one is lucky enough to be from a country with chess tradition, he might hope for some support from the National Federation, of course, if he’s good enough to be in the Top5 of the country… 95% of the chess players (or even more) do not make this category and the countries which support the chess players seriously can be count on the fingers anyway… This means that if you’re not top 5-10 (best case) in Russia, USA, China and maybe a very few others you have to find a way to make a living with aprox. 86 ‘certain’ pay days per year… While no one has been complaining about it because sport is sport and we all understand that not being an Olympic one, we have to do with less funding than other sports it is absolute non sense to make it even worse for the average professional chess player. 86 pay days per year is very little but if you make it 46 then it will become an amateur and elite sport only… Is this what FIDE wants? I am utterly puzzled by this idea…

But enough with numbers and unnecessary explanations, this series of posts is meant to describe funny, sad, inspiring and disappointing, but all invaluable experiences which I got by playing in Europe’s biggest and smallest Nations Leagues.

Course 1- Germany

To be continued…

1 comment:

  1. Insightful, interesting and informative post. You make a very good case against the FIDE President’s statement that chess players should be forbidden to play in more than one League. The money in chess compared to so many other games/sports is tiny, so it makes sense that the more chess players can play the better.