Chess News

Interview with Morten Sand

Goran Urosevic: Hello Morten Sand, I wanted to ask several questions about the contract between Kasparov and Leong. Who asked you in first place to draft this contract?

Morten Sand: I was contacted quite early by Garry Kasparov, who wanted me to help with legal matters and other matters. And I agreed to this. We signed the contract in July, but actually the work started before that. At one point I was asked to draft the contract, I cannot exactly pinpoint the date, but we know that the published draft I sent 22nd of July.

I was asked to do this by Garry, I got certain information and I started to draft… Michael Khodorkovsky was the one representing Garry… he is in New York, I am in Oslo, Leong is in Singapore, a 12 hours difference and communicating. I started to draft, and I put the framework in legal terms, without any specific knowledge, I get [in the contract] everything that I am asked to get.

At one point there were the financial issues. I have not been part of the negotiations, this has been done directly between the parties involved. What I drafted and sent on the 22nd of July was the situation and information I was given at that moment. Then the parties continued to discuss how to do this.

There was a problem that they wanted to publish the full ticket of Kasparov in Tallinn in the reception there, so there was a need to sign the contract. But as it says in that contract, there must be another contract between the foundation and academy, what structure in the end they were going to use, which was not clear at that point.

Morten Sand

Morten Sand

So when I made this draft, and when you look at it you can come to the conclusion that it is separate money, as you do not know what the parties have agreed, but I knew it was the one and the same. So when we finalized the contract there was a small addition in point 3.1, linking it to 4.1. There were two purposes for that: it is the same money and the payment times 13th and 14th are specifically put in 4.1.

This contract was signed the 5th of September. I was present, I brought the original, it was signed in the room by the two persons there – Garry and Ignatius. And then they continued to discuss how should we do this. The plan was to establish a Kasparov Foundation in the Far East, but in the end they agreed there is no need for this, Leong Academy that was already there, they could do it from Kasparov Foundation Far East or what they call it.

Then the second contract referred to was actually made. You can clearly see it was not made by me because this is an American contract. This is Michael Khodorkovsky, using their lawyer, they were discussing between them and I was just happy that they reached this agreement. The vehicle and system they have worked out was fine by me, I was not even asked as the Academy and the foundation of Kasparov knew exactly how they wanted this. It was not a problem for Leong as I understood, and it was signed 31st of October.

Now, this mail of 22nd of July, I sent it to account. Everybody knows I am not a great technician. It was copied to me, it was copied to Michael Khodorkovsky. We are the only three persons in the world that received this mail.

There are four possibilities: Ignatius can spread it anonymously around the world, Michael Khodorkovsky can do it, or I could do it. There is a fourth possibility, that the administrator of used the universal password and just got it. We can all speculate what happened.

If it hadn’t been for the fact that the opening ceremony in the World Cup on 10th of August, during the party after I was taking care of Karpov, the honorary guest. He wanted to go to the hotel and I followed him. I was then at home and then Ignatius calls me and says, “Morten, something has happened. Vice President Ali Nihat [Yazici] came to me and said ‘Ignatius, we know all about you having a contract with Garry, that you are changing side, and this known now by all the top people in FIDE'”. This was totally out of the blue.

The very same evening, in another part of the hall, Berik Balgabaev went up to my wife and said, “Nadja, why is Morten working with Garry? Why is he doing these contracts, why is he not working for us? There is still time for him to join our group.”

Now, how come two such central people in FIDE on the 10th of August know there is such a contract? Again you can choose, is it me who leaked it, is it Ignatius, or is it Michael, or has someone actually gone into his [Ignatius Leong] account, checked it and found it.


Ali Nihat Yazici about the events in Tromso:

“I guess our friend Morten Sand is in big panic since he confessed the contract between Garry and Ignatius.

First of all, whatever I say here is only related with him, I appreciate a lot the Norwegian Chess Federation, especially in the last 4-5 years. The interest for chess, the new World Champion, Chess Olympiad, Chess World Cup and all achievements in Norway is a great success…

Now about Mr.Sand…

This morning at breakfast, Mr.Makropoulos said that Morten told him a different version. Morten told to Makropoulos that I have gone to Morten at the opening ceremony of World Cup and talked about contract. This is wrong, if in 3-4 hours the object in the story changes from Morten to Ignatius you may understand that the story is not holding.

What Morten says in this interview is not correct. What I told to Ignatius (I never spoke about this subject with Morten) in Tromsö is that: “Igg, I heard that you are together with Garry, and all our friends are talking that after you. I am not talking after you and I tell it to your face. Is that true?” his answer was “Ali, thank you for telling me but this is not true. I did not make such as thing, I am here, I am in the team”.

I believe that Morten should decide if he is a lawyer or if he is a liar! Since he cannot do both…
I understand that he tries to accuse me with leaking the document of corruption. I did not, If I would have seen it I would not do anything under the table, I damn such behavior. I would do everything publicly, I am not scared from anyone except my God!”


During the stay in Tromso, Ignatius could not access his account. So he was asking for help. Actually he asked Paul Truong, “Can you fix this for me?”, Paul answered that this is difficult, so he went to Vova and after a while he managed to set it straight. It functioned again.

So we started to speculate. Have they actually gotten hold of this unfinished draft, how can they do this? But then nothing happened. There were some rumors, they were speculating and guessing…

Then, the Sunday Times in England were doing a big article on Agon. Their journalists have spent time going after the Agon contract. I was not aware of that… but in England, when you are planning to write such article, you have to confront the people and say “listen, we are going to write this and that, what is your opinion”.

Obviously, Andrew Paulson understood that something was going to happen, so he threatened to do a legal injunction. Sunday Times postponed the article, but they understood that they have short time and have to counter attack with what they have found out because when this Sunday Times article comes, it could really be a big scandal.

Goran Urosevic: Ok, I will come back to this question about Agon. Just to clarify beforehand, why did you take five days to publish the final signed version of the contract? The answer from Kasparov’s PR does not say actually anything on the matter.

Morten Sand: Well, it is a coordination thing also. I cannot do it, I am bound by client – lawyer secrecy, I can only do what the client allows me to.

The issue came up late Friday last week, or Saturday morning. I spent time in my office preparing my statement. There were a lot of connections [communication], we were in different time zones. We are not gathered in a room, we are spread over the entire world.

It was clear we have one choice only, and that we are happy to use this opportunity, to go public with everything.

We have these contracts and we can start transparency for real. We planned a meeting for the 24th January, we were going to meet Garry, Ignatius, and me, some others. Of course, on the Foundation side, they had to clear that their lawyer in US if they thought it was ok (for whatever reason they think).

We had this meeting and said, “Let’s go public”. Garry started to plan the press conference on the 25th. We wanted this to be out before the 25th, but we also wanted to meet and have a face to face discussion, the one we had on the 24th.

Goran Urosevic: Where was this meeting?

Morten Sand: In Amsterdam. It took four days to coordinate all of this, to gather people from all parts of the world. They have already planned to met anyway because not long time ago this was scheduled.

It took some clearance from the US side, it took some clearance from the Singapore side, I was asked how do I look at this as lawyer. We all agreed, let’s go public.

Goran Urosevic: Why is point 6 missing from the contract?

Morten Sand: I was not aware there is a point 6 missing and somebody told me. There is not a point 6 missing, when I draft contract I can have 8 or 9 points and then suddenly you start “I do not need this there, or this here”. So there is just actually a plain misspelling. When I go through it in the end, I should have detected that there is point 7 without point 6. This happens from time to time, if the plan was to remove something, of course it would have been organized properly.

Goran Urosevic: I also noticed one thing about 3.1. You said 3.1 was moved to 4.1…..

Morten Sand: ….. no, I said I made an addition to 3.1. If you see the final one, it says the money in 3.1 should be allocated in tranches in accordance with 4.1. The draft does not have this ‘in accordance with 4.1’. That serves two purposes. 4.1 talks about the money: 4 times 250 000 and that the last 2 will not be there if they do not win the election. It also talks about specific dates.

Goran Urosevic: Ok, so my question would then be the following. This final contract that is published says that no money will go to an individual, but later below it says that Ignatius Leong is responsible for his own taxes. Why is this necessary, if he will not receive any money?

Morten Sand: Yes, you know, there are always tax issues. Tax legislation is different from country to country. So for me, when I sit in Norway, I do not know the tax rules in USA or in Singapore. It is just like FIDE says “free of local taxes” that does not mean there is tax…

Goran Urosevic: … but the subject is the Academy, not Ignatius Leong?

Morten Sand: Yes, but before the change, in this contract it was ACA that was the recipient. But it is not ACA the recipient in the final underlying contract. Then it is the new branch of Kasparov Foundation and there is no paragraph of personal tax there to my knowledge. But this contract I do not have fully in my head, because I have not written it.

At the time that was signed they hadn’t reached the final agreement that it was Kasparov Academy in Far East Asia.

Goran Urosevic: So they just put Ignatius Leong to be sure?

Morten Sand: No, that was done before, and later they decided not to use ACA at all, we just use the newly established one.

On the 5th of September [the date of the final contract published] it was still agreed that the money is going to ACA. It is Ignatius’ Academy… but on the final agreement of the 31st, they do a different solution. It is fine by me.

Goran Urosevic: Do you think this whole story is connected with Agon?

Morten Sand: I think the fact that it came out now… it is Andrew Paulson who sent the mail with this story to the New York Times, there is a copy of this email in Chessvibes, so the link to AGON is pretty obvious, isn’t it?

He [Paulson] threatened with injunction in London, Sunday Times postponed one week, they got exactly the window they needed for the full attack and focus. This contract they had all the time and they published when they needed.

Goran Urosevic: But why would Andrew Paulson do this?

Morten Sand: Because he is the main target of the article in Sunday Times.

Goran Urosevic: And what is the connection between this article, the FIDE campaign, and Kasparov-Leong?

Morten Sand: There is no [direct] connection between the two. The link is that Andrew Paulson and top FIDE leadership understands that now comes a very negative article.

Goran Urosevic: You mean like a diversion?

Morten Sand: They had to counter-attack to take focus. This is not rocket science.

Goran Urosevic: In your statement after the article in NY Times, you say that by the laws of Norway, you have no ethical problems with the fact that you drafted a contract. But what about the organization of the Chess Olympiad in Tromso

Morten Sand: First of all, there is no problem with this contract as now there is 1 million dollars going to chess development in these countries. I do not have a problem with that, that is what they have agreed. When I refer to the Bar Association [in the statement], it is as a lawyer in Norway, I do not talk about other countries, I am entitled not to be identified with the client, so if the clients are reaching such agreement, in the function as lawyer you cannot “shoot me” – I’m the piano player.

Very early I informed the 2014 Olympiad that I am helping Kasparov. I have worked on the Olympiad project for 8 years. I am the only person in Norway who has been attending 12 Olympiads. So my advice and my knowledge has been appreciated. When I entered the agreement with Kasparov, I informed that I have such a commitment.

This constitutes no problem in my country. It is only if I start to say, “we cannot do this for political reasons”, if I say this while working for the 2014 Olympiad I will be on the street the next day.

So I said to all people, “If you think at one moment that I am coming with suggestions based on the political knowledge, you must stand up immediately and tell me”… I have not had such comment to this day.

We work so often with Gelfer, we have know each other for 20 years… It is also my suggestion that Takis [Nikolopoulos] is the chief arbiter, a close ally of Makro [Makropoulos]. I know him very well, he is never after a political opinion in FIDE for all these years. He is a top arbiter. I also suggested each candidate should have equal number of rooms. 6,7,8, I do not know, but it should be equal. Same for the Olympic bidders. I offered Kirsan to have a headquarter in the best hotel in Tromso. Are these the reason for them to be afraid I am biased?

Makro, Vega, Boris, Ali, will have top positions in the Olympiad. Should we as organizers say, “We do not accept Makro, he is political, cannot be chief of the appeals committee”. Of course he can be, this has to be separation between the professionalism and experience these people bring, and the fact that you can have different opinion on politics. In my country this is not a problem.

Goran Urosevic: I understand what you are saying, as while you were talking about Takis being chief arbiter in Tromso, I just remembered in Khanty-Mansiysk it was Sava [Stoisavljevic] who was at the time on the ticket of Silvio Danailov.

I just have one more question forming after this long talk. A few minutes ago you said that the contract, as it is presented, you do not have any problem with it from ethical point of view. However, the fact that some money from Kasparov Chess Foundation is being transfered to the Asian branch for chess development, while Ignatius in Singapore has the obligation that he should deliver 10+1 votes… as a person who has been so many years in chess, don’t you have problem with this logic?

Morten Sand: No, I do not have problem. When Kasparov Foundation decides to allocate money in a region, they want to cooperate with federations and nations that are friendly to this.

We have so many times seen people trying to do something, and [local] federation does not want, and the other way around too. I am sure Kasparov Foundation does not want that situation. A premise for the huge money designated in the area requires that there are friendly nations, otherwise you don’t do it, we will go to those who want our help.

When Ignatius says, “I am sure that I can bring 10 such federations”, then it is interesting. Then we are willing to go in. There is certainty it is 10, but it can be up to 15.

One year before the elections, no one knows what can happen, but that is the assumption. For this assumption, this is the money, and it is allocated for certain purposes. What happens if suddenly Ignatius Leong brings 25 votes? Then the 1 million must be increased. But if you do not bring 10, forget it…

That is the mechanism, and I as a lawyer, I do not have a problem with the two parties reaching that conclusion. And as a lawyer I am entitled not to be identified with whatever they think about this. If I as a lawyer think this is whitewashing of money, I have the obligation to go to the financial unit of the police.

When it comes to the full seriousness, what has happened and what will be disclosed in Sunday Times, this is what is serious.

Chessdom is dedicated to professional and independent coverage of chess news and events from all over the globe! Join us for live chess games, interviews, video and photo reports, and social media reactions. Follow the development of the strongest chess software, which affects all chess today, via the Top Chess Engine Championship with its 24/7 live broadcast with chat.

Copyright © 2007-2022

To Top