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Interview with Theodoros Tsorbatzoglou

“We represent the Europe of the many, the Europe of the ‘equal rights’ Nations”

Q: Mr Tsorbatzoglou, the ECU elections are scheduled for this August. You are a candidate for General Secretary in the ticket of Zurab Azmaiparashvili. Why did you decide to join his team for the next term in office?

A: Visiting Tbilisi one and half months ago, I saw with my own eyes that important businessmen are ready to invest in the European Chess Union, driving the organization to another level. That is the basis of the reason why I accepted the honorary proposal of the Deputy Minister of Sports in Georgia Mr. Zurab Azmaiparashvili to run in his ticket.

The goal is clear – a more professional management will bring also the organization to European sports standards. My vision is one day ECU to reach the analogous status of FIBA Europe or UEFA, and for this we need to setup a solid basis and start working hard. I join projects only with high standards and targets.

ECU, as is today is in stagnation with only 200k EUR annual budget, limited operation abilities, 90% of the budget goes for administration costs, and there are no funds for development and new actions. As a person full of energy, I cannot accept the apathy ECU has fallen into the last 4 years. The new standards set by Azmaiparashvili are a clear way out of this situation.

Theodoros Tsorbatzoglou Rhodes

Q: What improvements do you plan for European Chess players, amateur or professional?

A: It is a step by step initiative. As a start, our program aims to review all existing formats of ECU chess championships. We will organise brainstorming sessions with the federations and clubs on the possible changes which would make these tournaments more attractive.

We will consider to reactivate the Zonal tournaments and re-funding an ECU Grand Prix, which will reunite existing European Open chess tournaments. There are many possibilities to enhance the calendar with new European championships – internet, corporate, junior, regional events, etc.

And something else very important for professional players. Vasily Filipenko, accepted Azmai proposal and he will be the Chairman of the Advisory Board of Trustees which our Team will create to assist the ECU President & Administration in Sponsoring and Lobbying. Well-known businessmen, bankers and politicians from all Europe will join the Board of Trustees.

Q: How will these changes be possible, if you say ECU budget is in stagnation?

A: As I said before the annual budget of ECU is in the same level as before 4 years, if not worse. At the same time the annual costs for the President increased to 60.000 EUR. These are 240 000 EUR in a 4 year term. These 240k plus the Commercial director’s costs (appointed without a call of interest), bring the organization to a halt.

Danailov’s team came with big promises, yet ECU achieved only 17 000 euros budget sponsorship in 4 years. A local chess club makes more money! If any owner has these results in a private company, there are only two choices – to close the company or to change the managers.

Q: This sounds very serious. You are a Board member, what are you planning to do about this in the remaining months?

A: There is not anymore such thing as a Board, and it looks like unilateral unconstitutional decision by current President. The Board stopped to operate from the first days of February when we met in Jerusalem. There was a meeting scheduled in May-June in Croatia, but we have been informed that the President canceled it single-handedly. Currently we are receiving very limited information about ECU matters. Additionally we are receiving emails from the ECU Press officer who is campaigning against us for other candidates!

The Board as institution is ignored as the management feels that is losing control. At least 4 of the 9 members of the current Board have serious concerns about the ECU legality as of today, as well as about the correct implementation of the statutes. We will present all the evidence in the GA and we will fight until the end about democracy. Elections are coming the power is to the many.

Theodoros Tsorbatzoglou Bastia France

Q: Let’s go back to the budget, related question: Zurab Azmaiparashvili decided to abolish the 3000 euros stipend practice for the ECU President?

A: Indeed this is a central issue for Europe and action has to be taken. Zurab Azmaiparashvili did that even before he is elected, as he decided to abolish the 3000 euros/month President stipend, thus saving 144 000 EUR for ECU in 4 years. He decided to donate this amount to a very important sector of chess in Europe – the ECU Chess in School Program.

I respected very much the decision of Azmai who believes that the position of President is aimed to bring new funds in the European Chess Union. This is not just a promise but an actual proposal of the Georgian federation, brought in the General Assembly – the 144 000 EUR to be re-allocated to the ECU School Chess Commission. But what Danailov’s response? Nothing of course. His team members are already in the embarrassing situation either to persuade Danailov to follow Azmaiparashvili’s proposal or to lobby delegates to support him receiving the stipend.

The question is simple. Do we need a President who is ready to add funds to ECU budget or not?

Q: Question: It sounds like a positive change to remove the annual stipend of the President. But will this solve all financial problems?

A: This is just the first step of a much bigger financial plan. In it’s basis, our program relies on sponsorship contracts. A first such has already been secured even before the elections have taken place. ECU will be able to rely on a sponsorship contract of 400 000 eur over 4 years. The goal is to find at least two more such sponsors in year two, more than doubling the ECU annual budget. More details will be unveiled in Tromso during the Olympiad.

Q: Let’s suppose your team manages to increase ECU budget. Is there a sector that you specifically as a board member would like to see growing?

A: European chess is a very broad term, including in itself the present events and rich history. But what matters most are the chess players, the people that share the love for the game.

Therefore, recently we decided to concentrate on Social inclusion & responsibility, making them among the priorities in our team. We will take special care for this. We will associate with the International Disabled Sports Organizations and we will create chess completions in ECU annual program for those social groups. And these are very large groups of people, for which there was nothing until now in the ECU agenda.

Furthermore I am already working on raising funds from EU for sports and disabled actions. The results will be impressive on this, but it is better to prepare and complete the work first, and then to announce it.

Theodoros Tsorbatzoglou Brussels

Last but not least, we will push the inclusion of chess in the Paralympics Games. This is the key action. We have already started out contacts with National Paralympics’ Committees.

Following the same line of though, we must dedicate tournaments for this, promoting social inclusion, youth development, even ecological messages. Chess is a social tool, so we must use it to provide information and education to the young generation.

Q: This sounds like a broad program. But now comes the question that most people are asking. Do people in Europe and national federations support you? What are your team’s chances to win the elections in August?

A: Every day it becomes more clear that we will win the elections, and that we are winning with a wide majority. I will point you out the 3 main reasons.

A. Our team is represented in all parts of Europe. We represent the Europe of the many the Europe of the “equal rights” Nations. We are very strong in South Mediterranean area (about 20% of European countries), in Eastern Europe (20% of European countries), in Small Nations (20% of European countries), and in Central Europe (20% of European countries). Additionally, we have representatives in our team from the Balkans, Scandinavia, and UK. If you make an analysis of Danailov’s whole team you will realize that is represented in only 3 areas of those I referred.

Theodoros Tsorbatzoglou Cyprus

B. Our team has a clear vision, a complete detailed program and the sponsors to fund it. Again this is not a promise, but a reality. Azmaiparashvili and the sponsors support him – banks and businessmen started already investing in the future chess projects in Europe. Everybody is realizing that we will have a totally new situation in ECU under the new administration.

Instead of saying that “we know”, we started to sign sponsorship contracts. 4 years ago. Danailov said “I know” and still many federations wait to see what he knows. We are democracy and maybe someone wants to wait 4 more years. But we want start hard work, and people and federations are with us.

C. We are fully concentrated on European Chess. Our team has a serious professional and sports administration background and we have presented all the details of our CVs to the National federations. We are asking federations to vote for us only for what we are and what we can do. Our team is campaigning only for Europe and this is our target. Any of us can have his/her personal opinions about FIDE elections, and we have many different opinions among our supporters. But we clarified in our meeting in Tbilisi that as team we will not campaign for any candidate for FIDE elections and we don’t wish any FIDE candidate to campaign for us. We want to build a strong business administration and our relations with FIDE will be professional with whoever is FIDE administration. Silvio Danailov though is dealing 90% of the time with FIDE elections instead of ECU elections. The reason is simple. He has no program, funds, or new ideas for ECU. Check all the data, you will not find even one concrete proposal. He is putting the ball in another field hoping that Europeans will lose their concentration from European elections. But this is a hopeless effort. National Federations know to judge and evaluate. They want a better future for the European chess.

Q: We cannot avoid this question: Tromso has severe underfunding problems, they also seem to lack room & board options. Will this affect the ECU elections?

A: I don’t think that will have any affect in ECU elections. The elections will happen as scheduled in any case. I strongly believe that Tromso will organize the Chess Olympiad in the best possible way.

Tromso Municipality, which is the main organizer (shareholder of 90%), is a very serious institution. I don’t find it wise of the Norway Chess Federation to create panic 2,5 months before the event. First rule of the crisis management is not to create panic. The matter of additional State funding is an Internal matter between Norway Government, Organizers and possible Norway’s MPes who represent their Norway citizens.

Theodoros Tsorbatzoglou Istanbul 2012 Tromso

Q: And let’s finish on a positive note. Chess in Schools was recently approved in Greece. Who is responsible for the success?

A: Not only in Greece but I Romania also by similar decision of Governments.

In Greece it is a common effort of Greek chess federations, Clubs, School teachers, and many people who are working in chess schools’ programs. The main points of this decision are the following:

a. It is for All Primary schools
b. It is for the first 4 grades of Primary schools
c. Every grade has electable subjects 2-3 hours per week, but on hour will be scheduled for chess
d. The lessons should be taught by a professional school teachers who knows chess or who is members of Greek Chess federation or a Greek Chess Club

Schools will need some time to adjust and implement this decision, but it is already a fact and a reason to celebrate a success in Europe .

Our Team has “success stories” in the Chess School program and we will make a “success story” all Europe on this. We have a detailed plan, and we are starting, in early 2015, with a two days info-meeting for the 54 “Ministries of Education” officers and National Federation representatives. We have already secured the sponsorship for this decisive meeting.

Q: Anything more to add?

A: We want to thank all the federations and the chess people from the big support they give us from the first moment. It was something I couldn’t expect in such wide way. But after elections all, without any exception, we will work together. We promise that from the 12th of August we will unite Europe under the same chess targets.

Unity, Work, Results.

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