Andrew Paulson Loses Vote of Confidence, Stalemate in English Chess Federation

  • PeterDoggers
  • on 19-02-14 08:24.

In an extraordinary meeting of the Board of the English Chess Federation eleven days ago Andrew Paulson, the ECF President, lost a vote of confidence. The situation reached an impasse as Mr Paulson decided not to step down. New developments can be expected at the next meeting of the ECF Council.

The Board of the English Chess Federation came together for an Extraordinary Meeting on Saturday, February 8th, in London. The following was put on the agenda:

  1. A discussion about the issues raised in the recent print and web articles, various claims involving the recent activities of Andrew Paulson and Nigel Short concerning the imminent ECU and FIDE elections, and various threats to refer ECF members to the FIDE Ethics Committee.
  2. Motion: A vote of confidence in Andrew Paulson as President of the English Chess Federation
  3. Motion: A vote of confidence in Nigel Short as the FIDE Delegate of the English Chess Federation

In other words, a dog fight between Mr Paulson and Mr Short was ongoing, and it needed to be resolved urgently. What was this about?

When Zurab Azmaiparashvili announced in November that he would run for the post of President of the European Chess Union, soon after it became clear that Mr Paulson would be on his ticket as Deputy President. Hearing about this, Mr Short wrote an email to the Board of the English Chess Federation on January 5th in which he called Mr Azmaiparashvili “a notorious, brazen cheat” and “a shameless individual” who would “seriously tarnish the reputation of the ECF.”

The ECF Board decided to postpone its decision on whether to nominate Mr Paulson to run on Mr. Azmaiparashvili's ECU ticket “until such time as ECF President provides a satisfactory explanation, in writing, as to why he should wish to serve on such a ticket given the personal background of Mr Azmaiparashvili and why this would not be damaging to the ECF.”

Mr Paulson responded by writing a six-page document (seven with Mr Short's email included) in defense of Mr Azmaiparashvili. The document (in PDF here), which includes photos, describes in detail the incidents Mr Short referred to (and counters them): Mr Azmaiparashvili taking back a move against Vladimir Malakhov in 2003, using violence at the closing ceremony of the Calvia 2004 Olympaid and rigging the entire Strumica 1995 tournament.

More oil was added to the fire when a Memorandum between Mr Paulson and FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was leaked to the Sunday Times — according to Mr Paulson it was leaked by Mr Short. also obtained this document, which suggested that Agon, Mr Paulson's company that holds the rights to organize chess events in the World Championship cycle, is secretly run by Mr Ilyumzhinov himself. According to the contract, which was signed by both the FIDE President and Mr Paulson, it is Mr Ilyumzhinov who owns 51% of the shares.

In our report we quoted Malcolm Pein, tournament director of the London Chess Classic and Chief Executive of Chess in Schools and Communities: “Andrew told me on at least on two occasions that Kirsan is the majority shareholder.” The last time was “shortly before the ECF elections”, said Mr Pein. This was in October 2013.

Meanwhile, Mr Short has publicly stated the same:

“Andrew Paulson told me by Skype, in August 2013, that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was the majority shareholder of Agon - long before I came across a copy of the secret, signed Memorandum (something he alleges was "stolen" by a disgruntled former employee - although, of course, it has never once left his possession).”

Besides denying that the signed contract is in effect, Mr Paulson denies a potential conflict of interest. He sent an email on Thursday, January 13th analysing (in PDF here) the financial scheme under the official Agon/FIDE contract, concluding:

“Having conclusively established that I own 100% of AGON, I hope that this analysis now shows that even were there a side agreement (impossible to disprove), it would reap so little benefit compared to the enormous benefit to FIDE and the chess world that it is immaterial.”

For many years the public position of the English Chess Federation has been against Mr Ilyumzhinov and in favor of any opposing candidate. The federation's Council voted in October 2012 to support Mr Short as FIDE Delegate and to support Garry Kasparov for FIDE president.

Mr Paulson, who was elected ECF President in October last year, has taken a different position: currently he is not supporting Mr Kasparov (nor Mr Ilyumzhinov, for that matter). When the FIDE President erroneously stated in a Russian interview (in January of this year) that the ECF would support him, Mr Paulson wrote him a letter (in PDF here) in which he asked:

“Could you please issue a clarification that although you have been invited by the ECF Board to visit them in London and you hope the win their support, no decision has yet been taken on the ECF’s vote in the FIDE election. Convincing the ECF to back you against Kasparov or a potential third candidate will be an uphill battle.”

Votes of confidence
Back to the Extraordinary Board meeting of the English Chess Federation on 8 February, which was intended to resolve the issue and avoid further reputational damage for the federation. Two votes of confidence were moved: one for Mr Paulson and one for Mr Short. 

Mr Paulson's vote seemed largely based on the leaked Memorandum, and on his choice to side with Mr Azmaiparashvili (without the existence of an official ECF position towards the two ECU Presidential Candidates). Mr Azmaiparashvili is closely tied to FIDE while his opponent, the current ECU President Silvio Danailov, cooperates with Mr Kasparov.

According to the draft minutes of the Extraordinary Meeting (in PDF here), one Board member said he was “unhappy about [Mr Paulson's] treatment of [Mr Short] in various emails and correspondence, particularly about the threat to take [Mr Short] to FIDE’s Ethics Committee and the deliberate attack on [Mr Short] in [Mr Paulson's] paper on Zurab Azmaiparashvili.”

Mr Short's vote of confidence seemed largely based on him allegedly leaking the aforementioned Memorandum to the press, and his public statements about the matter. In his opening summary the Chief Executive of the English Chess Federation, Phil Ehr, said about about this:

“Nigel Short’s behaviour releasing the AGON Memorandum to The Sunday Times resembles that of a whistle-blower, a role we must respect. I am disappointed, however, by the vituperative language he used in the press and in social media, persistently asserting that the AGON memo is proof of a criminal conflict of interest. The lack of circumspection is unbecoming the role of our FIDE Delegate and a Grandmaster.”

Mr Paulson disagreed that Mr Short is a “whistleblower”:

“Let us not mangle the English language. A whistle-blower is an employee who at great risk to himself exposes a crime for the public good. In this case, for purely political reasons, Nigel Short leaked a stolen document to The Sunday Times that had been bought by Garry Kasparov. This is called ‘dirty tricks.’ Nigel Short has once again put his personal ambitions above the interests of English chess, or any chess for that matter.”

Board to Paulson: please resign
Mr Ehr, who would abstain for both votes of confidence, stressed the importance of the existence of the signed Memorandum between Mr Ilyumzhinov and Mr Paulson, and asked Mr Paulson to step down:

“The leaked AGON Memorandum’s description of a point in the negotiations where proposed arrangements would almost certainly have been illegal had they come into operation (which appears not to be the case) does create the appearance of impropriety; but this Board does not intend to nor is it competent to pass judgement on this. 

For the good of English chess, particularly the untenable Board climate, I asked [Mr Paulson] today to resign.”

After the two statements there was no time left for discussion and the meeting moved on to voting. Mr Paulson lost the vote of confidence 2-5 with one abstention (with Mr Paulson voting for himself). Mr Short, who was not present at the meeting, won his vote of confidence 2-0 with six abstentions.

“Failed coup d'état”
Previously Mr Paulson had written to the ECF Board that he would step down if he lost their confidence, but he changed his mind. Five days after the Extraordinary Meeting of the ECF Board, Mr Paulson supported his decision not to step down with a text posted on the English Chess Form (and sent to by email). He wrote:

“The Agenda of this Emergency Board Meeting for some confused pedantic reason chose to call a vote of Confidence rather than to call for a vote of No Confidence against me. The Minutes of the meeting reveal that in fact it was a vote of Whinging (Brit. variant of to bitch, whine, complain): (a) he was doing too much, too fast, (b) he wanted to stand for the Board of the European Chess Union and we weren't sure, (c) he had a strong personality, and (d) two years ago he did something that appeared inappropriate, though in fact it wasn't. (...) Members of the Board attempted a coup d'état last Saturday, but failed. The Board has not (could not have) removed me.

And so the English Chess Federation has reached an impasse. The majority of the Board has lost faith in Mr Paulson, but cannot remove him because it has no legal way to do so. According to the federation's regulations (and by law), Directors are appointed or removed at a General Meeting of the Council.

The next Council meeting is scheduled for April 12th. In the same text mentioned above, Mr Paulson announced:

“I will propose a new harmonious Board (replacing several of its current members) to Council at its regularly scheduled meeting in April, as the current one has been rendered dysfunctional. This will allow us to proceed constructively in the renewal of the ECF and its communications and marketing development that we promised at our election.”

As Malcolm Pein wrote in his Daily Telegraph column: “The matter seems likely to end in a spectacular showdown at the ECF council meeting on April 12.”

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  • 46 uur geleden



  • 3 jaar geleden


    Fantastic human drama!  Wherever there is money to be made there will be stories like this.  Mr. Paulson's rebuttal to Mr. Short's remarks began well, and certainly changed my impression of Mr. Short.  Then came the comments regarding Kasparov, IBM, Microsoft, etc...and I don't know who to believe.  In my opinion the governance of chess should be done in a manner consistent with the governance of a socially democratic institution, with complete openness, and with a clear mission statement that informs its leader's of the correct way forward.  Those of us that work for the public trust understand the need to subvert our own egos and think and act according to the highest standards.  The current situation in chess leaves me feeling that no matter what screwdriver wins the upcoming election (Slot head, Phillip's, square drive, Torx, etc...) chess still gets screwed.

  • 3 jaar geleden


    The tittle isn't factually chess true, because a stalemate means the game is over, but it is not in the case of Andrew Paulson and the ecf. 

  • 3 jaar geleden


    Chess puns. 

  • 3 jaar geleden


    "Paulson's response to Short in the PDF is compelling reading and makes Short look ridiculous. At the same time, its vituperative language makes Paulson also sound like a petulant child. Which serves to evidence why this absurd state of affairs has come to pass."

    I agree Paulson makes Short look horrible.  But reading his response actually increased my respect for Paulson (which was lacking before I read this).  He seemed very sensible.  

    Is Short seriously supporting Dannilov??  I didn't even know Danilov was running.

    Chess is a mess. 

  • 3 jaar geleden


    Settle it with Chess.

  • 3 jaar geleden


    "How did this guy manage to get elected as President of the ECF, when apparently, he has no previous connection with England or with Chess?"

    In Canada (Chess Federation of Canada) we -- somehow -- elect governors who actively discourage youth chess, and when not busy doing that, they actively discourage adult chess. Perhaps there is something about chess bureaucracy that breeds contempt for the game itself.

  • 3 jaar geleden


    How did this guy manage to get elected as President of the ECF, when apparently, he has no previous connection with England or with Chess?

  • 3 jaar geleden


    LOL ... sack them both; start with fresh blood.

  • 3 jaar geleden


    After reading the PDF (which I advise everyone to read) I came into conclusion that Paulson had been consistently true in rebutting Short's unfounded accusations.  Short's email to the ECF Board were merely self-serving statements and speculation which obviously should not be given due credence.  Moreover, the same was not supported by clear, concrete, and convincing evidence.  The letter [Short] was merely a fishing expedition intended to harass and disturb Zurab. It would be a bad precedent if this kind of baseless complaint would be given due course. Otherwise anybody could easily write and manufacture any wrongdoing against anyone.

    Though the PDF seems having all the necessary parts, I am still looking for items 3 and 4 on page 5 of 7 which might have been inadvertently omitted.

  • 3 jaar geleden


    Ilyumzhinov MUST GO!

  • 3 jaar geleden

    FM Boorchess

    I personally hope that Garry Kaparov wins the bid for FIDE president and ushers in a new era of progressive chess. We here in the USA sorely need to have an open communication with FIDE and growth of chess as a sport in the eyes of the media and corporate interests. What have you seen in chess in the last decades from FIDE that offers any hope of chess entering the mainstream ? Kasparov was able to attract high level media coverage of chess and sponsors on many occasions in the United States. Combine this with the star power of Carlsen and Nakamura we could be in for a new chess boom. I personally would like to see FIDE and USCF and join forces and aggressively seek to create a proffesional chess circuit in the United States that rivals the chess culture of Europe. It can be done!

  • 3 jaar geleden


    Ask Carlsen what should be done; he is after the king of chess.....Carlsen should either decide or pick someone to decide......because these blokes seem to have zero credibility.....

  • 3 jaar geleden


    That PDF makes me support Paulson. It really makes for interesting reading and I can really recommend it to anyone who reads this article.

  • 3 jaar geleden


    Sounds like Mr Paulson has a lost endgame, yet refuses to resign despite the officials telling him it is lost, and so hopes to stay at the board until the time on his clock runs down and the flag falls on April 12th.

  • 3 jaar geleden


    I like the death match idea!

  • 3 jaar geleden


    The matter should be decided with a death match between Andrew Paulson and Nigel Short.

  • 3 jaar geleden


    Short is an idiot. He's not leadership material. He's a wet wipe who thinks his GM status will get him places other than being fodder for Kasparov and co. Stick to playing Nigel.

  • 3 jaar geleden


    The surprise for me is the result for Short. 2 votes for, 6 abstentions (one of those being Paulson). That is a de facto vote of no confidence.

    Paulson's response to Short in the PDF is compelling reading and makes Short look ridiculous. At the same time, its vituperative language makes Paulson also sound like a petulant child. Which serves to evidence why this absurd state of affairs has come to pass.

  • 3 jaar geleden


    The matter should be decided with a blitz match between Andrew Paulson and Nigel Short.

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