NSF: Mr. Eugene Akhiwu Ehidiamen Raise Concerns about Arbiter Issues

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The 20th edition of the National Sports Festival has finally been fixed for April 2nd – 15th 2021. A circular sent by the Ministry of Sports to the various state sporting associations stated that the Games Village will be opened from April 2 for the state contingents’ arrival before the opening ceremony on Sunday, April 4.

Phone interview with Bruvschess Media and Mr. Eugene Akhiwu Ehidiamen. LISTEN HERE

The letter which was signed by Peter Nelson, the Secretary of the Main Organizing Committee for the Sports Festival was titled: “SCHEDULED DATE FOR THE 20TH NATIONAL SPORTS FESTIVAL”.

It reads: … “Arising from the above, I am directed to inform you that the 20th NSF is now scheduled for April 2-15, 2021.

The details are:

I) Opening of the Games Village- April 2-3, 2021

II) Opening Ceremony – April 4, 2021

III) Closing Ceremony -April 14, 2021

IV) Closing of Games Village: April 15, 2021.

This is an exciting moment for every sportsperson, especially in the chess community. However, some concerns are being raised as to how the Chess Event for the upcoming National Sports Festival is being run by the Nigerian chess federation. 

An article published by Mr. Eugene Akhiwu Ehidiamen, where he clearly stated his concerns and dissatisfaction, has spiked so much discussion amongst people in the chess community.

Mr. Eugene Akhiwu Ehidiamen who is an international arbiter, with years of experience and also well known in the chess community, posted the article on his Facebook page, where he emphasized various issues and what he feels should be corrected as regards the arbitration team of the chess event in the upcoming National Sports Festival. 

….His Article…

“The Chess Arbiter is a professional in his chosen field and is expected to go through required training and acquire necessary experience to move up the ladder of his profession. Arbitration in Chess Tournaments is not an all comers affair as FIDE places a very high premium on the qualities expected of an Arbiter in a Chess tournament.

FIDE’s views about the Chess Arbiter are crystallised in the preface to the Laws of Chess – viz “……..the Laws assume that Arbiters have the necessary competence, sound judgement and absolute objectivity. ……..”

These qualities are further explained in the FIDE Arbiter’s Handbook thus:

“…..Where the Laws are specific on a situation, an arbiter should ensure that they are followed. However, there are occasions when an arbiter must make a decision on a situation which is not covered, or not covered completely, by the Laws.

When making such decisions the arbiter should consider similar situations which are covered. In all cases the decision should be based on common sense, logic, fairness and any special circumstances…….. As it is always necessary for an arbiter to make a decision and to solve problems during a game, having experience is important. More important however is an excellent knowledge of the current Laws and total objectivity at all times.”

Considering that the effective actions of the Arbiters during the games play a very significant role in the success of any chess event, common sense dictates that authorities concerned with the selection process for arbiters should be definite on the competence of the nominated persons.

The first step in this direction is to ensure that the selected person is a trained and certified arbiter before looking at the person’s history of performance and antecedence. Never should such nominations be used to reward cronies or serve as a covid -19 bail-out option if our intentions are meant to improve the quality of chess play in Nigeria.

Everything about chess play and administration are guided by rules and regulations and this has been the bane of chess development in Nigeria because some people usually always want to have their way even if they have to lie and mislead other people to get there.

This situation in Nigeria is enhanced by the inability of the NCF to adopt any written document to date, which clearly identify the way forward in our collective task of growing chess in its various departments.

However, FIDE our parent body has documentation in all these departments on how chess should be run in the world including who should, and how arbiters are nominated to participate in tournaments.

Taking a cue from Fide and using the Olympiad as an example, Arbiters for the Olympiad are nominated from the various federations that make up FIDE by the Fide Arbiters Commission (which is also responsible for the training of arbiters), in consultation with the organisers of the tournament. 

The hosting federation for the Olympiad usually for the purpose of reducing cost are granted the larger number of arbiters to be invited (local arbiters). Fide ensures that the Deputy Chief Arbiters come from different federations and give the President of Fide the responsibility of nominating the Chief Arbiter.

All these actions are guided by laid down procedure and all nominations are also guided by the qualification and classification of arbiters in the record of the Fide Arbiters’ Commission. 

In Nigeria, the NCF Technical Committee is the most appropriate body to assume the function of the Fide Arbiters Commission as the Chess Arbiters Association which by nomenclature should be doing this, is non governmental and has been undermined for so long by the NCF. 

Following the Fide model, the NCF President should have the privilege of nominating the Chief Arbiter for the Chess Events of the National Sports Festival.

Talking about integrity. 

It is clearly unethical for the president of the NCF to appoint himself into the arbitration team of the Chess Events of the National Sports Festival when we have so many certified chess arbiters yearning for opportunities to gain exposure and practice their trade in tournaments which the same NCF President has failed to provide. 

He appoints himself as Deputy Chief Arbiter when he also nominates the Chief Arbiter.

This is wrong.

We must not forget that the NCF President comes from a particular state and a member of that State’s chess concerns. As chess players we are trained to anticipate the move of the opponent and as such we need to ask if all these manoeuvres by the NCF President in 

1. Nominating unqualified persons to function as arbiters, 

2. Offering the job of an arbiter to the Head Coach of the host state of the National Sports Festival, 

3. Nominating himself as the Deputy Chief Arbiter when he also nominated the Chief Arbiter, are not part of a grand design

Chess development is not just about getting titled players. It is more about ensuring that we are guided in our regular activities by the principles and objectives of learning to play chess well. The German World Chess Champion and 

legend Emmanual Lasker(1868 – 1941) sums it up this way –

“On the. Chess board lies and hypocrisy do not survive long. The creative combination lays bare the presumption of a lie; the merciless fact culminating in the checkmate contradicts the hypocrite.”

Finally, I ask,

Can a student enrolled to write an exam also be one of the invigilators in the exam hall? Is it possible for the Coach of a Football Team even if he is a FIFA graded referee to be part of officiating in a tournament where his team is participating? Even if this was possible a serious minded Coach would be too involved in trying to strategise for his team’s success to accept such an offer.

If the Coach is not a certified referee and yet offered the job of a referee in a tournament in which his team is participating, then it is either the organisers are trying to undermine his team’s performance by keeping him “busy” or trying to hoodwink other participating teams. 

“Something dey there” 

But Nigeria Chess players are too smart and will not allow it and neither will Edo our host state. I have also not yet heard of any sports federation that appoints its staff who are not trained for the job, to serve as referrees in their tournaments. 

There are duties in the course of running this chess tournament that are not technical and do not require specialised training which the NCF staff can do.

I am hereby advising the Nigeria Chess Federation to remove the names of all persons who are not certified or trained for the job from the list of arbiter nominees for the Chess Events of the National Sports Festival and replace them with qualified arbiters.”

…End…

To further get his opinion and clarify as regards some of the issues posted on his Facebook page, Bruvschess Media had a phone conversation with Mr. Eugene Akhiwu Ehidiamen on Sunday 28th, March 2021.   

Listen to the live phone call interview between Bruvschess Media correspondent and Mr. Eugene Akhiwu Ehidiamen.

Listen here

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