Thursday, January 25, 2007

Alex Wohl Responds to CHESSA

This is literally hot in my inbox. International master Alex Wohl sends in his response to the Chess South Africa (CHESSA) report on the so-called "African Nightmare". For easier reading, I simply paste the whole of Alex's response below. (Text in bold are direct quotes from the CHESSA report).


I apologise for taking so long to respond but a baby and chess commitments have kept me from delivering a considered response. My happiness that CHESSA decided to investigate the event has been tempered by the conclusions drawn and measures taken. Specifically:

The Ethics Committee would however like to note that both Mr Ngubeni and GM Kogan are to be blamed for the lack of a proper written contract governing the services that GM Kogan was expected to provide and an agreement regarding remuneration.

I have been playing chess semi-professionally for more than 25 years now and have never even seen a contract. Before email most agreements were purely verbal and in all that time only once did I not get paid the agreed amount. That was by a German chess club called Starnberg and despite the lack of any written agreement I was paid when I sued based on a verbal agreement. Promises made by email are legally binding. I assume that applies to South Africa as well. The only question is whether the service was delivered.

GM Kogan also neglected to advise CHESSA of his intended visit and only approached CHESSA after the difficulties between him and Mr Ngubeni arose.

Never have I or any of my colleagues advised a chess federation of an intended visit to a chess event in any country. This statement like the previous one implies that we were at fault for what happened. Would CHESSA have advised us not to come?

It rather seems that Mr Ngubeni was over-optimistic about the prospects of raising money and, as a result of bad planning, landed in a situation where the income raised hardly covered the costs incurred.

I would like to know how you came to this conclusion. Has Mr Ngubeni provided you with a financial statement? How much income was generated and what were the costs incurred?

It is not surprising that a Grandmaster of GM Kogan's stature would resist Mr Ngubeni's efforts to dominate him.

Does this mean that since Watu Kobese and I are mere International masters we were unable to resist Mr Ngubeni´s efforts to dominate us?

Your decision to ban Mr Ngubeni for 3 years does punish him but also does nothing to compensate Arthur, Watu or myself. It also robs South Africa of a dedicated and extremely energetic organiser. This venture was not a roaring success but destroying Mr Ngubeni will also not serve any purpose. Another solution must be found or chess in South Africa will be the biggest loser.

South Africa impressed the world with the "truth and reconciliation commission". Exactly the same attitude is needed here. All party´s must participate for a successful outcome. CHESSA might try to engage Mr Ngubeni in a constructive way to provide a report on the event and compensate Arthur for his travel expenses as a start. He has stated on numerous occasions that he is prepared to do so still. Watu Kobese, of whom little mention is made, should be compensated for his work. He did the lions share of the coaching.
and was the "Ghandi" amongst us trying to keep the peace.

I personally forego any further claim as the experience of visiting South Africa has been enriching enough.

Finally I hope this response is seen as constructive and not as a personal attack on CHESSA. The office holders I know personally I hold in high regard and trust that they can handle this challenge in the interests of chess in South Africa.

Gens una sumus,

Alex Wohl.


Anonymous said...

I think this response is a breath of fresh air in as far as the matter is concerned. We really needed someone to "pull-a-handbrake" for the sake of chess in Africa and South African Chess image and Jackie Ngubeni as an individual.

The balanced approach in your handling of the matter is laudable, and demonstrates great maturity. When you say you've played chess for 25 years, your article, approach and tone are testimony to that.

There are a lot of questions that one has for GM Kogan that I think even he himself never answered or can answer in as far as the trip is concerned. Again, if the matter held greater merit, why did he not choose or utilise the proper channels to raise and resolve the matter?

Judging by his stature, I find it hard to believe that a man of such an international standing would write in such a puerile style and tone. I would forgive his youth for that. If I were blindfolded and someone reads the article to me, I would swear by my dear little life that the author's rating does not exceed 1100.

In his article, Mr. Kogan has somewhat overlooked some elements which I have been impressed were raised by IM Alex Wohl. The approach is somewhat parochial and its perspective is skewed to say the least. It paints a bad picture of chess and our country in general.

One does not really want to enter into the merits and demerits of the events that unfolded in the time of his stay in the beautiful South Africa. That is another topic of discussion.

Mr. Kogan was obviously not in a different place with IM Watu Kobese and IM Alex Wohl. The article again failed to demonstrate another element of maturity and altruism. It did not present a case that even warranted him being taken serious by the chess community, let alone our federation.

The lesser said about the amateurish manner in which our local CHESSA Federation handled the matter, the better. Where in the world has a federation banned a businessman who is not their affiliate? As far as I know, Chessco is a PRIVATE company. And Jackie Ngubeni is the Director at the company.

A kangaroo-court system was used to come to the conclusion of the illegal ban. No proper hearing or investigation was held on the matter. They have severely dented the international image of the great organiser. Worse off, their decision is a pure violation of his rights.

It must be noted that I do not divorse myself of the knowledge or of the fact that Mr. Kogan is agrieved. But if one was to look at the FACTS of the matter without prejudice, there are lots of gray areas and a lot that Mr. Kogan is not telling to add merit.

It saddens me to note that there are thousands of masses who bought the story of Mr. Kogan word for word. In real life, we need not forget that as chess players and or professionals, we owe our approach of thinking to this great game of the intteligentsia.

At a point in time, one had to put the matter in perspective and bring a balance in as far as what suffice is concerned. IM Wohl has successfully done that. The sentence that echoes and brings me a smile is that you find South Africa great!

Anonymous said...

Its a simple question.
Was GM Kogan paid all that he was promised? If not,then Ngubeni is guilty and should be reprimanded.

And if he is guilty the only thing to argue about is the size of the reprimand,not whether he should be reprimanded.

Luring chess professionals on false pretences will cause damage to any countries chess reputation. South Africa's chess reputation is fragile and should be carefully guarded so as to ensure the future growth of chess in South Africa.

Anonymous said...

As indicated. I would not like to discuss or debate the merits and demerits of the events that sufficed.
What was Mr. Kogan promised? Is it what he ALLEGES is said in the e-mail?

Maybe we should ask, what did Mr. Kogan do when in the country?

There are many weak squares on the board.

If Ngubeni is guilty, who and what structure has proven such guilt? All I suggest is that we need to excercise caution in lending merit to any story, especially 1 sided story.

“A mature person is one who is does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably”
Eleanor Roosevelt

Anonymous said...

The investigation by the Ethics Committee of Chessa was done on the basis of witness statements and e-mail correspondence. Jackie Ngubeni refused every opportunity to present his side of the story. A clear case of bringing chess into disrepute has been established. To allege that a kangaroo-court system was used, or that no proper hearing or investigation was held, is uninformed and wrong.