OFFSIDE Sport Media continues its research on the problems of our national chessThis time, the article will touch upon issues related to the earnings of Azerbaijani chess players and the prize fund for domestic tournaments.

Salary discrimination of the federation

The income of Azerbaijani chess players is formed from scholarships and salaries paid by the ACF, coaching, as well as the prize fund of competitions. Recently, cooperation with sponsoring companies has become widespread.

The salaries of chess players have always been the subject of dissatisfaction and discussion. Members of the men's chess team are paid 1,500-2,000 manats. Salary delays and long delays are not uncommon in Azerbaijani chess. In August 2018, the fact that chess players were left without a salary for months was particularly unpleasant. So much so that Shahriyar Mammadyarov, who competes in the Sinquefield Cup, said he was tired of participating in long-running tournaments for profit. The grandmaster, nicknamed "Shah", earned 225,000 euros from the tournaments he participated in that yearThe payment of 8,000 manat to Arkady Naydich, who was nationalized in 2015, is not unequivocally welcomed. The allocation of such a salary to a legionnaire who did not show serious results caused the rightful dissatisfaction of the masses.

Before the Baku Chess Olympics (2016), girls were given 2,000 manat a month. On that eve, the main members of the men's national team received a salary of 5 manat, and reserve players received a salary of 1,500 manat. Salaries have been reduced several times since the Olympics. The result is that Elman Rustamov's team just hung up.

In Azerbaijan, the income of chess players falls mainly on coaching. This can be done through individual and online lessons. The cost of one hour of online session is 25-55 US dollars. For example, according to the Chess club website, international master Ilgar Bacarani pays $ 30, his son Ulvi Bacarani $ 25, members of our national team Gadir Huseynov $ 30 and Eltaj Safarli $ 50. The cost of training, which does not belong to the virtual space, starts from 20 manat.

Decreasing prize fund from year to year

The classic way to earn in chess is to perform successfully in various competitions. A prize fund is set for chess tournaments in Azerbaijan, as well as all over the world. In recent years, it is clear that there are serious problems in this regard.

The prize fund of the Republican Championship among men held in 2019 was only 4,000 manat. Statistics show that the prize fund of the national championships is inversely proportional to the age of the current leadership of the ACF. As the age of management increases, the allocated funds decrease. In 2008, the prize fund of the Azerbaijani championship was 13,000 manat, and the winner's profit was 5,000 manat. This fund decreased by 10 manat in 2011 and 5,000 manat in 2016. A similar trend was observed in the women's national championships. A prize fund of 5,000 manat was allocated for this tournament in 2010, 2,500 manat in 2014 and 2,500 manat in 2016. The financial aspects of the March 2020 championship have not been announced at all. Not only Russia, Armenia and Georgia are ahead of Azerbaijan in terms of prize money allocated for chess competitions.

At the last national chess championship in Russia, the prize fund for men was 6.5 (145,000 AZN) and 3.5 million RR (78,000 AZN) for women. The first place among men was awarded 1 million RR (22,000 AZN) and a Renault car. The winner of the fair sex was awarded 600,000 RR (13,000 AZN).

Let's take a look at the Baku Open tournament, which has been held since 2005 and brings together a number of famous chess players. The prize fund of the competition, organized by the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the ACF, has been declining over the past 10 years. According to the ministry, the prize fund is formed by agreement between the organizers. That is, the required funds can be allocated by both the GIN and the ACF. The sponsor of the first festival was the Gulaga Ganbarov Charitable Foundation. Participants of the competition with a prize fund of $ 14,000 were released from membership. Although the number of sponsors increased in 2010, membership fees began to be collected from chess players with a rating below 2,400. Also, except for chess players with a rating higher than 2630 (the first 10 registered grandmasters), others had to cover their own accommodation and meals.

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In recent years, the average rating of the tournament has also fallen. In 2016, this figure was 1696, in 2019 it was 1657. At the same time, there is a decrease in the number of participants with a rating above 2600.

 The decrease in the prize fund of the Baku Open resulted in the lack of interest of well-known grandmasters in the tournament. Over the past three years, the cost of accommodation of foreign chess players has also increased. Until 2017, spending a night in a double room at the AF Hotel with full board meals was 50 AZN, and staying with breakfast only was 30 AZN. Staying alone in the room was 65 AZN. From 2018, accommodation with meals 3 times a day in the hotel, which will be renamed SPRINGS, will cost 80 AZN, and stay alone will cost 95 AZN.

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Let's take a brief look at the prize fund of the Shamkir Chess and traditional Nakhchivan Open tournaments dedicated to the memory of the late chess player Vugar Hashimov. The prize fund of Shamkir Chess, established in 2014, is set at $ 100,000, of which 30,000 will go to the winner. These funds are usually formed at the expense of sponsoring companies. The tournament was sponsored by Synergy Group and SOCAR. The prize fund of the Nakhchivan Open International Chess Festival was unstable. The fund, which fell from $ 66,500 in 2011 to $ 10,000 in 2014, recently reached $ 25,000. Nakhchivan AR Chess Federation actively participates in the organization of the tournament.

Armenia and Georgia earn money on chess

The total prize fund of the last national championship among women and men in Armenia amounted to about 16,000 euros. The top three men's chess players have won the right to participate in the European Championship. At the same time, the national championship in rapid chess with a prize fund of 2,200 euros was held.

For comparison, Azerbaijan does not have a national championship in rapid and blitz chess. In fact, the ACF does not take the initiative. Some time ago, the online Republican Rapid Chess Championship was organized by RIM "Education". The main prize of the tournament was a 1-year "diamond" membership (worth $ 99) on the site "chess.com" for the first place.

In Armenia, grandmasters receive a salary of about 50 percent of the average monthly salary. CNN in 2016, the wage is equivalent to US $ 120 , he wrote . According to the results achieved in international competitions, the national chess team is awarded a significant cash prize. Each member of the Armenian men's chess team, winners of the 2006 Chess Olympics, was awarded $ 18,000. The team was awarded $ 20,400 for winning the World Championship in 2011.

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The state and local federations do not ignore ordinary chess players. They receive social support and are provided with a variety of training programs. It is possible to go to a small border and look at the articles about Armenian chess on the leading news portals. Well-known media outlets such as CNN, BBC, Independent and Al Jazeera have published extensive articles on the development of Armenian chess. It is difficult to come across articles about Azerbaijani chess on popular websites. Only in 2011 did CNN make a short video about our chess. Of course, it would be a miracle to expect cooperation from Azerbaijani diaspora organizations abroad from our federation, which is unable to provide accurate information about chess competitions held in the country.

The prize fund of chess tournaments held in Georgia, another Caucasus republic, is mainly around $ 10,000. In 2019, Giga Kuparadze became the champion of Georgia in men's chess. As the winner, he won $ 2,360 from a race with a prize fund of $ 5,800. The prize money is good not only for men's but also for women's tournaments. The prize fund of the 2019 championship was $ 5,500. The first three places received $ 1,730, $ 1,410 and $ 1,100, respectively. There were also championships with a larger fund. For example, $ 9,700 was allocated for the championship in 2013. 5,000 of them reached the winner.

One of the elite competitions is organized by the living legend of Georgian chess Nona Gaprindashvili. In 2016, the total prize fund of the Nona-75 tournament dedicated to his anniversary was 18,000 euros. Men have the opportunity to win 4,000 euros with winning bonuses, and women - 1,800 euros. A prize fund of $ 15,750 has been set for the 2019 Nona Cup tournament. It should be noted that the Organizing Committee of the tournament, headed by Gaprindashvili, does not charge participation fees for chess players with a rating higher than 2501.

Let's take a look at the tournament dedicated to the memory of the first director of the Republican Chess Center in Azerbaijan Fuad Jafarov. Along with Azerbaijan, 250 chess players from Iran, Russia and the United Arab Emirates competed in the memorial tournament held on January 3-11. The prize fund was only 2,500 manat.

The tragicomic situation of the republican championship

In the FIDE team rankings, Azerbaijan ranks 7th and Georgia 18th. One of the sponsors of the republican chess championship in Georgia is SOCAR. The company also helps our north-western neighbor to develop chess. What about Azerbaijani chess? Mahir Mammadov, General Director of SOCAR Energy Georgia, is also the Vice President of the ACF. If SOCAR allocates 3-4 thousand manats for the Azerbaijani chess championship, it is obvious that this amount does not suit it. If the prize fund is formed at the expense of the federation's own resources, it is a double disgrace. If Faig Hasanov, who has direct control over organizational issues, allocates a prize fund of 4,000 manat to a chess country like Azerbaijan, there is no question.

The prize fund is deplorable because the ACF does not pay attention to the national chess championship. As a logical consequence, only 2 grandmasters participated in the men's tournament in January 2019. The favorite of the championship rating was Vugar Asadli with 2471 points. One of the grandmasters, who did not want to be named, said that the lack of incentives and importance was the reason for the loss of the championship.

"The small prize fund makes famous grandmasters not interested in the championship. The time of the tournament is also unsuccessful. The professional chess player determines the calendar 6 months in advance. The ACF announces the date of the Republican Championship late.

Last year, it was planned to hold the Grand Prix among women chess players, but it was not taken. There is no money for such important tournaments. They wanted to raise the level of the championship this year. But if a round robin system is applied in the tournament, a number of talented chess players will be left out again. "

In the end, it can be concluded that the ACF does not pay much attention to the Azerbaijani championship. A few years ago, the federation's vice-president Mahir Mammadov was asked about the organization's budgetı. He said the budget was 7 digits. In addition, the funds allocated for chess are more than included in the Olympic program. The ACF also receives support from the Central Bank and SOCAR. Taking this into account, it is necessary to reconsider the prize fund of domestic chess competitions. The federation, which aims to popularize chess, should organize a mini-tournament between 10-12 chess players in a circular system and not name the Azerbaijani championship. If the prize fund is increased and well-known grandmasters are involved in the national championship, young chess players will gain unparalleled experience in the tournament.