Promoter accused of 'imprisoning' chess star

By Ryan Holland

An Israeli chess grandmaster is claiming he was "a prisoner in South Africa" while a Johannesburg tournament organiser allegedly reneged on a promise to pay his travel expenses and appearance fee for a two-week tour.

Grandmaster Arthur Kogan said the chess teacher lured him to Johannesburg in October with the prospect of promoting chess in South Africa.

Likening himself to boxing promoter Don King, who brought Muhammad Ali and George Foreman to Kinshasa in 1974 for the "Rumble in the Jungle", the tournament organiser called South Africa a "gold field to be mined", according to Kogan. The man guaranteed a tournament in which the victor would win $3 000 (R22 110) and $2 500 (R18 425) in appearance fees and travel expenses.

Instead, Kogan wrote recently in a scathing message on the Association of Chess Players online news feed, he was forced to give lectures on his arrival and provide unpaid lessons for the chess teacher's students. After it became clear there was to be no tournament, Kogan said he was strung along with promises of proceeds from the lessons. He said he never received a cent, and that he did not want to leave the country early because changing his pre-booked flight would have cost even more.

Laurence Ball, the president of Chess South Africa (Chessa), said the organiser had not consulted with the organisation before announcing the tournament.

He said an investigation into Kogan's allegations was currently being conducted by an internal ethics committee which had sent the organiser a letter outlining the allegations against him.

They had not received a response yet.

Ball said there was also a possibility that Kogan would file civil charges against the teacher.

"These allegations, if they prove to be true, are horrifying," Ball said.

"Perceptions (of South African chess) are not looking particularly good internationally right now."

Ball said the charges "technically had nothing to do with Chessa".

Repeated calls to the chess teacher were not returned.