Kasparov cancels on Israel chess competition after "FIBI threats"

The chess player said First International Bank of Israel was threatening to sue him in Israel.

A Delaware court dismissed a request by the First International Bank of Israel for a restraining order against world top chess player Garry Kasparov. The court determined that the bank’s claims were “far too thin.”

A statement issued on behalf of Kasparov in Moscow said that in light of the dismissal of the FIBI’s request, the bank is threatening to sue him in Israel.

As a result, Kasparov has canceled his participation in the Man versus Machine competition in Israel that will be held in Jerusalem on January 7-9. Kasparov said he had hoped to express his support for Israel at this time through his participation in the competition.

Kasparov said that after hearing appeals and in an attempt to minimize damage to the competition, he was planning to participate in the competition via a computer hookup from Moscow. The chess player emphasized that he had many friends in Israel and would be happy to come in the future once legal issues were resolved.

In 1999, when the dot.com industry was at its height, a group of Israeli entrepreneurs (the Polar group) together with a group associated with Kasparov established a Web site called Kasparov Chess Online. The purpose of the site was to promote the game throughout the world, especially among children. The company received a $1.5 million loan from FIBI, but in 2002 the company ran aground and a few months ago the site was closed down. The bank is now demanding that the site be reopened because it believes that this way it can secure repayment of the loan.

Kasparov’s American attorney, Richard A. Conn Jr. of Latham & Watkins’ Washington, D.C. office stated yesterday that "the Israeli bank sprang a surprise suit on Kasparov in the United States on Christmas Eve, without first even trying to negotiate with him".

According to Conn, FIBI is trying to damage Kasparov’s name as a top world chess player, in order to squeeze him to pay a corporate obligation. He added that Kasparov Chess Online Inc. established the Web site together with a number of partners from Israel and the United States and that Kasparov himself was responsible for the site content, and invested over $100,000 in the site.

Published by Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il - on 6 January, 2003

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