Columns | November 11, 2008 23:18

FIDE: a change we can believe in

FIDE: a change we can believe inFIDE is failing terribly in dealing with the Topalov-Kamsky match in a correct and transparent way. It's also clear to virtually everyone that the FIDE President and his staff have generally ruined the whole system in the past ten years or more, despite their efforts to organize a lot of events. Things have gone horribly wrong ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú it reminded me of the the war in Iraq. In FIDE, too, we need change. But how can we make it a change we can believe in?

One might think the new and undisputed world champion Vishy Anand would be an interesting candidate ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú not to become president of FIDE, of course, but perhaps to get a 'movement' going, and to end the current equilibrium. After all, wasn't it the world's number one player Garry Kasparov who in the 80s and 90s opened the eyes of the world to the reality of FIDE under Campomanes' reign?

But Anand is not Kasparov, as Jan Timman recently pointed out (in case anyone hadn't noticed yet). Anand is just a nice guy who wants to play chess. Let's thank him for that - and look for other candidates. Here, we quickly run out of alternatives. Carlsen is too young, Topalov too whimsical, Ivanchuk too much like Anand.

Maybe we shouldn't try to tackle the problem with a top-down approach. What about starting at the bottom of the chain? After all, FIDE consists of national federations, which consist (in many cases) of local federations, which consist of individual club members. What if from now on all club members simply refuse to participate in FIDE tournaments? Or, if this is not realistic ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú what if clubs start to complain with their country's federation, and the national federations raise these problems at the next FIDE congress? Or perhaps all players at the upcoming Olympiad in Dresden should simply arrive in the playing hall 1 minute and 1 second late. Power to the people - that's democracy, right?

Well, I'm not sure about you, but somehow I doubt it will work in this case, even though it would be great if national federations spoke out more clearly. To give you an example from my own country: I haven't heard of a complaint or something from the Dutch chess federation towards FIDE ever about the chaos surrounding world championship matches. Why is this? What is everybody afraid of?

What's important in elections is not only to appeal to politicians, to students, to business men, but to common people. So let's have a candidate for change in FIDE who can appeal not only to officials, to chess federations, to chess professionals, but to amateur chess enthusiasts as well.

We need someone who has played a lot of spectacular attacking games - that's what chess fans like! It should also be someone who has never been controversial. Thirdly, it should be someone with connections - we can't escape that. And perhaps it should be someone who is somehow different from the other candidates - who, in other words, is not another middle-aged white guy. Someone who can appeal to the 'minorities' as well.

What's the ultimate minority in chess? Well, of course that's women. Haven't they been ignored in chess for too long already?

Yes, they have... all women, except one. A woman who happens to be the number one in the world. And speaking of connections, doesn't she happen to have a sister who's in the executive board of one of the largest chess federations in the world? As for popularity and spectacular games - too many to mention. Yes... there is someone after all!

Judit, for the future of chess, we ask you to step forward. Give us hope. Give us a change we can believe in.

Polgar for change - chess we can!


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Arne Moll's picture
Author: Arne Moll


Manu's picture

Nice idea . Judith , what would you say?
On the other hand the chess world needs someone who can solve the other problems too ,not just top-level chess problems.
Maybe she can team up with someone with that kind of profile .

leigh's picture

I think the Championship System should be changed.
The old (actully used today) system is very bad for many execellent players. They don't have chance to be a World Champion. The system blocked the big company to invest on Chess. if they support some tournments, the champion is just a champion, not a world championship.
Chess should learn the other sports, there are many world champion, like Olimpic, world cup, leigh cup(kidding), all of them are world level champion.
This way, it will produce many world champion, and get many support for the different world champions.
The the chess will develop quickly. I wish FIDE should learn the ways Go developing in Japan, Korea and China.

xtra's picture

it would be great, no doubt. most importantly, no longer would there be a businessman in charge, but a player. yes, you need the business, but ultimately it is just not good with suits ruling a game they dont play themselves. turkey is another good example, unfortunately the suits just won again.

bessel kok, well its too bad he didnt win but polgar might have more popularity. in the chess world that is, but then again that is one of the problems to begin with, fide isnt the chess world, it isthe business world.

test's picture

A proper candidate is not enough, look at what happened when Bessel Kok ran for president.

Theo's picture

Come on....

Who writes this crap? What a silly idea. Do you really think Judit would be interested in this?

I don't think so.

Appaz's picture

Judith is very well qualified to handle chess players, after all, she's a mom of several small kids.

piet's picture


I just read some sentences in the intor of this article...

' Terrible wrong.. etc. It reminded me of the war in Iraq'

Excuse me, are you GOD ??


henk's picture

FIDE needs a respectable, hardworking and chesswise knowledgeable president. The last ones that qualified in those terms were Euwe and maybe Olafsson.

That means we have had nearly three decades of incompetence, corruption and mismanagement on so many levels it?Ǭ¥s questionable FIDE can recover. Chess needs its image as the intellectually most challenging game invented by man restored to be able to enjoy a new era of flourishment.

Nowadays chess has the image of a computer-solved game at which only an ever decreasing number of intelligent but otherwise useless individuals are pitted against each other for one or the other world title amongst dustclouds of managaerial incompetence.

Chess needs to build new bases, acquire corporate sponsorship, increase the status of he world championship and ?Ǭ¥Go Olympic?Ǭ¥. FIDE COULD lead that process, but not under its current leadership. Ilyumzhinov and his gang of hoodlums must go or be removed and chess leadership must be put in the hands of respectable, recognizable figures of which the chessworld has a few, but not too many. One could think of a pick out of a group of people like Bessel Kok, Yasser Seirawan, Garry Kasparov, Johan Hjartarsson, Nigel Short or Joop van Oosterom, all of whom could play a part.

If FIDE does not clean up its act, the whole chessworld will continue to suffer. I think it was Hobbes who stated that a people does not only have the right of resistance against bad government, a King in his time, but also a moral obligation.

CAL|Daniel's picture

well Judith is qualified... she brings with a her horrible connection no one would dream inflict upon fide... Paul Truong. Please no!

Eiae's picture

Nothing will happen inside FIDE as long as there are heaps of representatives from small countries around the world voting for the present leadership for "various reasons". FIDE is corrupt and always have been, it's in the structure. If you want elite success, you need the elite to break free from FIDE.

Alternatively, you can reform FIDE so those small countries do not carry such a weight in the voting, but I don't see that happening.

I'm afraid what we have now is as good as it gets.

laks's picture

Judit? Nah, I don't think she is a person for this.

But henk mentioned an interesting name - Yasser Seirawan! I think he would be excellent for the job. He seems to be a honest person and a person who tries to bring people together rather than to devide them. He is also well respected in the GM circles so I think they would accept him as the president. Don't forget that he started the unification process. It didn't occur as he planed, but that is hardly his fault.

Yes, I think Yasser is the man for this job. It will never happen though :P

Theo's picture

I agree about Mr. Seirawan! Big respect for him! Everyone respects him.
OK, he gets the job...

Sign here please, Yasser. Nahhhh...nevermind those small russian letters, just sign. Thx ;-)

Manu's picture

?Ǭ®?Ǭ®Judit? Nah, I don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t think she is a person for this.?Ǭ®?Ǭ®
Wow , you must know her pretty well.Can you explain a little more?

I dont see the point in expresing yourself like this , What is your problem dude ? You are not TS Eliot either...

IMO Yasser never acomplished much in the unification process , he had best intentions but other than that he didn?Ǭ¥t push things foward enough.
And he was really biased in his comments for all the Kramniks matches, so he is not that centered in my opinion.

Alexander's picture

I think that one thing should be kept in mind: Ilyumzhinov can - via his connections with Russian government and Gazprom (and aliens, if we believe him) - guarantee the prize found. Prize found on its turn guarantees that the players will try their absolute best, each of them backed by a bunch hard-working and well-payed seconds. The new president is of course what everyone wants, but first we should try to find a new way of financing great chess tournaments. Recent event in Bilbao showed it is possible ...

snits's picture

What we really need is for there to be a falling out between Putin and Kirsan. That would be the end of his presidency.

semipatz's picture

Only a cosmic alliance between the Evonik and Gazprom girls can still save the chess universe!

David Korn, Seattle's picture

i have direct contact with Yasser, and will ask him, if this has not been brought to his attention already. i dont think he would do it, but he cares very, very deeply about the chess community.

how i will remember, all my life, as we walked at the ocean, when he told me how he was giving the Prague Accord as his parting gift to chess. he is a class man, a savy business person who can read and write contracts, and, well, a real chess grandmaster.

warmly, dk

David Korn, Seattle's picture

forwarded all comments to him now, thus cc

Judit Polgar's picture

Thank you for this proposal,

I have no time to be involded in political issues,

I concentrate my effort to satisfy my husband and sons.

Popuscu (Bulgaria)'s picture

What about Bobby Fisher, if he is still alive ?????

Manu's picture

If we go that way i want Elvis in the team.

Bobby Fisher's picture

I would like to do it!

My friend Elvis can join me!

Elvis's picture


Let's rock on roll on the chessboard baby!

R.Mutt's picture

Judit Polgar wrote: "I concentrate my effort to satisfy my husband and sons."

I think this comment disqualifies Judit for the position: apparently she doesn't even know she has a son and a daughter, not two sons. Can't we draft Maurice Ashley?

henk's picture

What does Seirawan do these days? I understood he was into investment management/private equity. Hope he didnt lose his bearings in the financial crisis. To the gentleman who said the Prague agreement was a failure and that this somehow disqualifies Seirawan: The Prague accord was a clever and fair solution to solve the divide between FIDE and the Kasparov/Kramnik-title camp. Its failure was -ofcourse- the result of the intransigence, unwillingness and incompetence on the part of FIDE, read Ilyumzhinov.

Stephen's picture

I suggest Dr. John Nunn. He's a very honest and straightforward guy, a former top 10 GM and a successful businessman.

Dan's picture

I think the Fischer/Kasparov eras have made chess players and fans expect to much out of professional chess.

The time when chess world champions were regarded as the ultimate in human intellect have long gone!

The intelligence required to play chess is now recognised as a tiny subset of overall human intelligence. Hell, my laptop could beat the current world champion in chess. But no computer can yet pass for a human in a simple conversation!

We need to face the fact that chess as a marketing product has lost a great deal of its appeal both to coporations and governments. I am not sure best businessman in world could have prevented this.

Chess seriously needs to re-brand itself. Trying to sell it as the ultimate battle of intellects just isn't going hold water any longer. The new president needs a new vision for chess! But what that is the question?

henk's picture

I kind of agree with you here Dan. Kasparov has in this respect played a highly constructive (the epic K-K battles, his charisma, writing books etc.) and a highly destructive role (breakaway from FIDE followed by a decade of trouble surrounding the world championship, losing to Deep Blue in childish fashion).

But how do you ?Ǭ¥re-brand?Ǭ¥, and maybe more importantly, who should lead the effort? Chess has lost most of its sponsorship appeal due to the (probably correct) perception that Rybka et alias are nowadays superior to the cream of the crop of human chessplayers.

What would enormously boost the marketing value of chess would be the world champion beating the computer world champion-programm in a match. This event itself would still be highly marketable, but how would Anand fare against Rybka? I fear the worst.

So there are basically two problems: incompetence and lack of leadership and vision within FIDE and lack of money and decreasing public interest in chess. Lack of money is a sort of ?Ǭ¥traditional?Ǭ¥ problem in chess. Declining public (and corporate) interest might in the long run an even more serious problem. One thing IS clear: FIDE under its current leadership is not part of the solution but part of the problem. I cant think of any other major sport being mismanaged in such dictatorial fashion as the leading world chess body.

TrapArecev's picture

FIDE is failing ever since it has turned into a private interest group, which is at least about 25 years, combining immorality with incompetence. The real shamefull and incomprehensible thing is that the major, civilized chess playing countries, still prefer to back this dreadful organisation, instead of starting anew, dispensing to begin with with the undemocratic one countrie-one vote principle, that the FIDE-satrapes have so successfully managed to abuse to their own advantage and to the detriment of global chess. The motto Gens Una Sumus really is ironic, as FIDE itself demonstrates time and again that there exist more than one kind of people.

Ianys's picture

I don't agree with the point about public interests because i thought i had read that more people play chess today than ever .

But i agree that FIDE is badly run and that the sport needs more coverage and sponsors . Only way is to change the FIDE board or create another organisation with sufficient financial ressources to organize events and set clear transparent rules that cannot be changed without the written approval of the players concerned

About the point that "Chess is perceived by the general public as a mathematically solved game" , i don't quite agree on the forme ( strongest player well prepared still have a chance in classical time controls ) , but this argument is interesting to explain the relative disinterest of sponsors toward the game , because as the poster above justly said , Chess is no more "The" intellectual game by excellence , valorized (sry for English incase ) by the society and as prestigious as it was throughout the 20th century until computers arrived , and it's true that with computers , chess as we know it with normal starting position is close to be exhausted , for instance in some main opening lines today , you have to find novelties a few moves before the endgame after move 30-35 so in this respect , i fully agree with Robert J Fischer when he said that the future of Chess is Fischer Random or Chess 960 or whataver we call it (with hundreds of different starting positions ) and probably slighly faster time controls (for example rapid time controls for broadcasting reasons , except for the World championship match or candidates match ) . IMO it could partly solve the problems of short draws and boring games (one of the reason why sponsors are reluctant ) cause it's much more difficult to play by the book instead of by yourself , and could potentially attract the attention of many people (because it would be "new" , this type of chess has not been played before at professional level officially , chess professionals would have to investigate even more , produce more theory , invent , create etc..more substance than inthe current overplayed starting position , IMHO . that could help keep the game alive and rich in developments for quite a while , i also believe that it could cause quite a earth quake in the world's top rated hierarchy if we swicthed to Fischer random but that's another subject

Today we live in a society of entertainment , everything goes and evolves faster than before , children get to play hundreds of different strategy games (video games for example, this didn't exist for kids in the 50's ,60's etc.. ) and most people have less time today to spend on such specious things as chess study , people read less and less and think less and less when back home from work or school , too many things can divert them from chess . But l there is still hope if we get more and more kids to pick up the game at school (one of the secret of Soviet chess sucess ) , and if we manage to get Chess recognized as an Olympic sport (for prestige , it's important fror credibility and popularity of the game )

But ok , that is a lot of "If" , and of course , nothing is possible if we don't have what we call "m?©c?®nes" here , rich people who put in the cash to get the cycle and events going to speak plainly , because even though FIDE is a disgrace , they are in control , so we must find another alternative before breaking with Fide , or manage to change the board and organisation , philosphy etc.. of Fide which IMO is close to impossible since they will do everything to keep their place (and also because Kirsan for insrance spent quite some money for Chess in the past , probably not his own money though, but still , . Sry if i made mistakes or made bad points , cheers

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