Columns | May 06, 2010 17:32

What Ilyumzhinov should have asked

What Ilyumzhinov should have askedWe received a few complaints at ChessVibes headquarters for reporting in a biased way about the upcoming FIDE presidential elections. We were accused of favouring Anatoly Karpov and ridiculing Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. A news item that appeared yesterday on the BCC website shows we should have taken our current president more seriously indeed.

Okay, we admit it: we went too far. While shamelessly promoting Karpov's campaign, we entirely neglected to report on Karpov's own dubious role during the 1984/1985 World Championship match and his recent curious statement about FIDE knock-out tournaments, in which Karpov said he was never a supporter of this particular formula, while profiting from it himself to beat Anand back in 1998.

What's worse, although we didn't write about Ilyumzhinov's friendship with the late dictator Saddam Hussein and about his remarkable encounter with aliens as reported in various interviews (among others on Dutch television), we did have a good laugh at Mig Greengard's suggestion that "we'd do well to go for just about anyone with a pulse and no personal stories of alien abduction at this point." We secretly cracked jokes about Stephen Hawking's warning that any contact with extraterrestial aliens might result in total collapse for mankind - and how Ilyumzhinov managed to avoid this - even though Hawking's statement was received critically in the scientific world.

We were wrong, so wrong. We should have given our President - and he is our President, let's not forget - more credit, just like the Russian parliament. According to the BBC, "a Russian MP has asked President Dmitry Medvedev to investigate claims by a regional president that he has met aliens on board a spaceship."

MP Andre Lebedev is not just asking whether Mr Ilyumzhinov is fit to govern. He is also concerned that, if he was abducted, he may have revealed details about his job and state secrets.
The MP has written a letter to Mr Medvedev raising a list of his concerns. In his letter he says that - assuming the whole thing was not just a bad joke - it was an historic event and should have been reported to the Kremlin.
He also asks if there are official guidelines for what government officials should do if contacted by aliens, especially if those officials have access to state secrets.

The Moscow Times has more details:

Ilyumzhinov told television host Vladimir Pozner on Channel One on April 26 that he had spent several hours in the company of aliens after they visited his apartment in downtown Moscow on Sept. 18, 1997.

He said he was falling asleep when he heard someone calling him from the balcony. When he went there, Ilyumzhinov said, he saw a "semi-transparent half tube" that he entered to meet human-like creatures in yellow spacesuits.

"I am often asked which language I used to talk to them. Perhaps, it was on a level of the exchange of the ideas," Ilyumzhinov said, speaking solemnly.

He said the aliens gave him a tour of their spaceship. When he asked them why they had not gone on television to reveal themselves to humans, they replied that they are not yet ready, Ilyumzhinov said.

He said the aliens returned him to his home in the morning — just as his driver and two associates were about to initiate a citywide search for him after not finding him in the locked apartment.

We stand corrected. Such a uniquely detailed account and its follow-up in the Russian Duma proves there's more to this than just a good laugh. It's all very serious, which is also indicated by the fact Ilyumzhinov states all this again just after having been nominated by the Russian Chess Federation as the candidate for the elections in Khanty Mansiysk: in other words, the story is a conscious part of his campaign to win votes in September and to attract positive media attention to promote chess. Apparently, the President didn't trust Vishy Anand and Veselin Topalov to do it the way only he can.

We think deputy Lebedev raises important questions, but in our opinion he doesn't go quite far enough. The real question, of course, is why Ilyumzhinov, when he was shown this super-advanced alien technology, didn't ask the yellow men which is the best opening move, 1.e4 or 1.d4? Which variation is better: the Najdorf or the Sveshnikov? Why did Ilyumzhinov just 'exchange ideas' instead of asking what is the ultimate result of chess as we know it - a draw, or perhaps a win for Black? And who really was the best player of all time? Not only the Russian parliament but the entire chess community of planet earth eagerly awaits these answers!

Surely Mr. President, as head of all chess lovers in the world, a bit more chess curiosity wouldn't have been too much to ask for?

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Arne Moll's picture
Author: Arne Moll


PeterV's picture

This is really south of the border. Shame on you ChessVibes!

jussu's picture

@Peter Doggers,

No definition of "whacky journalism" yet :) Certainly not just any column. What I had in mind was merciless targeting of some person, digging up every possible and impossible bit that could cast some shadow on him. Usually done to enlarge..., sorry, to bring a feel of satisfaction to the journalist, but I actually think that Ilyumzhinov deserves such treatment. And this article here is funny, too.

Henk's picture

Why is it that only chess seems not to be able to rid itself of a comical and idiotic figure like Ilyumzhinov and his clan?

Any other semi-big sport federation seems to have the defensive mechanisms to correct these things and cleanse itself. Hell, if they were able to -as it appears- get rid of corrupt figures within the IOC, why is Fide structured in a way that a corrupt individual can do as he pleases for as long he pleases?

It seems chessplayers are just not aggressive and combative enough OFF the board and just like to stick to researching variations of the Sveshnikov and the Nimzo-Indian. If a group of top-GM´s united, you´d say they should be able to unsettle the King of Kalmukkia. As the saying goes, palaces are only emptied of their royals during wars and revolutions. It is time for either of those.

guitarspider's picture

Hilarious. Thanks!

SXL's picture

The fact that Ilyumzhinov is the chief representative of worldwide chess is a huge embarrassment to the sport. Period.

ebutaljib's picture

I can see a few more complaints comming :)

Morten's picture

"If there are aliens, they play Go" -- Edward Lasker

Léonore's picture

what bull shit is this? Gosh, chessvibes is really going down the drain!

e4e5f4's picture

Bravo, Bravo, Bravo !!!! :D

Bert de Bruut's picture

Ahh, it seems Léonore is abducted by aliens as well....

Mr. Spock's picture

As representative of the aliens that abducted Mr. Ilyumzhinov, I like to state in his defense that in fact he was quite curious who we thought was the best chess player in history. In our opinion there is no doubt this was GM Anatoly Karpov, a man who not only promoted chess by his enduring focus on playing the game on the highest level for a long period in his life. He also showed the unification power of chess when he visited his life long rival GM Gary Kasparov in a Russian jail. GM Anatoly Karpov hereby showed the world both the beauty of the divine game and his ability to look beyond the board.
So please, you might accuse Mr. Ilyumzhinov of being a lousy chess player, but do not accuse him of a lack of interest in chess history.

Regards, Mr. Spock
beam me up Scotty

adam's picture


KK's picture

huhh...I forgot that you cannot take sides!!

jussu's picture

This is just hilarious, even though I am usually against whacky journalism. Although many national leaders casually ask for guidance from mystical beings, perhaps the leader of world chess should exhibit greater intelligence.

Sergio's picture
Peter Doggers's picture

@jussu Do columns fall under your definition of 'whacky journalism'?

SteinL's picture

Very little reason for anyone to be incensed by this column. It deals with something very serious - the leader of a Russian republic, and the president of FIDE, states unequivocally that he has been abducted by aliens, describes the abduction in detail and clearly is very influenced by this experience.
It is now the subject of an officialy investigation by the Duma.

However, this is also the preparations for Putin dumping Ilyumzhinov as president of Kalmykia, the time for reappointment is not that far in the future. Which is good, Kirsan can then focus on FIDE.

SteinL's picture

On another note, David Kaplan has plans to turn chess into an online commodity, which I guess is good for him.
As you will see when you visit FIDE's pages, there is something called CNC.

Kaplan's plan (funny) is to institute that chess moves are the property of FIDE, and that they will be sold by FIDE as a source of income.

"On information

We also plan to pass all the rights on chess information to Chess News Corporation (CNC) – a company created with FIDE’s support. The reason is simple; free data broadcasting, which is not always precise and correct, will never help the development of interest towards chess and its commercial success."

How do chess players feel about that?

Rini Luyks's picture

Hahaha, he saw an alien "semitransparent half-tube"!!
Surely he was looking into the mirror! :) :).
What a guy!

Bert de Bruut's picture

This plan of Kaplan/FIDE obviously is aimed at making money only, it has little to do with increasing the interest in chess. And taking away the property rights of chessplayers for their moves obviously borders on theft, which of course is a cheap way of earning more. FIDE always makes the seemingly impossible possible: to reach new lows.

Jabba the Hut's picture

Actually for a crazy crackhead Kirsan ain't so bad.At least we now get to know that the aliens have no guts to show themselves on prime time TV. But it's hard to blame them with their yellow suits and all...We better watch out the next time there is an 80's rage...

CAL|Daniel's picture

A wonderful article. A few questions.

1) Why yellow men? Why not green? Or purple? Or better yet! Green with purple poka dots!
2) Why can't a website endorse its own candidate? Re: why should someone complain if you have thrown in your bid with Karpov (smart choice btw!)?

My compliments though on a wonderful piece. Well written and very humorous.

John Paul Rutherfield's picture

I don't see the difference: believe in aliens or believe in a God. Ilyumzhinov believes in aliens and Obama and many, many others believe in....what they believe in

slibbe's picture

Brilliant Arne. Having both candidates, Ilyumzhinov and Karpov in such unbiased reports, wow! Only here at ChessVibes, the best serious ChessReportsMedium.

T. Goto's picture


I won't say that it is your best by far, but I can probably say that it is your funniest by far. I read that article on BBC as well, and, well, I have to say that this article is really on the spot. Now, Duma is questioning the incumbent's ability to govern, well, quite rightly so, and I don't know why you cannot pose the same question, albeit with a tinge of delightful sarcasm. I won't rule out entirely of the possibility of encountering 'aliens', yet FIDE president's testimony is indeed very odd. It looks like he has to provide his proofs he claims to have in his disposal in order to persuade us to take him seriously, as a president of either organization he has been responsible till this day.

leigh's picture

I read 2 websites everyday.
chessbase: Ilyumzhinov
chessvibes: Karpov

it is just my direct sense from my reading.

From my point, it is wonderful no matter who is the president(these 2 guys, except dani).

But I fell more associations support Ilyumzhinov than Karpov. I noticed Karpov has invite XieJun(former women champion, china) as his partner and if win, will be VP. Chinese hasn't replyed now. if Karpov can take the contries associations one by one. he has chance to win. But Ilyumzhinov has solid support from many associations.

It is a really hard work for both sides

slibbe's picture

@Henk on May 6th, 2010 12:58

Please remember the typical figure of Max Mosley who until recently headed the FIA while gnome like Bernie Ecclestone is still heading Formula One.

Rare figures arise in a lot of different environments.

ron's picture

Frustrating might be for Kirsan, that he really saw the creatures, but nobody believes him! Typical of any SF or Horror movie. In the end the non-believers will be the first to be body snatched or worse...

S's picture

It's indeed easy to figure out Ben. Personally I prefer Peter's quality journalism to these articles. But I really can't see how anyone can take offense here, though I do hope for something deeper next time. This piece was in my opinion way too easy to be funny, and did not really inspire the mind.

S's picture

too easy.

buri's picture

He's been in contact with aliens!? LOL Wow, this is beyond funny its just plain messed up lol

Hortensius's picture

I agree with the critizisms.
As long as chess jounalists (as on this site) will be openly biased (in cases like Ilyumzhinov vs Karpov, or Topalov/Danailov vs the world), chess journalism will never mature. Journalism should be as neutral as possible in my opinion, no matter how ridiculous the discussion. Facts are for journalists, opinions for readers...

Arne Moll's picture

Hortensius, I don't understand your comment at all. Are you seriously saying a site shouldn't offer both objective news items and opinion pieces such as columns, cartoons, etc? Then what is your opinion on, for instance, the New York Times? Is it also an example 'immature journalism'?

Hortensius's picture

Cartoons and columns are fine, in my opinion, as long as they are not used to represent the 'opinion' of the journalistic medium (Chessvibes in this particular case). You could use columns and cartoons in order to highlight different viewpoints.

I'm not saying Chessvibes should stop taking sides! Only if Chessvibes aspires to be top notch journalism. Otherwise it would still be a great blog!!

Ben's picture

Some pieces are obviously editorials and not to be treated as objectively as others. It doesn't take a big brain to figure out which is which. The editors are obviously entitled to publish their opinions on their site. If you don't like it, write a rebuttal on your site, or just stick to the purely objective pieces.

Roo Bookaroo's picture

Let's all forget about Hortensius' ideas that he/she alone is entitled to have opinions on things and people.
Any chess site without opinions, judgments and a good sense of humor would be a bore, just like Hortensius. Who wants to read Hortensius' stuff?
Noone. Imagine a world filled with Hortensiuses, Ilyumzhinovs, and Danailovs?
We would welcome the visit of this spaceship and board it immediately, leaving those characters behind to have fun among themselves. Kasparov would have joined us on that spaceship and set up a new chess organization for the aliens and us, their guests.
Arne Moll is a boon to the site. Keep up the good fight of getting a good laugh at the nonsensical state of established chess and its petty squabbles.

Hortensius's picture

Thanks Roo! ;) Long live Hortensiusanism!
However, let there be no misunderstanding here; I love Chessvibes and it's articles. No question! But as a reader it is impossible to form an independent opinion (about FIDE president candidates for instance) based on the articles on this site! However juicy or funny they are!

CAL|Daniel's picture

My two questions were serious btw.... can I get an answer?

test's picture

Ali Nihat Yizici: "As I told you [Karpov] personally in Rijeka, at breakfast, we all respect you as a World Champion, as chess lovers. I wish you very good luck (you need a lot..., and it does not work in this business) for the upcoming FIDE elections.

I have read your letter, and saw that again either you do not read all these releases in the chess media (very bad for a candidate) or your words do not represent what is the truth."

I stopped reading right there. Jezus christ, what a douchebag.

ChessGirl's picture

I think that ChessVibes don´t lie to their readers. They give facts and opinions, the main thing is they don´t try to dress opinions as facts. If you have different opinion from theirs you are free to comment, and if you don´t like their journalism you are free not to visit this site :)

test's picture

FFS: Ilyumzhinov repeated in a TV interview that he has contact with aliens. Those are the FACTS as reported.
Deal with it.

Bend's picture

1. It seems he has a big balcony!
2. You cannot go to a star! Only to a planet, a star is an extrremly hot gas.
3. Mankind is not ready for aliens, but seems like HE was ready, and aliens knew it too. I wonder what made him ready for that. The big balcony or he has a higher intelligence?

He should have asked about the technology that made him available to make a roundtrip in a couple hours to another star and back in a way that he probably did not feel too much acceleration.

Castro's picture

Envy is a bad thing, Arne!
You'd kill to have Ilyumzhinov's 1st degree experiences (and I dream with his money).
THAT is the true motto for this article! You want "semitransparent half-tubes" in your balcony! :-)

Anyway, people: Haven't I already presented you the ONLY candidate to save our chess world?
Spassky for president!!!

SXL's picture

I guess that if Cameron in Britain had declared he'd been visited by aliens, and had traveled with them to another star on their ship, and had conducted discussions with them, the press shouldn't be writing about it - is that what you're saying, Hortensius?

Don't expect other readers to be dumber than yourself, that's not a given. Most readers manage to sort out the straight reporting from the site's quite engaging points-of-view.

Contrakt's picture

Great stuff, Chessvibes.
It's time some serious website/editors take on the FIDE bullshit and call it what it is. When I saw Yazici's recent letter on't that pathetic? A hysterical cry from a man suffering from megalomania. Of course he would support FIDE. He is part of it. Turkey has great benefits out of that relationship. That doesn't mean TCF is a "great" or important federation nor that Yazici is a "great" or important man. His arguments are childish and silly-looking. He just looks like the typical Party-subordinate acting based on personal benefit, dogma and under-the-table deals he knows very well are profitable for the FIDE inner circle and he would very much like to see them progressing further in the next years. At least until, Kirsan gets kidnapped again, the aliens impregnate him with some special seed and he's able to giev birth to Kirsan No 2 or Kirsan Jr: the next FIDE president.

gazpacho's picture

To all those blasting chessvibes for this article: Not only are they allowed to poke fun at the President of FIDE and to use satire to mock him, that's actually a very healthy thing. Otherwise, we may as well all familiarize ourselves with life in North Korean "education" camps where no one talks back.
Besides: I'm sure all of us have been visited by aliens. My own encounter with them included a 7-dimensional chess game that went back and forward in time, space, and other dimensions too complicated to elaborate on here...

Daaim Shabazz's picture

As far as the photo... I want Predator to win!

Arne Moll's picture

@John Paul Rutherfield: believing is one thing, but seeing is another. I think most religious people don't claim to have seen God, let alone talked to him or went up to his spaceship or whatever.

By the way, I myself believe in aliens in that I think extraterrestial life forms are extremely likely in our universe. But even if I had some sort of experience and they would come and get me, I would realize that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence".

Frank van T's picture

Hi Arne,

this - apart of course from your report of the match Waagtoren - Euwe, dutch cup 2004(5?) - is by far your best column... (although it is of course easy to shoot at an empty goal).

I would like to pose the question once again, if any of the top players have had any moral doubts concerning the price-money that was so generously provided by Ilyumzhinov - before they took it en masse, of course. It just doesn't make much sense that someone is so rich in a country that is so poor & then spends his money on chess of all things.

Frank van T's picture

(Of course chess is better than tanks to be sure...)


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