Reports | August 17, 2011 21:33

Kasparov: 'Kirsan's War on Chess'

Kasparov: 'Kirsan's War on Chess'"Ilyumzhinov has been poisoning the roots of chess since he took office, a steady campaign to trivialize the game and its players," writes Garry Kasparov, in his latest column for New in Chess Magazine. The 13th World Champion is more critical than ever towards the FIDE President.

For the last few years, Garry Kasparov has been writing a column for New in Chess Magazine. He has tackled many issues, usually related to top level chess - it's a topic to which he still feels much connected, it seems. He often shows a position from a recent game, and points out a missed possibility which he noticed while watching online.

The former World Champion is especially interested in two topics: the World Championship cycle and Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. It seems that after Anatoly Karpov (aided by Kasparov) lost the Presidential elections last year in Khanty-Mansiysk, Kasparov isn't planning to stop fighting against the current FIDE leadership. In his latest column for issue 5/2011 he is more critical than ever towards the FIDE President.

Titled 'Kirsan's War on Chess', the column is fully dedicated to discussing recent statements by Ilyumzhinov. Kasparov has no faith at all in the recently founded 'Foundation for Modernization of FIDE, and writes:

"Ilyumzhinov has been poisoning the roots of chess since he took office, a steady campaign to trivialize the game and its players. Time controls shortened, zero tolerance for late arrival, match play eliminated, host sites removed to obscurity, dozens of wild initiatives and millions of dollars promised without results, and, the crowning achievement, FIDE itself is now best known for having a President who enjoys the company of dictators, madmen, and aliens."

Although the source is not mentioned, it seems that Kasparov is referring to this interview with Ilyumzhinov which was published on the new website WhyChess. There, the FIDE President further elaborates on the statements he made on June 21st at the closing ceremony of the Ukrainian Chess Championship concerning the planned full-scale changes in chess:

"Move 1: we create the Commission for Modernization, which is headed by me. To enable the performance of this Commission there established a financial foundation which I’m going to invest my money in and attract investments to.

Move 2: we have officially declared the discussion, specifically at www.whychess.org, open till September 1st, 2011. During the next three months we’ll accept all the proposals on ratings for rapid chess and blitz, dress code for chess-players, media activity, and changes of rules. Starting from September 1st we’ll publish the collected proposals and bring them up to discussion until October 20th.

Move 3: On October 20th at the FIDE General Assembly in Krakow I’ll sum up the results of the world discussion of submitted proposals and present to the delegates the final project on modernization. Within the frames of this scheme there will be made some alterations to FIDE Charter which after the delegates’ approval shall be implemented."

Ilumzhinov seems to have his doubts about whether classical chess can still be financed, but Kasparov disagrees:

"Opera and ballet continue to grace our world despite not filling stadiums with hundreds of thousands like rock shows."

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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of ChessVibes.com, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.

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Comments

Creemer's picture

Although I agree (as a matter of course) with Kasparov's disliking of the Unmentionable, I have question his last statement in this article.

If classical chess were to be subsidised like opera and ballet is (in The Netherlands, for example, there is a subsidie of €60,- on each (!) seat for each (!) show.

In countries where there is no subsidie for these arts, tickets are only affordable to the rich or the fanatics who sacrifice other things to watch their favourite art.

I don't see any major stuctural subsidies coming chess' way and I think chessplayers are not relatively rich.

The comparison, therefore, falls flat on its face.

But classical chess lives and won't die (completely). The internet has, like it has been pointed out many times before, the potential to be the Saviour of Chess. The biggest reason for this are the relatively low costs of offering games to a worldwide audience. Let's focus on that and forget about opera and ballet, since they have a different place in our culture, a different audience with different expectations.

Harish Srinivasan's picture

I guess there is too much talk nowadays on the death of classical chess which seems very irrelevant. Sure some tournaments were cut off the calendar this year but they were not all classical. Amber closed, Mainz closed -- they are all rapid. Classical ones that dint take place were Linares and MTel. But a whole slew of classical tournaments are coming up later in the year - Bilbao, Tal , London. Bazna, Tal Memorial, Bilbao and London are relatively newer additions to chess suggesting classical chess is just fine. The wch prize money has been on the rise Moscow ( we had two bids) > Sofia > Bonn. Just one bad show in Kazan and everyone becomes so pessimistic about the future of chess.
Kasparov is right that chess does not need any radical reforms. Ofcourse encouraging other forms of chess like rapid and blitz is also good -- like introducing rating system for them -- only makes them more serious.

jussu's picture

I absolutely agree. The guys who fight against classical chess are fighting with their own nightmares, there is nothing wrong with slow chess. With the possibility to watch the games over internet, classical is clearly the most attractive form of chess.

realitycheck's picture

Ilyumzhinov's management of FIDE is not perfect but, it's far better than Kasparov & Co. could ever do.

As a matter of fact, exactly how much money has GM Kasparov, the chess billionair, taken from his own pocket to finance chess, pull us out of the hole he'd dug? The crisis he is so deeply rooted in. My guess is not a red cent!

My suggestion: put up or shut up.

We can say with out a shadow of doubt: chess has been much better off with Garry Kasparov in the blackground.

Zacalov's picture

LOL 50 thumbs downs! I will go ahead and that 51!

I bet you're Kirsan trying to defend yourself XD

Wim's picture

Bizar to think only financials, the crisis nowadays has proved enough, I geuss!

Wim's picture

correction: guess! :-)

Zeblakob's picture

I thought for a while before posting this message: I do not understand why there endless problems in FIDE. Its alwys stupid to compare with Football; but I want to be stupid and notice that FIDE is very less complex than FIFA. But perhaps chess players Ego makes FIDE complex.

S3's picture

FIDE and FIFA are both corrupt. But with FIFA there is enough money to keep everybody happy and pay anyone off.

Anyway, the importance of FIDE is way overrated. Kasparov can't handle his defeat and has personal beef with Ilyumzhinov. That's why he and some others keep b*tching about him and FIDE in excess.

S3's picture

Kasparov is a great chessplayer but failed as a politician, ethicist and writer.

His latest column in NIC was the worst in a row of whiny articles about FIDE.
Unfortunately, NIC allowed fellow egomaniac Short to use the same platform for the same purpose. They are the last people in the world who should take the moral high ground and Kasparov's column is one of the reasons why I won't extend my membership of NIC this year (the ridiculous new format being another one).
I am sure that the link in the article above will bring them some new subscribers tho..

realitycheck's picture

Funny. Last week. While killing time waiting for a train at the Central Stations' bookstore, I happened to flip through the latest NIC (with Karjakin & Carlsen as Cover Boys) scanned the Kasparov rant then put the magazine back on the shelf.

10 Euro was asking a bit too much to spend on cheap propaganda. I walked to the nearest Pub sat and drank two cold biers instead.

Brecht's picture

I hope you tried some Belgian beers?

realitycheck's picture

Sorry Brecht, I'm not familiar with Belgian beer. I drank two thirst quenching 0,5l Schneider Weisse. Hefe-Weizenbier.

Brecht's picture

ok no worries. Try Leffe, Hoegaarden, Westmalle, Triple Karmeliet or Duvel...;)

S3's picture

You are a wise man! I was considering switching to Schach magazin, but I don't know if it's any good. Are you familiar with it or any other magazines? Suggestions are welcome!

Arne Moll's picture

Kasparov at least has a clear and outspoken view on FIDE and Ilyuzmhinov's horrible track record. I wish some of today's top players would display the same courage and vision. But alas...

realitycheck's picture

Yeah right. What a horrible track record since the year 2000. Since Kasparov was dethroned we've had only six world championships (4 matches and 2 tournaments) and the Anand-Gelfand match scheduled next year.

To mention the recent progress in womens chess is really horrible too, isn't it?

Arne Moll's picture

OK, if you leave out all the blunders and only focus on the successes then you could even make WWII sound like a good idea...

Seriously, here's a by no means complete list of FIDE blunders collected by Mikhail Golubev. This list doesn't include obvious and documented instances of bribery at Olympiads, accusations of murder, attempts to organize a WCh in Baghdad, Kirsan's visits to Gadaffi, the aliens, 'Chess City', etc.etc. Or the 'zero tolerance' rule or Kirsan's new hosts of 'interesting' ideas, the Global Chess catastrophe, the recent clumsy communcation on the Anand-Gelfand match, the lack of transparency in FIDE, missing accountancy statements for FIDE's balances ... Anyway, decide for yourself:

"- 1997/1998: Scandalous formula of the (KO) Wch
- 1999: Las Vegas Wch PR-catastrophe, virtually no coverage
- 2000: Ilyumzhinov says at press conf in Kiev that 2 mln USD were invested into the development of the FIDE website
- 2000 New Delhi/Tehran Wch and (inevitable) plans to move the final from Tehran if an Israeli would advance
- 2002: Cancelling FIDE rapid rating (In 2007 Ilyumzhinov publicly denied that such rating existed, but TWIC has it)
- early 2000s: FIDE Commerce director Artiom Tarasov's pressure on organisers of private elite events, a protest letter from Wijk, Linares, Dortmund organisers
- 2003: 1 mln FIDE investment Kasparov vs Junior "Computer World Championship" match without Kasparov being a world champ (Background: in 2001 Ilyumzhinov announced in London that the next FIDE world champ will play a match against computer; the 2001 announcement is still on the internet)
- 2003 Announcements of Ponomariov-Kasparov match in Argentina, then in Ukraine, without having contract with Ponomariov: no match in both cases (AP cancelled job of the regular chess correspondent: Huntington's open letter)
- 2004: Making a Wch in Tripoli a qualification for Kasparov match: many refusals (Anand, others), a separate scandal with de-facto exclusion of Israeli players
- 2005: Failure in organisation of Kasimdzhanov vs Kasparov match (Kasparov quits chess as a result)
- 2005: Giving 4 (half) places in the next 2007 Wch to the participants of the San Luis Wch (Topalov later lost his place voluntarily)
- 2008: Ilyumzhinov refused to organise Topalov-Kamsky match in Lviv despite giving personal public guarantees (also at the FIDE site) earlier the same year
- 2008 Change of Wch rules during the cycle - quits of Carlsen and Adams from GP as a protest
- 2008-2009 FIDE GP: Refusals of 3 already announced events to make tournaments, GP series concluded only in 2010; 4 out of 6 events were organised in Russia; the initial list of the GP participants violated the sport principles (and it is not speaking about the host town nominates; some of whom were however excluded from series later)
- late 2000s: Iluymzhinov's endless announcements of making buildings in a form of chess pieces, in many countries
- a member of the FIDE team Azmaiparashvili, who is involved in ugly scandals such as Strumica 1995 pseudo-tournament (a distant outcome: an internet announcement in 2010 from a player saying he is selling rating points)
- ongoing controversy with the organisation of the Candidates event in Baku where Aronian refuses to play because of sad relations between his country and Azerbaijan"

Clifford's picture

Just a follow-up to the mention of the failed 2008 Kamsky-Topalov match 'guaranteed' by Iljumzhinov in Lviv; at a press conference at the Dresden Olympiad in 2008, Iljumzhinov explained that there never was a real bid from Lviv and that he had lied about there being any money from Lviv in his press releases because he thought that this would help encourage a bid from elsewhere.

Thomas's picture

By no means I support or defend Ilyumzhinov, but IMHO "courage" and "vision" is far too much praise for Kasparov.
"Courage": What does he risk or lose writing such columns?? On the plus side, he probably gains an unknown but non-negligible amount of money on his bank account ... .
"Vision": Does he really have one? It should be a bit more than "I am better than Kirsan, I don't believe in aliens, I don't visit Gaddafi, (I would give Giri a wildcard for the World Cup)". What exactly would, or would have been different with a FIDE president Karpov and his teammate or advisor Kasparov? In election campaign language: "Where's the beef?" Those who call Kasparov's writing propaganda aren't all wrong ... .

Actually, should current top players get involved in chess politics?? They all have their own personal interests ... . One top player, or rather his manager got involved in chess politics and does have "visions" - which primarily serve their personal interests rather than the (professional) chess world as a whole, but they may genuinely think it's one and the same.

Final point: Maybe the story is newsworthy (even though Kasparov didn't say anything new), but the article almost reads like an advertorial. I guess it wouldn't have been much, if at all different if it had been written by NIC editor Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam rather than Chessvibes editor Peter Doggers!?

Arne Moll's picture

Ah, I see you're close reading again, Thomas ;-) Actually I just meant to say Kasparov at least has the guts to speak up against the clearly incompetent and destructive FIDE board. As for vision: if anything, Kasparov loves chess and wants to promote the game. Ilyumzhinov, on the other hand, only loves himself and wants to destroy the game.

Thomas's picture

I also responded to the 14-0 thumbs up you had before I posted, Arne :) . I think it doesn't take particular guts for Kasparov to criticize Ilyumzhinov, and to mention what everyone knows - this might be different for currently active top players. As to vision, it may not be as black and white as you sketch it:

- Yes, Kasparov loves chess, but it's safe to say that he also loves himself (and this isn't one and the same just because he is or was a brilliant chess player).

- "Ilyumzhinov ... wants to destroy the game." First, he still hasn't managed after many years in office. Second, I would give (even) him the benefit of doubt that he also loves chess and has good intentions: The "Chess in Schools" program may not be all bad - true, one reads more about its existence than about its actual content. The FIDE Grand Prix was a good idea, even if the execution was sub-optimal. OK, then aliens tell him "Kirsan, travel to Libya ....." :(

Actually, in a way it might favor "the 20th century K's" (Karpov, heavily promoted by Kasparov) that they lost the election - now Garry can keep criticizing without having the opportunity AND obligation to demonstrate that he would do a better job. In general politics, opposition may also be easier than governing responsibility. [A Dutch variant is to tolerate a government, being government and opposition at the same time, and/or having the luxury to change roles at any given moment]

S3's picture

Moll, why are you trashtalking like this?

Thanks to Ilyu there have been a lot of great, even historical chess events in Elista. The rise of players like Sjugirov and Inarkiev in the world rankings during his reign is no coincidence. His "chess-city" made for a lot of publicity. He tried to promote chess in Vegas and all over the globe. You only show his shortcomings but ignore all his accomplishments.
He is corrupt, probably a little crazy, but has clearly shown a love for the game (he devoted enough time in it to reach near master level).

So the question is, how can you say that Ilyu wants to destroy chess and only loves himself when he did all this and invested a lot of his own money in the game?

As for Kasparov, I think he is the one who only loves himself. If he really loves chess then 1)Why did he ruin an excellent fair world championship cycle in the early 90's?
2)Why did he not adhere to the chess rules when he played Polgar and took back a move? 3)Why did he accuse Gelfand and Kramnik, and DeepBlue and IBM of a "combine" ? 4)Why did he spread lies about Karpov, Campomanes and many others during the 80's? Just some rhetorical questions that tell about character: he comes across as a sore loser, a little paranoid, and bad enough to slander his opponents. I don't see why he would be any better than the current FIDE leader and his rants are hardly promoting chess.

I am sure that even now he could cooperate with FIDE and change some things, but unable to work effectively with anybody else he prefers to shout and growl from the side lines without any risk and result. Meanwhile he was involved in much of the controversy that surrounded chess in the media.
He is no better than Kirsan.

S3's picture

I should also mention Kasparov's absolutely horrible treatment of Shirov, who was the first of several GM's that was promised a match and money only to get nothing but sorrow in the end. Did Kasparov lie to them because he loved chess or was it for promotional purposes?

Axel Muller's picture

I don’t think that phrases like: “Ilyumzhinov, on the other hand, only loves himself and wants to destroy the game.” promote a healthy debate about the future of chess.

Marcos's picture

Lets not forget that chess is nothing more, and nothing less, than a board game.
Further, is a board game of the kind that induces ludopathy. On the other hand chess IS NOT a sport, an art or a lucrative activity (I am not a troll. I am one who wasted several years playing chess at the 2200 level and regrets bitterly not having spent all that time on his academic career).

chaetto's picture

chess is addictive,hehe i know sth about it, but family helped me focus on my job rather. Look at Luke Mcshane, though, he could play and have an excellent job. JOB PREVAILED AT THE END

Kamalakanta's picture

@Marcos,

Hi! I agree with you that, for most of us, chess in not a lucrative activity. But I heartily disagree with you on two other points:

1) For me, chess is definitely a sport, with many hundreds of competitions every year, plus the Chess Olympiad!

2) For me, chess is also an art. As a matter of fact, at the present I enjoy more looking at games of the old Masters (Capablanca, Rubinstein, Lasker and a few others) than playing OTB. I find beauty in some of the moves that the Masters make; some of the positions they achieve.

Of course, you are not wrong, and neither am I. Liking something, or finding beauty in something, is entirely a subjective experience. That is why I put "For me" at the beginning of each point.

But even the great Grandmasters had differing viewpoints on chess; for some, chess was a struggle, for others, it was Art....

Alex's picture

@kamalakanta, Thank you for your perspective. You are so right about using "For me" something that so many internet users fail to to!

marcos's picture

Lets be factual here. Chess is a board game. Period.

Kamalakanta's picture

For you, Marcos, for you.

morphy72's picture

I'm not sure you have to follow Kasparov or Ilyumzhinov, or if you have to compare chess to some other sport or some other old, new, lucrative or graceful activity.
But I'm sure that you all (and they all) have to shout up with the accusations, sit down, and read or write something serious considering that chess is an evolved matter, and then the approach to achieve some purpose about a modernization should be not so easy, so PLEASE don't consider always the most trivial ways as the best ways.
However, I did some effort to introduce a complex plan in an easy article:
https://sites.google.com/site/pcmorph72/articoli/wcc-cycle

MH's picture

Personally I am a big fan of Kasparov and I think he made some valid arguments in this article. Classical chess is very exciting, and the issues (lack of sponsoring, media attention) is not caused by the type of chess. It's caused by the fact that strange tournament locations. Also if you cannot get the best player in world (Carlsen) to participate, something is really wrong.

S3's picture

Plenty of tournaments and money in chess these days.
Towns in Russia, Romania and China are not "strange" and Westerners can follow them on the net. Only the re-unification matches were hard to organize and as we all know, that situation was mostly Kasparov's own doing. Right now everything is fine. And when Carlsen acts like a prima donna's it's his problem. Last thing we need is special favours and a new schism.

Brecht's picture

Perhaps Kasparov should change his career into fashion, instead of politics? ...he has the same aggressive look in his face...as i've seen on the posters of G-star .....

Nic's picture

Oh, stop calumniating Kirsan The Magician!

Dimitri's picture

ET play chess ... ET play chess ...

blueofnoon's picture

Kasparov is by no means a perfect figure. But Kirsan is a cancer.

If pushed, I would probably pick up Kasparov as the FIDE president.

Sumit Balan's picture

Garry and Nigel created this problem in the first place when they decided to play their WCC outside FIDE. Thats when the real problem began and it carrying on till now.And Kirsan,or any other FIDE president wouldnt have the guts to change the WCC match format that have been followed for the last 100 + years from Stranitz .

Rekthna would agree but Garry created this problem in the first place !

ebutaljib's picture

The real problem was not Kasparov who left FIDE in 1993, the problem was the public who still considered him as the World Champion, and Kramnik afterwards. Public is generally stupid. for example Kramnik refused to take part in 2005 San Louis which was meant to be a reunification tournament with top 8 players on the world. Yet people still considered him to be the Champion. Then he came 2nd in Mexico, yet they were still people who considered him as the champion rather than Anand. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Kasparov was (FIDE) World champion until 1993, and then PCA champion from 1993 until PCA collapse in 1996. After that he haad no title and hence there was nothing that could be passed on to Kramnik. A title is not something an individual can own. Only a worldwide organization can crown a world champion, and like or not, thats FIDE.

Hatsekidosie's picture

No, anyone can crown a world champion. I could do it, if I like. You could. The title belongs to the public: do they accept the winner of a certain match as world champion or do they not believe the winner has the right to call himself the best player in the world?

ebutaljib's picture

False. World champion is not equal to best player on the world. NOWHERE!!!

If you win a game/match/tournament/race/series/whatever called World championship which is organized under the aegis of worldwide internationally accepted governing body then you are world champion. Period. and you are the world champion until the next World championship REGARDLESS what happens inbetween (you can lose all competitions you enter or don't compete at all).

There is only one worldwide internationally organized governing body in chess - FIDE. Hence they are the only one who can crown a chess champion, same as its only FIFA who can crown a world champion in football, same as FIBA is the only organization that can crown World champions in basketball, same as only IAAF can crown a world champion in athletics, etc.

In boxing you have many organizations that are more or less internationally recognized thats why you have WBA, WBO, WBC, IBF, IBU,,.. world boxing champions. Which is the same crap as if you don't have a world champion at all.

Hatsekidosie's picture

The key frase in your answer is: "internationally accepted". That is right. Without acceptance, no world champion. The acceptance is of the people. Consider your own judgement on boxing world champions. They are not world champions"in your eyes. Your eyes make them either world champion or not.

ebutaljib's picture

So you don't recognize FIDE?

ebutaljib's picture

FIDE is internationally accepted. Around 160 countries are members of FIDE.

LMedemblik's picture

To much dust is raised around the chessboard.
In this deceptive fog the game itself is hardly enjoyable anymore.
Take away the money=power involved and you only have to clear the smoke of the cigars in order to enjoy the game and its atmosphere again.
No doubt there will be objections to cigar smoke but then at least you know what you object against.

ebutaljib's picture

P.S.: In tennis for example, there is no World Championship. But if there were, it could only be organized by ATP (or WTA for women).

Septimus's picture

I think I'm going to change my policy with regards to chess, i.e don't give a shyte about chess politics. I am, first and always a spectator. It seems that getting into the politics of chess takes away from the game itself.

All these guys arguing will be dead in a few years and nobody will care. The only thing that matters is the chess game over the board. People remember great games, not the chess-politicians. These guys are irrelevant.

I think the game itself is beyond these petty squabblers. So my suggestion to you guys, is to forget this FIDE-Kasparov bullchit and pay more attention to the many beautiful and exciting games being played.

Have a nice day.

Paul-Peter Theulings's picture

An interview with Ilyumzhinov is at http://www.whychess.org/en/node/1316.


Yes, we want the chess world to try and speed up. We want to run more events with an accelerated time control. Everything that’s above rapid will be treated as classical. We’re not intending to touch that. Those who like to go to the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall and listen to a concert of symphony music can go there and enjoy that classical music. But those who want to listen to a concert by Madonna or the Rolling Stones will go to Luzhniki Stadium. And we’ll see where you get a larger audience – for classical seven and five-hour games or for 25-minute ones, or even for 5-minute battles, and without any time increment!

Yury Vasiliev: So it'll be possible to watch people “flagging” others? That’s not a very aesthetic spectacle…

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: But it’s sport! The spectator longs to see drama, a fierce battle, and not a melancholy shuffling of the pieces which, with 30 seconds added per move, can go on indefinitely. If we really do want to start to work closely with television then we must have a clear idea how long a chess game will last – 50 minutes or however long it is.

So, we have a chairman of the FIDE who qualifies chess with increment as a melancholy shuffling of the pieces. This qualification can only be given by someone who does not like chess. I don't see the chairman of the International Tennis Federation qualify tennis as a melancholy hitting of a tennis ball.

calvin amari's picture

Alas, nothing new, of course, as this piece of history from over a decade ago reflects:

Dear Mr. Iljumzhinov,

The purpose of the present open letter is to register my despair and disgust over the current plight of FIDE and to highlight the urgent need for wholesale changes and a fresh start.

No international organization can ever hope to satisfy all of the people all of the time, but the key problem today is infinitely more serious: FIDE is no longer satisfying any of the people any of the time. When did FIDE last take an imaginative, workable initiative that received even a modicum of support from the chess world? When did it last deal with a major issue or event without shooting itself in the foot? Why has it stood by impotently as support and respect for it have evaporated, even amongst its traditional supporters? When did it last show any respect for the prestige of a game which is many centuries old? Above all, why has it allowed itself to become a laughing-stock through its serial incompetence?

The full catalog of disasters in recent years is too grimly familiar to need repeating here. The bouncing checks of Las Vegas and your unpaid promissory notes are just two well-publicized scandals from the past year that have made FIDE look clownish and tawdry. The latest debacle has been described by Peter Parr of Australia. As you are aware, he has explained in gruesome detail how the credibility of the entire FIDE title system is being further undermined, but the Australians aren’t the first abusers of the loophole mentioned by him. It was, I believe, first discovered by the Mexican Chess Federation, which contrived to create dozens of new FIDE-titled players by that particular abuse. With all this coming on top of the Myanmar ratings scandal, why does FIDE seem so unconcerned? If FIDE does not properly respect and protect its titles, why should anyone? Don’t fairness and rectitude count any more? Is FIDE really prepared to stand idly by and permit the wholesale destruction of its title system? Titles awarded by FIDE used to mean something. The way things are going, in a few years’ time I may feel obliged to ask FIDE to take back my GM title, as such titles will not only be worthless but their recipients will find their integrity questioned.

Credibility is hard won and easily lost. The recent fiascoes involving FIDE have been astonishingly numerous and various. Not all, I concede, are altogether FIDE’s fault. Top chess masters are strong-willed and there will always be disagreements and tensions between players and any governing body. Even so, how on earth has FIDE allowed itself to get caught up in multiple litigation, highly damaging whatever the outcome, with leading players Anatoly Karpov and Zsuzsa Polgar? Was it not your own election pledge to rectify the estrangement of Kasparov from FIDE events? Would it be unfair of me to suggest that besides the players just mentioned, Anand, Kramnik, Shirov, Morozevich and Galliamova are amongst those with angst towards FIDE? Are Champions Jun and Khalifman supportive of FIDE and its policies? For whom, pray tell, is FIDE working?

Your recent manifesto calling for the formation of a for-profit company to monopolize chess events hit an entirely new low. It was so ill advised and met with such unanimous derision throughout the chess world that serious questions again arise about the judgment of those behind a harebrained idea that was such an obvious non-starter. A FIDE organization which is so out of touch with the actual needs and interests of the chess world becomes more or less worthless, and at times it seems that FIDE’s prime concern is to antagonize as many people as possible and to expose itself to maximum ridicule. The fact that FIDE’s current Executive Board continues to support your ridiculous manifesto is proof positive that something is seriously wrong within FIDE’s cozy confines.

To quote another prime example, the recent announcement of Tehran as the site for the upcoming FIDE Championship Finals is a travesty which has left me, and many others, barely able to contain our rage. If FIDE insists on Iran hosting the Finals, it should not be surprised by the inevitable calls to boycott the event, which in turn will diminish the standing of the eventual winner. In whose interest is that?

Your choice and the FIDE Executive Board’s acceptance of Iran is a forcible reminder of your 1996 announcement of Baghdad as a site for the Karpov – Kamsky FIDE Championship. Then too, the choice of Baghdad was roundly criticized throughout the world. Eventually, you would retreat from this position, explaining that it had all been a ruse to gain publicity for chess. This knuckle-headed deception was a horrendous decision. Yes Virginia, there is such a thing as bad publicity. Even while you were hoodwinking the world’s media you had informed challenger Kamsky that he faced forfeiture for violating your edict that he contest the match in Iraq. Such mendacity by you played a not inconsiderable role in Kamsky quitting the chess world. Chess had sunk to another new low. In subsequent interviews you would explain that Iraq owed a great deal of money to Russia and that a chess match could be used as an inroad to meeting with the Iraqi regime at the highest levels to address that debt. That may be true, but FIDE exists to serve chess, not Russia’s debtors. Nor is FIDE there for its President’s personal gain. Whether in Iraq or Iran, your using chess for such purposes is a clear conflict of interest and a violation of your fiduciary responsibility as FIDE President.

It surely hasn’t escaped your attention that the reality today is that FIDE is cheapening and destroying almost everything it touches. Its credibility in its titles, its rating system, its electioneering, its methods of governance, its public announcements, its own statutes is now perilously close to zero. The current FIDE leadership has so clearly proven itself incapable of proper governance that there is, once again, renewed discussion of a replacement organization.

Your legacy is all too clear. Never has FIDE been in such chaos. Never has its reputation sunk so low. Never has it been so isolated from reality. Never, in short, has there been a greater or more urgent need for a fresh start. The disasters over which you have presided have not happened by accident. We cannot simply wipe the slate clean and pretend that none of it ever occurred. All those responsible within FIDE must assume the consequences of their conduct and pay the price for the state in which organized – or disorganized – chess now finds itself. After all these years of mistakes piling upon one another, it is time to say enough is enough. The time has come when the interests of chessplayers can be furthered only if the full present FIDE leadership – and you first and foremost as President – resign your posts. I urge you to do so with immediate effect. It will then be the mammoth task of your democratically elected successors to begin work on re-establishing FIDE as a respectable, and respected, organization, one which helps rather than hinders the development of chess and seeks to restore the game’s dignity worldwide.

On a closing, personal note, I stress that I have no ax to grind about the past, or any political ambition for the future. My sole concern remains what is in the interests of chessplayers of all levels throughout the world. The record shows that although I have never hesitated to criticize FIDE when necessary, I have sometimes found myself almost alone among masters and writers in defending it. Mr. President, it is time for you and your board to step aside.

On behalf of chess,

IGM Yasser Seirawan
June 12th 2000.

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