Opinion | May 01, 2012 14:07

Ilyumzhinov shakes hands with Sean Penn, the Dalai Lama and... Bachar Assad

Ilyumzhinov shakes hands with Sean Penn, the Dalai Lama and... Bachar Assad

Here we go again. It seems that every time there is a new candidate for the title of world's most dubious leader, our FIDE President sees this as a reason to invite himself for a cup of coffee. Last weekend Kirsan Ilyumzhinov visited Syria and on Sunday he had a three-hour talk with the President of Syria Bachar Assad in Damascus.

In the past we've criticized Ilyumzhinov for many things here at ChessVibes, but something the FIDE President cannot be accused of is inconsistency. In fact we don't know anyone who selects his friends based on more carefully selected criteria.

It is known that Ilyumzhinov had very good relations with the late dictators Saddam Hussein (Iraq) and Muammar Gaddafi (Libya). As FIDE reports, Syrian President Bachar Assad now also belongs to this list of prominent world leaders who, despite having to deal with minor internal problems, are promoting Ilyumzhinov's "Chess in Schools" program in their spare time.

Mr. Assad underlined during the discussion, that he tasked the Syrian Ministry of Education to sign an Agreement to join the "Chess in Schools" project with the World Chess Federation. Mr. Ilyumzhinov informed the "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" that "in early June, as a dedication to the International Day of Children, we are planning to organize the first international youth chess tournament, where young players of Arab countries, will participate, in Damascus". The FIDE President did not exclude the possibility that Mr. Assad might participate in the opening of the youth chess event. According to Mr. Ilyumzhinov, "The Syrian President plays chess very well - since his studies in London".

Of course it's no coincidence that Mr Assad is an excellent chess player, just as Gaddafi was, and Ilyumzhinov is. We don't know the exact Elo rating of Saddam Hussein when he was removed from office, but we do know that Ilyumzhinov initially intended to hold the 1996 match between Gata Kamsky and Anatoly Karpov in Baghdad. The FIDE President had already made arrangements with the then Iraqi dictator, but after heavy criticism the event eventually took place in Elista.

Ilyumzhinov's friendship with Muammar Gaddafi did result in a big chess event held in Libya: the 2004 World Championship, won by Rustam Kasimdzhanov, who beat Michael Adams in the final. Seven years later, in June 2011 (when Libya was in the middle of a civil war), Ilyumzhinov visited Gaddafi again. This visit was frowned upon not just by chess fans. Photos and videos of the two leaders playing chess were picked up by the international media.

A few days later FIDE distributed a press release in which the FIDE President expressed his disappointment about how people had responded to his meeting with Gaddafi. Back then he was "very satisfied" that he saw that

chess could play such a critical role in promoting peace at this time of crisis

and

proud that FIDE could contribute to the peace process in the region and the world.

Therefore, according to Ilyumzhinov it was "unfortunate" that people were

trying to use this trip to wrongfully politicize the situation in FIDE.

Back to 2012, back to last weekend – when Ilyumzhinov visited Bachar Assad (who might start to feel uncomfortable about his future when someone tells him that the FIDE President also met with his former colleagues in Iraq and Libya). In FIDE's report it is noted that

According to President of FIDE, during the discussion, the Syrian President on a number of occasions has pledged his allegiance to the peace plan of the situation in the country, proposed by Mr. Kofi Annan.

Despite this remark, we have learnt from a year ago, and so we won't even try politicizing the situation in FIDE.

Kirsan Nikolayevich seems to be quite busy in general making new friends these days. Last week he was in Chicago, at the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates where the FIDE President was taking part at the invitation of Mikhail Gorbachev, patron of the Chess in Schools program. Ilyumzhinov met with famous names such as Frederic Willem de Klerk, former President of South Africa, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, former US Presidents, His Holiness Dalai Lama the 14th, Lech Walesa, former President of Poland, Oliver Stone, the American film director/producer/writer and Sean Penn, the American film actor/director/producer.

It is not clear whether all these people were aware of the fact that they were shaking the same hands that shook those of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, and were about to shake the hands of Bachar Assad. It's also not clear whether that would have bothered them, because... who would politicize such a thing?

It does seem unlikely, however, that there will be too many takers for another Ilyumzhinov proposal:

I suggested holding a summit of Nobel Peace Prize winners in Syria to discuss the question of stabilising the situation in the country.

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.

Chess.com

Comments

Parkov's picture

I remember when this happened

mircelalettin's picture

One more reason not to like Ilyumzhinov

S3's picture

Here are two of the most underappreciated guys in the world, leaders who managed to bring at least some stability to their realms in spite of all unfortunate circumstances. It's good to see them commited to the chess in schools program.

Since quite a lot of the terrorists think chess haram there is great room for popularising chess in Syria. When the chess in school program is implemented you can reach a large group of people who don't know the game and maybe even kids who think of chess as an evil game. Introducing them to the game might just help the peace!

Great job Kirsan!

Nick's picture

a mass murderer, nice you are a complete fool. You should live in the 12th century too. Here is a clue if you are a "king" and got the job by inheriting it you live in the dark ages. He learned well from his butcher father he it trying to even his body count.

S3's picture

Come on, he ain't that bad. Syria is one of the few countries in the Middle East where Arab Muslims and (religious) minorities can still live together. Elsewhere those minorities are destroyed or driven away. Syria doesn't have a state religion. Citizens enjoy freedom of religion and the people have many rights that are rare in the region. And Assad is pro-chess. No need to call names 'cause I will still like the man.

PeterV's picture

The man is totally insane.

redivivo's picture

At least he is very fond of authoritarian leaders.

noyb's picture

Perhaps Assad would have been wise to forego this photo "op". Given Ilyumzhinov's track record, (Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi), he might be regarded as a harbinger of death!

Anonymous's picture

"but something the FIDE President cannot be accused of is inconsistency. In fact we don't know anyone who selects his friends based on more carefully selected criteria" --- that's too good !!!!

I have s strong feeling he works as Russian agent for the Govt. Every time there is a possibility of a strike he just visits that place and all these dictators have one thing in common , they were friend with Russia!

test's picture

Every member federation of FIDE is implicitly supporting dictators because of this stuff.

sab's picture

"proud that FIDE could contribute to the peace process in the region and the world."

Just one question: what is the purpose of the FIDE?

Zeblakob's picture

The main purpose of FIDE is trolling.

Zeblakob's picture

People who do not believe in Aliens, do not understand chess.

jo's picture

You guys may know how to play chess but your sure no sh*t about diplomacy.

I thought chess was supposed to improve the mind... the bulk of these comments and the juvenile tilt of the editorial reminds me of kindergarten.

So in the spirit of kiddies potty talk and attending to the most important point (so important that it had to be mentioned twice)

Did you know the person you last shook hands with wiped there a** with the same hand.

A neutral observer

sab's picture

"You guys may know how to play chess but your sure no sh*t about diplomacy."

May be. So just explain me this "sh*t" : "proud that FIDE could contribute to the peace process in the region and the world." 'Cause I don't know anything about the diplomacy role of the FIDE. Could you enlighten me please? Is there anything about that in the FIDE statutes? Does that Kirsan really acts for the best interests of the chess world? or for the best interests of someone else?

Thanks.

steve's picture

proof positive that all you need in this world is some cash

Anonymous's picture

Perhaps this mean that Damascus is a possible site for the next world championship?

"Ilyumzhinov's friendship with Muammar Gaddafi did result in a big chess event held in Libya: the 2004 World Championship ..."

mw's picture

Too bad for Kirsan Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot are deceased.

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