Reports | June 05, 2010 18:47

Ilyumzhinov ups the stakes

Ilyumzhinov vs KarpovThe battle for the FIDE Presidency took another lurch towards chaos on Thursday when FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov announced he was suing Presidential Candidate Anatoly Karpov. Meanwhile, the Ilyumzhinov campaign has just declared its ticket and claimed the support of 35 countries, including... Russia. An update on the latest political developments.

By Colin McGourty

Ilyumzhinov takes Karpov to court

In an on-line interview with, Ilyumzhinov said that the case against Karpov was being brought by the FIDE Presidential Council before courts in Moscow (where Karpov is resident), an international court (where FIDE is registered) and the FIDE Ethics Commission. The charge is libel for Karpov’s alleged comments about corruption in FIDE, a topic that was already covered three weeks ago in an article by Arne (and see Mig Greengard’s comments below it). The legal case looks weak, and Mark Crowther may well be correct when he writes at TWIC that it seems “a completely empty threat”. Perhaps that explains why in the interview Ilyumzhinov focussed on the less newsworthy Ethics Commission. A court case might drag on and damage both candidates, but could the Ethics Commission come to a quick ruling that would exclude Karpov from running in the election?

Legal threats are, however, a double-edged sword. In the same interview Ilyumzhinov responded to the question of why Karpov and Kasparov have united against him:

“They need the financial and political resources of FIDE. 15 years ago they did everything they could so that FIDE wouldn’t be united. Now, when FIDE is a prosperous international organisation in a financial sense, and has great political authority, they need a platform for their ambitions. As chess players they’ve exhausted themselves, people have begun to forget about them and with their inadequate declarations they’re trying to draw attention to themselves again.”

Setting aside the dubious content, the above echoes earlier statements by Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Russian Chess Federation Arkadij Dvorkovich which provoked Karpov to respond with an official letter on his campaign website: “It is ironic that Mr. Dvorkovich libels me as pursuing the presidency of FIDE for improper purposes”.

Makropoulos: 'Only dirt'

FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos, if anything, went even further in an interview a few days ago. He says only “dirt” is coming from Karpov, that he “doesn’t like to work”, that, “Gary can write a programme for Anatoly. But Anatoly himself can’t”. Kasparov is exploiting the campaign for his own political ends and, to cap it all, “Karpov is being used as a Trojan horse”, according to Makropoulos, in order to end the one-country, one-vote system (the “logic” seems to be that Russia already has great influence now despite only having one vote). Another almost surreal example of the depths to which the campaign has sunk came in an interview Karpov gave to

“Interviewer: They’ve started to say all sorts of things about you. In particular there are hints about a homosexual tie to the current President of the chess federation, Alexander Bakh. What do you have to say to your opponents? Are you going to sue?

Karpov: Thanks for the revelation. It’ll really help me to establish better ties with the mayors of the largest cities: Paris, London, Berlin (laughs). But of course I won’t sue. In my time I’ve heard so much, they’ve thrown so much dirt, that I understood that it’s better not to pay attention.”

New vote!?

Map of Ilyumzhinov supportersOf course as well as libel, Karpov’s camp have accused Dvorkovich and others of much more serious offences. A continually developing story revolves around claims that some of the delegates who supported Karpov’s nomination at the Russian Chess Federation meeting last month failed to represent the wishes of their local organisations. The official website now has a colourful map of Russia with links below it to signed letters that together are meant to demonstrate that Ilyumzhinov really is the “people’s choice”. A new council may well vote to nominate Ilyumzhinov. In the interview mentioned above Karpov commented on that situation:

“Now they’re trying to twist the arms of certain members of the council in the regions. They demand that they rethink their positions. They threaten them with dismissal, repression and even physical violence. I never thought that I’d live to see such fighting in chess. The most peaceful of games is living in a state of war.”

Still, perhaps it’s worth taking a step back from these recriminations to try and assess the current campaign on the level of ideas and normal debate. The following comparison pays particular attention to the opinions of well-known GMs, as well as comments on Russian chess forums (where the debate has been fiercest):


IlyumzhinovPros: Although enthusiastic voices are few and far between (his campaign website even chooses to quote GM Alexander Khalifman’s: “But, I think that the criticism addressed to the incumbent President is deserved”), Ilyumzhinov’s FIDE finally has a unified World Champion and runs a regular series of events. GM Vassily Ivanchuk was quoted in Odessa as saying that the life of a chess professional has improved during Ilyumzhinov’s reign. Khalifman notes that if required Ilyumzhinov, “reaches in his own pocket”.

Cons: The question of finance works both ways. Should a reputable international organisation have a president who, in the interview where he announced suing Karpov, also boasted: “For 15 years I was his sponsor. I personally set aside a few million American dollars from my fund and the money of my businessmen friends…”? Major sponsors may be wary of becoming involved with Ilyumzhinov, even if they do not credit, for instance, the accusations of the Jabloko political party, who said that the nomination of Ilyumzhinov brought shame on Russia (they refer to the murder of the Kalmykia opposition journalist, Larisa Yudina). Apart from these serious issues, Ilyumzhinov has also lately become something of a figure of fun. In the same interview, instead of laughing off his alien comments, he addressed the topic in total seriousness, adding:

“When the American astronaut Armstrong set down on the Moon his first phrase was: they’re here. Later they concealed it (…) For the first time I’m officially declaring: I don’t work for any alien intelligence.”

Despite the above, Ilyumzhinov himself is perhaps not even the main issue. Chess players seem almost unanimously united against Ilyumzhinov’s team, with Makropoulos (now confirmed on the new ticket), the focus of much anger for his alleged contempt for grandmasters and his handling of chess finances. In a recent Russian radio interview on poker, Grischuk said he had no enthusiasm for either candidate but would, if forced, come down in favour of Ilyumzhinov. But he mentioned that he could only ever actually support Ilyumzhinov if Makropoulos and others were removed from the ticket.


KarpovPros: Sponsors and political figures should be happy to be seen meeting a former world champion, and the support of Carlsen and Kasparov is a great international PR success. He offers at least the prospect of change, and should be able to bring the perspective of a player to bear on chess organisation.

Cons: For now his programme, ticket and potential sponsors remain a mystery (Khalifman calls his campaign “words, words, words”), with some sub-elite grandmasters worried that the money the World Cup and similar knockout events provided will disappear. Also, although his self-destructive tendencies in interviews are no match for Ilyumzhinov, Shipov and others have noted his tendency to go overboard on self-promotion when mentioning e.g. his medals from Yeltsin and Putin, or the extraordinary number of schools in his name. Though, at times, you perhaps want to cheer him on:

“But why should he (Dvorkovich) set any conditions? I’m the world of chess. If he wants to be in the world of chess then he has to respect world champions. And not only me, but also Kasparov and the other champions. Stalin once said to his minister of culture: “I don’t have any other writers for you!” Just as there are no other world champions for Dvorkovich.”

The other dominant issue has been Kasparov, whose involvement has provoked predictable questions about his motivation, and divided opinion. Karpov is adamant that politics are not involved, and that his condition for working with Kasparov was focussing solely on chess.  In fact, he even half-joked:

“I think that the authorities should be grateful to me: Kasparov has barely engaged in politics for three months now, and won’t until the end of September. He’s got no time, we’ve agreed to travel around different countries and promote chess!”

Which is a reminder that the FIDE elections are still three months away! Karpov’s team had an early lead, with only Turkey having come out in support of Ilyumzhinov at one point. In the interview mentioned above Makropoulos claimed that countries had adopted a waiting stance after Karpov persuaded them that Ilyumzhinov might not even be a candidate. That now seems to have changed, with the Ilyumzhinov campaign website claiming the support of 35 federations.

Ticket announced; more candidates!?

They have also announced their ticket. As well as confirming Makropoulos’ involvement the other name that perhaps stands out is that of Ignatius Leong as General Secretary. The Karpov campaign site had previously quoted Leong as saying that he would not stand beyond the current term...

Where does the campaign go from here? All that’s certain is that we can expect many more twists and turns in the coming months. One likelihood is that it’s all about to become even more complicated. In the same interview where Ilyumzhinov managed to mention libel, and aliens, and that Karpov was “his friend”, he also added:

“At present I know of two more candidates who want to come forward”.

Anonymous's picture
Author: Anonymous


Stefan's picture

What we are seeing now is just shadow boxing. When it comes down to voting the only important thing is money. Who buys the votes of most third-world countries wins, simple as that.

Brian Lafferty's picture

I envision the election dispute eventually being submitted to the Court for Arbitration in Sport in Switzerland as provided in the FIDE by-laws. Kirsan will then learn the meaning of the rule of law. When CAS rules that his presidency is not legitimate and he refuses to abide by a CAS determination, the pro-Karpov federations will then leave FIDE and found a new international chess organization. Then all the little countries that supported Kirsan can ponder their fate and Russia can hold its own Kirsan championship cycle.

Colin McGourty's picture

Some sort of limit to the term in office would make sense, but FIDE's not actually that unusual compared to similar organisations e.g. Samaranch was President of the IOC for 20 years, or Sepp Blatter's been President of FIFA since 1998.

I also agree about letting the RCF have 2 candidates (or nominate neither), but it seems as though that "draw" offer was already suggested by Karpov but rejected by Dvorkovich/Ilyumzhinov, who are unlikely to back down now.

Frank van T's picture

I completely agree with AFKAM: not for nothing this is a rule in the US democracy, so that the sitting president will never become all-powerful.


"No master countries ".
I think that the " no master countries" should make their own FIDE and elect that illymich for it. How can we equate "Mauritania" which hadn't a single master in its history and that its vote can be bought with two bucks , with countries like Germany, France, England etc......

Dr. Wolfgang Berghorn's picture

As a SALOMONIC exception to the rule: Let the Russian Chess Federation for only once - i.e. the FIDE presidential election in September 2010 - have two candidates, the incumbent President K. Ilyumzhinov and the former World Champion A. Karpov!
Then it´s up to the delegates of all countries to decide in a democratic way, who will be the next FIDE President! The late WCC Max Euwe did a good job in his period as FIDE President!

2 simple rules :
No one should last more than 4 years in office and no federation should be allowed to have consecutive presidents...
With this 2 simple rules implemented we wouldnt have to suffer the corrupted primaries of the Russian federation.


Corrupt to the deep bone.
It's really unbelievable to see something like Ilyumzhinov on the head of FIDE, A man bloated with corruption, meanness, and ignorance, if that mean thing stay on the head of FIDE, I would lose interest in the game.
I propose that if that mean thing win the elections by the vote of " no master federations" the respectful federations should organize their own FIDE.

noyb's picture

It's time to dismantle FIDE. It's totally useless and corrupt.

Jarvis's picture

@Artist formerly known as Manu: Welcome back! Did the aliens treat you well when you were away? :)

Mike's picture

I think that all major chess countries simply must leave Fide if Ilyumzhinov manages to "mysteriously" win the votes of poorer countries!

Leaving Fide will create some problems in the short term. But in the long term chess will benefit from starting with a clean sheet.

I think almost all western countries as well as the premier asian chess countries will follow suit and leave Fide.

Then Ilyumzhinov can reside over most african chess members as well as other chess countries with no grandmasters. Not ideal for getting sponsors.

Please note that I have nothing against poor countries with small numbers of chessplayers! But it is "bizzare" that the Virgin Islands vote is worth as much as Germanys, or USA to mention a few.

jussu's picture


Well, maybe. Even so, clear support for Karpov would help bringing the vote-buying into daylight. Also, have I understood correctly that Ilyumzhinov has not been nominated as a candidate yet?

Thomas's picture

About limiting the number of terms for a FIDE president, there are pros and cons to it. As Dr. Wolfgang Berghorn hinted, it might be a shame if a "good" president has to leave because his time is up.
And regarding the US system:
- About halfway through his second term a president is considered a "lame duck" because everyone knows he'll soon be gone
- Is it good or bad that he doesn't have to worry about re-election in his second term?
BTW, quite often then his vice president tries to succeed him - still aiming for the continuity that some people apparently don't like. In any case, it's up to the voters ... . So the main problem about FIDE is: How to secure genuinely democratic elections not affected by corruption? And maybe: how to motivate the right people to run for office?

patyolat's picture

Mauritania have expressed it's support to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov for his re-election as FIDE President 2010-2014.

They can use the stolen money as well as anyone.

patj's picture

does anyone really care?

Zeblakov's picture

"As chess players they (K+K) have exhausted themselves, people have begun to forget about them ..."

Who are those "people"? three or four Ilyumzhinov friends??

Dr. Wolfgang Berghorn's picture

When I wrote on June 5th 2010 "Let the Russian Chess Federation for only once – i.e. the FIDE presidential election in September 2010 – have two candidates, the incumbent President K. Ilyumzhinov and the former World Champion A. Karpov" I wasn´t aware of the FIDE President´s "ticket" I´ve found only today on Chessdom:
"The One Country – One Vote principle which I (i.e. K. Ilyumzhinov) will not permit to be changed: Our team is against any proposals which try to undermine the rights of smaller federations to the benefit of a few stronger ones".
Now the whole chess community in the world really needs SALOMON´s advice!

antichrist's picture

Ilyumzhinov knows how to win the election even when the candidate is much better (and richer) than you:

Go to the weakest chess countries in the world, give them a million bucks each and Bob's your uncle - next all of Africa will vote for him due to his planned 'Save 1 billion people from death due to malnutrition and dehydration' program. The aliens have it all in the safe.

Adding ´dr´ to your handles and blaming 3rd world countries for the corruption on the big chess federations is not the way to go.

Mehul's picture

It's so obvious what is happening. If Kirsan wants Karpov totally out of the election then it means Kirsan is getting 'intelligence' that his precious third world votes are abandoning him. Something is up and I suspect some officials in the third world now want to go Karpov. And the numbers are increasing. And Kirsan is panicing.

Mehul's picture

As for the elitists, no, I do not see why 'third world countries' cannot have the same voting power as established chess countries. It's not about chess masters, it's about the game being played everywhere. I am Kenyan, and my country has no IM or GM. But the chess spirit exists in this country and I want my officials to have the same democratic voting strength as a Russian. Some of you obviously cannot stomach this principle of one federation, one vote.

Bernardo's picture

This corruption is not helping for the good of the game. I think Kirsan is a shame for chess. Karpov at least understand the game..jajaja. If this continues like that, less and less childs are going to be involved in chess

Of course that if FIDE continue to be ruled by the strongest federations less childs are going to be involved in chess...
Precisely the point of making FIDE a truly democratic organism , i want the next president to be from south Africa , the next one from Asia or America and so on...
All this KK fake controversy is another move from the Russian federation to have complete control on the next elections so they can be able to give their players that little extra help they always seem to deserve.

Simaginfan's picture

Of course, the federations with the greatest number of players who may be affected by any decisions should have the greatest say in the decisions! That is obvious. To say that Kenya should decide things at the top level of chess, where they have no participants, is rediculous, and leaves such federations open to bribery and manipulation. However, these federations also need to be part of the processes which will help them to develop chess within their own countries. Sadly, to achieve both ends would need an organisation which is run for all according to their needs, not one run for political advantage, or to satisfy any members need to feel important. Until the chess world can find both another max Euwe, and the selflessness to support him, we can never truly be 'One Family'. With power comes responsibility, and when we see figures in our game like Ilyumzinov being interested only in power and political point scoring, while players like Khalifman talk only of money, it is easy to despair.

SXL's picture

Chess rhymes with mess.

Richard Ryder's picture

Simagin fan, your statement: "Of course, the federations with the greatest number of players who may be affected by any decisions should have the greatest say in the decisions! That is obvious". What is obvious is the neo-colonialist tinge of this. It's simple, it's a world chess federation made up of the countries of the world, each party has it's own individual vote. It's called democracy. There cannot be two different version of democracy - one for chess nations with many players and another for those with less players. Obama would never have become president if Americans held on to this idiotic notion (by your logic, since whites are the majority in the USA, Obama should not be president.).

FIFA operates with the one federation one vote method and they do not have the same problems of FIDE. It is more realistic to say individuals are the ones behind the chess mess rather than Mauritania and brothers.

Why do the Mauritanias vote for Kirsan? The answer is probably more complex then a simplistic bribe. The 2010 FIDE election contest is forcing everyone to realise the third world voting bloc is a force to reckon with. Consign them to mere bribe taking status and you disrespect them and as an expression of protest they will vote for Kirsan. You want Karpov or Bessel to win this sort of contest, then attitudes and perceptions will have to change.

Nonationalism's picture

This could be interesting. If the karpov team would only try, it would not be too difficult to come up with some serious allegations of corruption. Just talk to a few disappointed businessmen who have invested in Kalmykia in the period 1993-2006 and get it on record. Now, the question is will they go to such lenghts? Or are they still afraid of what happened to Larisa Yudina? Will the truth finally prevail?

Bootvis's picture

"Why do the Mauritanias vote for Kirsan? The answer is probably more complex then a simplistic bribe."

Why should that be the case?

B's picture

I talked to an IM recently. He told me, that he even knows how much money each delegate got for vote for the Big President last time.

Rothschild's picture

FIDE has been useless for a long time now. Let Illyumzhanov lead it, let him smile at the press conference, and then never attend anything organized by the FIDE again.

Time for a chess-NWO

Eric's picture

@Richard Ryder, who wrote:'There cannot be two different version [sic] of democracy – one for chess nations with many [sic] players and another for those with less [sic] players."

Here in the USA, we have two different versions of democracy: a bicameral legislature, the Congress, at the federal level. The senior body, the Senate, allots exactly two seats/votes to each of the 50 states. The junior body, the House of Representatives, has 435 seats/votes allotted to the 50 states and the District of Columbia (DC). Each of these entities gets at least one seat/vote, and the remaining seats/votes are divided up according to a population census, held once every ten years. Moreover, House and Senate negotiators will work together to ensure that a bill will pass in both the House and Senate, thus allowing the legislation to reach the President's desk for enactment or veto. (If this enforced cooperation isn't enough, the third branch of our Republic, the judicial system, can intervene.) It's an imperfect system: money, influence and power can coerce legislators and constituents.

Why can't FIDE adopt a bicameral legislature? In an age of the internet and evolving databases, getting the relevant population FIDE-registered and FIDE-rated seems inevitable.

boob's picture

One wonders why Chess will never be an olympic sport or taken seriously... stupid crap like this by the leaders. Why is FIDE such a political crock of crap. You don't see presidents of other sport associations suing eachother at every election.

Martin's picture

BTW limiting the president to 1 or 2 terms, isn't really a good idea, because this will make good presidents to have to leave, as noted before. This sucks, but pro's *might outweigh the con's IF it worked. However, it does not.
Look at Russia, where Putin and Medvedev simply switched offices because Putin wasnt allowed to be reelected as president.

Calvin Amari's picture

Ilyumzhinov's can only credibly deny corruption charges, both with respect to Kalmykia and FIDE, if he argues that that his conduct so transcends corruption - achieving the final and utter apotheosis of corruption - that the word itself is no longer fitting. Karpov need not need waste his breath by leveling charges of corruption against Ilyumzhinov for the simple reason that Ilyumzhinov's name is synonymous with corruption. Res ipsa loquitur.

All this pro/con even-handedness mystifies me, as does the fact that this FIDE presidential race is even a real contest. Is the chess world really so in need of a slap in the face with a cold fish to awake to reality? In Ilyumzhinov we have an individual who the entire legitimate world media UNANIMOUSLY regards as a dangerous crooked, cutthroat, dishonest, unethical, unprincipled, and delusional nutjob. What exactly is there to ponder and debate? Anyone really thinks that more good than harm would come in perpetuating Ilyumzhinov's leadership of FIDE is more delusional than those, like Kirsan, who believe they fraternize with aliens from outer space.

Thomas's picture

@Richard Ryder: One country, one vote is democracy - but so is one head, one vote (or a mix or combination of both systems). And advocating the latter system is not, at least not per se neocolonialism - it is also debatable that Luxemburg, Finland, Portugal and Canada have the same voting power as Russia, Germany, France and the USA. This is hardly mentioned, because there are no (perceived) issues of block voting by small western ("first world") federations, and no alleged role of corruption.

The Obama case is also plain wrong: of course a person from a population minority can run for office, but to become elected he needed at least some votes from other "races" (what would be the politically correct term?) . Even 100% of the black vote wouldn't have been enough - but a FIDE president could be elected with 100% of the "third world" vote, representing a minority of the gobal chess population.

However (also @AfkaM): Where are the candidates from small federations? If anyone was interested and got some support, even the oh-so-powerful Russian federation couldn't stop his candidature.
BTW: the last FIDE president from a small federation (Campomanes) wasn't exactly a role model in his function - so, at the very least, being non-Russian isn't sufficient to be a better president. And earlier presidents from western federations (Euwe, Olafsson) apparently did a pretty good job, just saying ... .


"No master countries 2".
I don't understand what strange about the " no master countries", and what is the meaning of " colonial tints" !!!, we are here speaking about the world of chess, for example " Korea " and " japan" are considered " no master countries in our world and " Armenia " and " Azerbeyjan" are considered " master countries".
What is genius for giving " Mauritania" and " kenya " and " Borkina Fasso" an equal voting to " Armenia" , " Azerbeyjan" ... ......


I don't understand how can the world of chess accept a man like " illymich" bloated with bad reputation and with mean behavior and entangled with the most corrupted regime in the civilized world.
can't you see his meanness in acquiring the vote of the " russian federation" ???? and in the end "POLICE" was sent to catch the members of the federation and close its main quarter!!!!! Doesn't that shake a hair in your head, cant' you see how mean this man is????? how corrupt he is??????
In my all life I didn't like karpov nor kasparov too much, they are not the kind of guy you can like, but if you have to choose between Mr " Mean Corrupt" and Mr " Silly words" I think the decision is so clear.


" No master countries".
let's examine the countries that supported that thing called " illymich". and evaluating them according to the FIDE list of coutries playing chess:

Countries that are not even listed (7):
Cameroon: Mauritania: Panama: US virgin islands: Zambia: Sudan Mali.

Countries listed but with no single grand master and no single master: (5).
Bermuda: Brunei: Ghana Libya: Madgascar:

Countries listed with no single grand master but with masters: (4).
Guatemala 0----1.
Honduras : -0---1. Malta: : 0------1. Yemen: 0------3.

Countries with a single grandmaster: ( number of GMs and IMs). (10).
Bolivia: 1-----1 Bolivia: 86 1-----1 Bolivia: 86 1-----1 Tajikistan: 1--------3 .Uruguay: 1----3. Kyrgyzstan :1----4. Dominican 1---6 Dominican 71 1---6
Ecuador: 1-----8. Venezuela 1--12.

Countries with 5 or less grand masters.
Paraguay: 70: 2-----3. Tunisia: 85: 2-------3. Qatar: 3----1. Turkey 3-------13.
Singapore: 3------11. Colombia: 4---24. Mexico: 5------26.

Countries with more than 5 GMs
Argentina : 18----65. Brazil: 8------ 28. Greece: 11-------13.

Out the the alleged 34 countries that illymich claimed their support( of course I didn't count Russia) :
16 are without a single GM and 10 with a single GM.

The number of GM in the whole list of the 35 countries is 69.( Germany alone which declared its support to Karpov has 75 GMs). and 238 IMs( germany alone 211).

Is that clear !!!!!!!!!! No comment.

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