Reports | September 13, 2010 15:58

Not everyone likes the two Ks

Ilyumzhinov vs KarpovLast Wednesday Anatoly Karpov's campaign for the FIDE presidency arrived in London with a press conference at the famous chess venue Simpsons in the Strand. There the 12th World Champion spread his message together with Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short. An article on the Streatham & Brixton Chess Blog puts everything into perspective.

The press conference with Karpov, Kasparov and Short was part of the Staunton Memorial Dinner, a fund raiser for the Karpov FIDE Presidential Campaign organized by Raymond Keene. The evening started with a reception and a chess portraits art show by Barry Martin - the official artist of the 1993 and 2000 World Chess Championships. There was also a consultation game with Nigel Short and Rajko Vujatovic (White) playing alternate moves against Garry Kasparov and Jon Crumiller (Black).

Game viewer by ChessTempo

We came across the following article posted earlier that Wednesday on the Streatham & Brixton Chess Blog - a site you should consider adding to your favourites. It puts the fund raiser in Simpsons in the Strand, and perhaps even the whole FIDE Presidential Campaign, into perspective.

The article is a different way of looking at things, and although we don't agree with everything the author says, we think it's important that it gets a wider audience. Below the full article is republished, with the permission of the Streatham & Brixton Chess Blog.

Hand in glove

Wednesday, September 08, 2010, posted by ejh (Justin Horton) @ 7:55 AM

In 1998, the journalist Larisa Yudina was murdered, in Elista, by men connected to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president since 1995 of FIDE and since 1993 of the autonomous republic of Kalmykia. A boycott of the forthcoming Olympiad, to be held in the very same city, was proposed by Sarah Hurst, at that time editing the newsletter of what was then called the British Chess Federation. It met with more sympathy than support.

Larissa Yudina

Who killed Larisa Yudina?

Since then, I've taken something of a jaundiced view of complaints about Kirsan within the chess world: the killing of journalists, we could comfortably live with, but let the rules change in mid-competition for the world championhip cycle and we'll get really cross. Or so it seems.

To be honest, I didn't really expect people to pass up the opportunity of playing for their country in order to protest about the mere murder of a journalist. But I would have liked them to be a little less god-damned silent among it. I suppose it might have allayed my suspicion, that nobody who mattered really gave a damn, had any of the leading players taken the opportunity to speak out about the man who, at the time, was taking over the chess world for his own personal and political purposes. Like, for instance, the man who was at that time the FIDE World Champion. One Anatoly Karpov.

But Kirsan had the money. Kirsan had the money and nobody else had the money, so people kept their mouths shut and took his tainted money. Well, it seems to me that people who are prepared to take tainted money should not complain too much when that money dries up. It also seems to me that the chess world knows the meaning of money but not the meaning of murder. That would be a cynical view - but in truth the more I look at the chess world the more cynical I get. Even when people are running against Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

There is, of course a large temptation to say "so what?", for anybody would be better than Kirsan. I wouldn't quibble overmuch. FIDE is run by an individual whose reputation is for autocracy, corruption and worse, whose closest associates are thugs who have been chosen for that characteristic. And I, for one, haven't forgotten Larisa Yudina. Even if, until a couple of weeks ago, Anatoly Karpov apparently had.

While I was writing this piece, in time to publish it on the day of the Ray Keene Networking Evening on the Strand, the current New in Chess arrived, carrying a long interview with Karpov - not the most searching of interviews, but then again Dirk isn't really one to put his subjects on the rack - in which he is not asked what happened to his ethical concerns about the killing of journalists during the dozen years that passed between Yudina's assassination and his campaign for the FIDE Presidency. So I don't know. Maybe he feels he was scared to speak out against FIDE at the time. Or maybe he lost his memory. A lot of people who talk about Karpov as the saviour of the chess world seem to have lost their memories.

Or, if not their memories, at least their capacity to ask awkward questions, like "didn't you and Garry Kasparov use to hate each other?" and "are those terrible things you said about one another not true any more?". Or "if you've kissed and made up, is it because you both have nothing other than the good of chess on your minds, or might there be something in it for both of you?". Is it really beyond us to look at the history of these people, their public statements about each other over a period of years, and suspect they are not necessarily idealists united by a desire to do what is best for the whole world of chess?

I'll be there for you

I'll be there for you

This brings us round to the subject of Kasparov, who has been the most prominent of Karpov's supporters. Now I'll be candid and say that I don't like Kasparov much. I don't like his his ego, I don't like his Wall Street Journal opinions and I don't like his dismissive attitude to chessplayers outside the elite circle. I have not forgotten "tourists", nor "a weak player beat a tired player" and I have not forgotten how he treated the world title as his personal property nor how he broke the GMA when it no longer suited his immediate purposes.

As I say, I don't like him. But what I dislike even less is the fawning press coverage he receives, as if everything he did was in pursuit of democracy and freedom rather than in support of Garry Kasparov. This is worse, to tell the truth, in the mainstream press than it is in the chess press, though given that he's a friend, business partner and political ally of Fred Friedel, it's not as if Chessbase is an exception to the rule.

In truth, the reference to Kasparov is the one moment when New In Chess opens the door just a little to scepticism about the Karpov-Kasparov alliance. Although their previous history is glossed over ("you've been on good terms for some time now") Dirk finds himself obliged to observe:

For some countries he will be an asset, but for others he will be a liability, because he is not liked everywhere.

Indeed he isn't, Dirk, because some people do have memories and those memories sometimes oblige them to form character judgements. In this instance, they may have judged that Garry Kasparov does very little without expecting to be in charge of it and without expecting it to benefit him personally. And when he enters into an alliance, he does so expecting to manipulate it to his own advantage.

Can I really be alone in finding Kasparov's closeness to Magnus Carlsen just a touch disturbing? Carlsen emerges as a likely world champion, straightaway there's Kasparov, offering him training and next thing you know Carlsen is appearing with him at celebrity fundraising dinners. It's as well, I think, that Carlsen isn't yet world champion. It wouldn't at all surprise me to see the 1993-2000 circus repeated, with Kasparov this time as the ringmaster.

You need hands

You need hands

But I digress. I was listing my dislikes where Garry Kasparov is concerned. Let me add "fundraising dinners". I do not like them either. They are there to offer influence, or the promise of influence, to wealthy people in return for large amounts of money. They are the staple of US corporate politics. They are nothing whatsoever to do with democracy and nothing whatsoever to do with the likes of you and me. That is the whole point of them. They are there to exclude the likes of you and me.

Unless, that is, you're the sort of person who has two hundred quid in your back pocket to pay for dinner. Two hundred quid is what it would cost to get into Ray Keene's dinner at Simpson's this evening. God knows what it cost to get into the New York event. It doesn't really matter, because it would be many times more than I could afford to pay. The Karpov campaign is a table at which few of us are invited to sit. So where is my interest in supporting it?

It seems to me that the Karpov campaign is about professional chess - by which I mean elite professional chess, the sort of people who receive invitations to tournaments at Linares and Dortmund, the sort of people who annotate and give interviews in New in Chess - as well as potential corporate sponsors, people who might be interested in backing elite tournaments but are perhaps less interested in the world of chess to which most of us belong. And to which, in truth, most professionals belong.

Four years ago, when he was first considering running for FIDE President - eventually Bessel Kok made an unsuccessful bid - Karpov gave an interview to Chessbase which I think may be helpful in understanding what Karpov is all about. (As I say, it can help to have a memory.) This is the interview in which he made the remarkable claim

I think everybody connected with chess understands that if we allow chess to continue for another four years in its presented terrible state, it will simply disappear from the face of the earth.


Here we are, four and a half years on, and the End Times are not yet with us. There have been plenty of opportunities, of late, to put it to Karpov that he was talking nonsense in 2006. I've not heard that anyone has done so.

To be fair, at the time, Yasser Seirawan attempted a clarification:

Recently, I think Karpov misspoke when he talked about chess disappearing in the next four years. What Tolya likely meant was, "professional chess". Viewed from this qualification he is of course right.

Of course! And yet, here we are...and so is professional chess. I suppose there may even be more professional chessplayers in the world than there ever were before.

So let us try and clarify the clarification, by reference to what Karpov said next.

Tournaments are shrinking in size, and disappearing altogether from the calendar – this is a huge problem. Linares and Dortmund have significantly reduced the number of participants. Just consider, in the world's five biggest tournaments....there are a total of just 41 places! This only leaves open tournaments, which I, for example, would never play in. I am firmly convinced that, for a world class player, playing in open tournaments is a big mistake, because such tournaments destroy one's style.

So perhaps, when Karpov said chess, and when Seirawan said he meant professional chess, what was actually meant was - elite professional chess, at the level where you don't even play in open tournaments, certainly not if you can possibly avoid it. Not that this level of chess has disappeared either, mind, but at least that would help us understand what Karpov means - and what he is thinking of when he says "chess". He's thinking of the top one per cent. Or a smaller proportion even than that.

Top players, famous names. People who have done very well out of chess: and for that matter, people whose best playing days are behind them but who wish nevertheless to retain a prominent place in the game. Nothing wrong with that as far as it goes, any more than there's anything wrong with wishing to get rid of Kirsan and his chums. But these don't seem to me to be people who have too much to complain about. Few of the people going to Ray's show tonight can be too disappointed about how a life of chess has rewarded them. Not Garry Kasparov, not Nigel Short, not Mickey Adams.

Bring me the head of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

Bring me the head of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

Of course one can argue that whatever their private motives may be, the top players have had many years to see what Kirsan and his sidekicks are all about - and that if they are largely motivated by self-interest, they may at least be motivated in part by genuine disgust. It is a fair point. Still, if the objections to Kirsan are that he is untrustworthy with money, that he breaks rules for his own convenience, that his motives are principally to benefit himself and that there is a lack of transparency in what he does, are they proposing to say so in conversation with their host tonight?

When the Bessel Kok campaign ended in defeat, I criticised it, in Kingpin, for concentrating on the wealthier parts of the chess world. I stand by that. Chess isn't just about the West - in which, by the way, nobody is prevented from holding an elite chess tournament if they want to. I am uneasy when people complain that Africa and Asia have too much influence, and not only because the expansion of chess in Asia seems to me to have been one of the true successes of the last twenty years. (Possibly the only one, indeed.) But if I was playing chess in China or India, and I read Karpov saying that he wanted FIDE offices in Paris and New York - would I not be justified in wondering what was in it for me?

I wouldn't overdo it. Nobody really believes that the outcome of this election has much to do with the actual policies and programmes of the competing parties. But still, if I am asked to back a campaign - and perhaps still more, if it is assumed, as it seems to be assumed, that everybody should support it - shall I not ask what it is supposed to be about and why I should support it?

Where is, indeed, the beef? Nick Faulks, of Bermuda, wrote a letter to Chess Today in July which made the point quite adequately:

It's hardly as though the Kirsan era has an impeccable record, so when are we going to hear an explanation of what they could do better than the incumbents? At the moment, we seem destined for the same stillborn campaign of four years ago, with a few vague and unsubstantiated accusations but little more.

Message to Karpov and Kasparov - if you have anything constructive to say, now would not be a bad time to say it.

Quite so. I don't think that Karpov has all that much constructive to say, at least to anybody outside the top hundred players in the rankings.

I do not see much in favour of the Karpov campaign, other than his opponents. Who, for sure, constitute a powerful argument in itself. There are a thousand reasons not to support Kirsan, beginning with Larisa Yudina and proceeding from there. That's basic. I can see every reason for disliking Kirsan. He cannot possibly be supported. What I can't see is any reason to like, or to trust, the crew who are seeking to replace him. Do I have any reason? Do I have any reason not to think of them as a bunch of people who have spent most of their professional lives attacking each other except on the rare occasions when they have felt that could make more money by sticking together?

See, I don't care very much about them, perhaps because they have never cared very much for anybody but themselves. What do I care about? I care about Olympiads, that they prosper. I care about the world championship. I care that these events are properly supported, and also that they are not undermined by intrigue. I care about the provision of rules, arbiters and a rating system. I don't think all of these are well cared for at the moment.

I also care about having presidents who are not implicated in the murder of journalists. On principle, even though it doesn't affect me. It doesn't affect me that world football is run by an enormous crook called Sepp Blatter. But I don't think it should be, even though world football is an enormous commercial success. It doesn't affect me that world chess is run by an enormous crook called Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. But I don't think it should be, regardless of whether or not world chess is a commercial failure.

Kirsan and Karpov

"I know where you live"

What good does it ultimately do, to operate a system of memory-loss in place of a system of healthy scepticism? Didn't Karpov use to be the man everybody loved to hate? Because he was FIDE's man, because he was Soviet Man? "We have to beat the system", he says in New In Chess. Didn't he use to be the system, and its man?

Were the things that were said about him then not true? Have they changed? If so, when did they change? They might have done so and we might believe it, but not if the passage from then to now goes unacknowledged and unexamined. It is not, quite, as if the past did not exist. It is as if half the past did not exist.

As I say. The more I look at the chess world, the more cynical I get. Loud statements of outrage turn out on inspection to disguise the pursuit of personal interest, and the better one has done from chess, the more assiduous the chess press is, in listening to one's tales of how one has been treated unfairly. Which is diverting enough - especially if you believe what the top players say about each other more than you believe what they say about themselves. But chess isn't just about its top players. It's about all of us who play. I don't think Anatoly Karpov has very much in common with that view.

It's like Chelsea v Manchester United: I hope that both sides lose. It's a fine thing when you can't put together a ticket that's more appealing than Kirsan and chums, but there's something almost as unattractive about Garry Kasparov's Puppet Show. Yes, of course, I don't mean that entirely. Yes, of course, I hope Kirsan loses more than I hope that Karpov loses. Yes, of course, consorting with the Penguin is not as bad as having your henchmen whack a journalist. Yes, of course.

Kirsan deserves to lose, but that doesn't mean Karpov deserves to win. There is too much about his campaign that raises awkward questions. And there are too many awkward questions that a partisan chess press are not prepared to ask. They have their reasons, good as well as bad. But I put it to you that had we been in the habit of asking awkward questions, we might not have ended up with Kirsan.

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Editors's picture
Author: Editors


jon's picture

Interesting article and both Ks has their history. However, as for Karpov, he is not a puppet for Kasparov as Frist pointet out, and, it is Karpov, not Kasparov who is the candidate. Surely, not everybody likes the two Ks, Karpov and Kirsan! However, its time to remove Kirsan. Then as Crowther says, Karpov has to prove himself.

Guillaume's picture

This article is flawed in the sense that there's obviously nothing Karpov or Kasparov (or anyone) could say or do to convince its author of their good will. He would always assume they are being dishonnest and manipulative no matter what.

test's picture

>> had we been in the habit of asking awkward questions, we might not have ended up with Kirsan.

I'm not so sure. Chess players have no vote. He was voted into office by the one country one vote system. Most chess players don't even know who represents their country or who they voted for. And then there is the business of buying the votes of a bunch of third world countries where chess is almost nonexistent.

Rodzjer's picture

This is just another guy that wants to vent his opinion. When I read it, next thing comes to mind: Was he refused a NIC job position some time ago?

It's hard to separate opinion from fact in this article, and it totally misses the point of the upcoming elections. To me the point is:
When you have to choose between Ilyu and K+K in the upcoming elections, who would you pick?

Sumit Balan's picture

Excellent !! This article hits all the target points BULLS EYE !! BRAVO !!!!

Frits Fritschy's picture

Very interesting article, although I can't agree with everything. It looks a bit too harsh at least on Karpov. Wasn't he won of the Russian players that didn't sign the anti-Korchnoi letter? Was it in his interest to visit Kasparov in jail? He may have been sailing with the prevailing winds most of the time, but not always. And I can imagine many people to be Kasparov's puppet, but not him.
I would like to know who wrote this article. Who is 'ejh'?. If you write something that may be influential, you should put your name under it. People should be able to check whether you have personal or political motivations - rightly so or not.

Mark Crowther's picture

I personally really haven't covered Karpov's campaign overly much. For me it is about how change can happen in FIDE when the person in power is so entrenched that policy discussion doesn't take place any more. The whole election is being fought on Ilyumzhinov's battle ground. Right from the first election he fought in 1996 where it is recorded that he spent a couple of hundred thousand dollars on votes (that's just what is recorded) FIDE has been about the politics of the delegates not the politics of chess. Since when has it been the case that you have to raise huge amounts of money even to stand as FIDE President? Since Ilyumzhinov.

Anyone who has made the effort to look at Ilyumzhinov's political career in Kalmykia, which is just appalling, knows he needs to go. is just a recent selection. At least one says that if he loses FIDE this will be the signal for him to at least to have to defend his actions in court.

None of us who wanted rid of Margaret Thatcher so much that we were prepared to give Tony Blair the benefit of the doubt is surely prepared to make the same kind of mistake again. I simply hope Karpov wins and then proper discussion as to the direction FIDE needs to take can be entered into. So I hope for Karpov, but then beyond that he really needs to prove himself. But there would certainly be a reboot of FIDE and if he fails I guess opens the way to future elections where the ruling administration doesn't have support just in its pocket before it starts.

At the moment I can see the 15 years Ilyumzhinov has been in charge stretching to another 15 and more. He just seems to have the votes in his pocket even before campaigning even starts and I do wonder if it might be a long time before anyone makes another serious run at him if Karpov loses.

If you want an entirely chess related campaign issue then the deal with Chess Lane is it. This seems to be signing over all commercial activity to a company we know very little about and which is registered in the British Virgin Islands. There seems to be a pretty sinister agenda behind this. The "commercialisation" of the FIDE rating list. and introducing "new quality standards of chess news distribution" whatever that's supposed to mean. is their new website. They have practically no track record, there old site clearly had no money spent on it and didn't give much room for confidence. You can decide what the new one says about the organisation. I wonder how reversible such a deal might be in four years if it goes bad.

Cynicism about FIDE politics is where I've been for a long time (in fact after the last elections I stopped writing about it for a long time and concentrated on the chess) and whoever wins the election that's probably where I'm going to stay. It is the healthiest attitude.

Peter Doggers's picture

We asked the author and he didn't object, so the name has been added to the article.

john's picture

I'm sure I read Karpov wants to broaden the participation in the World Chess Championship again along the lines of the old zonals and inter-zonals. This is an excellent thing and would allow the rising stars to have their chance just as much as the established elite imo.

Karpov has definitely been focused on the elite and the World Chess Championship cyle in his interviews, but then who can blame him? This is supposed to be the jewel in the crown of the chess world, and Kirsan reduced it to a joke or a worthless lottery. Lets give Carlsen, Aronian, Ivanchuck, Shirov etc etc a real qualification system set in stone and lets find out who really is the best. I'm fed up with all these backroom deals and people getiting shots at the title from out of the blue (Yes I mean you Kramnik, and you Topalov )

reality check's picture

Schucks, thought i was the only one left with any objective memory of the chess scene since 1972; wrong.
This article is spot on! And it's about time someone "really" spoke out.

Ianis's picture

I appreciated this article because it is one of the rare articles about chess where the author is free to express his plain view , speak out his mind without being "moderated" by the publisher

I think if more people ( and journalists and GM's or people of the professional chess world ) would express such frank opinions about the state of FIDE and how it is run (corruption/bribery , networks of influence , failed commercial policies , absence of transparence etc) , it would put more pressure on those who profit from the current system where omerta law and hypocrisy prevail .

But at the end of the day , it's the one who has the paycheck and the better networks and relations who will have the last word currently , regardless of his program , plan and ideas for the actors of the chess world and chess itself , so i kinda share the author's pessimism about the situation

Tony's picture

The article is well written but I notice that there is a lot of personal feelings wrapped into the accusations. Personal feelings are not facts. Regardless of how someone feels about someone's actions or if they look guilty you can not convict someone due to feelings. Kiran might look guilty but he hasn't been convicted.

The big battle right now is in a change of business models from a governmental support/socialistic model to capitalistic/public supported business model.
FIDE has been run more as a fiefdom than a business. Until someone comes up with a new model things are going to limp along.
My feeling is that China is going to take over the financial reins of FIDE in the next 10 years....

Calvin Amari's picture

Let's see: the author nates that Ilyumzhinov was implicated in a murder of a journalist, is outraged that chessplayers did not react appropriately with a boycott, and chastises players' sense of priorities and proportionality because, rather than taking a principled stand on Ilyumzhinov's murderous totalitarianism, players have been more focused on the Ilyumzhinov's administration (or lack thereof) of chess matters (which administration the author acknowledges is also "sinister" ) .

But, because Karpov -- when he was an elite player -- made some comments suggesting that the FIDE matters most material to his decision-making concerned elite chess competition (and because Karpov is supported with Kasparov, who has a notoriously strong personality), the author suggests an equal plague on BOTH Ilyumzhinov's and Karpov's houses?!? Priorities and proportionality indeed!

Karpov isn't to be compared with God; he is to be compared with his sole opponant, a man who is whose manifest embarassment to chess is the least of his faults. Take your pick.

Calvin Amari's picture

Let's see: the author notes that Ilyumzhinov was implicated in a murder of a journalist, is outraged that chessplayers did not react appropriately with a boycott, and chastises players' sense of priorities and proportionality because, rather than taking a principled stand on Ilyumzhinov's murderous totalitarianism, players have been more focused on the Ilyumzhinov's administration (or lack thereof) of chess matters (which administration the author acknowledges is also "sinister" ) .

But, because Karpov -- when he was an elite player -- made some comments suggesting that the FIDE matters most material to his decision-making concerned elite chess competition (and because Karpov is supported with Kasparov, who has a notoriously strong personality), the author suggests an equal plague on BOTH Ilyumzhinov's and Karpov's houses?!? Priorities and proportionality indeed!

Karpov isn't to be compared with God; he is to be compared with his sole opponent, a man who is whose manifest embarrassment to chess is the least of his faults. Take your pick.

lefty's picture

Fantastic article- kudos to chess vibes for plugging a chess blog!

Arne Moll's picture

@Tony. I think one of the things that make this article so exceptionally strong is that the author's "personal feelings" are so well - and recognizably - described. If all we could ever publish were facts, I think this would be a pretty boring chess site indeed.

Nima's picture

Excellent article, useful points to keep in mind not just for chess politics and chess business but politics and business in general. Too many bad things happen around the world, East to West, because we keep quiet when we should speak up.

Niels van der Mark's picture

Can anyone tell me when the elections are held?

ratjak's picture

an excellent read. however, the author seems to have forgotten the old truth that people don't change, circumstances change.
enter a common enemy and old foes may become the dearest of friends

Frits Fritschy's picture

I remember being part of a youth training session (a waste on me) in the Amsterdam FIDE office (long time ago) when suddenly Euwe and Karpov stepped in. Euwe near 2 m tall, Karpov hardly above 1.50. They looked liked granddad and grandson. Maybe Euwe made size matter and implanted some ethics into him.
In his confrontations with Korchnoi and Kasparov, Karpov had a clean eye for his own interests and didn't mind the backup he got from the powers that were. At the same time he didn't mind to take a risk by not backing up those powers when he didn't have to (see my earlier comment), in a way that didn't offend too much, but had some impact.
So Karpov is a good politician. He makes use of the connections he has, but doesn't follow orders. Maybe on moral grounds, maybe on calculation, maybe on intuition. He minds his steps; he errr... looks a bit like a chess player.
Bessel Kok was a man of great virtues. He fought an honest campaign, lost it by being fooled, tried to reform the beast from the inside, was made supreme secretary of extraterrestial affairs and was never heard of again.
Now who has the better chance to get Kirsan down, Justin?

By the way, did you really try to get answers from Karpov himself, or are you counting upon it that he will read the Streatham & Brixton Chess Blog? Anyhow,
keep asking questions!

Brian Wall's picture

I used to hate Karpov because Korchnoi's family was stuck in Russia but was that really his decision? If Korchnoi and Kasparov have forgiven Karpov, I can too. The outrageous comments that Kasparov makes is why I love him - Royalty has its priviliges. When elite players criticize lesser players, well, that's the only time I get to see Chess from the very top and if they can do it with humor, all the better. I don't resent their success, they earned every penny with hard work and talent, taking Chess to whole new levels. Did Kirsan order the hit or the journalist or did his cronies get overenthusiastic like Watergate? As for Kirsan believing in aliens don't a majority of the world believe in biblical disaster prophecies? I don't find much to hate in these guys but a lot to admire.

Jens Kristiansen's picture

A fine article with lots of food for thought. But I still hope Karpov will win - at least that would be a slight chance for a brighter future for chess.
But two questions spring to my mind:
1) Karpov would never go for this campaign if he was not reasonably sure he would win, would he? As a chess master he absolutely never sought for lost battles.
2) Both candidates seem to spend huge amounts of money on their campaign, travelling all over the world, not by Ryan-Air and not hosted in Youth Hostels. Is there really so much in it, just becoming the president of FIDE? Sorry, I smell some hidden agendas.

Frits Fritschy's picture

About the smell: I wouldn't be surprised Karpov either has an excellent political nose or excellent contacts on higher levels in the Russian administration - speculating on or knowing of Ilyumzhinovs coming political downfall. And maybe even getting some financial backup.
I just wonder how Kasparov fits in this scheme - who is the puppet and who is the puppet master?
Is the Kremlin getting rid of a pain in the arse and looking for ways to appease a political opponent?
Finishing off the president of a small autonomous region shouldn't be a problem, except when he keeps an influential post. Chess is big in Russia and can't be ignored, is about what Korchnoi said after he defected.

Linden Parks's picture

Awesome, awesome piece!
I've always had some vague feeling about these people and their holier-than-though attitude and mindset, but you spell it all out for us, free and clear, what those attitude and minset actually are. Thank you!

b3wins's picture

While the author is a talented writer, which is nice to see in chess circles, the main message of the article is centuries-old and very similar in style to any non-chess political commentary: all the leaders are corrupted, greedy, egotistical, and vain, they have no vision, no one cares about the common man (or common chess player), and... there's nothing we can do about it.

That last conclusion is present throughout the article, which is wholly pessimistic. It is easy to say what's wrong with everyone, but how about suggesting something constructive? What would you do if you had an election campaign going? How would you protect the things you care about?

Asking "awkward questions" isn't productive enough to make a change. Besides, if you really had to interview one of those famous guys, who are very concerned about their reputation, and you would ask those awkward questions, your life as a journalist would be very short because no one would choose to give you interviews after that. A few weeks ago Yury Vasiliev interviewed both Danailov and Kirsan in close succession on delicate issues. Both men have things to hide. But he knows how to talk to them respectfully. So - yes, there are questions that we will never get to ask directly, but we - the chess community - can still do better in remembering the things that are known, as mentioned.

Now, political criticism does not end with lamenting on a flawed reality, that's just the beginning. A call for action is the next stage, but perhaps the chess world is not ready for that. We deserve whoever we elect, and if most leading chess players choose to remain silent on any issue outside the chessboard and let the national delegates run the show, then everyone is equally responsible for the situation. It was very discouraging to read the recent "Kirsan released into space" post at Chess in Translation and learn even more terrible stories about our long-lasting leader. The widely circulated assumption that the Kremlin wants him to keep his FIDE presidency so that he does not try to cause more damage in Kalmykia makes one wonder how much they really care about the world chess federation.

Going back to the article, I do hope that its questioning mentality will encourage the chess community to think more critically, but probably that won't happen, because most chess players prefer to focus on the game rather than on politics. The positive side of it is that tournament chess seems to be on the rise, in spite of reportedly corrupt leadership. This situation is not unique to chess, and can be found in other fields in life where the productive output of creative practitioners is run by non-practitioners who have their own politics. (music, arts, literature, sciences, etc.)

Whatever the outcome of the election will be, chess - whether top level or amateur level - will not "disappear," and if things will become really unbearable with FIDE leadership, perhaps that would stimulate the creation of a healthier rival organization than we've seen in recent decades, so overall I'm not so pessimistic about the future of chess.

jjs's picture

He doesn't like Kirsan, he doesn't like Anatoly, he doesn't like Garry, he doesn't like Magnus, he doesn't like Raymond, he doesn't like Nigel, he doesn't like Dirk, he doesn't like Sepp, he doesn't like fundraising, he doesn't like Chelsea, he doesn't like Manchester, he doesn't like Danailov, he doesn't like that people who used to dislike each other now like each other!
What kind of rubbish is this?
I am disgusted.

Why in the world is this "...important that it gets a wider audience." ? Really unbelievable!

Manu's picture

Excellent article , and another awkward question i'd ask is why people who criticises FIDE's "one country one vote" rule have no problem with Russia's "one country two candidates" monopoly ...
And lets not forget that this two piggies are close friends with Putin so i wouldn t be surprised if the election is decided before it actually happens...

jussu's picture

"It looks to me as though it's merely a piece of parchment that insults anyone who tries to read it. Childish, but surely not dangerous? I imagine [ChessVibes] got it from a joke-shop."

test's picture

Omg, check out Andy Soltis' commentary in the New York Post: This means war.

Quote ftw: "It might get much worse: Ilyumzhinov, who is losing his day job as president of Russia's Kalmykia, could even try to organize a rival to FIDE out of the 90-plus nations who support him."

I don't know if I should laugh or cry if that really happened, but it would be a spectacle to see.

Yetispotter's picture

Brilliant article!
Boycot FIDE!

Guillaume's picture

I agree with jjs. This article may be well written and fun to read, but at the end of the day one is left wondering what was the main point, except emphasizing how much the author dislikes and distrusts all these people and instances.

Seriously, what was the main idea?

test's picture

A lot of people in the chess world are unhappy with the people who run FIDE. And frustrated because they are powerless to do anything about it. Why is that? Because the problem does not end with FIDE; the problem extends to the national federations. A lot of them (if not most) are run just as badly as FIDE and chess players seem to be equally powerless to do anything about it. And they are the ones who vote.

Arne Moll's picture

@Guillaume, jjs and others: perhaps the author's point is that there's many things to complain about in today's chess world? What's so bad about expressing this concern?

sintar2's picture

Let's have a contest. How many internal inconistencies can you name in this whiner's diatribe?

calvin amari's picture

Soltis's story is laughable on so many levels, I don't know where to start.

Linden Parks's picture

b3wins is talking as if the author of the article is running for FIDE office himself! Isn't it more than enough that he can spell out what is wrong and what hidden issues are there? The job of journalists is not to always provide solutions, for two reasons:
- they're not in the best position to provide solutions
- the solutions they propose are almost ways ignored by the power-that-be.

Their main job is to inform the public. No single journalist can change the world, only the public can. If the public is informed, we can hope that they will make the informed decision, whether that is to vote for someone, not vote for someone, or vote for someone and hold that person accountable later on.

And even if the public sometimes (or most of the time) do not make informed decision (as is the case with American voting public), so what? It's not like the journalist can invent his own ideal candidate out of thin air. At least he has the courage to spell out what is wrong with the current picture (which is more than we can say about the majority of chess press).

When judging journalists, only one question matters: is it true? If what he says is true, then he should be rightfully and deservedly saluted!

calvin amari's picture

This was not an article of factual exposition. Nobody would deny, least of all the author, that this is an essay of Opinion, which he tries to support with highly selective facts.

kees's picture

In the meantime, the website of the Sports Arbitration Court in Lausanne and the campaign websites are very silent as today should be the (scheduled, but not on website??) hearing in the case of Karpov vs Ilyumzhinov.

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