Stop press: Gulko, Shabalov, Onischuk pull out
Before we bring you the Moscow Times article a brief note on the latest developments
regarding the FIDE World Championship, which is to be held Tripoli, Libya,
from June 18 to July 13, 2004. A week ago US grandmaster Boris Gulko announced
that he was withdrawing from the tournament. Apparently the concerns expressed
in his open letter
to the FIDE president had remained unanswered. FIDE has just announced
that Gulko will be replaced by IM Jose Gonzalez Garcia of Mexico.
In a show of solidarity US Champion Alexander Shabalov a few days ago announced
that he too will not travel to Libya for the World Championship. "The
reluctance of FIDE to deal with the issues raised in the ACP open letter of
May 26th and the publishing of 'final list of participants' with my fellow
chess players and friends excluded based on their nationality makes it impossible
for me to participate in WCC in Tripoli," said Shabalov. Last night American
qualifier Alexander Onischuk also withdrew his particiaption. FIDE has published
a list of eight players who
are eligible to replace them (Garcia Palermo, Wojtkewicz, Sorin, Nogueiras,
Monier, Zenon, Slipak, Rosito). They are requested to send in their papers
by fax to the FIDE Secretariat in Athens.
Moscow Times article (summary)
"Instead of mainstream corporate sponsors, Ilyumzhinov has courted a
pantheon of dubious chess patrons, including Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi,
former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, deposed Adzharian leader Aslan Abashidze
and controversial businessman Grigory Luchansky," writes Moscow Times
staff writer Carl Schreck. He goes on to describe the situation after FIDE
enlistment of Gadhafi to host the men's world championship in Tripoli later this
Shreck also criticises Ilyumzhinov's decision to stage the women's world championship
in Georgia's crisis-stricken Adzharia region, only to move it to Elista when
the political standoff in the region between Abashidze and Georgian President
Mikheil Saakashvili grew increasingly turbulent. Abashidze fled the country,
after agreeing to the switch the venue and pay for the championship. Ilyumzhinov
called it "Abashidze's present to chess," and the FIDE web site announced
that he had been awarded the ceremonial title of "Holder of the Order
of Grand Commander of the Legion of Grandmasters," an organization previously
unheard of in the chess world. The winner of the women's championship will
receive a golden, diamond-studded crown named after Abashidze.
This was not the first time that Ilyumzhinov has transferred a world chess
championship to Elista after initially securing a controversial host. In 1996,
he arranged to have the Anatoly Karpov-Gata Kamsky championship match held
in Baghdad under the patronage of Saddam Hussein. That venue fell through when
the U.S. government refused to grant Kamsky, a Russian-born immigrant, permission
to travel to Iraq.
"Frankly, I don't believe this is the kind of sponsorship we should be
attracting," said GM Peter Svidler, world number six, who is not participating
in Libya. "Of course we would like to have Microsoft as a sponsor,"
said FIDE vice president Zurab Azmaiparashvili in Elista. "But right now
Luchansky and Abashidze want to support us. Thank God we have friends like
French grandmaster Joel Lautier, president of the Association of Chess Professionals,
pointed out that "Ilyumzhinov himself has had a very troubled history,
to put it mildly. Many Western sponsors do not want to have anything to do
Ilyumzhinov has poured tens of millions of dollars into chess since becoming
FIDE president in 1995. He says the money has been his own, but his critics
have accused him of dipping into the tiny republic's coffers to fund his chess
obsession, including the construction of his chess fantasy land, Chess City,
a slick complex in Elista built to host the 1998 Chess Olympics.
"Under Ilyumzhinov," Shreck writes, "one of the chess world's
most glaring problems is one that the FIDE president inherited: the lack of
a universally recognized world champion. Gone are the days when world champions
like Bobby Fischer, Anatoly Karpov or Garry Kasparov were household names."
Ilyumzhinov is optimistic about a solution to this problem in the near future.
The president claims that FIDE already has serious offers from Dubai and Cairo
to host the reunification match with a $1 million prize fund.