All you ever wanted to know about Kirsan...

12/1/2010 – ... and then some. The New York Times was approached by the President of the World Chess Federation, who offered to answer readers’ questions. The result is a giant three-part Q+A which deals with all aspects of Ilyumzhinov's career and work, including the perennial question about alien abduction and the galactic origin of chess. Turns out he will be publishing a book on the subject.

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Ilyumzhinov approached The New York Times through an intermediary, Ilya Merenzon, who is a partner at Press Release Group, a company that describes itself as a media-relations firm specializing in Russian-American communications, and offered to answer readers’ questions about the federation and his plans for promoting chess. The questions were in English and Mr. Ilyumzhinov replied in Russian. Mr. Merenzon provided translations. Mr. Ilyumzhinov also spoke by telephone to a reporter from The Times to clarify or expand on what he had written.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Regarding his offer to buy the site of the controversial Muslim cultural center near the destroyed World Trade Center in Manhattan for $10 million and build a chess center there: "FIDE will in any case begin construction of a chess center in New York. I would note that a few hours after the publication of my letter to Bloomberg, I received three additional offers from Russian and foreign philanthropists wishing to finance the construction of a center. I hope that in a few years’ time we’ll be meeting in New York in a new chess center."

  • How much is the FIDE president’s salary? "I don’t receive a salary from FIDE. I support myself using the money I earned when I was an entrepreneur."

  • How much of FIDE’s budget is used for salaries, promotion, marketing? "FIDE is one of the most financially transparent organizations. According to the audited report on FIDE’s Web site for 2008 (the latest year available), staff costs in the four offices (Athens, which is the headquarters; Elista, the capital of Kalmykia; Lausanne, Switzerland; and Moscow) were almost 373,000 Euros (about $503,000 at current exchange rates), total expenses were 1.485 million euros ($2 million), and 75,000 euros ($101,000) was spent on marketing."

  • Title matches and candidates events have been delayed, postponed and moved multiple times in the last few years because of organizational confusion. How do you plan to fix these problems? "I must correct you: After we shifted to the match system for the world champion title, it was played in accordance with the approved FIDE schedule. That was the case with the unified matches between Topalov and Kramnik (in 2006 in Elista, Kalmykia); Kramnik and Anand (in 2008 in Bonn, Germany); and Anand and Topalov (in 2010 in Sofia, Bulgaria). The only change (also planned) will likely be with the 2012 match in London. And this is at the request of the organizers and sponsors, who would like to link it with the Summer Olympics."

  • Why is the women’s world championship decided by a knockout format, when the open one is decided by a long match? "Beginning with the next cycle we will combine knockouts and matches. Experience has shown that some players perform better in matches and others in knockouts. By uniting the formats, everyone will have a chance to show their best side."

  • There have been a number of title matches held in the Caucasus in recent years, but few outside of the region. What about having one championship on a different continent each year? "Tournaments are held around the world, including in European cities. But the accent in chess events is shifting. Recently the bulk of our audience has moved to the Internet, where the fans watch games online. So from the spectator’s point of view, it isn’t that important where the competition actually takes place — in Moscow, London or Nalchik. The most important thing is their being organized perfectly."

  • Many of the world’s largest companies are based in Western Europe and the United States, yet there are few major events in either area. "I think it’s crucial to dispel the myth that chess has no corporate sponsors. They exist, and at the very highest level. Take, for example, Gazprom — is this an insufficiently serious company? We’re also working with Western institutions, particularly with BNP-Paribas. It goes without saying that FIDE is ready to collaborate with any major corporations, both in America and across the world. We have a lot to offer them."

  • What had happened to the construction projects with chess themes, like a Chess City in Dubai? Many of these projects were proposed in 2008. I have some partners who want to work with me, but the financial crisis changed their plans."

  • What about his belief iin alien abductions? "Many in this world believe in God although it would seem that no one has yet seen him. Many people also believe in the existence of extraterrestrials, and I am one of them. But my faith is underscored by the experience of humanity. It is no coincidence that every year NASA registers over 4,000 contacts with extraterrestrial civilizations. I have decided to write a book about my contact with extraterrestrials, and it will be published in the United States in 2011. In it, I will speak of my personal experience communicating with extraterrestrials and my view on the question of extraterrestrial civilizations."

  • Was chess given to Earthlings from extraterrestrial visitors? "I do, indeed, consider chess a gift from extraterrestrial civilizations. Chess is one of the world’s oldest games. But where was it invented? In India? But an ancient set of figures was also found at excavations in the Bulgarian town of Plovdiv. And two years ago, the president of Mongolia showed me chessmen discovered when they were searching for the grave of Genghis Khan and excavated a kurgan. There have been similar finds in Latin America and other parts of the world. And in those times, of course, travel was almost impossible. But the rules of chess were almost identical everywhere. It is hard to imagine that people in different parts of the world many thousands of years ago simultaneously thought up an identical game with the same rules just by chance. But again, I will set forth my opinions in the book, and we can discuss my theses in greater detail.

  • What do you know about the murder of Larisa Yudina? This was the first case in Russia when the murder of a journalist had been successfully investigated and brought to court, and the killer [Sergey Vaskin, an aide to Mr. Ilyumzhinov] was prosecuted and given a real prison sentence. I am very sorry that such a tragedy happened, and I am glad that the authorities brought the persons responsible for it to justice. I barely knew Vaskin. There were 1,000 people on my staff. He was one of the members who worked in my administration.”

Source: New York Times
Part one
Part twoPart three


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