Elections 2006: Who controls FIDE?

5/1/2006 – Did you know that every member nation in FIDE has exactly one delegate and one vote? That the power wielded by Madagascar, Malawi, Belize and Uganda, who have no tournament players, is equivalent to that of the four top chess nations? André Schulz takes a look at the current stand in the FIDE elections.

Who controls FIDE?

By André Schulz

During the Chess Olympiad in Turin the FIDE presidential board is due to be elected. For the first time the incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who has reigned over the world chess federation for eleven years, will be facing a serious challenge – in the past the elections were virtually uncontested. Sometimes it was enough to simply include the opposing candidate in the presidential team, as was for instance the case with Ignatius Leong. But this time the matter is not so simple for Ilyumzhinov. The challenger, Bessel Kok, is a well-known figure in the chess world, ever since he founded the GMA in the eighties. Also as a successful manager of national telecommunications companies he does not rely on any financial promises.

In the beginning there were fourteen

The world chess federation FIDE was founded in 1924 by the federations of the following countries: Argentina, Belgium, England, France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Canada, Netherlands, Poland, Rumania, Switzerland, Spain, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Most were European countries, only Argentina and Canada lent the organisation an international air.

It is difficult to find the historical regulations for the election of the FIDE president, but I assume that they were the same then as they are today: each of the member countries had one delegate, who had one vote to elect the president. The simple majority decided who was the winner.

These rules have remained in place, while the organisation grew from 14 countries with roughly similar numbers of chess players to 140 member nations. It is still the case that each delegate has one vote in the presidential elections, even though there are gigantic differences in the population numbers, the chess tradition and the popularity of the game in the individual countries. In spite of all this, each country has exactly the same influence on the political decision. Size does not matter.

25,000 players = 4 votes, 0 players = 4 votes

Although there are no reliable figures on the number of chess players in the different countries, or at least none that are easily accessible, there are certain known figures that allow us to draw relevant conclusions. The FIDE rating lists tell us exactly how many rated players there are in each country (active and in total), as well as the number of title holders (FMs, IMs, GMs, etc.). Going through these numbers we find some remarkable facts.

The leading chess nation in the world, if you count the number of rated players, is not Russia but Germany. The Russians are second, Spain is third, followed by France. These four countries have over 25,000 tournament chess players. In FIDE assemblies they are represented by four delegates with four votes. This is exactly the power wielded by the federations of Madagascar, Malawi, Belize and Uganda, who represent exactly zero tournament players. Canada and the US, i.e. the entire North American continent, have the same power in FIDE as the Dutch Antilles and Bermuda. China is neutralised by the British Virgin Islands.

All nations big and small

Germany, as mentioned, has the largest number of rated players in the world, and possibly the largest number of members in its national chess federation of all FIDE members. Still, we get the feeling that Russia has a greater number of chess enthusiasts than Germany, and that chess is much more deeply embedded in the national culture and heritage there. Russia has twice as many titled players as Germany. So it is obvious that there are fewer rated players in Russia than there should be, and the reason for this is that there are not enough tournaments inside the country that offer players the chance to get an international rating.

The conclusion is that Russia has a large number of chess players, but few tournaments, which implies that the number of rated players in a country allows us to draw conclusions not just about the number of chess enthusiasts but also about the tournament activity that is manifested there. This in turn allows us to draw further conclusions about the popularity of chess in the different countries, and also about the amount of money that is being raised for the organisation of chess events.

The situation is even more imbalanced in the case of China, the leading women's chess nation. If you take the average ratings of the top players, China ranks number seven in the world. But if you consider the number of FIDE rated players in the country (324, of whom 164 are active) China is clearly still in an early development phase. Exactly how popular Western chess is in this giant nation is hard to assess, but there are clearly very few international tournaments in that country. Just compare China to India, which has 1700 rated players who are currently active.

So regardless of whether a country is very large (India: over one billion population) or very small (Bermuda: 65,000), whether it has many rated players (Germany: over 9000) or very few (Belize: 0), at FIDE congresses they are all equal, and have the same influence on FIDE politics, since each country has the same number of voting delegates, which is exactly one. This system would be unthinkable in regular politics, and is also not practiced in other sporting bodies.

Elections – looking over the fence

In Germany the electoral regions are divided in such a way that each has approximately the same number of voters. Big states have more delegates in the national parliament than the smaller ones. The same applies to the European Parliament. Germany has many more delegates than Luxemburg, even though the number does not exactly represent the difference in population.

In sport federations similar structures are implemented, although not solely based on population numbers. Ice hockey is a good example. This sport is not uniformly popular in the world, simply because ice is not uniformly available. In the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) the big hockey nations are represented in different groups: some members have two delegates, others one, while the delegates of "associated members" participate in the meetings but have no vote.

It is charming that the US Virgin Islands send a team to the Chess Olympiad, and also quite an achievement, when you take into account that in the population of 100,000 there are just eight rated players, of whom only five are active. But is it logical to give this micro-federation from a country with around 20 chess enthusiasts full membership in FIDE, with the same political influence as Russia, Ukraine or the United States?

Using a list of the participating teams at past chess Olympiads (source: www.olimpbase.org, Mega Database 2006) we can follow the growing number of federations that have joined FIDE in the past years. In 1970 at the Chess Olympiad in Siegen there were 60 countries represented in the Men's section; in 1982 in Lucern it was 92. The record was Bled 2002, with 135 countries participating. This increase in numbers was mainly the work of the previous president Florencio Campomanes, who recruited new countries very vigorously. But FIDE neglected to change its statutes to reflect the very inhomogeneous representation that resulted. Now it is probably too late to do anything to change the situation. It would require the vote of many countries without or with very few chess players – one would be effectively asking them to vote themselves out of political power in the chess federation.

The 2006 elections

Before we come to the current election let us delve briefly into the history of the presidency.

All FIDE presidents so far
Alexander Rueb Netherlands   1924-1949
Folke Rogard Sweden 1949-1970
Max Euwe Netherlands 1970-1978
Friðrik Ólafsson Iceland 1978-1982
Florencio Campomanes   Philippines 1982-1995
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov Kalmykia since 1995

From 1924 until 1982 the Federation was led by Europeans. The last two presidents, Max Euwe and Friðrik Ólafsson, were a former world champion and a world class grandmaster respectively. Let us take a look at the candidates for the 2006 elections, which will take place in the early days of June, at the end of the Chess Olympiad in Turin.

The current president of FIDE, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, is also the President of the autonomous Republic of Kalmykia, a country with a population of 289,881. Ilyumzhinov is not just the president but also a very successful businessman and has invested $30 million of his own funds into the game, for which he has earned the gratitude of many chess players and functionaries. He has managed to find funding for a world championship match between Topalov and Kramnik, which is to be held in Elista, the capital of Kalmykia, this October.

 

Bessel Kok is a very successful businessman, the co-founder of S.W.I.F.T (which provides payment services to 110,000 banks in 124 countries), former president of the Belgian National Telecom Operator, Chief Operating Officer of the Czech Telecom, advisor of Morgan Stanley Czechoslovakia, board member of the Vaclac Havel Foundation, and numerous other functions. From 1985 until 1991 Kok was chairman of World Chess Grandmaster Association. He speaks Dutch, English, French, German, and has a basic knowledge of Czech.

     
Chess Fidelity team:   Right Move team:
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov   Bessel Kok
Georgios Makropoulos (Greece)   Ali Nihat Yazici (Turkey)
Lewis Ncube (Zambia)   Panupand Vijjuprabha (Thailand)
Ignatius Leong (Singapore)   Julio Ingolotti (Paraguay)
Nigel Freeman (Bermuda)   Geoffrey D Borg (Malta)
http://www.chessfidelity.com   http://www.rightmove06.com

A quiz question: how many active chess players do these candidates represent? The answer will be given in the table below.

Who is for whom?

The FIDE rating list recognises 140 member countries, but there must be more, since we notice that some countries that are not on the list have pledged their support for one of the two candidates. Unfortunately we were not able to find an official list of all member federations on the FIDE web site, or anywhere else for that matter. Probably the exact number of member federations fluctuates quite a bit, since a number of members are periodically unable to pay their dues to FIDE, which results in the membership being temporarily revoked. This means that the candidates for the presidency do not really know how many federations will be casting their vote during the next elections. It is possible that the number will rise shortly before the elections, because a sponsor has been found who pays or forgives them the debts. If this is one of the candidates then they may be expected to show their gratitude by casting their vote in one direction during the upcoming election.

In the above map you can see which countries are offering their support to each candidate (Afghanistan is claimed by both sides). We can see that Europe and North America have pledged their support to Bessel Kok, while Russia, many former Soviet republics and Central and South America are in favour of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. The current president has also managed to get both Israel and most of the Arab countries into one boat, which must be a unique display of unity in the otherwise so hostile relationship.

But of course this graphic display is misleading. The big green and red areas are easily outweighed by some of the tiny dots on the map. The following table gives you an impression of how many chess players are actually represented by these federations.

The full list of supporting countries: Stand: 15.4.2006

 
Players
 
Country
Population
Active
Total
Titled
Votes
claimed by
Afghanistan
29,929,000
10
12
2
1
Ilyum./Kok
Albania
3,563,100
23
40
10
1
Ilyumzhinov
Algeria
32,531,900
54
89
20
1
Ilyumzhinov
Andorra
70,550
20
24
5
1
Kok
Argentina
39,537,900
402
558
179
1
Ilyumzhinov
Australia
20,090,400
267
383
70
1
Kok
Azerbaijan
7,912,000
109
189
48
1
Ilyumzhinov
Bahrain
688,300
10
18
1
1
Ilyumzhinov
Barbados
279,300
21
33
5
1
Ilyumzhinov
Belgium
10,364,400
395
440
58
1
Kok
Belize
279,500
0
0
0
1
Ilyumzhinov
Bermuda
65,370
8
14
0
1
Ilyumzhinov
Botswana
1,640,100
18
29
4
1
Ilyumzhinov
Canada
32,805,000
246
404
101
1
Kok
Chile
15,980,900
343
662
36
1
Ilyumzhinov
Costa Rica
4,016,200
58
81
14
1
Ilyumzhinov
Czech Republic
10,241,100
1657
2004
179
1
Kok
Denmark
5,432,300
680
824
76
1
Kok
Dominican Republic
8,950,000
0
0
0
1
Ilyumzhinov
Ecuador
13,363,600
255
318
32
1
Ilyumzhinov
Egypt
77,505,800
224
325
38
1
Ilyumzhinov
El Salvador
6,704,900
36
51
19
1
Ilyumzhinov
England
60,441,500
587
1057
205
1
Kok
Ethiopia
73,053,300
2
6
1
1
Ilyumzhinov
France
60,656,200
3680
4226
241
1
Kok
Georgia
4,677,400
245
298
87
1
Ilyumzhinov
Germany
82,431,400
6957
9167
954
1
Kok
Greece
10,668,400
724
909
73
1
Ilyumzhinov
Guatemala
14,655,200
14
39
12
1
Ilyumzhinov
Honduras
6,975,200
18
29
8
1
Ilyumzhinov
Hungary
10,006,800
1870
2364
338
1
Ilyumzhinov
Iceland
296,700
143
195
46
1
Kok
India
1,080,264,400
1713
2209
96
1
Ilyumzhinov
Iraq
26,074,900
66
158
22
1
Ilyumzhinov
Ireland
4,015,700
70
121
16
1
Kok
Israel
6,276,900
435
651
132
1
Ilyumzhinov
Jordan
5,759,700
47
83
10
1
Ilyumzhinov
Kazakhstan
15,185,800
197
299
68
1
Ilyumzhinov
Kuwait
2,335,600
1
5
0
1
Ilyumzhinov
Laos
6,217,100
0
0
0
1
Ilyumzhinov
Latvia
2,290,200
136
197
37
1
Ilyumzhinov
Lebanon
3,826,000
32
53
9
1
Ilyumzhinov
Libya
5,765,600
16
25
6
1
Ilyumzhinov
Liechtenstein
33,720
9
12
2
1
Kok
Luxembourg
468,600
62
73
9
1
Kok
Madagascar
18,040,300
0
0
0
1
Ilyumzhinov
Malawi
12,158,900
0
0
0
1
Kok
Malta
398,500
18
28
2
1
Kok
Mauritius
1,230,600
4
7
0
1
Ilyumzhinov
Moldova
4,455,400
208
255
56
1
Ilyumzhinov
Monaco
32,410
15
17
4
1
Kok
Mongolia
2,791,300
52
88
23
1
Ilyumzhinov
Morocco
32,725,800
44
53
16
1
Ilyumzhinov
Myanmar
42,909,500
233
234
26
Ilyumzhinov
Namibia
2,030,700
5
7
1
1
Kok
Netherlands
16,407,500
992
1209
210
1
Kok
Netherlands Antilles
220,000
11
14
1
1
Kok
Nicaragua
5,465,100
42
51
13
1
Ilyumzhinov
Nigeria
128,772,000
0
0
0
1
Ilyumzhinov
Norway
4,593,000
290
397
65
1
Kok
Pakistan
162,419,900
7
29
3
1
Kok
Palestine
3,761,900
15
27
2
1
Kok
Panama
3,039,200
8
22
2
1
Ilyumzhinov
Paraguay
6,347,900
99
111
15
1
Kok
Philippines
87,857,500
69
133
42
1
Ilyumzhinov
Qatar
863,100
10
 27
7
1
Ilyumzhinov
Russia
143,420,300
5703
8260
1588
1
Ilyumzhinov
Rwanda
8,440,800
2
2
0
1
Ilyumzhinov
Singapore
4,425,700
76
114
34
1
Ilyumzhinov
Slovakia
5,431,400
833
937
59
1
Kok
Somali
8,591,600
0
0
0
1
Ilyumzhinov
Spain
40,341,500
4220
4883
295
1
Kok
Sudan
40,187,500
9
13
0
1
Ilyumzhinov
Surinam
438,100
4
11
0
1
Ilyumzhinov
Switzerland
7,489,400
597
785
99
1
Kok
Syria
18,448,800
29
68
17
1
Ilyumzhinov
Tajikistan
7,163,500
11
13
4
1
Ilyumzhinov
Thailand
65,444,400
47
54
4
1
Kok
Turkmenistan
4,952,100
52
89
32
1
Ilyumzhinov
Turkey
69,660,600
304
393
40
1
Kok
Uganda
27,269,500
9
20
0
1
Ilyumzhinov
United Arab Emirates
2,563,200
73
124
27
1
Ilyumzhinov
USA
295,734,100
788
1614
455
1
Kok
US Virgin Islands
108,700
3
8
0
1
Ilyumzhinov
Uzbekistan
26,851,200
125
147
31
1
Ilyumzhinov
Venezuela
25,375,300
41
88
30
1
Ilyumzhinov
Vietnam
83,535,600
65
110
49
1
Ilyumzhinov
Yemen
20,727,100
13
24
5
1
Ilyumzhinov
Zambia
11,261,800
9
18
3
1
Ilyumzhinov
3,258,710,650
36920
49001
6501
90

Totals

Players
 
Population
Active
Total
Titled
Votes
claimed by
2.248.961.970
13.971
19.711
3.310
60
Ilyumzhinov
979.819.680
23.014
29.435
3.217
30
Kok

As we can see from the above statistics the number of countries claimed by the Chess Fidelity campaign under Ilyumzhinov represents more than twice the population number as those supporting the Right Move of Bessel Kok. But the number of active chess players represented by the Kok camp is almost twice as high as that of his opponent, who has slightly more titled players on his side (due to the support of the former Soviet republics).

Addendum

Since the above statistics were published on our German language news page the numbers have changes somewhat, with at least two new delegations pledging their support for the Right Move ticket. This brings the total to 32 votes for the Bessel Kok side.

We also note that all 32 federations listed (on 01.05.2006) on the Right Move site are all accompanied by a letter by the vote-casting delegate pledging support for the Bessel Kok ticket. The Chess Fidelity site lists 60 supporting federations, but gives scanty proof of their support. We have found eight letters by federations actually pledging their vote on the Chess Fidelity site (Albania, San Salvador, Hungary, Latvia, Mongolia, Philippines, Rwanda, Venezuela) and three by continental presidents. The Ilyumzhinov site has removed some federations previously listed (e.g. Palestine, Tunesia), and in the case of Afghanistan the letter published on the Right Move site would seem to indicate that support from this country is going to Bessel Kok.

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