Fundraiser in New York – echo in the press

5/19/2010 – A one-night binge in the Trump SoHo Hotel brought chess into the highlights of the international press. Karpov, Kasparov and Carlsen [memo: he must change that to Karlsen!] generated a large number of international reports, almost outshining the World Chess Championship in Sofia. Not unexpectedly the stories reflect the challenger's side of the ticket. Press links.

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Fundraiser in New York – echo in the press

The masters of the universe gathered around the small stage in the Hudson Square Ballroom of the Trump SoHo Hotel on Monday night to bid in an auction. Sprinkled among them were a dozen thin models in backless dresses, but the businessmen seemed not to notice. Their attention was fixed on the stage, where Vanessa Thanos, a brunette from California who bills herself as “That Auction Girl,” was putting something up for sale that the businessmen craved: a chance to play with and against Garry Kasparov and Magnus Carlsen, two of the greatest masters of the chessboard.

The occasion: a political fund-raiser, of sorts, for Anatoly Karpov, the former world champion. Mr. Karpov is running for president of the World Chess Federation, the game’s governing body. The bidding started at $1,000. Within seconds, it reached $6,000, leaving only two bidders. Ms. Thanos coaxed and prodded, and the price reached $10,500, before Alan Trefler, founder and chief executive of Pegasystems, a leading business management software company, ceded the floor to Boaz Weinstein, founder of Saba Capital, a hedge fund. Turning to Mr. Trefler, Ms. Thanos suggested a Solomonic solution. How about if he match Mr. Weinstein’s bid, and they both get to play. Done. Full article here...

Rhetoric Is Ratcheted Up in Fight for Presidency

One day after the Russian Chess Federation endorsed Anatoly Karpov, the former world champion, for the presidency of the World Chess Federation, his opponent, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov attacked the decision in a public letter to the federation. Ilyumzhinov, the current president of the world federation, is also president of Kalmykia, a small republic in southern Russia. He has been head of FIDE since 1995. In his letter on Saturday to the Russian federation, Ilyumzhinov said the decision was reminiscent of tactics used under the Soviet Union. He vowed to win re-election to FIDE. Full article here...


Former world chess champion Anatoly Karpov has never been much of a rabble-rouser. But Karpov, whose battles with Garry Kasparov in the 1980s defined the game of kings for an era, is now at the epicenter of an escalating political imbroglio spreading through the already fractious world of international chess.

With the backing of his former nemesis Kasparov and national federations from the United States and Western Europe, Karpov is bidding to unseat Kirsan Ilyumzhinov as the president of the International Chess Federation FIDE. Ilyumzhinov is also the mercurial president of the southern Russian republic of Kalmykia, which he runs as his own fiefdom. His tumultuous 15-year reign over world chess has seen a precipitous decline in the prestige of the title of World Chess Champion.

More than chess is at stake. Winning re-election could be crucial for Ilyumzhinov, whose fate as the president of Kalmykia is up in the air. Ilyumzhinov has run his quasi-autonomous, mostly Buddhist republic since shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, but is facing increasing criticism from the local opposition over persistent poverty in the region. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will have to decide whether to nominate him for another term this fall. "Even if he's not nominated for a new term, [the FIDE presidency] would allow him to remain a flashy, notable person of status," says Nikolai Petrov, an expert on regional Russian politics at the Carnegie Moscow Center.

Karpov, meanwhile, is promising to restore some of the international attention chess enjoyed for most of the last century. "The value of the title of world champion has been degraded, and the popularity isn't there," Karpov said in an interview last week. "No one knows who the world champion is anymore." (That would be Indian grandmaster Viswanathan Anand, for those keeping score at home.)


End Chess Madness

Chess makes for strange bed fellows. Last night at a party at the Trump SoHo hotel in downtown Manhattan, two former world chess champions, Anatoly Karpov and Gary Kasparov, put aside their bitter rivalry to try to rescue the game they love from the iron-fisted grip of a quixotic billionaire named Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

For the past 15 years, Ilyumzhinov has run the world chess organization (known by its French acronym FIDE, for Federation Internationale des Echecs), and Karpov, with Kasparov's backing, wants to replace him. The two K's are intent in bringing blue-chip corporate sponsorship to chess, and they contend that Ilyumzhinov is a big obstacle. First, they think he is a wack job: Ilyumzhinov claims that he was once abducted by yellow-robed human-like extraterrestrials who took him aboard their interplanetary spacecraft. Then there is the terrestrial company he kept, dictators like Muammar el-Qaddafi and Saddam Hussein. Then there are the human rights violations Ilyumzhinov has been associated with in his day job as president of Kalmykia, a barren, poverty-stricken Russian republic on the Caspian Sea.


The battle for leadership of the
International Chess Federation

The World Championship has now ended in a triumph by Viswanathan Anand. The score of the match was 6.5-5.5. As the World Championship closes, the US Championship meets us in St. Louis on May 14. This year’s event features 24 players and will be held through May 25.

While all this tournament drama is going on, the politics of chess has taken a curious climb to the headlines. Anatoly Karpov, former world champion and one of the greatest players in chess history, is trying to unseat Kirsan Ilyumzhinov as president of the International Chess Federation. Ilyumzhinov is the president of the tiny southern Russian republic of Kalmykia.

Karpov, who is said to be quite wealthy, has joined the battle in earnest and claimed initially that Ilyumzhinov has not yet received the support of any delegation and has run a corrupt administration. Ilyumzhinov responded through Ali Nihat Yazici, president of the Turkish Chess Federation, who stated that the Turkish delegation supports Ilyumzhinov. A few more nations have since joined the Turks in their support of Ilyumzhinov. Full article here...


Russian Chess Federation Nominates
Anatoly Karpov for FIDE President

The Supervisory Council of the Russian Chess Federation (RCF) met today in Moscow and nominated Anatoly Karpov to stand for FIDE president in the election that takes place in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, in September. Karpov's nomination received 17 votes from the 32-member Council. The meeting, covered and reported by all major Russian news services, resulted in an irrefutable majority decision in a crucial battle for the FIDE presidency. Karpov's main rival, 15-year incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, is also Russian and the Federation can nominate only one person. Hence this effectively ends Ilyumzhinov's bid to extend his term. This vote for change by chess powerhouse Russia will also be noted closely by other federations. "It was a remarkable moment not only for me, but for Russian chess and FIDE," said Karpov. "The open dialogue and open vote were examples of the transparency that will mark our campaign and administration. My thanks and congratulations to the Council members."

Karpov said he also wanted to personally thank the 21 federations whose early support provided critical momentum in the fight in Moscow: Germany, Syria, USA, Spain, England, Iceland, Switzerland, Ukraine, Nicaragua, Egypt, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Turkmenistan, Serbia, Luxembourg, France, Republic of Congo, El Salvador, Guernsey, Monaco, Tajikistan, Faroe Islands. "They showed leadership," said Karpov, "and I could not have done it without them. I appeared at the meeting with their letters of endorsement in hand. But I'm not going to celebrate this victory for long. There are many federations to contact and I'm traveling soon. We are just getting started." Full article here...


Chess great Kasparov doesn't regret leaving game

Russian chess luminary Garry Kasparov said Monday that doesn't regret trading the game for politics. "I just did what I believe is right for my country," the former world champion told The Associated Press at a fundraiser for his former opponent Anatoly Karpov, a fellow Russian who is running for president of the World Chess Federation. Kasparov said he hopes to help Karpov put chess back on the front pages of newspapers around the country and that he believes the game can help restore political order to Russia. Karpov won Russia's nomination over current federation president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. The election will take place in September in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. "It's fighting the corrupt international body," Kasparov said. "Creating new rules for engagement for chess, it will be helpful as well for bringing democracy to my country."

Kasparov is considered by some to have been the best player in chess history. He retired from top-level professional play in 2005 to become a political activist. He is a vocal critic of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the leader of an opposition group called the United Civil Front. "It's too long for my country," Kasparov said of Putin's tenure in office, first as president and now as prime minister. "But it will not be as long as everyone believes. I know we can bring change to the government." Full article here...


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