Ilyumzhinov to resign as Kalmyk President?

7/24/2010 – The Russian newspaper Gazeta is reporting that the leaders of two regions of the Russian Federation (the political one, not chess) will be stepping down. One of them is Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who has been the President of Kalmykia since 1993. Unfazed, Ilyumzhinov is in full campaign mode for his FIDE reelection, visiting South American and giving interviews. Excerpts and links.

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Photo of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov by Kirill Levbedev

The Russian newspaper Gazeta is reporting that after the recent change in leadership in Chuvashia now the leaders of two more regions of the Russian Federation will be asking the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev not to consider them as candidates for the leadership of their Republics (in the forthcoming elections). One is Nikolay Ivanovich Merkushkin, head of the Republic of Mordovia [note: not the Bologon/Skripchenko country of Moldova], who has held that office since September 1995. The other is Kirsan Nikolayevich Ilyumzhinov, the President of Kalmykia since 1993, when he was elected as the first president of the Republic. Ilyumzhinov, as we all know, has also been the President of FIDE since 1995. Recently (and in the past) Ilyumzhinov has drawn world-wide attention for claiming he has met and travelled with aliens.

The report goes on to say that the 48-year-old Ilyumzhinov is unlikely to leave a designated successor, since he has been "constantly changing prime ministers." However, "some residents of other regions want to improve the leadsership of this region, because of its economic backwardness." The President was not available for comments, says Gazeta, but quots im from an earlier interview as saying: "I work 25 hours a day. Since I was elected president of Kalmykia in 1993, and president of FIDE in 1995, I have never been on vacation, never took sick leave and was not absent a single weekend, including Saturday and Sunday, birthdays and New Year's Eve.


“Chess – A Bridge Between the East and the West”

Russia! Magazine interviewed Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, incumbent President of FIDE and President of the Russian republic of Kalmykia.

The national FIDE presidential nominations deadline was on June 29th, 2010. You were nominated for FIDE president by Russia, and it has been announced that Anatoly Karpov’s candidacy was brought forward by several European countries. What do you think about the 2010 elections?

Despite the fact that the 12th World Champion was nominated by other countries, he is a Russian national. So it turns out that both candidates are representing Russia de facto. This confirms that Russia is a world chess power with deep traditions. And, naturally, I'm proud that my own native country has nominated me for president of FIDE. Historically, our country has played a great part in the development of chess and I hope that it will serve as a bridge between the East and the West, both in the chess world and socially and politically. I am deeply convinced that chess will serve as effective means of communication between countries with different economic, political, ideological and religious systems. As president of FIDE, I focus on making the most intelligent game on the planet serve the development of positive dialogue between all nations and people.

Your opponent [Anatoly Karpov] criticizes the FIDE leadership's lack of contracts with major sponsors.

I'm going to take this opportunity to update you on FIDE's success in this area. Recently, we have concluded our strategic negotiations with the Chess Lane company to create the CNC corporation which invests considerable amount of funds into chess and into studies on the commercial appeal of our great game. We must review the way we have been doing things for a very long time and start to treat chess as a business. There are a number of exciting ideas coming from this collaboration and we are confident that our commercial partners will be soon proposing a number of interesting projects.

What has been the defining moment in the efforts of FIDE during your presidency?

In this line of work, it's impossible to categorize efforts as principle or not. When I was elected in 1995, the chess world was experiencing a major financial crisis. FIDE’s prestige was extremely low and we were faced with an utter absence of funds. The Federation had large debts and I conducted many events at my own expense, including the qualifying matches Xie Jun vs. Zsuzsa Polgar and Anatoly Karpov vs. Gata Kamsky. In 1998, representatives of 129 countries participated in the World Chess Olympiad in Elista. Now, the whole country is preparing for the Olympic Games in Sochi, but back then, we did everything ourselves. We built an Olympic village and conducted what many consider to be the best Olympiad in the history of chess.

Another defining moment: We were able to unite the worldwide chess community. You might recall that in 1993, when the 13th World Champion left FIDE, the chess world was split in half. I was able to reunite it. As a result, we have a single chess champion, a single organization, we're recognized by the International Olympics Commission and we have a unified system of tournaments. By the way, before 1995, FIDE conducted only three official functions a year. Right now, we have eighteen functions slated in our calendar. And now, on the worldwide popularization of our game. There are currently 170 national federations in FIDE.


Ilyumzhinov: Chuck Norris owes me a bottle of whisky

While perhaps no surprise to the jaded observer, interviews with the President of the Internation Chess Federation are often extraordinary. Where else, in the middle of a heated election campaign, can you find a candidate talking openly about aliens, astrology, clairvoyants and meetings with such assorted characters as Saddam Hussein, Colonel Gaddafi, Bobby Fischer and Chuck Norris.

This interview, with Alexander Levit of the Ukrainian “FAKTY”, was published last week but must have been conducted over a month ago when Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was in Odessa for the end of the ACP rapid tournament. It does, of course, touch on the campaign for FIDE President – e.g. Ilyumzhinov claims to have put $50 million of his personal funds into FIDE – but it’s more remarkable when it moves on to other topics:

Which famous people have you managed to meet at the chess board?

Henry Kissinger, Saddam Hussein, Colonel Gaddafi. Not so long ago I played the Crown Prince of Jordan. They all handle the pieces excellently, but I also had some won games. However, the norms of political etiquette extend to chess. I couldn’t win or lose – I had to do everything I could to ensure the games ended as draws.

Did you meet Fischer?

When Russia recognised the debts of the former USSR, Bobby Fischer wrote to the Kremlin with a request to return him the royalty payments for his book, “My Sixty Memorable Games,” that was published in a print run of 100,000 copies in the former USSR. Many well-known chess players studied it. It was also, by the way, a book that I’d enjoyed reading. However, Moscow rejected Fischer’s request. He was angry and declared that he wouldn’t have anything more to do with the Russians. Then I wrote him a letter indicating that I was personally prepared to pay the Soviet Union’s debt. I flew to Budapest and Fischer met me at the airport. We went to his flat and made lunch: I’d brought caviar and vodka. I remember we also cooked pelmeni. I gave Bobby 100,000 dollars and he wept: “For the first time in my life I haven’t been deceived, I’ve been paid for my efforts”.

Planet Kirsan

“Planet Kirsan” is the title a remarkable film set in Kalmykia: Once upon a time there was a little Girl who most of all loved Chess, and the President who promised to change the life of those who play. Planet Kirsan is a story about a failed revolution and unfailing love for the game. It tells about the 12-year-old boy who studies at the Moscow University and who mainly loves the President. Planet Kirsan is a film about a child's dreams, and the way it confronts with the world around it.


Ilyumzhinov visits the ancient Inca capital of Cusco, Peru

During his visit to Peru, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov visited the city of Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca empire. There he met the Mayor of Cusco, Mr. Luis Arturo Flores Garcia.


Reception at the airport of Cusco, Peru


The President of FIDE is given a cusco chullo and poncho


A group of musicians and dancers give Kirsan a warm welcome


At a youth chess event in Peru

Interview with Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

What motivated you to come to Peru?

It has been a long time since I have wanted to come and at the invitation of the Peruvian Chess Federation, I accepted, plus the results (with chess) that you are getting in this country are very good. Here in Peru, a large number of very talented chess players have emerged and it is very interesting how chess is developing here. Last year at the World Youth in Turkey, we saw how two young people from Peru won the Gold Medal (Jorge and Deysi Cori). That is why I came to Peru to see how this work is being done and to provide whatever support is necessary. One of the topics is the Chess Program in Schools, yesterday we were talking with the President of the Peru Sports Institute, in Lima where we have proposed three specific things:

First: One of our proposals as FIDE, is that chess will become a required course in schools.

Second: FIDE has proposed to the Peruvian Sports Institute, to put together seminars that would help coaches in their preparation and,

Third: I have decided to fund the First Latin American Cup with my own money. To do this, I gave $60.000 from my personal funds, to make this championship happen and on August 18, 2010 we (FIDE) we will be present for the opening ceremony of the first Latin American Cup. This is why I am here, to see where this will take place – in Lima or Cusco.

In the upcoming FIDE elections why should Latin American countries vote for you and not Karpov? Besides, what do you offer that your rival does not?

Karpov has no program, he has only announced that he wants to be president. But, one cannot only have the desire to be president - one has to propose a program. There are two months left for this election and neither you, nor I, nor anyone else, has seen any program from my opponent. That is why we do not take Karpov’s desire to be president as a serious one, but, we see it as a political act.

He is 60 years old and wants prominence again. It is in this way, along with Kasparov, that he wants to remember what he once was. Even today some 80 countries are supporting me, while Karpov has less than 20.


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