Kasparov discovers America – report from Nicaragua

6/8/2010 – ¡Viene un Genio! That was just one of the modest headlines that ran before Garry Kasparov's visit to Nicaragua last weekend. The 13th world champion was there, together with Nigel Short, to campaign for the 12th, Anatoly Karpov, who is running for FIDE President. Most of the region's federation presidents met with Kasparov and several of them pledged their support.

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Central American Conference with a Special Guest

Garry Kasparov's arrival in Managua to campaign for his old rival Anatoly Karpov turned into a remarkable regional reunion. From our rapid research it's the first time any world champion has visited the area. The visit also made waves because it was part of a listening tour by the Karpov2010 campaign that brought together many of the Central American federations, several of whom were meeting each other for the first time. Kasparov was accompanied on his trip by Richard Conn Jr., the American attorney who is Karpov's deputy president candidate.


This video clip shows the amazing welcome Kasparov received in Managua.
His trip had been greatly anticipated in the media for over a week.

Kasparov and Conn were met by the former Nicaraguan Federation president Dr. Guy Bendaña and his son, Julian. They were whisked directly to a big reception at a country club setting outside of the capital of Managua. Kasparov said he was amazed by the number of people. "It seemed like every chessplayer in the country was there with the entire family as well!" he said. There was also a press conference that attracted every major and minor media outlet in the country. Well, see for yourself with this behind-the-scenes view.


Here's a brief video of the press conference

The host was Jean-Pierre Chamorro, the president of the Nicaraguan Chess Federation. Along with neighboring El Salvador and its federation president Marvin Guevara, Chamorro was an early supporter of Karpov's candidacy, surprising some who believed Ilyumzhinov would hold a lock on the region. Even more surprises were to come during this visit, however, as Honduras and the federation president Denis Diaz also signed on for Karpov. You may recall that several days ago Kirsan Ilyumzhinov's presidential ticket was published, with a list of supporting federations. That list included Honduras.


Gens Una Sumus or the Four Musketeers? Richard Conn Jr. with Marvin Guevara,
Jean-Pierre Chamorro, and Denis Diaz signing a joint letter of support for Karpov.

Costa Rica was also represented, turning the event into a regional conference and exchange of ideas. But another old friend had come from much further away...

Yes, that was indeed GM Nigel Short, the former world championship challenger, who has become a globe-trekking chess ambassador – all while raising his rating! Nigel's personal visits with seemingly 90% of the chess world over the years, from Central America to Africa to, well, everywhere in between, have made him an invaluable strategist and advance man for the Karpov campaign. Sandwiched between the competitors of the 1993 world championship is Gerardo Avellán, vice-president of the Nicaraguan Federation and the person who kindly helped us with this report, videos, and photographs. There are more at his website here.


The Five Musketeers?! Kasparov joins the fun after the scenic river boatride,
which included a pass by Monkey Island.

Richard Conn, who lived and traveled extensively in Latin America and who speaks fluent Spanish (and Russian), enjoyed the trip and the conversations with his hosts and fellow visitors. "First I have to thank Jean-Pierre and everyone else here. The hospitality here has been amazing and the meetings have been incredibly useful. These gentlemen know what they are doing, they understand what needs to be done here to promote chess, and they have many ideas about what FIDE can do to help, instead of hinder, this development. It's a shame they have been ignored when they are willing to do so much and have shown what they can do with so few resources."

Asked for specifics by a Nicaraguan paper about what Karpov's administration would do differently, Conn gave as one example: "These federations are supposed to receive support and aid from FIDE. Instead, in our meeting one president pointed out that they had to pay FIDE $16,000 in fees and over the same period had received $6,500 in development funds! We will reverse that flow. Money needs to go out to develop chess where it is needed most and where it can do the most good, instead of taking from them."


Kasparov and Richard Conn Jr. enjoy the attention of young chess fans.

It would appear that Latin America has become a real battleground in the 2010 FIDE election. Now we hear that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is headed to Costa Rica and Kasparov will visit Honduras. Karpov and Kasparov will be together in Peru later this month as well, with other stops to come. No matter who wins the election, the tight campaign is proving to be an excellent vehicle to promote chess, or ajedrez, in the region.

As so often happens, Kasparov gets the last word: "This sort of event is what FIDE should be doing around the world, all the time! There is tremendous interest and potential. It is very good news for chess that here there are leaders who see that potential and want to work with Karpov and a new FIDE to make it happen. Small countries can have a big impact, especially if they come together like this."

Information, videos, and photographs by Gerardo Avellán


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