Makropoulos: Why were they silent in Prague?

6/14/2004 – Georgios Makropoulos has been a high FIDE dignitary for almost a quarter of a century. Recently the eloquent and humourous Greek sat down for an interview with "Sport-Express" journalist Yuri Vassiliev, talking about the FIDE World Chess Championship in Tripoli and reunification. We bring you excerpts...

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"During the FIDE Congress in Bled I was able to see for myself how this Greek, with his ironic manner, is able to captivate a big audience," writes Vassiliev. "His large expressive eyes shine, his voice is like thunder, as if the spirit of Zeus was alive in him. His nose which is similar to the beak of a bird of prey." He spoke to the Russian journalist on a number of subjects.

On the refusal of many strong GMs to participate in the forthcoming FIDE World Championship in Tripoli, and whether it has seriously damaged the prestige of this event.

The roots have to be sought for in the Prague Agreement of 2002. In Prague the top players who are now boycotting the World Championship were silent. I proposed a completely different variation unification, one in which Kasparov, all FIDE World Champions and the finalists and semifinalists of the last FIDE World Chess Championship would take part. It would have been an excellent solution with Ponomariov, Anand, Karpov, Khalifman, Svidler, Ivanchuk playing.

But this proposal did not suit Kasparov, who was supported by Yasser Seirawan, the initiator of the Prague Agreement. Seirawan drew out a beautiful plan for the professional structure in the world chess and proposed a business plan for it. Bessel Kok, the organiser of the Prague meeting, promised to actively participate in these initiatives. But where is Mr. Kok and his sponsors today? Where is Mr. Seirawan with his business-plan? Everyone in criticizing Kirsan Ilyumzhinov for taking money from such difficult regions as Libya. But Libya is the only country which offered to finance the World Championship.

On Vishy Anand's refusal to play in Tripoli in the basis that he thought it unfair to give special privileges to one player (Kasparov).

I do not doubt Anand's sincerity, he does not play with words and says what he thinks. A number of strong Russian players share this position, but they are afraid to say so and make up absurd reasons for their non-participation. These people were silent in Prague, and now they chose the tactics of the boycott. They are not brave enough to name real reasons of their refusal. With regard to special privileges given to Kasparov, everyone knows that the participation of the greatest player in chess history is a magnet for the sponsorship money. Players who do not want to give Kasparov a chance to return to FIDE fold do understand the situation. They were silent in Prague, and now are trying to discredit FIDE in any possible way.

On the problems of Israeli and Jewish players of taking part in a world championship in Tripoli.

Libya offered to organize the World Championship in Tripoli. It was the only real bid that FIDE received, with all the necessary financial guarantees. The organisers agreed to send invitations to all players, without exception. Unfortunately this did not include provisions for accompanying persons: coaches, bodyguards, etc. when the scandalous remarks of Mohammed Al Gadhafi were published we immediately requested clarification form the Libyans. We were told that there had been no such statement. Mr. Al Gadhafi had been asked whether he had sent personal invitations to the Israeli players, and he replied that he had not personally send out such invitations. He reconfirmed the Organising Committee guarantees to all players, without any exception, that they would receive entry visas to Libya.

FIDE cannot cancel a world championship on the basis of conjectures published on the Internet. We corresponded with the Israeli Chess Federation, which asked us about security for their players, and about entry visas for accompanying persons. There were discussions about a meeting between representatives of Israel and Libya, to be held somewhere in Europe. In the end the Israeli chess players decided not to participate in the Tripoli world championship. They said that they could not go without their trainers and accompanying persons. They are right, and our regulations have nothing to regulate this issue, since it could not have been anticipated when the regulations were created. They will be changed at the next FIDE General Assembly meeting. On the other hand, I can understand that Libyan was not prepared to allow the Israelis to enter the country with armed security agents. All of these are very sensitive issues, but where do you see the discrimination of Israel?

On the collapse of the Ponomariov-Kasparov match last year.

During the Bled Olympiad we tried to meet with Ponomariov, but he avoided us. That is why we had to go to Wijk aan Zee. This brought on an ocean of criticism, with people claiming that we were disturbing Ruslan's concentration. I would like to remind you that Ponomariov had a bad start in the Wijk tournament. But after our meeting he beat Kramnik. Probably Ponomariov would have won the tournament if we had continues to negotiate! But seriously: from the start we had the impression that Ponomariov was not willing to play a match against Kasparov. When he sent his last very strange letter to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov he was clearly trying to have the match cancelled. We did not substitute Ivanchuk in Ponomariov's place because then Kasparov would not have played against the FIDE World Champion. That is why we decided to organize the World Championship in Libya, to enable Kasparov meet with the highest title holder in FIDE. This is along the lines of the idea of world chess reunification. This is the only way forward for the international chess community. At the FIDE General Assembly in October we shall announce exact dates of the match between Kasparov and the winner of the World Championship in Tripoli.

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