Thirty years later – Makro tells it all

11/7/2011 – He's been in the middle of chess politics for almost thirty years now, the mercurial second-in-charge of FIDE. Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos was in the middle of everything when the infamous "toiletgate" scandal broke, and watched some of FIDE's commercial enterprises go down the drain. In this yard-long interview "Makro" speaks about it all – in typically candid and provocative fashion.

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Interview with FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos

By GM Vlad Tkachiev for WhyChess.org

Photos Irina Stepaniuk

I've always liked the book “The Three Musketeers” and even more so the Soviet film based upon it. Among my favourite scenes is the game of chess between D’Artagnan and the all-powerful Cardinal Richelieu. A clash of styles and views on life seen through the prism of a game played with huge chivalric pieces. Without the character of the cardinal – mysterious and sinister – it’s unlikely the story would have become one of the most popular in history.

Well, our chess kingdom also has just such a colourful figure. In many ways Georgios Makropoulos has even managed to surpass his famous predecessor: if the Frenchman was appointed Secretary of State at the age of 31, then our hero joined the hierarchy of power at 29; Armand Jean du Plessis retained his post right up until his death at 57, but at 58 Georgios continues to occupy the commanding heights. At a certain point even the location of our encounter – the Radisson, formerly the Kievskaya, Hotel, struck me as a huge Catholic church…

Three Versions

Vladislav Tkachiev: Georgios, in a recent interview for our site Kramnik made serious accusations against the Appeals Committee in Elista in 2006. What can you say in response?

Georgios Makropoulos: Ok, I’ll tell you how I understand what went on back then. Perhaps after that you’ll have a better understanding of the situation that arose. Above all, it was a match between a Russian and a Bulgarian in Russia. FIDE, of course, did all it could to demonstrate its impartiality and that it wasn’t playing into the hands of Kramnik. Can you imagine what would have happened if everyone around the world had begun to believe that everything went wrong because Kirsan, a Russian citizen, had succumbed to pressure from the authorities and aided Kramnik? Vladimir’s overly frequent visits to the toilet became the grounds for complaints from the Topalov camp. All of that’s perfectly well-known – there are video recording of all the games and the number of visits to the toilet was very high.

Many chess players do that after every move.

After every one?

Yes.

I don’t know anyone like that. I was a player myself and might have gone 2-3 times, but not 15 or 20.

But after all you realise it was a World Championship match, nerves, stress…

I don’t know anyone who would have done that so often. That was the problem which created the whole conflict. So after receiving the protest from Danailov I discussed it with Carsten Hensel [Kramnik’s manager at the time - ed.], and he gave me a very improper explanation. Two years later, before the Anand match, he gave me yet another version. So, first he said that Kramnik needed space to walk about. I have to say that such an explanation was completely unsatisfactory – if he needed more space then why go into the toilet? Of course it’s well-known that Zurab’s a friend of Danailov’s. Silvio was Azmaiparashvili’s commercial agent in Spain, but in any case he couldn’t have convinced the Appeals Committee to take an incorrect decision. By the way, I still think we did everything correctly. Topalov felt there was something wrong with the toilets, and we decided to close those in the rest rooms and open another one – a joint one, with three cabins.

But after all, what was wrong with the toilets in the rest rooms?

No-one could know for definite what the players were doing there. That night I phoned Ilyumzhinov and explained the situation with the complaints, to which he immediately responded: “Close the toilets!” So it wasn’t even our decision, it was Kirsan’s. I later talked about that at a press conference but, by the way, my statements disappeared from all the websites.

You mean there was some sort of conspiracy?

Some people didn’t particularly want that to be published. It was only later, much later, that ChessBase nevertheless published what I’d said after the protests and complaints.

And would you say it’s admissible to change the playing conditions after the start of the match?

According to the regulations the Appeals Committee had to ensure equal conditions for both players.

And they weren’t equal?

They were. But as soon as one of the players expressed his suspicions, and we couldn’t prove the opposite, it was decided to change the toilets. It shouldn’t be forgotten that the match was held in Russia, the country of one of the participants. It wasn’t a change of clocks, pieces or chairs and it didn’t alter the playing conditions. Among other things, according to the contract and regulations we weren’t obliged to provide toilets within the rest rooms. I understand Kramnik, he’s a very sensitive guy and took our decision as an insult: if we were closing the toilets it meant we were confirming to the whole world that something was up. Vladimir’s reaction at that moment was inappropriate.

Why?

He shouldn’t have boycotted play. He could have submitted a protest, but it was still essential to appear for the game. And then there was all that debate about the letter Kirsan sent to the arbiter…

Kramnik claims Ilyumzhinov didn’t sign it as at the time he was at a government meeting.

I don’t know how the letter was drawn up, I really don’t. Perhaps FIDE did put some kind of stamp there, but in any case the letter was sent by Kirsan or, let’s say, by his “soldier”. Kramnik’s reaction was excessive, although perhaps at the end of the day it actually helped him, as I don’t think Topalov was glad to receive a point in that manner. Do you remember what happened during the Fischer-Spassky match?

Yes.

You give your opponent a point and how can he play after that? That’s happened twice in history, and the “recipient” has gone on to lose both matches.

But Spassky lost the match by a big margin, while Topalov lost in the tiebreak, and the point was very important for him.

Ok, but don’t forget that at the time Topalov was one of the best three players in the world alongside Kramnik and Anand, and had beaten everyone easily in San Luis. I don’t think it was simple for him to win a game like that. But let’s return to our discussion. In Mexico I had a conversation with Carsten, and he told me that the real reason was that his charge had certain health problems. That was explanation no. 2. He also added back then: “Look, I should tell you that we know you weren’t involved in any conspiracy in Elista”. So after two years during which they’d said a lot of things against me, they’d come to the conclusion that I had nothing to do with any intrigue. He also expressed their wish for me to be the official FIDE Supervisor for the match in Bonn against Anand [the Supervisor’s decisions are final and must be complied with even by the Appeals Committee - ed.]. We’d created that post especially in order to guarantee equal conditions for the players. Anand was also happy with my candidature. In Bonn, by the way, Carsten gave me a third explanation: Kramnik’s frequent visits to the toilet were provoked by a desire to smoke.

But were there some kind of restrictions imposed on that?

He didn’t want to end up on video. He didn’t want his wife to see him smoking.

But how could she see that?

Others could see it and tell her. He didn’t know if the video would remain secret or not. After the match it might all have been published. In any case, that was the explanation. You know, I was a heavy smoker myself until my last operation, and that explanation was perfectly logical for me, and I accept it. “I want to smoke and I don’t want anyone to see”.

Particularly if you’re smoking marihuana :-))

Not marihuana, no. Let’s be serious. Of the three explanations that one satisfies me. I’ve stated many times that I don’t believe Kramnik cheated.

That’s obvious from the game scores in any case.

No, listen. The match was in Russia, the Bulgarian side had suspicions, and we were obliged to react. It’s the same as the case with the French grandmaster Feller. We took all the precautions we could so that there weren’t any complaints or pretensions. At the same time, we never claimed that cheating took place. And in general, if Anand thought I had special relations with Silvio he wouldn’t have proposed me in the role of FIDE Supervisor for the match in Sofia. Do you understand me? By the way, in Sofia I had a real fight with the organisers. Anand was going to be late and he wanted to postpone the match for three days. That didn’t suit the organisers and as a result I took the decision to delay the match by a day. After that Danailov didn’t talk to me for the whole course of the match.

Ok, but there’s still one detail I haven’t understood: how did Danailov know that Kramnik didn’t just go to the rest room but also to the toilet?

He asked the organisers for the video footage.

Ah, that’s something Vladimir has accused the Appeals Committee of. Did he really have the right…

He can’t accuse the Appeals Committee of that as the video footage was in the hands of the organisers, and from the very beginning they agreed that it could be watched.

They – the players?

Danailov arranged with the organisers that both teams could see the opponent’s video.

Kramnik claims that according to the regulations only the arbiter had that right.

No, that’s not true. Just imagine: you’re playing in my country against me, the best player in my country, and we both have separate rest rooms. You’d want to know, after all, what was going on in there, don’t you think?

An awkward situation, but what about privacy?

Privacy of what? There can’t be any privacy in a World Championship match. I’m convinced it’s a situation where there shouldn’t be rest rooms.

And there aren’t any longer?

There haven’t been since the match in Bonn. They still had them there, Carsten insisted on it, but in Sofia that was no longer the case. The spectators want to see the players on the stage, not two empty chairs. We want to show the spectators and sponsors that chess is a sport.

Then my question is as follows: during that match I talked a lot with my colleagues – overall, opinions were in Kramnik’s favour. The clear majority felt that what was going on was an attempt by Topalov’s team to put pressure on his opponent in a situation where the score was minus two after four games. What do you think yourself?

Perhaps. I can’t be sure, but I think that if Topalov had doubts he shouldn’t have informed Danailov about them, because after that he was no longer in a condition to play. As a result, Silvio became more convinced that something was wrong. They broke open the ceiling in the toilet and found some sort of cable. After the match he was still claiming it was a computer cable or something like that. I said: “Look, that’s enough. If you really think that you found what you were looking for then you should simply have left.”

What do you mean? In that case the match would have been considered lost.

If they’d found something they should have left.

But they didn’t find anything.

I know. But he claimed he’d done that, although it’s clear the proof wasn’t convincing, which was why they stayed.

That’s just what I was talking about – it was done to apply psychological pressure.

Perhaps, but I don’t think he’d planned it before the match. I don’t think he’s that clever. Of course, he’s not stupid, but he’s not clever enough to plan something like that before the match. That would be too subtle for him.

And do you agree with Kramnik that Topalov’s team was trying to interrupt the match in Elista at all costs, counting on another one, in Baku?

I think Danailov was trying to stop the match, receive money for it and play another match against Kramnik.

And the second match would also be paid?

Of course.

And you believe that?

Yes, I’m almost convinced that was the plan at that point.

Because of the 0-2 on the scoreboard?

Because of the 0-2, because of fears that something had gone wrong… In general, I believe that was the plan.

What do you think overall, does chess need such scandals or not? When it came down to it that match was very widely covered in the media at some point, and that was the only reason. Danailov himself said something like: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”.

Yes, of course we didn’t expect such a wave of publicity. It was great promotion, but I’m not sure we need such notoriety. You know, unfortunately, that journalists, particularly those working on the Internet, never follow certain principles of the profession.

Which?

One of them is that you should never publish material denigrating someone without first finding out his opinion on that score. Things are a little different with newspapers: they phone and say: “We’re about to publish an article. Would you like to make a statement?” On the Internet it doesn’t work like that. The problem is that hundreds of thousands of people read something negative about you, and then you can reply, but your statement will be read by far from everyone, and people will retain their negative opinion about you. That’s particularly common in chess as, let’s put it like this, it’s boring for the wider public. Therefore among chess journalists there are always people willing to write about scandals and make accusations about players and officials.

Are you also talking about yourself?

Yes, about myself as well. You subsequently respond, but it’s already too late. For example, they wrote that Makro had stolen or lost a million dollars in Las Vegas in 1999 before the knockout World Championship. I replied: “That’s a complete lie! I wasn’t even in Las Vegas at the time! And of course Kirsan didn’t send the money there until the start of the tournament, so there was no way I could have done it”. And what of it? Of the hundred thousand people who read those accusations about me probably only twenty thousand read my reply. But eighty thousand still believe I lost one million dollars in the casino!

Yes, many people do think exactly that.

You see what I mean? How can you fight against that? I think our journalists should be better educated. We should be more responsible for what’s written. I could also accuse someone, but if you don’t have any facts and you don’t ask the other party for his opinion then simply don’t publish it.

The "Chess" Corporation

What, in your view, is the main problem facing the chess industry at the current moment in time?

Our main problem, whether within FIDE or the national federations, is that we can’t attract corporate sponsors. How many federations around the world support their best players?

Almost none of them.

Almost none, you see? Even the eight strongest players, the ones from whom you choose your national line-up, don’t have any kind of social security. They play, compete, give everything they can over many years, and then at the age of 55-60 they’re left without a pension and struggling to survive.

And why did the GMA and PCA succeed?

What did they succeed in doing?

Finding corporate sponsors. The GMA had SWIFT, while the PCA had Intel.

If they’d succeeded then they’d have continued to exist. We’re the ones who managed to survive. What we’re really good at is working with government, municipal and regional sponsors. In any case, during the Campomanes period and afterwards we’ve been very strong in that area, but finding corporate sponsors has turned out to be impossible. The one who actually managed that with the GMA and PCA was Kasparov.

And why did he manage it?

Just a moment. Who was the main sponsor? – SWIFT. Ok, Bessel Kok, who was a friend of Garry’s and the chairman of that company found the money, but that’s not enough to say that he managed. Subsequently Mr. Kok tried to become FIDE President and promised corporate sponsorship. After he lost the election Kirsan offered him the post of President of Global Chess with an initial investment of 2.1 million Euro in order to attract corporate sponsorship for FIDE. How much money did he find?

Zero?

Zero. He just spent Kirsan’s 2.1 million Euro… In order to achieve success in this matter you need unity between the players and FIDE. Now, for the first time, we’ve found someone who’s not from the chess world – David Kaplan, who’s spent a lot of money on chess. If things don’t work out for him with finding sponsors then I think the situation’s bad. After all, you know that things are getting worse and worse worldwide for all sports, not only chess.

Things don’t strike me as being so bleak in football.

What I’d say to you is this: if so many Russian oligarchs hadn’t bought English clubs then you could be sure that many of those premier league teams wouldn’t have survived.

Yes, but if they buy them that means…

But what’s football? It’s the leading sport from the point of view of television and sponsor interest. Now, due to the crisis, the sponsors are redirecting their promotional budgets into direct advertising on television and in the print media, and they’re less and less interested in sponsoring sporting and cultural events. That’s the current position.

It’s hard, though, to compare our position to that of football, volleyball or tennis – we’re “playing in different leagues”.

We’ve never played in the same league, but what I want to say is that now everyone’s suffering big losses. For example, 7-8 years ago Russian basketball had a great deal of money, but that’s come to an end. Why? For the very same reason I mentioned before.

Well yes, we don’t even provide any kind of interesting product. There are empty halls everywhere – whether in Khanty-Mansiysk or in Sofia.

Unfortunately not everyone believes what you’re saying just now. I’ve talked to many grandmasters; they’re convinced that what they’re doing is great and very interesting for spectators. Alas, that’s not the case. So here I completely agree with you. Unfortunately the situation in chess is even worse than it is in golf, as there even an old grandmother can grasp the rules of the game – the little ball has to go in the hole. Easy, right? But in order to understand a game of chess you need education. So we have to think about how best to present games with the help of new technologies and live commentary. I think the most important thing now is working with children, millions of children around the world as part of the “Chess in Schools” programme. Every parent is ready to spend a certain amount each month on chess, as they realise that if a child plays it he’ll grow up to be more intelligent. For a goal like that every parent would be ready to sacrifice a few packs of cigarettes a month. It’s those millions of people we should be counting on.

But doesn’t it seem to you that there’s an enormous problem in that regard – in the eyes of children chess can’t compete with computer games and applications on social networks and mobile phones? Our game’s old-fashioned at the current moment, without any well-defined heroes.

There’s research that proves that video games develop a limited area of the brain, while the other parts of the brain aren’t touched at all. I don’t know to what extent that’s all true, but they claim that video games don’t aid a child’s harmonious development.

Ok, but that’s of little concern to children.

Yes, it should concern parents. After all, we’re not saying: “Sit your children down to play chess 5-6 hours a day”. No, a child should learn to play even if only for a few hours a month. And parents understand that. In Greece we’ve got around 50 thousand children attending lessons, and the federation doesn’t even have anything to do with that. In Turkey the number’s 3-4 times greater. We’re now trying to create a similar system in other countries, and even helping out local federations financially. I think such promotion is very simple and effective.

But doesn’t it seem to you that everything would be much simpler if we managed to change the image of chess? Chess reminds me of a plain girl preparing for a party in a night club and not even bothering with make-up: “Love me, I’m intelligent, I’ve got tons of internal beauty!” In general, in order to succeed it wouldn’t be a bad thing to have something of an external makeover.

Perhaps you’re right, but everyone knows that our girl is very clever.

Will that help her in her private life?

On the other hand, you don’t even need to say anything – everyone knows that chess players are clever…

But do you believe yourself that chess players are so intelligent?

No, I believe that if you’re intelligent then you’ll play better chess.

What a politician!

No, I really do believe that. I think that if you’re very young and learn to play chess then you’ll develop certain abilities. Of course, it’s not true that all chess players are intelligent, but many really are.

But no more than others, it seems to me.

Ok, but nevertheless more than footballers. More, no doubt, than those in all other sports. I imagine brains are still required in basketball – quick decisions, strategy. Football is sometimes too slow, so intellectual players have made history.

And we’ll never get onto television?

Onto television? Of course not.

Never?

I don’t believe in it…

So why did poker manage?

Everyone understands poker.

I can’t play cards and I don’t understand it.

Even if you don’t play you realise that three aces are worth more than three kings. Watch three games and you’ll grasp that. But how can you explain that in chess a slightly better position in Kramnik’s hands is enough for victory, while in mine it might lead to defeat?

Yes, but poker can never become as rapid and dynamic a spectacle as blitz, and particularly bullet.

Poker’s popular as it’s directly linked to betting and money.

Chess can also be connected to money. It’s sufficient to recall the “Cafe de la Regence” or the fact that the Arabs played chess for money. We’ve simply forgotten about that.

No, we haven’t forgotten, but what chances does a patzer have against you in such a game?

Excellent ones! He’ll have five minutes, I’ll have 30 seconds – and off we go!

But in poker people play without handicaps, and an amateur nevertheless has an opportunity due to the element of chance. In general it’s a very complex issue, and one we’ve often discussed. Campo was very interested in the idea of creating a series of tournaments like the Grand Prix, where each player would have a chance to win as he’d have a time or points advantage, depending on his level. In poker everyone pays an entrance fee for such tournaments, but chess players aren’t used to paying – that’s the problem. So chess players, being intelligent people, should be satisfied with the level of money in chess at the current moment in time, unless they’re ready to invest something other than their work and skill.

But after all, no-one’s actually proposed a new system to them.

No, because it’s not easy, but I’ve thought very seriously about a project to create a tournament where each player, from the 2000 level up, would be able to win. The players would pay entrance fees of 1 to 5 thousand dollars to take part, as they do in poker, in the hope of winning serious money. Would it be possible to create such a system?

Chess Royal Court

If I’m not mistaken you were first elected onto the FIDE management in 1982. It turns out you’ve witnessed both eras – those of Campomanes and Ilyumzhinov. How did they differ?

Above all – you won’t believe me, but it’s true – Kirsan is a very democratic president, whatever his opponents’ propaganda claims.

And Campo wasn’t?

He wasn’t. He wanted to have a hand in all the decisions.

And he managed that?

Over the course of many years. True, although FIDE wasn’t a very democratic organisation in his time, he managed to sharply increase the income of both FIDE and the players. He brought a new era in chess, although of course he was a dictator. We – Ghobash, Boris Kutin and myself – convinced him to change the format for running elections: the president should stand as part of a team – a vice-president, a treasurer and so on. That significantly altered the organisation for the better. The people who were elected behaved more independently and had their own opinions. But Campomanes left the taking of all of the most important decisions until the last five minutes – when all those who had gathered were ready to go their separate ways. He’d suddenly start to introduce various changes all over the place.

And was he a KGB agent?

What? No!

It’s just that not long ago a book was published where it was claimed…

I don’t believe he was an agent.

Ok, but did he play into the hands of the Soviets?

If you’re asking me if he received money from them then I’d reply: “Perhaps”. But that’s not the same thing. He was an agent for himself. He could, let’s say, work with the CIA, the KGB or any other secret service, trying to get money from them all, but I don’t think they’d have been able to get anything from him if he didn’t want them to.

Were you also Vice President when Campo was around?

No, I was General Secretary.

That’s the third position in the hierarchy?

Back then it was the second, and now it’s the third, although it could perfectly well also be the second.

And were you also a member of the GMA at the same time?

No.

It’s simply that I saw photos of you with them.

At the time we often held negotiations with them, and we were bound by certain agreements.

Wasn’t there a war between you?

No, there wasn’t a war between us: our committee and their organisation. There was a general war between FIDE and the GMA, but not during the negotiations.

What do you think was behind the rapid disappearance of the GMA and the PCA?

They were created as workers’ organisations. In any field the workers who create a professional union have a lot of common interests and come to decisions that satisfy them, but as you know perfectly well, chess players have problems with that.

But why?

Because in actual fact they’re not workers, and if one chess player is better than the others and earns more then it’s not so easy for him to support a decision which means he’ll lose part of those earnings. That’s why those organisations can’t really represent all the best players. If you survey 50 grandmasters you’ll get 20 different opinions.

Do you think SWIFT and Intel lost interest due to the internal problems those organisations had?

That’s obvious. When Garry began his battle with Kok.

Battle over what?

Who would be the boss.

But it seemed as though they were friends?

I’m not convinced. I never heard anything about them being such good friends. Kok often told top-players they were his friends, but then was he their friend? In any case, after Garry quit the GMA died.

But why couldn’t the GMA survive after Kasparov quit?

Kok used the company he was working for to provide financial support for chess, but he never did manage to find anyone else, while Kasparov later found Intel, who he perhaps lost because of the match he played against Deep Blue. However, I’m convinced that Garry’s still one of those guys who could find sponsors. He’s an outstanding personality.

It’s hard to believe, though, that he could somehow cooperate with FIDE now.

Well yes, but he’s also incapable of cooperating with other grandmasters. That’s something we’ve seen before. Garry’s a genius, but if he really wants to help chess he should abandon his attempts to always be the boss. Every time he tries it doesn’t work out – during the last election, for instance, when he supported Karpov.

Why do you think they lost?

Above all, because people don’t believe them.

But why don’t people believe such names?

Because they don’t believe that these great players will support small federations and small players.

Fans almost always admire them, but perhaps those working in the federations have a different opinion.

Listen, I admire Karpov and Kasparov and so on. I’m also a chess player, and back in those days I was still at the 2400 level, but if you ask me whether Karpov can realistically help the Federation of Cyprus, for example, then I don’t think he’ll spend time on the second tier in chess. By their presence alone they’ve given a lot to our game, we owe them a lot, but if you try to convince the small federations and players that they’ll genuinely work for their benefit – that’s another story.

Are you the person who’s held a FIDE post for the longest time?

There are a few more. Khalifa from Qatar, Ignatius Leong from Singapore, Boris Kutin – Kutin and I have worked for FIDE for longer than anyone else, and I’ve done it for 3-4 years more.

How would you briefly sum up your role over all those years? In other words, what exactly did you do for chess?

I’ll return to the very beginning. When Campo was elected in 1982 in Lucerne I’d been President of the Greek Federation for only a month. To begin with I was against him.

And how many candidates were there in total?

Three: Olafsson, Kazic and Campo. We were for Kazic.

And who did the Soviets support?

First it was Kazic, and then Campo. When Florencio won the election I remember a meeting of the European Federation was organised in Lucerne to discuss the question of how to remove the newly-elected president from his post.

And there was some legal means by which that could be done?

They were preparing a strategy to overthrow Campomanes, although that was impossible. Impossible, first and foremost, because Campo was cleverer than the lot of them. They were intending to gather the General Assembly and push through that decision. And so there I was, a complete novice in those matters, discovering that the Philippine was smarter that all of those people.

Smarter than Kazic as well?

Kazic wasn’t involved in that European conspiracy, where it was mainly representatives of Western Europe. In general, that was the moment when I had to decide: either to try and get into the FIDE leadership in order to alter the status quo, or to join up with the participants of those meetings. I decided to work with Campo. We organised the first ever Chess Olympiad in Greece in 1984, and then another one four years later. My federation became very active.

A few new faces started working in the FIDE leadership back then, and the most important thing we managed to achieve was altering the system for taking decisions, which wasn’t easy to do as Campo was a very complex and strong personality. We – Kutin, Ghobash, Khalifa, myself and others – managed to introduce changes to the governing mechanism, making it more democratic and distributing authority among several posts. And then after Kirsan’s arrival everything was completely changed. I’m convinced that we’re now a genuinely open and transparent organisation. Our financial status is under constant review.

By auditors?

A Verification Commission. For that we’ve specially selected people who aren’t from our group and aren’t among our friends. We’ve brought in people from the West who no-one can suspect of fiddling with FIDE’s money. Now everyone knows that no-one’s touching that money, although there are still people who spread completely different information about us – for example Karpov during the election, and absolutely without proof: “These people receive money from FIDE”. When and how? For example, the sum I received when once, or one and a half times, I was a member of the Appeals Committee was seven to ten thousand Dollars or Euros. Is that the money they’re talking about? After all, I work for the organisation every day! FIDE has an annual budget of 1.5 to 2 million Euro, and if the management, which consists of ten people, earns 80-100 thousand Euro a year that’s normal.

What’s FIDE’s official annual budget for 2011?

I don’t remember, but you can look at our website where all that information’s published.

Let’s nevertheless get back to your role…

The main thing is that we managed to completely alter the organisation, making it transparent and democratic. Now no-one can come along with a new idea and implement it if he’s incapable of convincing everyone else. For example, Nigel Short might come along from England with some sort of proposal – he’ll have to be really convincing or nothing will come of it. And in that case you shouldn’t accuse FIDE of a lack of democracy. I don’t even have to lobby for anything or talk with those voting – everything’s decided at the meetings. That’s what democracy is. In addition, thanks to Kirsan, we’ve managed to guarantee prize money for 128 players, and not just for the top two as it was before. You must realise that it’s very hard to find organisers for the World Cup, as after all it’s a tournament that doesn’t produce a World Champion. The World Cup is very important, as without it average players would simply become extinct. As it is many are eager to play in continental championships, knowing that they can qualify and earn decent money.

Have we solved the problems of chess players? Of course not. That will have happened when they have a decent lifestyle, insurance, and when they cease to be gypsies prowling in search of a few hundred Euros. Since Ilyumzhinov’s arrival things aren’t the way they used to be, although I’m not claiming we haven’t misjudged anything.

And what was your main mistake?

There were a lot of them, but I think the main one was that we lost a lot of time trying to get onto a market footing.

You mean that affair with Tarasov at the beginning of the 2000s?

Yes, starting with Tarasov FIDE lost a lot of time.

Do you think he was a swindler?

No, he really did think he could do something. He was there at the beginning, but then that continued with Kok and Global Chess. And again we lost time for nothing, while Kirsan lost a lot of money on those two companies – more than five million Euros. And we didn’t, in any case, get any closer to the market.

They tried, but they just weren’t able?

Never, because we picked the wrong people – first Tarasov, and then Kok.

But the idea itself was correct?

The idea’s correct, but not the personnel.

But if you don’t try, how will you know?

Now we know! (Laughs). From the very beginning, when Kirsan proposed Kok as a candidate for the post of President of Global Chess, we were against it. When he didn’t find any other money for FIDE, besides the money already invested in Global Chess, it turned out we were right.

And did Bessel himself believe those plans were realistic?

That’s something I don’t know, but I do know that he made money out of it himself. He had an enormous budget and received an enormous salary. I don’t know for definite, but he earned a quarter of a million or 300 thousand.

And do you think FIDE’s now on the right path?

No, I can’t claim that, but I can say that for the first time in our history our partner, David Kaplan, isn’t trying to receive money from Ilyumzhinov but is investing his own. So even if we’re not 100% on the right path, at least there’s hope.

Copyright WhyChess/ChessBase


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