'I thank Kasparov for his support...'

6/9/2006 – Words of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, reelected FIDE president, who interprets Garry Kasparov's implicit endorsement of his opponent Bessel Kok in a novel way. In a trademark interview with the Russian journalist Jurij Vasiliev Kirsan explains why he won and Bessel lost, and also reveals details on the upcoming world championship match. Must read.

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I thank Kasparov for his support...

An interview by Yuriy Vasiliev in Sport-Express

The following conversation took place on the plane during the return from Turino, where the President of Kalmikia was re-elected as the President of the World Chess Federation at the 77th FIDE Congress.

Jurij Vasiliev: Kirsan Nikolaevich, what does this election, which you won with double the number of votes, mean for you?


The old and new FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

Kirsan Ilumzhinov: The elections got everybody worked up. It is important that for the first time I had a very serious and solid opponent. With money. As Bessel Kok confessed to me himself during our dinner before leaving Turino, they had built their election campaign on the American pattern. Serious investments were made, serious specialist that studied in America worked with. They tried to use every method of political fighting, including negative PR. So, one member of my team was the object of not only negative, I would say even dirty PR.

But all the efforts of your opponents failed. What was the crucial point in your victory?

When we had dinner I said to Kok: “You know why you lost? Because you came with negatives, with criticism. And we won, because we followed positive impulses.” They made a collection of our mistakes. But everybody knows that that the only person who never makes mistakes is the one who does nothing. We worked for the game of chess and were not insured against mistakes. Nobody is insured against that.


Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Bessel Kok in Turin

Did you think that you could lose?

If I had lost that would have meant that for almost ten years I have been going in the wrong direction. But the results of the elections showed that we had chosen the right direction. Almost 100 delegates voted in favour of my program – this means that the direction is right.

Your habit to regulate conflicts peacefully sometimes surprised your opponents. During the incident in the foyer, when one of the most active members of Kok’s team threatened to leave the Congress because of the wrong procedure (in their opinion) of the counting of the votes, you said: “Please, let your people to check the correctness of the voting procedure”. I noticed how confused they were. You dispirited them.

The discussion came from nothing. People from Kok’s team proposed to nominate two people from both sides in order to oversee the voting. But, firstly, it is not written on the delegate’s forehead for whom the delegate is going to vote – for me or for Kok. In the rules of FIDE since 1924 it is clearly stated that the mandate commission must be created, which checks the presence of the delegates and also appoints three delegates for controlling the voting procedure. However, in order to calm the situation, I decided to accept their point of view and said: “Please, you are welcome to appoint any controllers that you trust”. They wanted to bring their ballot-boxes and ballot-papers. I said: “All right, let us use your ballot-boxes and ballot-papers.” It disarmed them in a minute.


Kirsan's Chess Fidelity campaign stand

You received big applause because of your proposal to solve the dispute between two delegates from Peru, who for one hour couldn’t decide who of them had the right to vote and who didn’t. And you proposed then a real Solomon’s judgement: let them both vote.

The problem was the following. One of these delegates from Peru that we knew very well from past congresses was apparently stripped of his powers by the verdict of a court in Peru. At the Congress he said that he had appealed and that his rights as the President of Peru Chess Federation were still intact. And his colleague, a lady, also had a bunch of papers that proved her rights. In order to stop the discussions I proposed that both of them vote.

Even although lawyers were against it, people in the hall were completely on your side. I think that with this suggestion you won over to your side a lot of people. Peaceful settlement of discussions always provokes sympathy.

First of all I wanted to guard FIDE from the danger of going down the path of political discussions. Our task is to work for the welfare of chess, and not to do something different.

During your closing speech at the FIDE Congress you said that you are going to take into account many points from the election program of your opponent. What impressed you in the arguments of Kok?


A Kalmykian singer at the Chess Fidelity campaign stand

We are ready to use the contacts that Kok has with strong European sponsors, for the welfare of chess. I proposed to him that we create a joint marketing company, which he would operate, and once a year he would report on the work to FIDE. Indeed, it is the same idea of creating a professional organization that everybody was thinking about in Prague in 2002, but only in new implementation.

And what did Kok answer?

He said: “All right, I will think about it and give an answer in a month”.

After Prague Kok was also “thinking”. At first for one month, then for two months, and then he disappeared...

It is possible that this time he will decide to work for the welfare of chess. A lot of the most active members of Kok’s team were invited to work in the re-newed FIDE, and some of them I even made my deputies.

That means that instead of the split everybody was expecting we achieved unity?


Kirsan, Bessel and Campo (Florencio Campomanes, former President of FIDE)

It is because the idea of the creation won, not the idea of the destruction. If he had won, I am sure, the split would have been unavoidable.

Will there be any new directions in the FIDE activities?

In this point the experience of the elections in Turin played a positive role to some extent. We decided to place more attention on the popularization of chess, and want to cooperate with the famous web site of ChessBase. Its chief editor Frederic Friedel came to me with concrete proposals on how it should be done best.


A giant Siberian bear in Turin, promoting
the chess activities of Khanty-Mansiysk

Some people were surprised by the fact that Khanty-Mansiysk was elected to be the host of the World Chess Olympiad in 2010. Our city won against such competitors as Riga, Poznan, Budva, and Buenos Aires. What attracted delegates to the Taiga region? Maybe the giant bear that walked around the stand of Khanty-Mansiysk in Turin?

(Laughs) Actually the delegates did not like the giant bear but the gigantic amount of oil that is produced in this region, and the very attractive financial conditions that organizers proposed: free charter flights all over the world, free visas, one quarter of a million in prize funds... The delegates were also impressed because of the proposition by Khanty-Mansiysk to host the World Cup 2007 and 2009, with a total prize fund of more than 3.2 million dollars.

I remember how last year, despite the hard frost of Siberia, all participants of the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk were delighted with both the level of the organization of the event, and the cordial welcome from the organizers. This, probably, also played positive role for the victory of Ugra?

News travels quickly! The information was spread by arbiters, by FIDE activists that were there. Campomanes, wearing the luxurious fox fur cap created such a furore that everybody wanted to test the Siberian hospitality for themselves.

It seems like Ugra is becoming a big chess centre.

I am glad that not only the governor of the Khanty-Mansiysk region, Alexander Filipenko, my big friend, became seriously attracted to chess. Other governors are also showing great interest in our game. When we gave to Mexico the right to host the World Championship [in 2007], the governor Eduard Rossel called me and said with offended tone: “But we had agreed that we would host the World Championship!” The more chess cities we have on the world map, the better.

During the super tournament in Sofia one of its winners, Gata Kamsky, expressed concern towards the candidates matches. Apparently no one knows whether they will take place or not.

The problem was that everybody waited for the outcome of the elections, and only after that concrete proposals came. For example the President of the USA Chess Federation expressed readiness to host candidates matches in the USA. In the near future the executive director of the FIDE will sign agreements with the USA and other countries.

And the plans to host the tournament of eight players in Mexico, and the match for the World Champion title between Topalov and Kramnik are still valid?

Of course. The match for the World Chess crown in Elista will take place very soon already. I met Vladimir Kramnik during the Olympiad in Turin, he congratulated me on my victory in the elections and thanked me for the organization of the match. I invited him to come to Elista any time, in order to adapt better. The same invitation was made to Veselin Topalov during his visit to Moscow in spring.


GM Yasser Seirawan doing multimedia commentary in Turin

The hall of the governmental building in Elista, where the match Topalov-Kramnik will take place, will be restored before the beginning of the match, and best conditions for the game will be provided. A cottage with sauna and swimming pool, and a cook will be at every team’s disposal. But if one of the world champions wants to bring his own cook that is also fine. For every team we will provide two good cars. Everything will be at a high level. When I invited US grandmaster Yasser Seirawan to be the official commentator of the match, his wife came to me and said: “I want to come to Elista as well!” I should say that the interest in the match is very big already, and the closer September comes, the bigger will be the interest.

Who will be the main arbiter of the match?

This year it is the tenth anniversary of the historical match Karpov-Kamsky, which took place in Elista and which was controlled by one of the most competent international arbiters in the world: Geurt Gijssen. During the Chess Olympiad in Turin, where he was also the main arbiter, Gijssen reminded me about this. I proposed that he be the main arbiter of the match Topalov-Kramnik as well. I think that his candidature will not raise any objections. When I asked Kramnik his opinion about this, he said that he is not against it. Topalov, I believe, will not object either.

The point in the regulations that specifies that the player who loses the match in Elista, will start the participation in the next cycle from zero level will not be revised?

I can now give you the following answer to this question: so far nothing changes. Let us have this match, and see what resonance it will have in the world. This match is far too important for the future of chess, that is why I don’t want to speculate now.

But can we look forward one year into the future? The World Chess Championship in Mexico will be held according to the same formula that it was held in San Luis last year?

The formula and the status of the tournament will remain the same. The interest in the whole world was so big that it would be a sin to change anything.

Kirsan Nikolayevich, in your life how many elections have you won in succession?

Eleven, if you start from 1989...

And which was the most remarkable for you?

The first one. In 1989, when I was 27 years old, I was nominated to the position of deputy. The competition was amongst 21 candidates for one place. Among my opponents were a national actor, the minister for health, the mayor of the capital, a secretary of the Communist Party, and a priest... People gave me their vote, I won.

So you have already won eleven elections. How many do you plan to win in the future?

I never plan. I didn’t even plan the FIDE elections. Kok came – so we “ate” Kok... How it was in songs of Visotsky? “We wanted to eat the ship's cook, but ate Cook?” And here we ate Kok. [Vladimir Visotsky was a famous poet, singer and actor in the Soviet Union. "Kok" in Russian is the ship's cook. James Cook was the English seafarer of the 18th century and was killed and eaten by the inhabitants of Hawaii]. There is a star, so I follow it, I work. And what will be God’s will I have no idea. It can be that suddenly He will command me to go to a cloister and to pray there day and night. I will then go to the cloister and will pray.

It was unexpected for you that the day before the voting at the Congress Gary Kasparov addressed to the General Assembly with the open letter, where he unequivocally called on the delegates to make “the right move” – to elect Kok. And your opponent quoted this phrase from the Kasparov’s letter..

But Garry didn’t write directly: “Vote for Kok”. He called on the delegates to make the right move – the right choice. The delegates did exactly that. So I am grateful to Kasparov for his support.

Pictures and translation: Olena Boytsun
Original text in Russian


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