CHESS Magazine: East or West

by Malcolm Pein
10/27/2017 – In the November issue of CHESS Magazine, International Master and organiser Malcolm Pein shares his views regarding the recent 88th FIDE Congress in Antalya, Turkey, where one of the more unusual decisions coming out of the Executive Board meeting was a non-binding "motion to "request the FIDE President [Kirsan Ilyumzhinov] not to run in the next Presidential elections." | Photo

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East or West

Editorial by IM Malcolm Pein

I am writing this from a rooftop terrace in Istanbul from where I can see the River Bosphorus and the point at which Europe ends and Asia begins. It seems an appropriate time to tell you all about the 88th FIDE Congress, which was held alongside the European Club Cup in Antalya, Turkey.

This was ostensibly a meeting of the Presidential Board and the Executive Board, the latter largely comprising the Presidential Board and representatives from each of the Continental Federations. I was there as the English FIDE Delegate, but I didn’t have a vote; my status was that of observer and there was quite a lot to observe.

The fight between Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and the rest of the FIDE ‘ruling class’ shows no sign of abating and with Kirsan’s enemies having professed a desire to “Look more towards the West” and potentially oust him, I sensed there might be some fireworks and when I arrived the atmosphere was febrile. I was informed that both sides had their lawyers present and that was before the meetings had started.

Former close allies, now enemies: on the right, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and on the left, Deputy President Georgios ‘Makro’ Makropoulos. Who will Makro find to stand in 2018? | Photo: ECC/David Llada

In March, Kirsan declared he wanted to resign and handed over day to day control of FIDE to the Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos. He later changed his mind, but the deed had been done. At the start of proceedings this decision was reaffirmed pretty much unanimously. Then the fun began. Makro and friends had tabled a motion “requesting” Kirsan not stand for re-election in 2018.

There was a lot of debate about the meaning of ‘requesting’, mainly involving delegates for whom English is not their first language. Clearly there was concern the motion could be binding, but the FIDE statutes don’t allow this and it was made clear it was “non-binding”. However, readers may recall my description of last year’s General Assembly at Baku. My strong impression there was that some delegates do not fully understand the proceedings. What the gatherings need are translators who can translate some delegates' English into clearly and slowly spoken English. I struggled to understand sometimes. Some delegates thought the motion prevented Kirsan from standing.

The motion was passed 37-20 with two abstentions and after that Kirsan was absent from the proceedings most of the time.

In my judgement this vote against Kirsan is indicative, but far from conclusive. Kirsan’s people were confident he would win in 2018 and he seems determined to stand, although whether he will receive Russian backing is not totally clear. He certainly has some support in the Kremlin for now. The day before I left for Antalya the ECF and five other federations received letters from their Russian Ambassador urging them to support Kirsan. Note: the text of these letters says the ‘Russian Federation’ has nominated Kirsan, not the Russian Chess Federation. The difference is significant.

The most unfortunate scene from the World Cup. Having defeated Vishy Anand, Canadian GM Anton Kovalyov was to withdraw after a furious argument with Zurab Azmaiparashvili. | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

The question is whether the anti-Kirsan group can find a candidate to oppose the President who has already begun campaigning. I know Makro has been desperately trying to find someone, but without success. The ECU President Zurab Azmaiparashvili ruled himself out. Admittedly his star shines a little less brightly after ‘Shortsgate’, but to his credit, he apologised unreservedly to the gathering for that episode and for losing his temper. I hope a candidate can be found; almost anyone else would be better.

Berlin or Bust

Agon have announced that the Candidates will be in Berlin next March and the proposed venue of the Kühlhaus with its cubic architecture looks in keeping with their vision of modernising chess. If only they would give up on the idea of copyrighting moves and update their broadcast software. The line-up is nearly complete and barring any massive surprises it will be:

  • Sergey Karjakin (beaten finalist in 2016);
  • Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana (on the basis of rating; interested readers should have a look at Martin Bennedik’s document online — he has been tracking the progress of the contenders);
  • Levon Aronian and Ding Liren qualified at the World Cup. This is a historic moment as there has never been a Chinese Candidate before.

There is still a wild card to be decided and two more places will go to the winner and runner up of the FIDE Grand Prix, the last leg of which begins in Palma de Mallorca on November 15th. Two players are ‘in the clubhouse’ having played three events. Shak Mamedyarov leads on 340 points and Alexander Grischuk has 336.42 points. Both could be overtaken by either Maxime Vachier-Lagrave on 211.42 and Teimour Radjabov who has 241.42 GP points. An outright tournament victory is worth 170 points and second place gives 140 points; either would be enough for Radjabov or MVL.

The 9th London Chess Classic

Roll up, roll up, roll up! You still have the chance to see ten of the world’s best players in the biggest event of the year that will decide the Grand Chess Tour. The chess festival including the FIDE Open and Super Blitz is filling up and there have been several years when we have had to turn people away. In addition to the playing of chess, the London Chess and Education Conference has just been announced and there will Chess in Schools and Communities training courses. Jon Speelman and John Nunn will also give simuls. Round one is at Google HQ on December 1st and then we move to Olympia. See you there.

This article was reproduced from Chess Magazine November/2017, with kind permission.

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CHESS Magazine was established in 1935 by B.H. Wood who ran it for over fifty years. It is published each month by the London Chess Centre and is edited by IM Richard Palliser and Matt Read. The Executive Editor is Malcolm Pein, who organises the London Chess Classic.

Chess November front and back cover

CHESS is mailed to subscribers in over 50 countries. You can subscribe from Europe and Asia at a specially discounted rate for first timers, or subscribe from North America.

Malcolm Pein is the CEO of Chess in Schools and Communities, organiser of the London Chess Classic, Managing Director of Chess and Bridge Ltd, the publisher of CHESS Magazine, and chess correspondent for the Daily Telegraph.


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