Election 06: Can F.I.D.E be reformed?

by ChessBase
5/26/2006 – Grandmaster Bachar Kuoatly has fought a number of FIDE presidential battles, and as such has intimate knowledge of the electorial process. And of the management structures of the World Chess Federation. Today he sent us an "open letter" with his assessment of the current election campaign. Warning: it contains some fairly tough language.

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Can F.I. D.E. be reformed?

Open Letter by Bachar Kouatly

On June 2nd 2006, during the F.I.D.E’s Congress General Assembly, a mandate of four years will be given to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov or Bessel Kok. As it is usual for him, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has not really campaigned himself. He has left this task to his Deputy President, Giorgios Makropoulos, who in fact has been running F.I.D.E. for several years. Ilyumzhinov has no program per se, but he can be assessed on what he has done. And that is not much in regard to the sums of money invested and announced since practically 11 years: almost 30 millions dollars.

His «ticket»1 includes Makropoulos (Greece), Ncube (Zambia), Leong (Singapore) and Freeman (Bermuda). Most people share the same opinion of Makropoulos. A strong IM in his time, he belongs to the chess family. But he has managed to suck the lifeblood out of F.I.D.E. for the sake of his own interest. Think for instance of the Las Vegas 1999 World Championship that almost ended in the worst possible way. Ilyumzhinov had given to Makropoulos and his team an advance payment of one million dollars for the organisation of this event. Kirsan and his advisers soon found out that this money had disappeared, which resulted in the players late in being paid their prize fund at the end of the championship. Kirsan had forgotten that the President Delegate had fallen in the trap of Las Vegas, this casino gamblers’ paradise. Here is one of the many mismanagement stories that can be told over the last ten years of F.I.D.E.

As long as the current President won’t have defined a platform, a strategy and means, F.I.D.E will loose in image and credibility to the great sadness of all who love the game of chess.

Looking at the ticket, Lewis Ncube from Zambia has to date no record that allows us to have an opinion. Contrary to Ignatius Leong and Nigel Freeman, who were General Secretary and supported the campaign I lead in 19942, and who are individuals of great value. Leong has worked since 30 years for the development of chess in Asia and especially in the Far-East.

He is very known and highly respected for the considerable efforts that he has put in chess. What is more, he has created a very successful Chess Academy in Singapore. Not only is it successful in chess results, but also from a financial point of view. Nigel Freeman is the Chess Passionate by essence, combining his know-how in finance and his passion to organise several events in Bermuda. His integrity as Treasurer will not be doubted.

Makropoulos’ manoeuvre, consisting of integrating Leong and Freeman so as to put across a message of change in the organisation, is not acceptable. What is needed is a reform of the structure at the top with the removal of this manipulative Deputy President! He should not be left anymore in a position where he controls the decision process.

This is of course the current President’s responsibility, given he has decided for too long to let this system rot from the inside, so as to carry out himself more important matters as President of Kalmykia or to manage his numerous business interests.

The Bessel Kok ticket with Ali Yacizi, Ingolotti, Vijuprabha and Borg has been doing ground work for the past six months. Following Karpov’s exclusion by Bessel Kok – because there is no room for two in the president’s seat – and a communication campaign lead by Léo Battesti – for internal reasons and with the support of the French Chess Federation, to eventually in February in Cannes support Bessel – Kok and his team have had numerous initiatives.

Unfortunately for Bessel Kok and his followers, there is some arrogance in what they say. As a result, this election has become for many delegates the confrontation between North and South in a way. The other ticket will not miss the opportunity to take advantage of this.

What is more an election to the head of an international organisation is not run like a major multinational business, with the transparency that the Dutch candidate has wanted. Kok’s team are clearly newcomers in politics and the amateur status that they have displayed by revealing who was supporting their list on their website «rightmove06.org », is in fact a double-edged sword, that is now turning itself against them.

Kok’s followers are for the most Europeans and white, while Kirsan’s followers are multicultural, coming from all ethnic background and from emerging countries. In addition, all the undecided voters – there are many in this type of election and they will be waiting to see who will be leading in Turin to declare their support, will not have many problems to be identified thanks to the information given out by Kok.

Bessel Kok, together with Nigel Short, has made a challenger’s tour to Thailand, Hong-Kong, Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia. Bessel Kok’s views on the chess world have certainly broadened beyond the extraordinary tournaments he has organised for the last 20 years.

He has realised during his trips that the court of Grandmasters he gathers around him, weighs very little in the voting decision that delegates from small countries with limited resources will be taking. The recently launched campaign to denounce the “1 country = 1 vote” by Bessel Kok’s supporters will certainly not make things easier for them at the moment of F.I.D.E delegate’s vote.

Let us hope however that after this campaign and the vote there will be new directions taken so that the representative bodies of chess gain back the credibility and prestige that they are now so dearly missing

Bachar Kouatly


  1. A ticket is a team that must include Delegate President, Vice-president, General Secretary and Treasurer.
  2. See Yasser Seirawan's article on FIDE for some details of the election. In Moscow 1994 Leong fought beside Bachar Kouatly to oust Florencio Campomanes, and resisted Campomanes' buy-off offer of a SFr 4,000-a-month job. It is described in a letter by Ignatious Leong: "Yerevan and After – the FIDE Crisis".

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