FIDE election campaign gathers momentum

by Macauley Peterson
9/26/2018 – One week from today, FIDE delegates will meet for their General Assembly and elect a new President. (Vote in our reader poll!) With the era of Ilyumzhinov now over, the race has become quite competitive. It remains a three-way contest between Georgios Makropoulos, Nigel Short and Arkady Dvorkovich. The election campaign is in full swing (with gloves off) and we'll be bringing you up to date on the major events of the past weeks as well as late-breaking news, in a series of articles leading up to the big day on October 3rd. Who would you vote for?

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The state of play

The election campaign for the upcoming presidential election is heading down the wire. For the first time in many years, there are not two, but three candidates: Georgios Makropoulos, Nigel Short and Arkady Dvorkovich (in the order they announced).

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Makropoulos and Dvorkovich are the presumed front-runners and ironically both have a similar problem: How to distance themselves from the sordid legacy of longtime incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

Among the various charges levelled against Ilyumzhinov over the years has been that he used his official position and ability to travel (at FIDE's expense) to serve as a discreet envoy for the business interests of others in Russia, and also that the Russian Chess Federation gained outsized influence in the organization via his presidency.

Makropoulos was Deputy Vice-President for Ilyumzhinov for many years and was the de facto head of FIDE in recent years. After falling out with his former political partner, he now represents a break from the "Russian dominance" and yet he naturally remains tainted by many other aspects of Ilyumzhinov's legacy.

Dvorkovich meanwhile was Deputy Prime Minister of Russia from May 2012 to May 2018, was a member of the Supervisory Board of the Russian Chess Federation, and has Ilyumzhinov loyalists working on his campaign. While he is able to credibly criticize the record of FIDE under Ilyumzhinov and Makropoulos, he is hard-pressed to allay global concerns about Russian influence — in fact, on the contrary, he argues that his business and government connections are a clear asset.

That leaves Grandmaster Nigel Short, a longtime critic of FIDE leadership who supported the opposition candidates in the recent past FIDE elections: Kasparov and Karpov. Short's appeal derives from his focus on good governance and his passion for the sport as a professional player. But in recent weeks of the campaign he is seen as more overtly aligning with Dvorkovich.

Due to the structure of the General Assembly, each member federation is equally important when it comes to voting under the FIDE statutes (Chapter 4); so Djibouti (number 164 of the FIDE list of countries) with three rated players has the same voice in the GA as the delegates of the USA, Russia, India, Germany or any large active federation. 

Alternatives have been proposed (one vote per rated game anyone?) but this system is well-entrenched and reform is unlikely. Perhaps the best outcome we can hope for — regardless of the election winner — is the implementation of term limits. Since all candidates are on record in support of a maximum tenure for the FIDE President (eight years seems to be a shared consensus) it is incumbent upon all civic-minded among the chess community to hold whoever comes out on top to that pledge. This is the surest way to avoid an Ilyumzhinov-like dynasty of 23-odd years from repeating itself ever again.

As before, this election has seen multiple allegations of corruption, which no chess news sources are properly resourced or mandated to investigate fully. Unless the ICIJ or Robert Mueller are going to get involved in the next seven days, the narrative is destined to be driven largely by glib tweets and whispered rumours.

Having said that, over the next several days, we'll take a look at the current state of the game. But first a quick review of the players:

Georgios Makropoulos (Greece)

Official campaign website:
Twitter: @makro_chess


Deputy President: Malcolm Pein (England) 
Secretary-General: Sundar Damal Villivalam (India) 
Vice Presidents: Martha Fierro (Ecuador), Chitalu Chilufya (Zambia) 
Treasurer: Adrian M. Siegel (Switzerland)

Fide forward photo

The campaign slogan of FIDE Forward: "Dignity before money"

"What is at stake today is the political and financial independence of FIDE from any foreign government. Arkady Dvorkovich is the continuation of the old practice 'Money for Control' and, unfortunately, FIDE today is in danger of becoming the tool of a certain government for achieving its geopolitical aims which have nothing to do with chess...We will remain honest until the end and we will fight for, and secure, the financial and political independence of FIDE so that each and every delegate will be proud to be a member of our organization. This is our dream and you cannot buy dreams, you should work for them!"

Nigel Short (England)

Official campaign website:
Twitter: @nigelshortchess


Deputy President: Lukasz Turlej (Poland) 
Secretary-General: Ruth Haring (USA) 
Vice-Presidents: Olalekan Adeyemi (Nigeria), Paul Spiller (New Zealand) 
Treasurer: Panu Laine (Finland)

The campaign slogan of Nigel Short: "Clean Hands for FIDE"

"As president of FIDE, I will make it my duty to address the following:

  1. Restore the integrity of FIDE
  2. Raise commercial sponsorship from its pitifully low level while simultaneously cutting taxes, thus transforming FIDE from an organisation in which federations support the central body, to one in which the central body supports the federations.
  3. Introduce term-limits.
  4. Abolish proxies.
  5. Make key bodies, like the Electoral and Ethics Commissions, entirely independent.
  6. Require a bare minimum of governance from federations (statutes, accounts & elections) to ensure that unrepresentative bodies, with little or no chess activity, never again sway elections.
  7. Actively support poorer federations that do meet those requirements.
  8. End the rampant corrupt practice whereby jobs, titles and tournaments are awarded for political fealty.
  9. Introduce a register of Presidential Board members financial interests.
  10. Terminate the failed Agon agreement."

Arkady Dvorkovich (Russia)

Official campaign website:
Twitter: @adorkovich


Deputy President: Bachar Kouatly (France) 
Secretary-General: Enyonam Sewa Fumey (Togo) 
Vice Presidents: Mahir Mammadov (Azerbaijan), Julio Granda (Peru) 
Treasurer: Zhu Chen (Qatar)

Dvorkovich home page

The campaign slogan of Arkady Dvorkovich: "Energy, Knowledge, Experience"

"I am running for FIDE President with a clear objective - to take FIDE up to the highest standards of professionalism, efficiency and transparency. FIDE should become a globally visible and respected organization promoting chess all around the world and contributing to the sustainable development of our societies. 

Being deeply connected to chess since the early childhood, I had a chance to help to promote our game on many occasions, while my recent experience as the Chairman of the Local Organizing Committee for FIFA World Cup-2018 in Russia has helped me a lot to see a broader picture. I am ready and willing to use my skills and knowledge to transform FIDE, and to take chess to the heights it deserves."

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To be continued...


Macauley is Editor in Chief of ChessBase News in Hamburg, Germany, and producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast. He was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.
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Bundestrojaner Bundestrojaner 9/27/2018 08:59
I agree with Ali Nihat, we should let vote all countries...and here comes the part where I don't agree with you:
all countries with at least as many organised players to make up an Open and Women team. Ali Nihat has probably forgotten or did not mention on purpose, that in UEFA, FIFA, FIBA and whatever sports organisation those little banana republics do not have such an influence through their votes as in chess, simply through the fact that in Football, Basketball there is a public which cares about such things, which is not the fact for chess.

Please help me out, wasn't Ali Nihat on the ticket of Bessel Kok and then changed to the Kirsan-site of power?
Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely - Lord Acton

Proxies opening the door for corruption and buying votes.
Nigel Short is a candidate mainly self loving himself most and in my opinion ineligible.
fons3 fons3 9/27/2018 06:53
@ Ali Nihat YAZICI:
>>If we look at UN, UNESCO, EU, IOC, FIFA, UEFA, FIBA, FILA, etc. all international institutions do have one country/ one vote principle.

Some bad comparisons.

The UN is a political organization that unites nations. I see FIDE as a sports organization that should unite chess players. To have direct democracy in the UN every citizen of every participating nation would have to vote and that's just unmanageable and unrealistic. Also most people have no direct interest in the UN or even know what it does. In chess every (titled) player has a direct interest in FIDE. (I'm not going to go into the criticisms of the UN but rest assured there are plenty.)

UNESCO is an agency of the UN, so see above.

EU: Elections to the European Parliament take place by universal adult suffrage. The concept of universal suffrage, also known as general suffrage or common suffrage, consists of the right to vote of all adult citizens.
The allocation of seats to each member state is based on the principle of degressive proportionality, so that, while the size of the population of each country is taken into account, smaller states elect more MEPs than is proportional to their populations.
So not exactly one country one vote.

IOC unites all sports, not just one as in FIDE, so again to have some form of direct democracy would require every single sports person of all sports of every single country to vote, which becomes unmanageable. In any case, IOC is riddled with scandals and corruption, not exactly a glowing example to aspire to.

FIFA: The difference is that football is a team sport and really FIFA unites national teams, therefore it makes more sense for national federations to have a vote rather than individual football players. Also riddled with corruption.

UEFA similar to FIFA represents national football associations. Also riddled with corruption.

FIBA: I can't immediately find information on how exactly the FIBA central board itself is elected but it contains 13 members elected by the Congress, according to a continent-based quota system (Africa= 2, Americas= 3, Asia= 2, Europe= 4, Oceania= 2), one representative of the NBA and one representative of the Players. So it does not seem to be exactly one country one vote. And again basketball is a team sport.

United World Wrestling (formerly known as the FILA) seems to be one vote per federation. I guess this would be the best comparison to chess, but I'm too unfamiliar with wrestling to say if it works or not.
Talhaunted Talhaunted 9/27/2018 04:40
I feel so much like AMCA: most (if not all) chess players prefer Nigel Short, the only candidate who has been a top level player and understand what that means. The top level chess players are the most precious commodity in that world. It is a mistake to think that generous donors (who are so intensely needed) would be more swayed by somebody who has less understanding of what high level chess means and has more political connections or savvy. The miserable the chess world experienced with Illiuzhimov and his predecessor, should be be enough to convince any rational people who like chess: no more of this...
In my view this is a no-brainer: it should be Nigel Short
Ali Nihat YAZICI Ali Nihat YAZICI 9/27/2018 02:45
It may be mediatic to write such as article. Higher rating, although Chessbase does have! But it is anti-Makropoulos again, it is prejudice again, it is very partial. It is unpleasant to see this propaganda on Chessbase website, which was respectful.
I would like to mention this voting rights matter again; which was raised by Anatoly Karpov, and Garry Kasparov. If you read between the lines, you may understand that author is not happy with one federation one vote! If we look at UN, UNESCO, EU, IOC, FIFA, UEFA, FIBA, FILA, etc. all international institutions do have one country/ one vote principle. But still someone scratching this matter. For which aim? Anyone raising this issue is not a democrat in my opinion.

For the predictions of election! Makro is going to win it with a huge difference, will give answer to people who is corrupting federations, patronising people, humiliating honest delegates.

Wait 3rd October!

FIDE Forward!
AMCA AMCA 9/27/2018 09:16
I think most chess players would prefer Nigel Short as President, as they would have preferred Karpov or Kasparov beforehand, but none of them has or had a hope of winning. The days of Olafsson and Euwe are long gone. These elections are all about money and power; might as well forget about chess.

This situation has to change before any real change can occur. Don’t hold your breath.
kyi kyi 9/27/2018 07:25
I believe money matters in top level chess. Unlike other sports such as soccer, tennis and golf, top level chess tournaments cannot generate enough money. There will be a world champion chess match soon between Carlsen and Caruana. Who would like to pay few dollars to see their chess match on internet? Most chess fans will watch for free. My point is that how can the top GM chess players survive, if the prize money is low ? I am sure if Putin's favorite is selected, he will be very generous in sponsoring and providing good prize money for top level chess tournaments. Make no mistakes. Select Putin's favorite. Does it matter, whether the cat is black or white if it catches the mice ( money ) ?
Cajunmaster Cajunmaster 9/27/2018 06:28
Choosing the lesser evil, the standard democratic conundrum...
eric b eric b 9/27/2018 05:31
I'm rooting for Nigel Short, but I like the message of the candidate from Greece "FIDE today is in danger of becoming the tool of a certain government for achieving its geopolitical aims which have nothing to do with chess"... He meant to say RUSSIA! However, being that Nigel Short is from a western liberal democracy, I'm sure that Putin is he is doing everything he can to undermine the process and install a lackey.
KevinC KevinC 9/26/2018 10:57
I picked Short because he is the least likely to be corrupted, in my opinion.
bbrodinsky bbrodinsky 9/26/2018 10:44
I want Nigel Short because of his non-controversial way about him, his middle-of-the-road, annoy-nobody philosophy...

Actually I dont want him because if he wins he might quit writing for NIC, and he's the best article in there!
fons3 fons3 9/26/2018 10:26
@ Aighearach: What are you arguing for? We should just let them do whatever because transparency is too hard?

More importantly: transparencey does not at all require a lot of extra work.
Aighearach Aighearach 9/26/2018 10:15
Efficiency and transparency are goals that are in opposition. It is more efficient to just let the person in charge do whatever. Transparency requires a lot of extra process and related work.

It doesn't seem honest to offer to increase both at the same time.

The only way to increase transparency is by reducing corruption to the point where mainstream commercial sponsorship can be increased in order to pay for the processes and structure that create transparency.
fons3 fons3 9/26/2018 10:14
Makropoulos would just be a continuation of what we already have.
Dvorkovich is too entrenched in Russian politics, though he would otherwise be a good candidate.
That leaves Short and since Short has already indicated he wants to cooperate with Dvorkovich we sort of get the best of both (on the condition that Short wins).

About the voting system: the people who have reason to complain are not the people who get to vote, that is the problem.

If the chess players are the people, the federations and FIDE is the government. In a properly functioning democracy the people vote who gets to be in the government.

But this is not the case in the chess world. The people don't even get to vote, let alone have a say in who to vote for. Not a democratic system at all. More like a system designed for abuse.

What about this: every titled player gets to vote.
(Untitled players are taken care of by their federation, they have no need for FIDE.)
Of course then you have the "problem" that big federations have more influence, but I'm not sure if that's really such a big problem. (No single federation is big enough to outvote everybody else or some of the other big federations.)