FIDE Elections: the match for FIDE President heats up

5/8/2010 – After publishing an interview with FIDE’s Development CEO David Kaplan, we were contacted by Karpov’s campaign headquarters in New York. They responded to some of Kaplan’s statements and presented the case for change in FIDE. They are also preparing a fundraiser in New York with two former world champions and a near certain future one. Can you guess who?

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Naturally the following letter, which we received from the Karpov Campaign Headquarters in New York, is part of the electioneering for the FIDE presidency. We have decided not to withhold messages and declarations, which could be of importance to the future of the chess world, from our readers. We will continue to follow the campaigns closely and provide all candidates with an opportunity to express their views.

For his fundraiser on the 17th of May at the Trump SoHo in New York, Anatoly Karpov will appear with former World Champion Garry Kasparov and the "near certain future one" Magnus Carlsen. Details at the bottom of this report.

The Case for Change in FIDE

Thank you for the opportunity to address the ChessBase audience. Since our initial announcement of Karpov's candidacy, he has received broad official support from numerous national federations. These appear at www.karpov2010.org.  In addition, Karpov succeeded in bringing to light improper conduct by Ilyumzhinov in attempting to short-circuit Russia's selection process by obtaining a draft letter from a senior presidential official. That official backed off in his support in a public interview and the matter is now being debated in Russia and within the Russian Chess Federation. Karpov is confident that he will obtain the official support of the Russian Chess Federation.

It’s important that we have a real dialogue in the chess community about how we can improve FIDE and why FIDE needs new leadership. FIDE should be, among other things, about organizing the chess world for the benefit of youngsters and adults alike who can enjoy and benefit from exposure to the game. FIDE should be run transparently and professionally based on policies and procedures adopted after discussion with member federations. The role of FIDE should be to attract sponsorship, organize major events, coordinate the professional level of the game, and develop a much broader chess brand. (Poker is an example of such broadening.)

We see FIDE as a structure that exists for the benefit of the member nations. FIDE should not feed off of its members with high fees. Indeed, with responsible management and the sponsorship that accompanies that, such fees should become de minimus. Money should flow from FIDE on a transparent basis to local federations to, for example, promote chess in schools and launch programs to provide career opportunities for organizers and professionals.

What is the record of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov over nearly 16 years? One hears very little about what he has done for chess. On the contrary, consider these projects: FIDE Commerce, Global Chess, the Rapid Grand Prix, and a Chess City in Dubai. These are but a few examples of grand announcements amounting to little over 16 years.

Kirsan professes to have invested massive amounts of money in chess yet provides no details and certainly no paper trail. The provenance of these funds is not idle speculation nor malicious in intent. It is absolutely relevant because without transparency and a demonstrable sponsorship model there is no way to attract legitimate corporate interest to FIDE. And to those who say this doesn’t matter as long as some money makes it to a few elite players from time to time, this is wrong morally and a disaster commercially. These tainted dealings prevent the chess world from having a stable, promotable, commercial structure that would soon lead to far better economic conditions for everyone, including the top players.

Ilyumzhinov has tarnished the image of chess and relegated it to the back pages of newspapers and the geographic backwaters of the world. Simultaneously, he has embarrassed his own country. Imagine a VP of marketing googling Kirsan or FIDE and finding these stories about his pleasant encounters with Saddam Hussein and his sons, with Muammar al-Gaddafi, not to mention the extraterrestrials. Would that VP want to invest his company’s money and reputation in chess? Ilyumzhinov’s visitations with aliens are in the news everywhere. It was a top story on the BBC website, while the wonderful Anand-Topalov match attracts relatively little attention. Could the problem with Kirsan’s leadership be more perfectly illustrated than by that fact? The last time a world championship was in the news was the “Toilet Scandal” that took place right in Ilyumzhinov’s hometown of Elista.

Ilyumzhinov uses the imprimatur of legitimacy of FIDE to support his business and political aspirations, running FIDE as his own business (i.e. sole sponsor). Indeed, Ilyumzhinov’s control of FIDE is contingent upon his limiting outside sponsorship since more money coming into chess would undercut his sole method of control.

The recent article by Kaplan is more of the same. Grand promises of money and grand promises of performance. We’ve heard it all before. Kaplan says mind games are stagnating, but look at poker; even Scrabble is on ESPN! It’s chess that is being left behind in the dark ages because Ilyumzhinov runs FIDE like a feudal system. He has had a decade and a half to show what he can do. Enough is enough. If he, Kaplan or anyone else genuinely wants to help chess by putting in capital, the new Karpov administration will welcome that and, in a transparent fashion, put that capital to work for the benefit of the players and federations.

Karpov has in several short weeks attracted major sponsors. Federations can rest assured much more support will come in once Karpov and his team are running FIDE. But no sponsor is ever going to run FIDE. Leadership of FIDE requires integrity, selflessness and a fundamental desire and purpose to promote the game for the benefit of the local federations and their players. If a sponsor ran FIDE, it would do so to maximize its own profits and treat FIDE's goals as secondary. We see the result of that in Kirsan's long tenure as president and virtually sole sponsor.

Ilyumzhinov’s campaign for reelection is not based on his record for reasons that are obvious. Instead, he plants false stories designed to mislead delegates. His latest one is that Karpov will withdraw or make a deal with him. Nonsense. Please see Karpov's letter to FIDE delegates, which addresses that non-issue head on.

Chess can have a bright future. Let's work together to elect Anatoly Karpov and get back to our responsibilities as stewards of chess for ourselves, our children and future generations. Visit our website to see how you can help. You can also join us in person or online for the gala Karpov Campaign Launch Party in NYC on May 17, featuring Karpov, Kasparov, Carlsen, and celebrities from around the world.

GM Ron Henley, President of the Karpov2010 Campaign


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