FIDE to charge $1 million for a presential bid

by ChessBase
12/6/2005 – In an interview with Sport Express Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has revealed a startling plan to force any challenger during the May 2006 FIDE presidential election to put up $1 million for the privilege of running. He also reveals an equally revolutionary new plan for the World Chess Championship. First protests are already in.

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The interveiw with Sport Express was conducted by Juri Vasiliev (picture left), who was travelling on the presidential plane from Moscow to Elista, the capital of the Russian Republic of Kalmykia, at the invitation of its president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. The latter is also the president of the world chess federation, and will be running for reelection in May 2006, during the Chess Olympiad in Turin, Italy.

In this interview with Vasiliev the FIDE president reveals some startling plans. The first is to introduce a $1 million deposit which must be provided by any challenger for the FIDE presidency. If the challenge is successful this money is used for the development of world chess; if he loses 20% if the sum is retained for the same purpose.

Another dramatic development is that FIDE will permit anyone to challenge the current World Chess Champion Veselin Topalov, provided he or she is rated 2700 or higher and is able to put up the prize fund – including a 20% fee for FIDE. Apparently the regular world championship cycle is unaffected by this rule. If Topalov should lose his title in this kind of free challenge he will simply be replaced by the new champion in the 2007 eight-player world championship.

Today we received a letter of protest from the French candidate for FIDE Presidency, Léo Battesti, who states that FIDE is employing dubious methods during their election campaign and that he intends to take steps against this. "I will express myself any time the equal opportunities policy will be flouted. Moreover, I will not fail to act in a court of law, if obvious violations of the equity rules are to be observed."

The following excerpts from the Sport Express interview were translated for us by Olena Boytsun and Misha Savinov.

Ilyumzhinov: “I do not expect gratitude”

In 2002 in Prague the well-known businessman Bessel Kok organized both the tournament and the chess summit. As far as I remember, you gave him a lot of power, he was your ally. In Turin, during the election at the FIDE Congress, Kok is going to be your rival. Why did the unity with Kok break up after Prague?

Right, after the meeting in Prague Kok did receive great powers. He became something like my “deputy for commercial questions”. Kok told us that he had a lot of possibilities to attract big money into chess. I made a proposition to him that time: “Let me give a million from my side, and you will give one million from yours, so there will be two million already for the realization of the project for the full professionalization of the game of chess”. Kok answered: “No, I am businessman. I will find money myself”. Himself means himself. Kok had to present a business plan within the month and, what was the most important, find the money for the project on the transformation of the professional chess. One month went by, the second month went by, the third… No money, no Kok. And now recently we found that Kok is running for the position of FIDE President. Ok, let him propose his program. Let him show what he has except beautiful promises.

FIDE and Kalmykia President Kirsan Nikolayevich Ilyumzhinov

During the World Championship in San Luis the organizers from Argentine proposed an interesting idea: the candidate that is going to stand for the position of FIDE President is required to put up a $1 million deposit. If he looses the election then 20% of the amount remains with FIDE and will be spent on the programs of children chess support, and to help developing countries. If he wins, the whole million stays in FIDE and goes to the same programs. Thus, the candidate for the President’s position will show that his intentions are serious and he is not a random person. It is possible that he personally doesn’t have $1,000,000, but then the money must be from the team of supporters – the representatives of serious business, bankers, patrons, his friends.

At the beginning this idea was meant as a joke, but than everybody liked it very much. It was decided to discuss it widely in the FIDE commissions, and then at the Presidential Council. Possible it will be applied by FIDE in the near future. I can only imagine, how the Congress delegates will applaud it: the more candidates, the more money FIDE will have for chess development in the world!

And when will the candidate be required to make this $1 million deposit?

90 days before the election.

So, in our case – not later than March?

Yes, not later than March.

Aren’t you afraid that in the West people will say: “this breaks the norms of democracy!”

But the situation in big politics everywhere is the same, isn’t it? The person that strives for a high-level position has the support of parties and business circles, with millions or even billions of dollars behind them. That is the situation in all developed countries. Why do we have to allow a person who only has beautiful promises to take over one of the biggest federations?

Ilyumzhinov was recently reinstated as Kalmykian
president by Russian president Vladimir Putin

I remember how in Yerevan in 1996 a Brazilian grandmaster wanted to run for FIDE President. I spoke to him. “I want,” he said, “to improve the state of chess and chess players.” “Well,” I said, “you want to improve the state of chess. In what way? Who supports you? Maybe, some company that produces coffee? Or Brazilian bankers? Or maybe, the king of football Pele?” And it turned to be that apart from this “to improve chess” slogan the candidate has nothing. He even had to borrow the money for his air ticket to Yerewan.

And how much money you have spent during these ten years? If, of course, that is not a commercial secret…

No, I can tell you: more than $50 million.

Do you feel sorry? You could buy an island, or at least a yacht.

I do not feel sorry. Some people collect paintings, others stamps, others buy yachts, castles. I like investing money into business. In Kalmykia I built 38 Buddhist temples, 22 Orthodox churches, a mosque, a Catholic church, three theaters. I invested the first million for building a seaport in Lagan. During the 60-year anniversary of the Victory over Germany in WWII every war veteran – I stress: every veteran! – received a car and a telephone for free.

You invest millions, and chess players are still unhappy.

It does not matter, I do not expect their gratitude. Some players who received millions from me, both officially and unofficially, are amongst my most bitter critics. I got used to it. People have forgotten what the state of FIDE was when I came in. Not only was there no funding of current events. Even the electricity in FIDE's Swiss office was shut down for non-payment. FIDE had debts everywhere. I fixed and reversed the situation.

When I organized the first knockout championships with a $5,000,000 prize fund, it was compassion that drove me. Top players who had invitations to Linares had a good life. But a huge army of professional players lived a pitiful existence, traveling from one open to another. The prizes did not always cover their travel expenses. I allowed these people to feel the ground beneath their feet. Even the first-round loser in the KO championship earned a good money...

Please reveal the secret about FIDE's planned innovation, according to which any above-2700 GM would be able to challenge Topalov, if he is able to find the required prize fund provide 20% of it as a fee to FIDE. Is it a return to the Capablanca-Alekhine times?

According to FIDE laws, Topalov as the world champion has the right to participate in Presidential Board meetings, so he was aware of that post San Luis initiative. The project, which has yet to be approved by the General Assembly, proposes that the champion has the right to play a title match against anyone rated above 2700, but no later than a year before the next eight-player world championship. If the champion wins such a match, he earns money, and retains the right to play in the next world championship. FIDE also benefits. Everybody wins!

And if he loses?

Then he will earn money but lose the title, as well as the right to play in the next world championship. He will have to start qualifying from the World Cup stage. Yes, there is a risk. However, if you're champion, you have to be the strongest. Or you shouldn’t play a big-money match!

Open letter to Mr. Ilyumzhinov, FIDE President

From Léo Battesti, Vice-President, French Chess Federation
Candidate for FIDE Presidency

I would like to invite you and the members of the FIDE Presidential Board to give more value to the democratic principles which should govern the forthcoming FIDE presidential elections.

Indeed, several infringements of these ethical principles have taken place recently.
Let’s pass over the timely invitations made to numerous presidents or delegates of national federations to come to the World Cup in Kanty-Mansiysk: it earns good money to take part in the Appeal’s Committee there! For instance, M. Makropoulos has offered a fee of 5,600€, expenses excluded, to my Président… This sudden generosity, a few months away from the Torino elections, looks, to say the least, rather suspicious.

First of all, the way the FIDE Internet site looks to be handled is scandalous. While my own candidacy hasn’t even found the smallest place there, the first three pictures of the main news are portraits of yourself. Isn’t it a bit too much?

But you’ve already gone much further with the threat of forcing potential candidates to put down a $1,000,000 deposit. This dubious method simply means that only multi-millionaires will be able to run. This is a real shame for chess, whose basic principles are the respect of the rules and the equal opportunities policy. I think that this threat covers up the main thing: money should be the result of good politics.

Taking this into account, I would like to dwell on my own experience.

As President of the Corsican Chess League, I’ve seen chess players population in Corsica grow from 300 to 5000 within 7 years (for a total of 250,000 inhabitants). This development had the mechanical effect of raising our budget from a mere $10,000 to $500,000. Thus, I created one of the most prestigious chess Opens in the world. The “Corsican Circuit”, which takes place every year, has a global budget of $400,000, half of it being devoted to the cash prizes. No less than 140 Corsican companies are partners of this event!

At the beginning of 2005, I became vice-president of French Chess Federation, in charge of communication. Our main publication is “Echec & Mat”, whose sponsors have been multiplied by 6, including the 3rd bank in the world, and lots of other prestigious companies.

I’m sorry to talk about the results of a hard work for the development of chess… But it was necessary, to show that the most important wealth is the wealth of ideas and projects. This is precisely what the current FIDE management is seriously lacking, as shows its budget, mainly dedicated to operational expenditures.

Let me add that I will not allow any personal attack during the campaign. I will express myself any time the equal opportunities policy will be flouted. Moreover, I will not fail to act in a court of law, if obvious violations of the equity rules are to be observed.

I hope that you will pay attention to this reasoning, and that you will guarantee our democratic principles to be respected.

Yours Truly,
Léo Battesti

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