Ilyumzhinov: 'In principle Kramnik can play the winner'

by ChessBase
9/24/2005 – A few days before the start of the World Championship in San Luis FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has stated, in an interview with Russian newspaper Sports Express, that classical chess world champion could get a chance to play against the winner. In principle. The condition is that two million dollars prize money are found, and that the FIDE champion accepts the challenge.

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Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: Match of the World Champion against Kramnik? It is possible in principle.

On the eve of the World Championship to be held in San Luis from 27 September to 16 October, Yuri Vassiliev, the correspondent of “Sports Express” newspaper, met with Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, President of the Republic of Kalmykia, FIDE President. We bring you the resulting interview in English translation.

Vassiliev: Kirsan Nikolaevich, Ruslan Ponomariov told me the other day: “Our match with Kasparov was to be held in Argentina, but somehow was cancelled. Now the World Championship is to take place there. As if it were another country…” And added that he would never believe that this Championship takes place until at least one move is made.

Ilyumzhinov: Kasparov-Ponomariov Match, which was to be held in Argentina, was cancelled because of a change in the authorities: after a severe economic crisis a new team came to power, and that team had different targets. Then Ukraine intended to host the match. It was supposed to take place in Yalta. You must remember how it turned out afterwards: Ponomariov and his team laid down one condition after another which finally caused the cancellation of the Match. Nevertheless, I understand Ponomariov’s disappointment. And I invite him as well as the other strongest chess players to Khanty-Mansiysk. The World Cup will be taking place there from 3 to 24 December, with the total prize fund of US $1,572,000. The top placers, apart from the good prize money, will be qualified for the World Championship Cycle and get a chance to compete for the highest title in chess.

Ruslan seems to have gained his former strength and is likely to compete for the World Cup and the title of Champion. I would like to come back to the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk topic later. Let’s finalize the Argentina subject. You are 100 percent sure that the match of the eight strongest players will take place, aren’t you?

Taking into account that the whole prize fund was transferred to the FIDE account and all participants are already in San Luis, what doubts could there be? I have my ticket to the capital of Argentina, where right on the eve of the Championship start I have an appointment with one of the country's leaders.

I must confess that I have my ticket to Buenos Aires too and am looking forward to seeing the amazingly strong and important tournament! It is a pity that Kramnik is not there, because the real unification is possible only if the Classical World Champion is involved into the process. By the way, what is your opinion if the winner of the World Championship in San Luis will challenge Kramnik to a match?

The World Champion title belongs to the World Chess Federation (FIDE), the negotiations regarding such match are possible in principle only with FIDE. If Kramnik's sponsors propose something interesting, we do not eliminate the possibility of such a match of the only legal World Champion, who will be defined in San Luis, against the so called Classical World Champion. If, of course, the only legal World Champion accepts it.

What is the start sum that may arouse the interest of FIDE?

I think starting from two millions. But this would be discussed in more detail with the parties involved.

Garry Kasparov, after his retirement from professional chess, has started the career in Russian politics, as an active oppositionist. In this connection many people I know would like to inquire: did "law-abiding Ilyumzhinov" in a pointed manner, brush aside the ex-champion in disgrace, removed him from the Presidential Board of Sports, although still on the top of the FIDE rating list?

My likes and dislikes are never dependent on the current situation in politics. Garry Kasparov has become a politician, he has gained other important interests, political ambitions, but my attitude to him as the greatest chess player in history has not changed. Kasparov’s retirement has influenced the situation in professional chess very much. Garry always had the gift of being the center of attraction, first of all by his vivid manner of play, and secondly by his not less vivid manner of behavior. Garry personified Sturm und Drang. As they say it is next to impossible to get bored with him. Nevertheless I cannot say that after his retirement dead calm is established in FIDE…

Do you assume that Garry may return?

As you see chess is becoming younger rapidly. Garry is at the age when to compete with younger opponents is getting more and more difficult, and due to his ambitious nature Kasparov will dislike playing a supporting role. I think his phenomenal record of being on the top for 20 years will never be broken. But to be forever first is impossible.

Nothing is eternal in this world. But nevertheless I still believe that Garry will come back. Whom will you support in San Luis, if that is not a secret?

In my capacity as FIDE President I must maintain neutrality. I like all of the outstanding grandmasters who will compete for the title of World Champion in San Luis. I must confess, I can't forget that Peter Svidler of St. Petersburg won two out of his four Russian Champion titles in Elista, and in Kalmykia he is even called Peter Svidler-Elistinskiy (Peter Svidler of Elista). But I can repeat I cherish kind feelings for all seven men and especially for the magnificent chess Amazon woman Judit Polgar. And I wish all of them good luck in Argentina, the country where the historical Capablanca-Alekhine match took place.

What will FIDE do, if a woman will win the World Championship?

We will admire and worship her! I would like to point out that Judit has good chances to play brilliantly in that group, where none of her main adversaries, Kasparov and Kramnik play.

In December the chess caravan of 128 professionals will head to Khanty-Mansiysk to compete for the FIDE World Cup. Many participants of the FIDE knockout tournament come originally from southern countries. What is the usual temperature of this time of the year in that place?

I asked this question to my friend and colleague, the Governor of the Khanty-Mansiysk, Yugra Autonomous Region, Alexander Filipenko a week ago, when he showed me the venues where the participants of the World Cup will play and live in December.

And what was the answer?

Alexander Vasilievich said that it is usually minus 30°C in December. But immediately after that he reassured me with a smile that every participant of the World Cup will be provided with a splendid cap with earflaps, so no one will get cold. And moreover, it takes only ten minutes to get from the hotel “Yugra Valley”, where the players will live, to the Arts Centre for the Talented Children of the North, where they will play.

What can you say about the venue of the World Cup and its objects?

It was my first time in the Yugra region. Khanty-Mansiysk is not the remote area of Russia, it is an ultra-modern town, very clean and bright, the capital of Russian oil. The town citizens and the authorities, oil and gas industry workers can earn money and spend it for the common good. The governor showed me the whole infrastructure of the town, magnificent Biathlon stadium, where the highest-level events take place. Here is one feature: the comfortable hotel, where the World Cup participants will stay, has a pool with heated mineral water. The chess players will have all the conditions for a good rest. Young people wishing to have some fun after the game will find anything they need, from bowling and nightclubs to hunting and riding the deer relays. There are astonishingly beautiful places there, the people are very hospitable – all in all the chess players and the guests will have a lot of great impressions of the Russian North.

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