Ilyumzhinov: 'It is not the size of the logo, it’s the principle'

5/19/2009 – In our previous report the UEP President Josef Resch harshly criticized the negotiations with FIDE. The President of the World Chess Federation reacted immediately with his own somewhat different take on the matter. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov describes the course of events and how the negotiations collapsed. In this Sport Express interview he provides a number of other interesting tidbits. Must read.

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Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: "It is not the size of the logo, it’s the principle"

Before speaking to FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov on the fate of the World Championship cycle 2010-2011, I would like to know – is it true that during the negotiations with UEP such grave controversies came into play that new partners had to be sought as well as other venues, in order to accommodate the candidates tournament 2010, and the World Championship match 2011?


FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

In his response to my question the FIDE President hinted that what is important for him is not to have brilliant conditions for the organization of the world championship, as witnessed in Bonn, and not a very big prize fund. It is the principle that is important – which is that when FIDE gives the right to organize the most important chess calendar events to someone, it is not going to stay in the shadow, and intends to remain an equal partner and to supervise in details the important, from its point of view, moments of the tournament organization.

Kirsan Nikolaevich, UEP won the bidding process for the 2010 Candidates Tournament and the World Championship 2011. So what was there in the contract, offered by Mr. Josef Resch, that did not satisfy your negotiating team?

I would like to say that I know the UEP management and Mr. Resch himself well. He is a very interesting person. We have numerous contacts on other projects, and I was trying to help him in his initiatives in Russia and abroad. I am sure that the more such solid businessmen invest in chess in the world, the better it is for FIDE.


Josef Resch at an opening ceremony of the World Championship 2008

When UEP won the bidding procedure, it had full freedom to prepare a final contract. However, we have not succeeded in finding a variation which would have fully satisfied us. I know that Resch expressed his unhappiness with FIDE Vice President and Global Chess CEO Geoffrey Borg, with whom they could not find common grounds. But it was not Borg who was the head of the negotiating team, but [FIDE Deputy President Georgios] Makropoulos who was approved by the Presidential Board. Also the group included Mr. [Israel] Gelfer, who is head of the World Championship Committee and member of Presidential Board, and FIDE Executive Director David Jarrett. Also, Mr. Borg did not participate in the final stage of the negotiations – he was with me in Azerbaijan.


FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos

As a result, UEP sent us a letter ultimatum, saying that we are to accept their conditions on a number of the contractual provisions by the 6th of May. Otherwise it would cancel the negotiations. I did not like the tone of the letter. We are not used to ultimatums. If people want an agreement, they should not push their partners into a corner. Here they were trying to dictate their conditions to us. Also, when before the start of the Anand-Kramnik match in Bonn I visited the site of the Championship, I did not see any FIDE logo there. They had sponsors’ logos, the UEP logo, but there was no FIDE logo!But...


The stage of the World Championship in Bonn


The board on which the games were played


Press conference after the games

It was nowhere to be seen, on a table, at the back poster. Only the UEP sponsors badges, but not FIDE. Both Makropoulos and Borg got a severe reprimand from me. And only after my non-ceremonial intervention the FIDE logo was placed at the Championship site and on the stage.

I understand Resch as a businessman. In his place I might have acted in the same way. But in my capacity as FIDE President, I cannot close my eyes to such things.

As for this contract. I never interfere in the process of its finalization and signing. I always fully trust the commission which is dealing with this business. But here, at the very last moment, I receive a letter from Makropoulos, where he mentions that the UEP negotiators stubbornly refuse to sign several points. One point was about sponsors. We were insisting that these do not include companies whose activities are not in conformity with the Olympic Charter. We had already negative experience when the Kramnik-Leko match took place at a tobacco factory in Brissago under the aegis of a tobacco company. We were on alert. Moreover, an ex-manager of Kramnik and Leko – Carsten Hensel – became one of Resch’s assistants.


The Swiss tobacco company Dannemann, which sponsored the 2004 World Championship


Peter Leko and Vladimir Kramnik with the Dannemann logos

Back then, in 2004 I had an unpleasant discussion with the IOC Honorary President Juan Antonio Samarach, who was not happy at all with the tobacco history. Therefore we did not want any repetition. And if we had signed the contract in the variation offered by UEP, then we would not have any right to interfere, in case such an unwelcome sponsor appeared on stage.

And the most important thing – I was informed that the abbreviation “FIDE” was absent from the name of the Championship.

I said – “What is this? Are we going back to the times of Kasparov, who used to organize his matches first under the Times newspaper aegis, then Intel and then a one-day company Brain Games? And all members of the Presidential Board, without any earlier consent, unanimously wrote to me – this is a violation of FIDE principles!

However, UEP by no means wanted to coordinate the sponsors with us. And they wanted to determine the Championship logo by themselves. Then I told to Makropoulos, please write to them that we are not in agreement with these provisions.

I reiterate: we did not cancel negotiations, we were just reacting to their demands. They wanted us to inform them of our decision by May 6. And we did.

What if UEP agrees to make a FIDE logo the size of a whole wall? And also consents that you will be supervising things, so that “bad” sponsors will not get through. In that case are you going to continue the negotiations with Resch?

(Laughing) The thing is not what is the size of the logo, the thing is our principles. Let this logo be the size of a pin’s head, but in the mind of a spectator there should be a clear icon – that the championship is being organized not by some company, but by the World Chess Federation. It is the sponsors who start confusion in the head of the spectators. When I entered the hall where Anand and Kramnik were playing, I saw huge letters with the names of two renowned companies. The FIDE logo appeared there only after my harsh intervention. I have nothing against them. Moreover, I do respect them a lot. But the FIDE logo appeared only after I interfered. And its size was completely different.


FIDE: Geoffrey Borg, Georgios Makropoulos, Israel Gelfer and Polina Tsedenova

We cannot allow being dictated conditions, on what size the championship logo must be. And we cannot allow that any company can become a sponsor. If UEP is ready to come to the negotiations table again and will not dictate us any conditions, our doors are open.

But if the negotiations with UEP are not resumed, how are you going to solve this crisis?

We are in receipt of the proposals from two countries who are ready to organize the 2010 candidates tournament.

The proposal of Resch was for both this tournament and the match in one bid?

We will be perfectly ok if these are not interconnected. The market is very active now and we have no doubts that both these events will find perfect hosts.

Initially the dates for the Anand-Topalov match were not later than April 2010? How is it going now?

We have the situation completely under control. I have met with the Prime Minister of Bulgaria and will shortly attend the closing of the MTel Masters in Sofia, where I will meet the Prime Minister again for a more detailed conversation. Besides, India has also expressed its interest, as well as two neutral countries, including Russia. We announced a bidding procedure for this event and are to decide by September.

In his interview to Bulgarian media Topalov’s manager Silvio Danailov said that he thinks that the prize fund of Anand-Topalov match should be not less than three million Euros. What is your opinion on this issue?

There are official conditions for the bidders, which say that the prize fund should not be lower than a certain amount. If it is higher, you are welcome – we will be even happier, FIDE’s share will be higher.

If the negotiations with Resch are not resumed, will you find the amount offered by the [Russian-] German businessman?

The money is not the issue. I recently returned from Azerbaijan, where I was head of the World Team that was playing against local grandmasters. At the start of the match the President of the country, Heydar Aliev, prepared a wonderful present – signed a decree on a state programme for chess development. They will construct a chess palace! The financing of our sport is included into the budget of the country. Have you seen this elsewhere?

Besides, Azerbaijan organized the first stage of the FIDE Grand Prix in 2008 wonderfully. During the match I was asked what is the next top FIDE event. They became very interested in the Candidates Tournament. They have young Teimour Radjabov, so people in Baku have their favourite. So they are working on a proposal now.

When is the deadline for bids?

By the dates of the FIDE Presidential Board, which will be taking place in mid June in Poland.

Kirsan Nikolayevich, the last question is not regarding this topic. Recently we had information that there had been a court hearing in Lausanne, which agreed with the complaint of the Turkish Chess Federation against the European Chess Union. According to the court’s decision the results of the European Championships will be annulled. As FIDE President, what do you think of this?

In Sofia I am to meet with Ali Nihat Yazici, President of the Turkish Chess Federation and Boris Kutin, the ECU Prsident. I think we will find a reasonable compromise. Moreover, FIDE has awarded quite a few tournaments to Turkey, and I think they have nothing to be bitter about in this matter. As for the annulment of the European Championships, this is at least a strong exaggeration. No one can annul the results of the past tournaments.

In the meantime both interviews have been published side-by-side in the printed edition of Sport Express



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