Makropoulos declares candidacy for FIDE president

by André Schulz
4/9/2018 – Last weekend the Belarus Chess Federation hosted the FIDE President meeting for the first quarter of 2018. The backdrop is the application of Belarus as host of the 2022 Chess Olympiad. In a blow to Kirsan Ilymzhinon, the Presidential Board called for his immediate resignation as president. After the meeting, Georgios Makropoulos announced his candidacy as FIDE president. | Photo: FIDE

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Ilyumzhinov rejects calls to resign

FIDE is currently experiencing troubled times. For decades, the administrations led by FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and his chief deputy Georgios Makropoulos effectively crushed all political challenges. In 2006 Bessel Kok ran against Ilyumzhinov, in 2010 Anatoly Karpov and in 2014 Garry Kasparov all entered the political ring, but despite their prominent names and years of chess advocacy, they had virtually no chance against the incumbent and his right-hand man. In the election campaigns mounted in the run-up to the FIDE General Assembly, "the gloves were off".

About two and a half years ago, in November 2015, the situation began to change. As part of its sanctions against the Syrian government, of Assad, the US Treasury also targeted Kirsan Ilyumzhiov, a 19% shareholder of the Russian Financial Alliance Bank (RFA). The bank was accused of having financed oil transactions of the Assad government. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, along with a number of other Russian oligarchs, was put on a blacklist by the US Treasury. This significantly weakened his position as president of the World Chess Federation. Since he was also denied entry to the United States, he could not represent FIDE there, notably during the 2016 match between Carlsen and Karjakin in New York. Recently, FIDE's bank accounts have come under scrutiny from their banking provider UBS in Switzerland, leading to their anticipated closure by the end of April. The international heat on Ilyumzhinov is the stated cause, although Ilyumzhinov himself denies it.

As a result of these events, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov gradually lost support within FIDE. The rest of the Presidential Board members asked him to clarify the matter and put his affairs in order. Illyumzhinov's attempts to rebut the allegations of the US Treasury, however, have, so far, failed. Therefore, an awkward "co-Presidency" with Kirsan Ilyumzhinov as nominal FIDE President, and Georgios Makropoulos as Deputy President yet holding all Presidential authority, has remained in effect.

Presidental Board, meeting in Minsk | Photo: FIDE

Open war

For a long time, there have been increasing calls for Ilymzhinov not to stand for re-election at the next FIDE Congress in Batumi, although he has repeatedly stated his intention to do so. Now, he as officially lost the support of nearly the entire Presidental Board, who released the following resolution yesterday:

In the light of: 

a) The imminent withdrawal of FIDE’s banking facilities by UBS, 
b) The inability of FIDE to obtain replacement banking facilities while you remain nominal President and 
c) subject to US Treasury Department sanctions, 
d) The consequent severe difficulties facing FIDE in funding its obligations and its commitments to the chess family, 
e) The adverse publicity that reflects badly on FIDE’s reputation and undermines the confidence of all those who are or 
would be involved in chess, 

That in the interests of the organisation: 

You should resign with immediate effect. 

Lewis Ncube

The resolution is signed by board members Makropoulos (Deputy President), Tolentino (General Secretary), Fierro (Vice President), Siegel (Treasurer), Bastian (Vice President), Kambuzia (Vice President), Marinello (Vice President), Sundar (Vice President), Al-Hitmi (Vice President), Gelfer (Vice President), Kutin (Vice President), Tulay (Vice President) Ochoa (Hon. Vice President), Ramirez (Hon. Vice President), Vega (President of Americas), Azmaiparashvili (President of ECU).

Lewis Ncube [right], the Continental President for Africa, was the lone opposing vote. He's been embroiled in a mini-scandal regarding payments from FIDE for African development and continues to show fealty towards the embattled FIDE president.

Decades-long legacy at stake

Kirsan Illyumzhinov was elected FIDE President in 1995, as the successor to Florencio Campomanes, and has held office since then, longer than any other FIDE president before him. When he took office, FIDE was almost broke. And he has been heralded as having substantially helped FIDE to right the financial ship. On the other hand, however, there have been repeated allegations of a dire lack of transparency (at best) and corruption and political cronyism under Ilyumzhinov's tenure. The dubious dealings of the FIDE president are one reason why reputable companies are reluctant to appear as sponsors of FIDE chess events. However, other observers believe that without Ilyumzhinov and his ties to the Russian government and Russian business circles, the FIDE tournament chess of recent decades would not have been financially viable.

Makropoulos currently manages FIDE's business. Since 1982 he has been president of the Greek Chess Federation. In 1986 he was elected FIDE Vice President. He has served as a kind of shadow-President for some time and now has decided to formally run for office, against his former political partner.

For some time, the rumour was that anti-Ilymzhinov factions were recruiting an alternative candidate that Makropoulos could endorce, rather than run himself. But those efforts have evidently not borne fruit.

Makropoulos

Georgios Makropoulos with Minister of Sports and Tourism of Belarus, Sergey Kovalchuk | Photo: FIDE

The presidential election will take place on October 3rd, 2018, at the FIDE Congress during the 43rd Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia.

Translation from German and additional reporting: Macauley Peterson

Correction April 10th: The chess federation of Belarus is known as the "Belarus Chess Federation" and not the "Belarussian Chess Federation". In the photo of Mr. Makropoulos shaking hands with a government minister, it is Sergey Kovalchuk, not Maxim Ryzenkov as initially indicated in the caption.

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André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.
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kevinoconnell kevinoconnell 4/12/2018 09:07
Correction: Alexander Rueb was FIDE President longer than Kirsan - 1924-1949 - 25 years compared with Kirsan's 23.
bondsergey bondsergey 4/12/2018 12:47
After the incedent with Russia-born Canadian I hope Makropoulos will never enter chess. Kirsan Ilymzhinov was very good president. It will be hard to find a better one. I would vote for Short or Karpov. Never for Kasparov - chess should be out of politics.
fons3 fons3 4/11/2018 11:46
@ vounaros: "Makropoulos was a very gifted child who was studying Einstein's relativity at the age of six!"

That is obviously patently absurd. Ilyumzhinov also claimed all sorts of crazy "accomplishments".
Petrosianic Petrosianic 4/10/2018 06:20
"Finally, the president of FIDE will be a chess player! Makropoulos was a very gifted child who was studying Einstein's relativity at the age of six!"

He sounds like the Professor Moriarty of Chess.
Petrosianic Petrosianic 4/10/2018 06:01
Now, in previous elections, delegates were bribed to vote for Kirsan, and had to take a picture of their ballot with their cell phones to collect the bribe money. I trust that Makropoulos knows this, and is prepared to either do something about it, or top Kirsan's bid. Kirsan does have more money than Makropoulos, so I wouldn't be surprised if he pulls it out.
fons3 fons3 4/10/2018 11:52
One crook replaces another. Awesome.

Also: https://sanctionlaw.com/kirsan-ilyumzhinov-the-case-of-the-irrelevant-facts/

Quote: "For some time, the rumour was that anti-Ilymzhinov factions were recruiting an alternative candidate that Makropoulos could endorce, rather than run himself. But those efforts have evidently not borne fruit."

I guess they couldn't find a puppet who was willing to take orders.
vounaros vounaros 4/10/2018 10:26
Finally, the president of FIDE will be a chess player! Makropoulos was a very gifted child who was studying Einstein's relativity at the age of six! At the age of ten swapped his country's (Greece) best players in an unofficial match at a chess cafe in Athens -though he lived until then in Crete where there were almost no chess books nor decent chess players to teach him. ...he was of course Greece' champion almost every time he competed in the official matches as well. Marina Pogorevici, Romania's Women Chess Champion, admired him for his chess talent and character that went on to marry him, a marriage that was forbidden by Romanian government since they didn't want to lose their champion... The marriage finally got place after negotiations of Greece and Romania and the help of Fide! Those romantic times... He was going to be Greece' first GM but he organized the chess Olympiad in 1984 so well that the participant members asked him to organize the next available Olympiad as well -making Greece the only nation that managed such an accomplishment except Russia. He was also asked to run for vice presidency in the next elections, which he did and was warmly accepted for the position. The second Olympiad in 1988 was once again greatly successful but his participation in fide meant that he would abandon his chess career...
jaberwocky jaberwocky 4/10/2018 01:17
The other "world game" (soccer) has had plenty of troubles with top management. Let's hope that chess can do better.
lwolf123 lwolf123 4/10/2018 12:58
If they want more corporate sponsorship, the head of Fide should not have any association with Kirsan. I think most chess players would agree with Talhaunted's comment.
daftarche daftarche 4/9/2018 11:25
why do some people want nigel short? can they explain the logic behind their choice?
artegall artegall 4/9/2018 11:20
Unfortunately, FIDE has never been an independent, fair-minded organization. Removal of the little oligarch is a start. Kasparov would have been a brilliant choice but dirty money runs the sport. The fact that Belarus is hosting the FIDE Congress says it all. A good world chess organization is a long way off.
Talhaunted Talhaunted 4/9/2018 11:18
This is good and not so good news. For sure Makropoulos towers above Illyumzhinov for that job. But most of mankind does by now. The head of FIDE should also relate to the reality of what being a chess player is. This is not trivial. The head of FIDE should be a "past" chess player, somebody who understands. In Nigel Short, we have the ideal candidate for that. Would Makropoulos agree with that premise and facilitate the selection of Nigel for that job?
kyi kyi 4/9/2018 11:05
Karpov is a good candidate for FIDE president since he is not very controversial and can be accepted by majority of the supporters both left and right. Kasparov cannot be accepted by Russians because he is the political opponent of Putin. Russia is still a formidable chess force and still need their support to be successful.
amarpan amarpan 4/9/2018 10:53
I would support somebody like Jan Timman.
michaelriber michaelriber 4/9/2018 10:43
We need an Icelandic FIDE president again. Johann Hjartarson, perhaps?
bbrodinsky bbrodinsky 4/9/2018 10:34
We need a low-key, calm, soft-spoken person to run FIDE.... like Nigel Short.
cloudmann cloudmann 4/9/2018 09:53
I would vote for Kasparov in a heart beat!
Dutch Windmill Dutch Windmill 4/9/2018 09:37
Nigel Short for president.
That would be interesting!
Dutch Windmill Dutch Windmill 4/9/2018 09:36
Why is it so difficult? Eeeh, look for example at the Fifa. Powerhungry people surround themselves with powerhungry friends. Not much to be done, just hope that a decent fellow (Max Euwe for example) comes around and tries to solve the mess.
SeniorPatzer SeniorPatzer 4/9/2018 08:29
Makroupolous is probably corrupt as well.

Why is it so hard to drain the swamp in FIDE? It's ridiculous.
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