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.


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.


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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