Nigel Short runs for FIDE President

by Conrad Schormann
5/10/2018 – Nigel Short wants to become FIDE President. In 2010 and in 2014 Short supported the campaigns of Karpov and Kasparov. It's been a while since three candidates ran for president in the FIDE elections, but now Ilyumzhinov, Makropoulos, and Short are all in the running. CONRAD SCHORMANN recounts a bit of history and shares his opinion of what is bound to be an interesting period in international chess politics. | Photo: British Embassy in the Kyrgyz Republic

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FIDE President Nigel Short?

Nigel Short wants to become FIDE President as he recently revealed in Aftenposten (Evening Post), Norway's largest newspaper. The announcement of the former World Championship challenger comes just in the middle of a fierce mud-slinging contest between current office holder Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and his deputy Georgios Makropoulos. Short is the third candidate who has thrown his hat into the ring and looking to win the FIDE elections in October. "Chess deserves a better alternative," the 52-year-old former World Championship challenger declared.

Ever since the Filipino Florencio Campomanes became FIDE President in 1982 the history of the World Federation of Chess has been full of dubious characters and substantial crises. But the most recent plight is still without parallel, probably as life-threatening as the one in the middle of the 90s, as the era of Campomanes was near its end, and we witnessed a rundown FIDE, corroded by corruption and intrigues. But back then FIDE at least had a bank account. Today, it no longer has. [FIDE's account with its longtime bank UBS has been closed and Treasurer Adrian Siegel in a letter dated May 9th states that FIDE has "found a solution via a trust company which has taken the money", without providing any further details. -Ed.]

A puppet for politics and business

In 1995, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, previously unknown in the West, appeared on the scene. He had just been elected President of the Republic of Kalmykia, was well connected to the new Russian elite, and willing to spend large sums of money to help get chess back on track. As president, Ilyumzhinov also travelled the world in support of the interests of Russian politics and business, and he is the last guest of state both Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein ever received — which all could be easily ignored (and was) so long as the money flowed. And in the last 20 years, most non-chess related media preferred to report about Ilyumzhinov's self-confessed encounter with aliens instead of screening him seriously.

A few months before the death of Muammar Gaddafi, Ilyumzhinov paid him a visit in Libya

Ilyumzhinov might also have been one of the last guests of state of Syria's ruler Bashar al-Assad if Russia had not strongly intervened to back Assad in power. But the US Treasury Department did not believe that Ilyumzhinov had visited Syria to make chess more popular in a country ravaged by civil war and instead suspected that Ilyumzhinov's links with the Russian Financial Alliance Bank, said to have been involved in financial transactions with Syrian banks in support of the Assad government warranted his inclusion, at the end of 2015, on the Office of Foreign Assets Control's Specially Designated Nationals List.

Banks do not want money from FIDE

This caused problems for FIDE because people on the sanctions list do not have credit at international credit institutions. The Swiss bank UBS which FIDE used for its financial transactions threatened to block the accounts of the World Chess Federation should Ilyumzhinov remain in office. Several times FIDE obtained extensions but in February, 2018, UBS drew the line — FIDE's account would be closed at the end of April. FIDE had made inquiries at a number of other credit institutions but did not find any bank that wanted FIDE's money while Ilyumzhinov was even-nominally in office.

Since late 2015 Makropoulos has handled FIDE affairs, but Ilyumzhinov wants to remain president | Photo: FIDE

The rift between Ilyumzhinov and his former backers around Vice-President Makropoulos culminated in the ultimate demand of the FIDE presidential board that its president should resign from office. But Ilyumzhinov will not go quietly into the night, and though he has let Makropoulos handle FIDE affairs since the end of 2015 he continues to travel all around the world for his re-election campaign, most recently through Asia and Africa to enlist support (or "buying votes" as his critics would claim). Finally, after a number of antics, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov recently announced his team, which includes an American who uses a pseudonym, and a woman who was purported to be a princess from Thailand.

Team Kirsan: Fake candidate and fake princess

Ilyumzhinov had to hand in the résumés of his fake candidate and his fake princess for the board meeting of the Russian Chess Federation where it was decided whom Russia will support at the FIDE elections in October. For months it was speculated that Russia would nominate a candidate of their own, perhaps former world champion Anatoly Karpov, to continue to pull strings at FIDE. In February, Andrey Filatov, billionaire and President of the Russian Chess Federation, had refused to support Ilyumzhinov and rivaled him at the elections for the top of the Russian Chess Federation. That triggered rumours that Kirsan's days as a global Russian puppet were numbered.

A powerful man in Russian chess: Andrey Filatov | Photo: André Schulz

However, the Russian chess powers that be, with Filatov as president, still voted for Ilyumzhinov and his "team", unanimonously, too. A surprising decision that for the time being defies explanation. Maybe (and that is speculation) Russian politics would like to continue the narrative of an American conspiracy against Ilyumzhinov. It would fit that according to Aftenposten the Russian embassy has already tried to reach out to the Norwegian Chess Federation (and who knows to whom else?) to secure support for Ilyumzhinov.

The end of the FIDE as a functional organisation

If you look at the man and his team and considering the US sanctions list, you do not need any inside knowledge to see that Ilyumzhinov's re-election would be the final end of the FIDE as a credible organisation capable to act globally. And if you then look at the structure and culture of FIDE elections (each federation has one vote, no matter how big or small the federation is, and the votes of the small federations are naturally less accountable and susceptible to bribery) you do realize that ever since the Russian vote for Ilyumzhinov his re-election remains the most likely scenario, no matter the consequences.

Nigel Short sees the matter differently. "Now it's a three-horse and not a two-horse race, that is a completely different story," the British grandmaster told But if he wants to have a chance he at least has to unite all European and North and South American federations behind him, while hoping to be able to catch some votes elsewhere. Here it might be helpful that Short is a globetrotter and that he is known and popular in many of the smaller FIDE countries.

And Europe? Even the president of the Norwegian federation expressed some doubts when talking to Aftenposten: "I know Nigel Short as an excellent chess player. But I am not sure whether he would be an excellent president," says Morten Madsen. Short cannot even count on the support of the English federation. The English delegate, Malcolm Pein, a friend of Short going back to their junior days, also wants change but had already decided to join the camp of Makropoulos.

"Terminate contract with Agon"

At the end of May, Short wants to present his team and further supporters, and until then he wants to lay low. But he's already made public one important concern: "I want to see end of the Agon contract. It has brought little or no benefit to FIDE and I believe has cost FIDE a huge amount of money in lost opportunities".

Ilya Merenzon

Ilya Merenzon in 2016 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Agon is the chess marketing firm Ilyumzhinov brought to the fore in 2012 which, under the name "World Chess", holds the rights for World Championship matches, the Candidates Tournament, and the Grand Prix, and which so far has struggled to find financially strong (Western) sponsors. The online presentation of the recent Candidates tournament in Berlin was cocked up so spectacularly, that you could not even watch the games for the first round on the official site. Major features were listed as "coming soon" throughout the event's duration.

For the World Championship match, slated for November in London, Agon presumably continues to search for sponsors, and yet on the official website, you cannot even see who will be playing for the title. Instead, one can learn that the top three of the world's top ten players are 1) Magnus Carlsen, 2) Hikaru Nakamura and 3) Veselin Topalov. [This has never been so. -Ed.]

World Chess screen shot, retrieved May 10, 2018

Recently, Ilya Merenzon, the CEO of Agon, talked to the German newspaper Handelsblatt and praised Ilyumzhinov's foresight in managing to keep his organisation operational, despite those pesky sanctions. For Merenzon, the problem is rather that Ilyumzhinov hasn't properly communicated that his presidential authority now rests with Makropoulous.

At least, as far as communication is concerned, Ilyumzhinov and Makropoulos now have a powerful rival. Short is considered to be someone who is not afraid to rub someone the wrong way, never minces his words, and does not shy away from conflict. But does he play chess politics as well as he does chess itself? In this discipline, Ilyumzhinov has defeated no less than Karpov and Kasparov.

One thing's for sure, it's going to be a hot chess summer.

Translation from German: Johannes Fischer


Conrad Schormann, skilled newspaper editor, runs an agency for editing and communication in Überlingen, at Lake Constance. But he lacks time to play chess which is partly due to the fact that he very much likes to write about it, for Chessbase, in the Reddit chess forum, or for his chess teaching blog Perlen vom Bodensee...

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fons3 fons3 5/13/2018 02:00

Banks are either afraid or simply complicit with US policy.

While a WTO signatory may decide, on national security grounds, to restrict its trade with another country, there is no legal basis for one state to impose sanctions against another over business that the second state conducts with a third country.

Sanctions are a form of warfare, but without guns.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 5/12/2018 06:50
@FREE_MARIO_MASUKU and @chronograph, I am also confused by this banking issue. Are there no safe banks in the world who will accept the FIDE account with Illumzhinov on the US sanctions list?
bbrodinsky bbrodinsky 5/12/2018 04:59
I can’t support Short’s candidacy. I mean, the guy beats around the bush, he never has definite opinions on anything, and is wishy washy on issues..... The truth is, I hope he doesn’t win because he’s the best darned chess magazine writer of all time and I’m afraid he will leave his job at NIC if he wins.
fons3 fons3 5/12/2018 03:03
The hysterical anti-Russian propaganda from the mainstream press is contagious. Yes Ilyumzhinov is out, we get it by now. You can stop with the hit piece articles. I'm sure Makropoulos -who was already running the show for years anyway- will make everything better.

StEustache StEustache 5/12/2018 05:16
I didn't like all comments Short said about Women playing chess. I disagree about is candidature.
Talhaunted Talhaunted 5/11/2018 08:37
Message to jrcapablanca4ever
Capablanca deserves better. You seem to forget that FIDE is about chess. After the disaster years of Illiuzhimov and his predecessors, FIDE seems to be about politics and people living from chess instead of promoting it.
If you think that chess cannot be improved, little do you know or understand about the subject. We should judge those guys by the level of awareness of what could and should be improved. Ask any top player, he or she will have a long list of suggestions and complains. They matter. With Illiuzhimov or Makropoulos (and you), it will stay more of the same.
This election is an opportunity for an overdue change and Nigel is among the candidates the only one who offers hope. He is the only one who was a top level player. They know things you apparently do not...
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 5/11/2018 07:26
The candidacy of Short will be harmful to the candidacy of Makropoulos. Makropoulos would be a decent president. Makropoulos as a single candidate against Kirsan has better chances. Kirsan still has some cards in his sleeves. If the goal is to replace Kirsan by a decent president, Short would have been more efficient in campaigning for Makropoulos.

Also, Makropoulos is less polarising - the job requires diplomacy.
RevTiberius RevTiberius 5/11/2018 06:04
@michaelriber: I know what you mean. I happen to be agreeing with many of Nigel's opinions (or, rather, he seems to be agreeing with many of mine), but I totally understand that he easily rubs many people the wrong way. Nonetheless, given the rampant corruption and incompetence at FIDE, he'd at least have a chance to bring the change the chess world so desperately needs. Especially if he runs on a British-German unity ticket with Ullrich Krause ;-)
DDaniel82 DDaniel82 5/11/2018 12:09
Good luck, Nigel! I hope you win!
chronograph chronograph 5/11/2018 12:00
Are there no banks in Kalmykia?
michaelriber michaelriber 5/11/2018 11:24
From what I know of Short, I don't like him as a person, but literally anything would be better than Ilyumzhinov or Ilyumzhinov 2.0.

"You do not need any inside knowledge to see that Ilyumzhinov's re-election would be the final end of the FIDE as a credible organisation capable to act globally.". Exactly. 100% right. If that happens, the top players should start their own rival organization like Short & Kasparov did in 1993, when they took the real world championship title with them and exposed FIDE for the corrupt mess it is.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 5/11/2018 10:28
It will be Short and it will be short.
jrcapablanca4ever jrcapablanca4ever 5/11/2018 09:57
It is surprising how people here can count up to 1-2 moves!!! Let's put it simply.

Kirsan against Makropoulos alone is definite to lose. He lost a vote in Presidential Board 14-1! He lost Executive votes too. All voters in Executive and Presidential Board are a big gallop for elections, since they vote for FIDE, not players. Result, Makropoulos has more votes from Kirsan.

Kirsan against Short alone is definite to win. He won Karpov and Kasparov, two much bigger chess idols, who are not rude and hated like Short! They lost with 70-30, Short will be lucky to get half of that.

Kirsan against Makropoulos and Short:
a) Russia is in open Cold War with UK and US, so Kirsan probably gets the money he searches for to bribe federations.
b) West votes split a bit
c) If second round is Short against Kirsan, Makropoulos votes go easier to Kirsan - Short loses
d) If second round is Short against Makropoulos, Kirsan votes go definitely to Makropoulos - Short loses
e) If second round is Makropoulos against Kirsan then why the hell did Nigel Short run? To split west votes and help Kirsan find funds for bribes?

Obviously the first person that Kirsan would like to give a bribe, would be Nigel Short. Not for his votes, if he has any. Just to run.
большое спасибо Найджел Шорт
(thank you very much Nigel Short, in Russian - and of course those who support Short must be thanked too, they make Kirsan richer and give him chances to win elections)
Lovuschka Lovuschka 5/11/2018 07:19
English humor or a real attempt on becoming president? Hopefully the latter, as the FIDE requires change. Although the newest developments are already great - Saudi-Arabia accepting the existence of Israel, for example, which could lead to Israeli masters soon playing in the FIDE tourneys there - but then I was ten years ago willing to spend my time with all those politics, but not anymore. It is too tiring. Yet Kirsan is dangerous, there are too many bad rumors which can easily be found on the internet. It would be good if FIDE had a president with integrity, and personally I would love to see Andrey Selivanov as FIDE president, but he won't candidate for it - his Vice presidency already is a great gain for chess composition. Nigel Short will be great also, if he manages to win, but I hope he will also continue to spend money for chess composition. In the past years we see less and less money coming in for artistic chess...
So my favorite is Nigel, then Makropoulus, and Kirsan is last. But for what it's worth, the chances of Kirsan not being re-elected are as small as those of Hillary not winning the 2016 U.S. presidency election...

One thing admittedly however is that Kirsan, who has that certain political experience and reputation, is a bridge between the west and the Arabic and Russian chess-political world.
Any president coming after Kirsan will have to be as cunning in international politics, being able to do the spirit of "We are one!" [meaning humanity is one people that should be united in chess], or as it is called in Latin, of "Gens una sumus!"
The recent developments in Saudi-Arabia are great. But would they have been possible without Kirsan? And, of course, without the new prince of the Saud?
susiep susiep 5/11/2018 07:08
Personally, I'd sooner vote for the crook than for the homophobic misogynist, but I won't blame you for disagreeing.
calvinamari calvinamari 5/11/2018 04:42
Kirsan is a crook of epic proportions and Makropoulos is his longtime henchman and aider and abettor. Nigel may not be perfect but he has a lot of pluses, and frankly anyone who stands reasonably upright and has to opposable thumbs is better than the other two options.
Mr Conrad Schormann should have started this article by affirming his support to Nigel Short's presidency, just so the readers would have a piece of mind on what to expect next.
I'm not sure about Ilyumzhinov and I do love Short and I think FIDE could be well served by a real globe trotter, lifelong chess player and a gentleman as such, by all means. On the other hand a free-thinker won't accept counsel as a first cup of tea of the day and it is unclear Short's position on Middle Eastern, South Asian, Russian and Northern African countries chess-wise, while it is going to be expected to push Centre European and American countries programs.
Nevertheless a bank or any banking organizations or institutions shouldn't have any saying about the election of a non-profit organization such as this one. Clearly the agenda of the party involved is much deeper than just managing chess. Misinformation runs rampant as usual and I'm not sure who we can trust. Do you? lol
Kpawn Kpawn 5/11/2018 02:45
As long as he promises not to do away with stalemate I would be for Nigel.
david gonzalez david gonzalez 5/11/2018 02:36
Like the man said,you can not have a different outcome doing the same thing.Makrokirsam has been in power since 95,Short is not them and very important,he is an honest person.
royce campbell royce campbell 5/11/2018 01:35
NIGEL!!! Perhaps he heard our call in the comments to previous articles!!
Talhaunted Talhaunted 5/11/2018 12:52
Message to Malcolm Pein:
What does he think is the most precious commodity in Chess. He may never have thought of it thoroughly. Let me help him: the top level players. It is them that attract spectators. It is them that inspire young players. It is them who make chess eveolve. It is also them that are forgeotten in the politics of the presidency of FIDE.
What does Ilyumzhinov or Makropoulos or you understand about them??? They are not in the position to come out publicly and complain. But believe me they have a lot of good reasons to do it.
Solution? Start by putting as head of FIDE not a business man or somebody who likes chess or want to exploits the naivety of the rest to have an ego trip like Ilyumzhinov, make a difference and realize the importance of respecting talents. Only top level chess players qualify. I respected you up until now. It is time you show that you really take chess seriously...
Talhaunted Talhaunted 5/11/2018 12:34
I cannot believe the comment of Malcolm Pein about Nigel Short. He does not seem to realize how bad the alternatives are and how crucial and important the well-being of the top players is for the future of chess. He obviously is not a top level player, otherwise he would realize that the FIRST criterion for the choice of president of FIDE is somebody who understands their perspective. He could be a good second. But he seems to think that ability to deal with administrative matters is more important. If that is true, he is part of the problem...
Hhorse Hhorse 5/10/2018 11:27
Absolutely Fantastic! FIDE needs to be taken out of the hands of oligarchs and stopped from being a money laundering machine. It is a tall order for Nigel but he may very well pull off a Ilyumzhinov-xit.
RevTiberius RevTiberius 5/10/2018 11:07
An excellent choice. He should consider making Ullrich Krause his running mate! While I'm doubtful as to the chances of Short's candidacy, I think I speak on behalf of most chess players when I wish him good luck and all the best for his candidacy.