The election speeches

6/5/2006 – On June 2nd 2006 the FIDE General Assembly held elections for the President of the World Chess Federation. As reported the incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was challenged by Dutch businessman Bessel Kok. Ilyumzhinov won the election clearly by 96 votes to 54. Before the election both candidates received 15 minutes to address the General Assembly.

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The FIDE General Assembly and election


The FIDE General Assembly, where the President will be elected


The board, with the incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov (back row, middle)


Back row: former Deputy President Emmanuel Omuku,
Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos, Preisdent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, honorary President Florencio Campomanes. Front: Continental President for Africa Mr. Nizar Ali Elhaj, Continental President for Americas Jorge Vega, Continental President for Europe Boris Kutin.


Delegates, journalists and visitors


Bessel Kok (middle) and advisors in the audience


German GM Eric Lobron with his girlfriend Carman Kass, Supermodel


Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifah Al-Nehyan, candidate for Asian Continental President


Bessel gets support from supermodel Carmen Kass


In the late afternoon both candidates were given the opportunity to address the General Assembly. A toss of the coin determined that Bessel Kok would go first.

Bessel's Speech

Mr. President, Dear Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today is a crucial day in the history of the World Chess Federation FIDE. 82 Years after FIDE was established in Paris we are gathered here in Torino and required to make one fundamental decision: and that decision, ladies and gentlemen is to make a CHOICE. A choice between status quo and a new FIDE!

First the status quo

In other words: You have to ask yourself the question, whether you as a delegate wish to continue what we are doing in FIDE today for another four years or may be even longer. Whether you wish to continue a FIDE with the same Management team. With the same circle of people managing the Chess World from crisis to crisis from conflict to conflict. And with a Management Style, where the principle of if you are not WITH me you are AGAINST me is deeply rooted. Where the culture of loving chess has been overshadowed by small politics and favoritism. Where “deal making” has become common practice…Where decisions are made by very few people behind closed doors and democracy is often heard but seldom seen… Where we have forgotten that we have to serve the Chess World not to dictate her…

You also have to ask yourself the question whether FIDE’s claim to play such a crucial role in the development of Chess in emerging and small nations is a correct statement… Because to all these delegates of countries for whom the development of Chess as a sport for the masses is so crucial, I would like to ask the following questions:

  • When did Fide consult you last time on the needs of your Federation?

  • When did you participate last time in a Fide decision other than asking for your vote?

  • How many Grandmasters or trainers have visited your country in the last 11 years?

  • When did you receive the last time assistance from Fide in finding a corporate sponsor?

Ladies and Gentlemen, preserving the status quo??? Do you really want to continue a Chess World where the reputation of the Game, at the professional level, has never been lower? Our game of kings is to day filled with public controversy and failures. Grandmasters and Chess Professionals, the stars of our game have difficulties to have a proper living from chess.

The current dismal state of Chess in the general public’s view drives away corporate sponsors. The world I am from. Corporations want to see stars and heroes; they want to encourage our young people to emulate these examples. Corporations are looking to benefit from the positive image of Chess, but on the Internet one Google search through the key word Chess and the Marketing Managers usually turn their back.

Ladies and Gentlemen, do you really want a status quo and have more of the same??? Or… do you want to use this unique opportunity here, today in beautiful Torino, to make a new beginning? Or to put it even better: to make the right move!!! I believe you should. I really believe that.

Let me briefly explain you why:

The entire chess community has received by now the program of the The Right Move. A comprehensive program with a clear vision, mission objectives and a set of discussion papers written for your approval or amendment and basically covering seven fundamental areas where we believe the transformation of FIDE should take place.

These seven points are the following:

  1. Changing FIDE’s Image into a professional marketing oriented sports federation
  2. Develop FIDE into a Caring Organization
  3. Return to truly democratic principles of decision making with full respect for statutes and regulations
  4. Prepare ambitious programs for Mass development of Chess on a global basis
  5. Optimize the use of information technology
  6. Build a train the trainers program to ensure that Federations have adequate numbers of skilled educators and arbiters
  7. To Respect our professional Chess players through the development of a marketable world championship cycle.

Let me briefly highlight each of this seven point program.

1. Changing FIDE's image

It is high time. Even our opponents in this election campaign agree with this. In spite of generous financial contributions FIDE has not been able to prevent the decline of its reputation. We must end the confusion about the World Title. We must stop shifting calendars. Let us put an end to internal and external conflicts. Let us recreate an image of FIDE as a truly democratic, transparent and professional sports federation. Let's tell the international corporate sponsors that we have made a new start and seek their support in building Chess as a wonderful marketing tool. I have had several discussions with institution such a British Telecom, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, KPN and many others. Improve your image is their message. Put competent people in place who love the game and know their jobs.

2. Develop FIDE into a caring organisation

Let us care about our Federations, especially the small and emerging ones. Let us not exclude a troubled country for a few hundred dollars when we are discussing a million dollar title game. Let us not exclude but help. Let us accept that we will make mistakes, let us apologize if it is needed, let us accept criticism and above all let us give our people compliments when they do a fine job. Let us understand that our main reason of being here is our passion for Chess, not to preserve our power or position. Ladies and gentlemen, let us change FIDE’s corporate culture.

3. Return to democratic principles

From day one The Right Move has asked Fide to return to simple and concrete rules of democracy, transparency and accountability. Let us review the statutes and regulations but above all let us respect these. Let’s review the adequacy of the current work of our committees and when needed make it more efficient as our German colleagues propose… Let's work prepare the way to have an annual General Assembly allowing us to meet more frequent with our delegates and ask for approvals…


Kirsan Ilyumzhinov listening to Bessel Kok's speech

4.Develop chess on a massive basis

The Right Move is committed to promote Chess in emerging countries. This is a top priority in our program. Our team has traveled thousands of miles in the last six months; we met Ministers of Education, Chess Players, delegates, potential sponsors and chess lovers all over the world. We understand the immense opportunities that Chess offers for the education of our children. We understand the needs for development in schools and communities…. And I believe we can bring you experience. Ali Nihat Yazici has proven what has been achieved in Turkey, Leo Battesti has gained a vast experience in Corsica. The Right Move proposes to benchmark these success stories, assure sponsorship funding and implement elsewhere.

5.Utilization of information technology

Since Information Technology and Communication is my professional background, I risk to be too long on this subject… So a just a few highlights of our program.

You would almost think that Chess, IT and the Internet have been created for each other. But still, somehow we seem to fail to explore the full immense potential of the modern media and Chess. One of the first things The Right Move will undertake is the creation of a modern, professional Internet Presence with full communication and community building. Not just for FIDE but for all our member countries. This web presence will help developing countries to find sponsors for their chess activities.

It is evident in this age of technology that we have to develop a FIDE Web Portal. This will have the functionality for direct communication between the Federations. It will allow Fide to consult or poll its members and (why not?) allow Chess lessons. Again a sponsor in the telecommunication sector must underpin this project and then we should move it into success.

6.Training the trainers

Training, training, training – the most frequently used word in the Olympic Village… Whether during the sessions of the commissions, whether during the lunches. Ensuring that Federations have adequate numbers of skilled educators, including arbiters is a vital part of the TRM program.

I highly respect the work which has been done so far by FIDE. But I do believe we have omitted to explore a unique opportunity. The availability of a growing number of international masters and Grandmasters for training purposes. A Grandmasters Training Group, carrying out training missions worldwide under the FIDE umbrella coordinated by our Chess Excellence Centers is one of the dreams I wish to turn into reality.

7. Restore the respect for professional grandmasters

I know this last point is a delicate subject for me to defend. Back in 1989 in Puerto Rico, my old friend Michael Botvinnik told me that when delegates talked about me they said: Bessel is from the other side… And the other side was represented by the grandmasters…. Today that expression is still heard and I regret it. How can a Sports Federation, where the grandmasters are the ambassadors, qualify this group as “the other side”? Or as another delegate once put it even stronger: Grandmasters are there to play, we are here to govern…Ladies and gentlemen, and these times are over.

In the Right Move team we had several Grandmasters helping and guiding us when preparing discussion papers. Our Grandmasters are the external image of the Game. The influence of our top players on the willingness to sponsor our game is undeniable.

And so is the formula of the World Championship. The Right Move has worked out new ideas for a World Championship cycle, restoring successful formulas from the past and introducing a system of each national champion player participating in the qualification rounds. All these papers are for discussion and have been discussed with a number of potential sponsors. But, and I make this very clear, when approved we will fully respect FIDE commitments towards players and organizers for the current World Champion ship cycle.

Ladies and gentlemen, these were just a few highlights of our programme. My timeslot of 15 minutes does not allow me to go into more detail….

I started this speech by saying that you have a choice. A choice between the status quo and change. This program of The Right Move is our way to change. And as my friend and deputy Ali said: we will not only say what we do, we will do what we say. And if we do not deliver, we will resign..

Dear delegates, it is time to conclude with two remarks:

First of all, in the last three days the legal advisers of FIDE and The Right Move have worked hard to establish a voting system, which in my opinion is fair, honest and secret, and I thank them for that. I have discussed with both of them and you may be assured that the secrecy of your vote will be fully protected.

My closing remarks are words of thanks: First of all I wish to thank all the countries that gave us their overwhelming support. In particular, the small group of courageous nations who embraced our ideas from the very beginning: Thank you for your pioneer role in getting us of the ground and making us what we believe today a majority movement.

I also want to thank the French chess federation for offering to FIDE (if we are elected) Paris as the new headquarters – Paris, where we started, back in 1924.

Second of all I wish to thank my entire team for eight months of very hard work: Ali, Geoffrey, Julio Ingolotti, Panupand, Leo Battesti, Ferial and all my other advisers, too many to mention, for their great work and wonderful team spirit. I will never forget this.

And thirdly, I wish to thank a very special man present here to-day. And that man is the President of FIDE, Kirsan. I want to thank him for two things: First for your immense financial contribution he has given to this game he loves so much. Second for the personal dignity he has personally shown towards me during this campaign. I think the president was an example.

Kirsan, let me make one thing clear and that is a equally a message for our delegates.Whoever wins these elections today will face a large minority tomorrow. It will be our duty and responsibility to carefully listen to this minority and keep the Chess World united after elections. For that you can count on me and I know that I can count on you.

Let me close with the wise words of Garry Kasparov, in the last letter to you: "The delegates now have the ballot and with it the opportunity to make history, to move chess into a professional future. Just make the right move!

Thank you for your attention.


Kirsan Ilyumzhinov had already addressed the audience in the morning, with a speech on the financial situation in FIDE. There he had outlined the achievements of his presidency in the last ten years. His election speech was very short. It was greeted by tumultuous applause by a number of delegates when it was over.

Kirsan's speech

I want to thank Mr Bessel Kok for his nice speech, and nice words. Thank you very much. Dear delegates, dear friends, now I want to speak about my program, [which] many of you have. During these ten years I worked with you. first of all I want to thank very much everybody who worked with me during these ten years. You could see during these ten years my work, and you could see that always I was open for everybody, I was open for unity, because my main principle is peace, my main principle is to work for chess.

What is my program? My program is ten hard working years for chess. My program is ten hard working years for the unity in chess. Now I want to work for chess. Why? Because chess is not only my job. Because chess is not only my hobby. But because chess is my love, because chess is my life for ever!



After the speech delegate proceed to vote


Waiting for the vote count: left Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, right Bessel Kok


Carol Jarecki, delegate from the British Virgin Islands, announces Kirsan's victory


Kirsan is congratulated by Alexander Roshal and Florencio Campomanes


Bessel Kok talking to Jackie Ngubeni after the lost election

Photos: Olena Boytsun


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