What does 2018 hold for the FIDE Presidency?

by Dylan Loeb McClain
11/5/2017 – The election for the presidency of the World Chess Federation is a year away, but there is already intrigue swirling around whether Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the current president, can or will run again. Though Mr. Ilyumzhinov recently lost a no-confidence vote by the executive board, it is not clear that will be enough to dissuade him, and the acting president, Georgios Makropoulos, has ducked repeated questions. Dylan McClain updates on the current situation.

Mega Database 2018 Mega Database 2018

The "Mega" is the database every serious chessplayer needs. The database contains 7.1 million games from 1500 to 2017, in highest quality standard, full of top level analyses and completely classified.


Wayward President

Last month, when the executive board of the World Chess Federation met in Antalya, Turkey, it voted, 37-20, to recommend that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the federation’s president, not seek re-election in 2018. It seemed to mark the end of the reign of the man who has led the federation since 1995.
Or did it? The vote suggested that Mr. Ilyumzhinov has lost a lot of support among the delegates that he would need to win another term. But the vote was nonbinding and left unanswered many questions. Among them are: Why was the vote nonbinding? Does the federation have the power to stop someone from running from office? If Mr. Ilyumzhinov were to run for the presidency again and win, what, if anything, could or would the executive board do?

FIDE Congress

Participants at the 88th FIDE Congress in Antalya last month | Photo: FIDE

Unfortunately, efforts to reach Georgios Makropoulos, the federation’s deputy president, to answer these and other questions were unsuccessful as Mr. Makropoulos did not respond to repeated requests to be interviewed by phone and also did not reply to questions submitted by email.
Mr. Ilyumzhinov had retained a tight grip on the presidency for more than two decades. He had easily been re-elected six times, despite spirited challenges, including defeating Bessel Kok, a Dutch businessman, in 2006, and the former world champions Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov in 2010 and 2014, respectively.
But in November 2015, the United States government levied sanctions against Mr. Ilyumzhinov, charging him with aiding and abetting the government of Bashar al-Assad of Syria by laundering tansactions through Russian Financial Alliance Bank, a bank that the American government said Mr. Ilyumzhinov controls.
Two weeks later, Mr. Ilyumzhinov announced that he was stepping aside temporarily to fight the sanctions and handing off all responsibilities as president to Mr. Makropoulos. What that meant turned out not to be so clear.
Mr. Ilyumzhinov did not attend the world championship match in New York City in November 2016, but that was because he was barred from traveling to the United States by the sanctions. In all other respects, he seemed to carry on as he had before the sanctions were announced. When the women’s world championship was held in Tehran, Mr. Ilyumzhinov was there to inaugurate the ceremonies in February 2017. And when Tan Zhongyi won the title in April, Mr. Ilyumzhinov presented her with the trophy. He also continued to travel extensively as part of his duties “as president.”
As Mr. Makropoulos did not reply to the questions that were submitted to him, it is not possible to find out what were the duties he had assumed as acting president, and which duties Mr. Ilyumzhinov had ceded. An email sent to Mr. Ilyumzhinov’s office in Moscow seeking an interview and / or answers to these questions received no response.

FIDE congress executives

From left: Executive Director Nigel Freeman, Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos, President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov | Photo: FIDE

Last March, the federation suddenly announced that Mr. Ilyumzhinov had resigned, an announcement that Mr. Ilyumzhinov quickly disavowed. There followed an extraordinary meeting of the executive board in Athens in April, in which the executive board re-affirmed its previous decision to have Mr. Makropoulos assume Mr. Ilyumzhinov’s duties. The board also publicly reprimanded Mr. Ilyumzhinov for making statements criticizing the executive board and in which he seemed to be once again assuming control of the federation.
That was the situation before the recent executive board meeting in Turkey.
For decades, the federation has been dogged by accusations of corruption, partly because of the opacity with which it runs its operations and also how it conducts its elections. The recent meeting in Turkey failed to provide any clarity about Mr. Ilyumzhinov’s status and about who might lead the federation after Mr. Ilyumzhinov’s term ends in 2018, if, in fact, he is not able to, or does not run.
As the apparent acting head of the federation, Mr. Makropoulos’s refusal or reluctance to answer questions makes it difficult to know what is going on. Perhaps he plans to succeed Mr. Ilyumzhinov. If that is the case, so far he seems to be following the path blazed by Mr. Ilyumzhinov and Florencio Campomanes, Mr. Ilyumzhinov’s predecessor, by being opaque and unresponsive to questions about what is happening in the federation. 

Dylan is an editor for Les Echos, the French business newspaper. Formerly, he was a staff editor and chess columnist for The New York Times.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register