Dvorkovich curries favour with the players

by Macauley Peterson
10/3/2018 – Last month the Association of Chess Professionals endorsed him with high praise, saying "it's time for a change" and in Batumi, Arkady Dvorkovich has been making a strong final push to woo delegates and players alike. The latter group don't get to vote, but here's why they ACP says they support him. | Pictured: The Kazakhstan Women's team of Assel Serikbay, Guliskhan Nakhbayeva, Dinara Saduakassova, Gulmira Dauletova, Zhansaya Abdumalik | Photo: David Llada

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Who speaks for the players?

Chess players are not generally thought to represent a potent force in chess politics. But of course, they are the real stars of our sport, a fact which is most evident at a spectacular event like the bi-annual Chess Olympiad, so any candidate to run FIDE should have their interests foremost in mind.

In the last days of the FIDE presidential campaign, Russian candidate Arkady Dvorkovich spared no expense to make his presence felt around Batumi, renting out a local poolside lounge bar to hosting lavish parties, and handing out gift bags to the participants in the playing hall which contained a portable set and clock.

Gift bags

Gift bags for all, containing...

Dvorkovich previously won the endorsement of the Association of Chess Professionals board, which declared their unanimous support. The ACP lists nearly one thousand members on its official site (which lacks information on when it was last updated), and is the closest thing the chess world has to a players union or lobbying body.

In their September endorsement, the ACP calls the move, "an unprecedented stance in the history of our association. Never before had ACP supported any candidate, feeling that we should remain neutral in the political arena".

The group cites dissatisfaction with FIDE management, a lack of attention to "anti-cheating" concerns, and the World Championship cycle, noting "the last title match saw the highest budget for such an event ever but also one of the lowest prize-funds in modern history. That is simply ridiculous."

The ACP advocates more tournaments for women, support for veterans, stability in the FIDE calendar and reforms such as term limits for the president, and making the General Assembly an annual event, rather than only every two years.

After Round 5, here in Batumi, ACP President Emil Sutovsky elaborated a bit on why the ACP believes Dvorkovich is the best choice for players. We transcribed his remarks below:

Sutovsky speaking after his Round 5 win | ChessBase India YouTube

"We have been all the time neutral in every election and this is the very first time we support anyone, but this time we simply  couldn't take a neutral stance because we really believe the regime that has been running for — you know Mr. Makropoulos, with all due respect, has been for 32 years in office, as a vice president as a deputy president as a person who has actually been running nearly all the things under Kirsan and we think it's time for a change. It has been a long time actually for a change. I remember back in 2006 I had been supporting Bessel Kok -- not from ACP but just as a grandmaster -- and back then twelve years ago I already claimed that it was time for a change.

Now it can't really continue and we felt it is very important to underline the feeling among grandmasters. According to what we took, not everyone supports Dvorkovich — some players support Short — but I didn't hear any player, and 2650 player who would support Makropoulos' team. Really people are out for a change. Things are not very well wrong and they are not managed properly and that's why we felt it's our duty to express it.

Personally, we have held many many meetings with Dvorkovich and I have to say he listened to us very carefully. We discussed in detail every item that is important for us — and there are a lot of them...and basically Mr. Dvokovich supported all the ideas we have aired. He also promised to allocate the necessary funds for, lets say, the anti-cheating program, which requires such funds, and also to improve regulations and we feel it's a chance for chess. I cannot imagine what chess is going to do if we stay four years more with the same team. I think it's just going from bad to worse."

While the players are busy pushing wood tomorrow, the General Assembly should be wrapping up its first day in session, and we ought to finally know who will govern FIDE for the next four years.

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Macauley is Editor in Chief of ChessBase News in Hamburg, Germany, and producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast. He was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.
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