SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
I read somewhere that today, May 14, the Russian Chess Federation (RCF) was to decide–officially– which of the two candidates for the FIDE presidency it will support. Ofcourse, I have read such things before, and the dates have come and passed …and no such official decision was made. Maybe this time will be different.
We all remember the stink that Karpov’s campaign team made a few weeks back when the RCF president Arkady Dvorkovich
prematurely leaked to the news that the RCF had decided to support the incumbent FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, and that Anatoly Karpov was a good boy with a promising future…It turned out that Dvorkovich–while a close associate with Russian President Medvedev
–was just fishing in the media and trying to give Karpov’s campaign (http://www.karpov2010.org/
) a scare.
We did not have to wait long for Karpov’s team to strike back. Just last week Duma deputy Andrei Lebedev –son of eccentric and controversial Vladimir Zhirinovsky, founder and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia–raised in a half joking manner a question concerning Ilyumzhinov’s well publicized 1997 alien-adbuction incident, and wanted the Russian president to personally investigate the case–perhaps Ilyumzhinov had passed on state secrets!
The international media got a big chuckle from the joke and carried it for several days.
Score: Karpov (1)–Kirsan (1)
As an aside, Vladimir Zhirinovsky— well known for his comic theatrics in the Duma– was the subject of an attempt to have him banned for one month for foul-mouthing the Mayor of Moscow.
Here we can see an amused Putin listening to Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Like father, like son!
Just this week, in an obvious effort to discredit Karpov, an influential Serbian newspaper (“Svedok“ weekly, Belgrade, Serbia, issue 720, May 11th 2010) published a long article taking Karpov to task for being a bit too impressed with himself. Apparently Karpov claimed that he had personally organized more than a dozen children Olympiad-type tournaments.
While the article clearly shows that this was an exageration on Karpov’s part, I can not see many voters sitting on the fence who would be influenced either way. Karpov was involved in many international efforts in Serbia and naturally acquired a few enemies along the way… score: Karpov (1.5) to Kirsan (1.5)
Almost simultaneously to this article being published, Ron Henley–key adviser to Karpov and president of his campaign–penned an article that deservedly received little credibility and was not taken seriously by the media , suggesting or insinuating that Kirsan was corrupt , that many of his dealings were tainted, that Kirsan had tarnished the name of chess, that his campaign was in chaos and what not. Basically, dirty linen and cheap shots.
A blunder by the Karpov campaign? Score: Kirsan (2.5) to Karpov (1.5)
Regardless of what you think of Kirsan, he is an immensely popular figure in the chess world, an icon in his own country and has cleverly extended his list of contacts and network during the past 15 years. Any allusions to anything that might be considered illegal or immoral require a burden of proof on the acuser. Henley (and thru him, Karpov) offered nothing remotely concrete. Just innuendo and rumour.
Personally, I support Karpov’s efforts to become FIDE presidency. I feel that he is eminently qualified for the job, understands much better than Ilyumzhinov the real issues in the chess world, and is very respected and admired universally–inside and outside the chess world. I also feel that 15 years of Kirsan is quite enough. While certainly not the demon that his enemies make him out to be, Kirsan’s role has not been beneficial for the promotion of chess. Sponsors have left the game because there are greener pastures elsewhere. Television is not interested in anything that is not sure if it is a sport or a game. The Olympics as an end in itself is a dead-end ambition for chess, especially given that the Olympics wants to reduce the number of participating sports, not increase them.
In short, it is time for a change in FIDE.
But while I do not doubt that Karpov is the man to lead this change, I am beginning to doubt that his campaign will benefit his ambitions. Organizing glitzy parties in elegant restaurants in Moscow or a VIP in New York will only attract paparazzi or Paris Hilton. Not support from the chess world.
The truth is that FIDE has 160 members, each of them with 1 vote. Kirsan is obviously, as incumbent and past president for 15 years, a BIG favourite to win the election. The Karpov campaign has how many votes committed so far? 10? 15? 20? This is clearly not enough.
The only way for Karpov to have a realistic chance to defeat Kirsan is to go on the campaign trail, in Africa and the Middle East, and Asia. He has to start shaking hands and giving speeches in front of crowds, not cameras. Not making deals with dubious characters like Silvio Danailov. Not allowing his subordinates to pen articles on his behalf that come back and bite you in the butt.
If Karpov wants to make this election about change, then he has a chance to win. But if he makes the campaign on unproven claims of corruption, then he will hand Kirsan the election on a silver platter. If persisting allegations of corruption and even the murder of journalists during the entire time that Kirsan has been president of the Republic of Kalmikia has not taken him down , then surely Kirsan will be able to sleep well during Karpov’s campaign!
In the game of political survival, Kirsan always has the aces!
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS