SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
So it is official! Former World Champion Anatoly Karpov has announced his candidacy for the highest FIDE office. He held a press conference earlier today during the European Championships. This bold step has been anticipated for more than a week, when rumours first began circulating. No doubt the current FIDE President, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, will consider this nothing less than a declaration of war!
Here is a video interview with Anatoly Karpov from today. (Please forgive the 10 second embedded advertisement!)
Rijeka, March 12th
Anatoly Karpov announced his candidature for the FIDE president
Today a press conference was held during the visit of the Ex World Champion Anatoly Karpov at the 11th European Individual Men and Women’s Chess Championship in Rijeka. The meeting was attended by grandmaster and journalist Vlado Kovacevic, the president of the Executive Committee Damir Vrhovnik and one of the best chess players of all times Anatoly Karpov. It is important to mention that this conference was transmitted live through the official Championship web site.
The introduction was given by Vlado Kovacevic who explained the importance of the arrival one of the most important chess figure in the history at this Championship in Rijeka. Karpov was welcomed by the president of the Executive Committe Damir Vrhovnik who pointed out that it is an exceptional honor and pleasure to host a worldwide famous chess player whose arrival represents a great recognition for the organizers and also for Rijeka and Croatia.
Grandmaster Karpov annonced his candidacy for the president of the World Chess Federation and pointed out that he is ready to use his chess fame around the world. He said that if he became the president, his first step will be the Federation’ reorganization as well as finding a major sponsors that will allow accoure more efficient FIDE activities. Karpov considers that it is necessary to remove the current negative FIDE image in the world, and that the main thing is to respect our own rules.
He note that by now he founded numerous chess schools and clubs all over the world, and than he recalled the times when he was the world’s leading chess player. On the question of how to restore the old glory of chess, Karpov said that the national federations must highlight the big names of world chess so they could obtain new sponsors.
“I was at Croatia 30 years ago, and the organization of this Championship in Rijeka delighted me. The organizers provided ideal conditions for a large number of players and so I congratulate them for the excellent organization“, Karpov said.
MORE PHOTOS FROM RIJEKA
Photos courtesy of European Championship organizers
It was in Paris 1995 that Kalmykian President Kirsan Nikolayevich Ilyumzhinov was introduced to the FIDE delegates for the first time, and thanks to Karpov’s support (and Kirsan’s wealth) that a new FIDE President was elected. It was felt that FIDE was entering into a new and more prosperous period.
Since that time, even though Kirsan has injected millions of dollars of his personal (?) wealth into FIDE, introduced wide ranging changes to the rules of chess and re-structured the World Championship system, it is widely felt that FIDE has failed to keep up with the times.
Today FIDE is considered a laughing stock incapable of representing the game of chess. Though most hold a high opinion of Kirsan, it is felt that he has allowed himself to be surrounded and influenced by men only interested in their own personal interests. Stories of corruption and wrong doing abound.
But with the rumours of Karpov’s impending candidacy for Kirsan’s position (concretized earlier today) , a sense that historic change is about to happen in FIDE and an optimism that I have not seen for quite some time, has developed. The web has been abuzz with hundreds of stories related to Karpov.
But what are Karpov’s chances?
During the past 15 years Kirsan has cleverly extended his web of political contacts and business interests thru-out Russia and beyond. Despite several scandals and hic-ups, Kirsan’s position has never been stronger. His ties to the Kremlin are deep. Kirsan wields enormous wealth and power.
In the world of FIDE, Kirsan has not been shy to use his wealth to maintain his grip on power and control. At several Olympiads he has showered thousands of participants with gifts. On a zonal scale , it is thought that he has paid millions for votes from Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The last FIDE election (2006) only Bessel Kok (Belgium) dared run against him, and it was very easy for Kirsan to win because Kok was not willing to spend his own money. It is rumoured that the election was decided 5 months before it was actually held!
It is clear that if only Europe supports Karpov’s candidacy then Kirsan will win the 2010 elections hands down.
However, several important factors are different this time around and may work against Kirsan. First, Karpov is now a very wealthy man (having struck it rich in oil), possibly even wealthier than Kirsan. Will Kirsan be so willing to spend millions on his campaign if he thinks that his opponent will spend more and win? And second, who will the Kremlin really support?
The recent failure of Russian sports in the winter games in Vancouver has created a tsunami in the Kremlin. With the winter games in Sochi just around the corner (2014) and the Russian government having already committed themselves to investing billions, the Kremlin has started a complete housecleaning of all sports organizations. Will this spirit of change mean that Kirsan will be viewed as someone whose time has come to leave?
Should the Kremlin give their support to Karpov (if it has not already been given!) instead of Kirsan, then in coming months it is possible that Kirsan will lose much of his 3rd world support.
Exciting times in world chess are just ahead!
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS