SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Anatoi Karpov, 20 years old, playing Ken Rogoff in 1971
He has almost run for the FIDE presidencey on several previous occasions, but backed down at the last moment. Despite his enormous world-wide popularity and respect, Anatoli Karpov felt that the incumbent FIDE president’s money was a tough obstacle to overcome. However, in the past few years Karpov has struck it rich in oil, and is now reputed to be the chess world’s first billionaire.
The real question is this: will Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
want to run against Karpov’
The FIDE Presidential elections will take place during the General Assembly of the FIDE Congress, held during the 39th Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk in September this year. Up until this past weekend, no one had come forward to put himself up as a candidate.
All this changed Sunday when Karpov landed at the airport of Saratov, Russia for a simul and a meeting with the local governor. According to the local news agency, SarInform, Karpov announced that he has the ambition to become FIDE President.
The next FIDE president?
“It is necessary to restore order,”
the 12th World Champion reportedly said Sunday night. ”The problems with the World Championship, the calendar, changes of decisions, changes during a cycle, this didn’t happen before. Besides, the prestige of the World Champion should return to its old level.”
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov; President of the Kalmykia Republic; has a mansion in Toronto
The problems in FIDE are profound and many. In previous blog articles on this site, I have written about the need for change at the top, underlining the complete failure of Kirsan’s almost 15 years as head of the international chess body. While sincere and affable, the FIDE presidency has been surrounded by people who have allegedly been more concerned about getting rich themselves than in implementing Kirsan’s policies.
Not that these policies have helped chess in any case: speeding up the game and reducing the quality of chess has cheapened the value of both the GM title and our chess heritage.
Aggravating this situation has been the declining position of chess in the new cyber world: much fewer people play chess than has ever been thought (on the internet you can actually count visitors to sites!) and as a result sponsors have been fleeing the chess world. Today the World Championship title lacks the prestige and charisma that it once held.
It is felt in many quarters of the chess world that Anatoly Karpov is the only person capable of bringing FIDE and the game of chess out of this downward spiral. Having been world champion for 10 years (1975-1985), establishing the most winning record in tournament chess history, Karpov has since involved his time in humanitarian issues.
It will not be new that a former world champion become FIDE president, Max Euwe having been so between 1970 and 1978.
Max Euwe awarding Bobby Fischer the World Championship (1972)
Many feel that Max Euwe was able to establish stability, prestige and respect for the game during his reign. It is considered the golden period of FIDE. Since that time, with the brief exception of Olafsson being FIDE president (1978-1982), FIDE has been run by charismatic third world presidents, more interested in promoting their own causes than in the welfare of the game.
Florencio Campomanes, FIDE president from 1982-1995
However, things are never that simple: since 1982 there has been an enormous explosion of chess in the third world, especially in Asia and Africa. The problem is that most of the third world does not care about western principles of democracy, and FIDE presidents have exploited this, bringing FIDE to become considered little more than a backward organization run by dictators. Europe and North America, especially, feel ignored by FIDE.
It rests to see, however, if Karpov actually registers his candidacy for FIDE presidency. No doubt there will be considerable pressure not to do so by the current FIDE leadership. Decisive will be whether the current Russian president, Dimitry Medvedev, will voice his preferance. Most certainly after the recent debacle in Vancouver, the Kremlin will want to see a radical house cleaning in sports.
My bet is that Kirsan will try to negotiate a power-sharing scheme with Karpov, as he did with Bessel Kok in the 2006 FIDE campaign. As we all know, Kok has been marginalized since then, almost having completely disappeared from the scene.