SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
It is time to move on…
A jubilant Ilyumzhinov (left) leaving the hall after winning a new term as FIDE president
One year ago today few had any no doubt about who would win the 2010 FIDE presidential election: Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, of course! Quite simply, the incumbent president had no rival in the chess world. Some wondered about the very real possibility that Kirsan would simply be acclaimed president for one more term. Then come this February, former world champion Anatoli Karpov decided to run for the presidency.
Karpov entered the race knowing that he was up against great odds. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov–the man that many in the west refuse to take seriously, just as a question of principle–is infact an enormously popular and successful leader. And history in FIDE has shown that such leaders stay in power for extended periods of time.
In the time since FIDE was first created in 1924, there have been only 6 presidents, including the 15 years that Kirsan has already occupied the organization’s top post.
After 6 months of non-stop campaigning by Karpov, however, the former world champion was not able to make any real headway. Fifteen years of being in power had allowed Kirsan to develop a wide and loyal network of support in the chess world that was not interested in listening to what Karpov had to say. Many FIDE delegates looked upon Karpov with suspicion, especially after he decided to make his candidacy a tandem with Kasparov.
Karpov and Kasparov based their campaign strategy on trying to exploit the polarization that exists in world chess (east vs west; rich vs poor; europe and america vs the third world), and conveniently blaming all of the ills that exist on Kirsan. This strategy simply played into Kirsan’s hands, however, as virtually all of Asia, the middle-east and Africa voted for Ilyumzhinov.
The election was effectively over at the end of last June, Kirsan already having privately secured a majority that would ensure his re-election, which took place yesterday. Kirsan won the vote with a 95-55 count. I am surprised that Karpov managed to get so many supporters, to tell the truth.
I will comment only briefly on what happened at the meeting before the actual vote count. The reports that have been published on the ‘net don’t give many details. There was some wrangling about procedures involving declaring proxies. I suggest the readers to take a look, instead, at the Europe Echecs video given on the chessbase site (http://www.chessbase.com/) In that video we can see Kasparov trying to take control of the meeting and demanding a postponement of the vote, only to shouted down by delegates supporting Ilyumzhinov. And other delegates applauding a man shouting Kasparov down. If Kasparov had intended to make a mockery of this meeting as he had of some meeting of the Russian Chess Federation in early May of this year, then he certainly failed. In the end Kasparov had to admit defeat. Call it democracy or what ever you please, but yesterday it was clearly in action, and the majority got their way.
The majority of the delegates wanted the vote to take place. The proxies would not be disqualified. And we all know the outcome: a clear and overwhelming victory for Ilyumzhinov. Karpov has been offered an olive branch, but it is unlikely that he will accept.
Now it is time to move on. The chess world is a very imperfect kingdom, by definition. Chess players do not make ideal subjects, and even worse rulers. Everybody likes to criticize; nobody wants to take responsibilty; chess players don’t want to organize, and when others attempt to organize they get criticized for not living up to the expectations of others! We all know this story…
So it is not surprising that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has so many critics.
The chess world , however, would be a better place if those critics actually took the time to open their eyes and listen to what Ilyumzhinov’s supporters have to say. It is only too easy to label Kirsan’s supporters as corrupt and ignore them. This is what Karpov and Kasparov did. Look what they won from this!
No, the chess world is divided not just by its chronic problems, but by the arrogance of its critics. Problems need to be solved, not exploited for personal gain or spiced-up for election rallys. Had Karpov run a campaign on positive changes , instead of one that painstakingly emphasized polarization and failings, then maybe this morning when the chess world wakes up there would not be that bad taste in everyone’s mouth. The type of taste that sends the message ”The chess world today is no better than it was 6 months ago.”
This is Karpov’s legacy.
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS