A Blast from the Past: FIDE 2010 Election
Selling FIDE’s Soul…
The more things change, the more they remain the same! This article was originally published on August 10, 2010 at the height of the 2010 FIDE presidential campaign. I present it again today so that the reader can get some insight into many of the issues that the present day FIDE continues to struggle with.
And I want to leave the reader with this observation: almost 10 years later, some things have gotten better, but over all the situation has deteriorated — especially with respect to sponsorship issues, chess’ declining prestige and visibility and finally FIDE’s lack of transparency and accountability.
One of the most easily criticized aspects of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov’s 15 year mandate as head of FIDE has been his failed efforts to commercialize chess and FIDE. In the first case, FIDE has not generated one penny of sponsorship or business in the process, and secondly–and perhaps more controversial–the actual rights to the commercialization process have been removed from FIDE’s direct control and sold to individuals with a glaring conflict of interest (ie. the FIDE president himself!).
Ilyumzhinov’s first attempt was the creation of FIDE COMMERCE which was given–without any real discussion–a 30 year right to control every aspect of the commercialization of FIDE. It is thought that Florencio Campomanes held a large stake in this company, without having to invest any money! In the picture above (November 10, 2000) we can see Ilyumzhinov leaving the FIDE congress where the said contract was officially approved. LINK
Campomanes and Ilyumzhinov: set up FIDE COMMERCE as their own personal property. This first attempt did not succeed , and was eventually forced into closure. Quite simply, it generated no money! For those interested in more details, please read Eulogy on the demise of FIDE
In the years since, Ilyumzhinov has created other shell companies trying to exploit the commercialization of the rights to chess. Bessel Kok’s Global Chess and David Kaplan’s CNC are just 2 of the latest efforts that come to mind.
Of course, as we all know, there are no major international sponsors interested in sponsorship ventures inside or outside of FIDE.
No doubt a large part of the explanation is the difficulty in exploiting chess as a marketing vehicle in the world today. And the saga of continued scandals and in-fighting within the chess world itself does not help the situation any.
Today Karpov’s campaign site (link inactive) carries a small article that , once more, brings into question the legitimacy of Ilyumzhinov’s efforts with respect to controlling the commercialization rights of FIDE (one is justified in asking if such things really exist, however!). I present this article:
Kirsan’s Agenda or FIDE’s Agenda?
August 18, 2010
“FIDE has published the agenda of the 2010 General Assembly in Khanty-Mansiysk, which will run from September 23 to October 4. We would like to draw your attention to one item in particular, under Section 6) Directors’ Reports. The only mention of the CNC Project in the document is here, where it says:
”6.1.1. CNC Project.”
”Deputy President G. Makropoulos to inform the General Assembly.”
This project, which gives the opaque David Kaplan company CNC complete control over every commercial aspect of FIDE, the rating list, titles, and more, will not be discussed, debated, or otherwise opened to the General Assembly. Instead, the Deputy President will simply “inform” everyone that Kirsan has surrendered FIDE’s potential to develop a successful commercial program that could support the national federations instead of taking from them.
So once again the federations lose. And who will benefit? Even if CNC becomes the first of Kirsan’s various schemes to succeed, it is unacceptable that the member federations and the chess community are being kept in the dark about whether or not Kirsan or any of his board members hold shares or positions in CNC.
If they do, there is a huge conflict of interest. In effect, they would be transferring authority and potential revenue outside of FIDE oversight and into their own hands through CNC. And there is no doubt that any revenue that actually did come in would go first to CNC and its directors and last, if ever to FIDE.
Again we demand answers about the composition of CNC and its relationship to Global Chess and Chess Lane, two other enigmatic commercial entities launched by Kirsan’s FIDE that have produced nothing but failure. Who are their board members? Do any top FIDE officers have ownership stakes or positions in these companies? If this is such a grand project, why has FIDE been so secretive about it?” (END OF KARPOV ARTICLE)
Ofcourse, the reader must keep in perspective that Ilyumzhinov (nor any one else, for that matter) has not made one penny from all of this. Infact, he has invested millions of dollars of his own money! So it is difficult to accuse him of much more than being a bit too enthusiastic…
The Prague Agreement
The so called ‘Prague Agreement’ of 2002 was meant to restore the damaged image of organized chess in the eyes of potential sponsors. Kasparov leaving FIDE in 1993–and taking the World Championship title with him–created more problems than FIDE or his newly created organization (PCA) could handle.
INTEL’s money soon disappeared and Kasparov quickly realized that the corporate world would not accept the co-existence of two separate World Championship titles. Microsoft was approached and seemed interested for a short while in 1999, but it later withdrew.
A big show was made of an agreement of principle that aimed to unite the chess world. But it was too late: the damage done looked permanent! (Note: the readers can find much material of interest at LINK )
The Wild,Wild West
When Kasparov left FIDE in 1993, it was not only Kasparov and Short that reaped the immediate financial benefits–Karpov also profited: he once more became ”world champion”. For the next half-dozen years or so Karpov, naturally, did little or nothing to try to help solve the political abyss that was created.
But more curious than this, many of the elite players of the time were busy trying to screw each other over and over again, also trying to personally exploit the situation and pocket undeserved cash: first Shirov (who legitimately earned the right to challenge Kasparov for the world title) was pushed aside in favour of the very man that he defeated (!) in the process: Kramnik. (Kramnik played the match with Kasparov, decisively defeating him in 2000).
While all of this back stabbing was taking place, Anand tried to get a match with Kasparov (1999) that a Silicon Valley based company was interested in (rumours point to Microsoft), and he was payed $200,000 not to participate in the 1999 FIDE world championship tournament in Las Vegas while negotiations were still in progress.
The eventual winner of the FIDE Las Vegas world championship was Khalifman, who was attacked by Kasparov for being a chess ‘tourist‘. Not unsurprisingly, Khalifman soon found out that there were no invitations for him, despite being World Champion!
In an interview at the time Khalifman explained the irony of the situation that existed :
”…. as for round robin tournaments… it’s not something I want to go into in great depth, but it turned out that for some reason they didn’t invite me. So you get a funny situation: the World Champion, one of the very highest ratings… others are invited to round-robin tournaments, while I’m not….”
And of course, with this as a back drop, Valery Salov–one of the world’s top 5 gms and perhaps the most outspoken critic of both FIDE and Kasparov–was silently forced out of professional chess.
In an interview that this blog carried, Salov said that Kasparov worked behind the scenes to eliminate all of his invitations. Not one of the elite players ever spoke up about this. All were too busy –in the chaos that existed–trying to grab everything that they could for themselves while the law of jungle was in effect.
Fast forward to today, you can perhaps understand that the reason sponsors are not very interested in chess is not entirely the fault of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. True, Ilyumzhinov has done little beyond bringing back the title of World Champion under the auspices of FIDE, but many of the elite players of the world have behaved little better than whores for the past 15 years, thinking not of the general good of their colleagues or of the promotion of the game but instead of their own personal interests–regardless of conscience!
Karpov, Kasparov and Short might have joined forces in an effort to take over FIDE, but it very much appears that the vast majority of the chess federations in the world do not have confidence in them after the mess that was created in the 1990’s.
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has many detractors and critics, but in a choice between two evils, he has emerged the victor. The FIDE congress in September will see Kirsan extend his leadership of the ailing organization for another 4 years.