A simple observation about FIDE politics

Ahead of the FIDE election in Tromsø, I was of the impression that Kasparov did not have a real chance. I am not sure anymore. The desperation of the FIDE officials in their evaluation of the mess with the Norwegian organisers and the teams who did not put their list of players forward is what convinces me that this might indeed be rather close.

Kasparov obviously had nothing to do with preventing the Russian women’s team playing. It has been known for a while that the Norwegian organisers are short on cash and that they feel that FIDE has added on extra expenses to the whole thing. If a team participating costs € 10,000, you can easily find motivation to exclude 10 countries from participating.


After a number of years with steady growth in top tournaments and less and less conflicts with top players, my feeling is that no matter who wins the election, our future in the game looks fine. 2014 has not been as good a year as 2013. The candidates tournament was less interesting, but maybe the match will be more interesting. But mainly there is an absence of top tournaments and an uncertainty relating to the grand prix.

That chess is in a better place at the moment is mainly due to a few positive developments:

Malcolm Pein and his work for Chess in Schools in the UK and now Europe (includes the London Chess Classic). Reliant on a single sponsor.

St Luis Chess Club and all the things they are doing in the states. Reliant on a single sponsor.

The 2012 World Championship match and 2013 Alekhine Memorial. Reliant on a single sponsor.

The FIDE Grand Prix. Reliant to a great extent on the Russian and Azerbaijani state coffers.

2013 Match. Reliant on State funding in India.

Kasparov says that he will (can?) bring in corporate funding. We have none at the moment. It would be a good addition. It would be nicer funds to get, but we should not lie to ourselves and forget that a lot of corporate wealth is based on working with the Russians, the Azeris (BP) and so on. It would be great to get someone like Apple to sponsor chess; but their wealth is to a great extent built on cheap Chinese labour. Wherever you look, you will find something hard to pallet with the way sports are funded. The idea that getting money from dictators is bad, but getting money from those who have become rich from trading with dictators is ok is not obvious for me.

But I am generally just brainstorming to give you guys a chance to comment. I am more interested in hearing opinions than forming them.

24 thoughts on “A simple observation about FIDE politics”

  1. Do the Canadians not have it right on the money?

    “”With respect to the GK campaign team, you have not respected the Canadian Chess Federation executive and have at each step behaved offensively and disrespectfully. Your actions have been sneaky and undemocratic. You turned an ally into an opponent. I dread the consequences for Canadian chess and world chess if you succeed in your aims.”

    I can’t believe anyone could think a man who behaves like this is fit to lead a governing body. “It’s not fair”…….”You’re starving me” (said in Africa, of all places).


  2. I never felt we had even one excellent candidate, but I do not feel we are in a poor situation and I do not fear that we will be after the election either. But of course, this is just an ill-informed belief.

  3. I am not really sure what Kasparov is meant to have done poorly in that situation. It is well-known that he does not play against over-2000s in simuls. Someone sneaked in, basically cheating and Kasparov feels this is unfair, because he takes these things seriously. I would rather that he cared than if he didn’t. Especially for the guy who made a draw!

  4. @Jacob Aagaard
    I don’t think it is correct behaviour to have a tantrum like a child, like that, and then say “You’re Starving Me”, in Africa of all places, and let someone video him having a tantrum. I think someone like Karpov would have acted with a lot more decorum.

    I saw Kasparov act similarly when some child approached him for an autograph at the London Classic a few years ago. “Wait your turn in the queue, like the others”, when it would have cost him nothing to sign while the lift went up a few floors.

  5. @Paul

    This is not relevant to be a candidate or not. Moreover, if he agreed something with the organizer, I think that he can be angry if it is not agreeded (of course he could have a better response.

  6. I’m agree with you Jacob, I think that Ilyumzhinov corruption is so big, that kasparov will have no options, although I would like he will be able to win, because it will be better for chess.
    Independent of moral discussions about from where the money comes, I think it will be easier that ministers of main countries will wellcome kasparov that to a guy that have photographs with gadafi, assad, etc. and that says that chess was created by extraterrestrial live.

  7. Jacob Aagaard

    I am not sure Kasparov will be a better choice. If he is elected, I hope he will be. Otherwise I hope he will continue the good chess in schools work he is doing. Or some of it. I know of at least one place where FIDE was wanting to start a chess in schools program, but had to fight Kasparov’s organisation for local grants. This is clearly about politics and not about securing funds for chess.
    Kasparov is clearly a package deal. Very complex character. Kirsan is a front for the Russian governement. Almost a beaurocrat if you like. Chess and Russia has been intertwined for almost a century. I am not sure this connection is going to break anytime soon.

  8. Jacob Aagaard

    I understand he is upset. I think others, me included, would have acted differently. But as I said: it is a trade-off. He really cares. Which makes the draw that the last guy achieved much more valuable. You cannot have it both ways. So, I disagree with you on this one. Kasparov did not swear, he did not walk away in protest or anything. He just felt humiliated. And rightly so. Cameras can make all of us look stupid.

  9. Jacob Aagaard

    I see good and bad in both candidates. I think we will be ok no matter who wins. I am glad I do not have a vote, as I have no idea who I would vote for!

  10. It is not gonna be worse with Kasparov, I hope he will win, at least he is more famous so it’s possible he could bring new sponsors to chess. And Kirsan had his chance (20 years??), it’s time for a change… But if Kirsan wins I have no problem at all

  11. @tonifa
    I hope you are right and you might be. But if you look at his history, you have one broken relationship after the other and failure to find sponsors for his own matches in the late 1990s. I think he was more a product to sell than a salesman. But maybe things have changed? You can always hope.

  12. Michael Bartlett

    I would love to see a candidates tournament come back with 20 or so participants like the good old days.

  13. friendly lurker

    St. Louis* Chess Club

    Rex is a huge benefactor, yes. Instrumental in the cash outlay to open the club. From what I’ve seen the club is designed to be self-sustaining ongoing. As in everything, we shall see.

  14. 1. GK and the simul – I see the problem with being whomever lied/cheated and played. Really is just not on. Limit is agreed, that must be kept. Of course he is annoyed at being tricked. Reaction not ideal, but he cares.
    2. GK v Kirsan.
    Potential sponsors Google the FIDE President, with whom they are considering doing business, investing considerable sums of corporate money.
    Item One: One they find to be a claimed alien abductee, there is a murder allegation which is murky – Larisa Yudina, he has hung with despots, and appears to be a Putin proxy of sorts. “Hmm, not ideal. ” thinks the CEO of a mega-company. “A 20th century retro despot thing happening? Shareholders will not like that. Public will not be keen. Better to pass on the chess. How about golf? Or Scrabble?”
    Item Two: Other is a former world champ. “Ooh, chess, clever, world champ, good for corporate image, a winner, an eloquent chap too it seems” (they watched the US chat show clip). That will sell. Rock that.” Phone call ensues – “Hi, yeah, Garry, about chess, FIDE, we have an idea….”

  15. Jacob Aagaard

    This is the theory. Practice was that when he was the World Championship he failed to hold qualification for his second cycle (1995-2000) and when he got a challenger he did not like, he just chose the loser. The main argument was all the time: money. No sponsors. Wrong match. And so on. Do you really think he considers Anand-Carlsen the right match?

    I might be wrong, but history does not show that this Kasparov argument is obvious. But hopefully things have changed. I would like to believe so, but I cannot say I am not concerned.

    Basically, we have very little history of corporate sponsorship in chess. We have quite a bit of history of wealthy individuals who like the game sponsoring. I am not sure Kirsan is damaging that.

    This is why I think apples and oranges. It is a difficult job and there are no ideal candidates.

  16. @SimonB
    Is there not some statistic that 1 in 25 Americans claim to have been abducted by aliens?

    Intel seemed to learn the hard way about dealing with GK……..many stories that they walked away because he decided to play the IBM Deep Blue match (pocketing a ton of cash for himself in the process). He also did not seem to be able to find a sponsor for his match with Shirov, wishes he’d played Short in Manchester (council sponsoring) so not sure why we should be optimistic today.

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