SEPTEMBER 3 — In the end, it was a crushing defeat. The 13th World Champion Garry Kasparov's bid to become FIDE (World Chess Federation) President not only saw him losing 110-61, but his candidates in all other positions were also soundly defeated
Kasparov had campaigned on a platform of change, promising to bring Western-style democracy and sponsorship to an organisation that had clearly stagnated after 19 years with the controversial Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in charge.
The signs had been promising as late as two months before the election which was held in Tromso, Norway, at the FIDE Congress held concurrently with the World Chess Olympiad.
Kasparov believed he had a majority despite Ilyumzhinov often shadowing him, in the company of Russian ambassadors, to places where he had often never before visited.
For months, lyumzhinov had shamelessly used FIDE resources to campaign and go around the world,
But by the time August came around and the campaign moved to Tromso, it had become clear that the cause was all but lost as a well-funded professionally-run team had no chance in a world where Russia had thrown its considerable diplomatic muscle behind their Russian colleague and together with other incumbents were prepared to ignore all decorum and rules.
A case in point was Asia where Team Kasparov had 28 sure votes and was looking to reach 32, a huge win with 48 at stake.
But with Russian intervention, Mongolia, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar were lost through a combination of proxies being taken or delegates replaced!
Then the incumbent Asia President, Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifah Al Nahyan from UAE adopted similar tactics as well as considerable largesse to ensure a united Arab vote and naturally India and the majority of that sub-continent also fell in line, again with liberal taking of proxies and change of delegates, some like Afghanistan even having its Federation administratively removed.
Closer home and very sadly and shamefully, Malaysia went back on its promise, Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib sacrificed his own Deputy President and Secretary by going back on supporting him in a position on the Asia ticket and Indonesia's vote was even stolen, its delegate showing up in vain at the ballot box.
While Africa rose as promised, only beaten 20-22 through use of proxies, it was the same continued whitewash in Latin America and the Caribbean where so many delegates are existing FIDE officials despite not living or enjoying citizenship of the countries they represent.
And Europe, which traditionally threw its weight against dictatorship, showed that they were tired of always being on the losing side.
It remains to be seen if Kasparov will want to try again but without significant change in how FIDE operates, it is difficult to see how he can ever win and yet for FIDE to change he has to become its president.
For sure it is early days yet with wounds still raw but what is clear is a few things could happen that might change the equation.
Already we are witnessing what Kasparov had warned about with the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP) concerned enough for its president to write the following open letter:
Open Letter to FIDE President Mr.Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
Dear Mr President,
The most recent developments around the World Championship Cycle (men and women) that concern all the top players and global chess community leave me no other choice but to address you publicly with this open letter. There are several issues that require an urgent action — I will present them one by one.
1. World Championship Match
We all know, that it took a lot of time and effort to find a venue and funding for the World Championship Match. Finally it was announced that the Match will be staged in Sochi, Russia. In the absence of other bids, the prize fund was decreased almost by 50 per cent , compared to the last World Championship Match, but, no less importantly, there are still quite a few uncertainties regarding the Match, that led to a deadlock - as a result, the contracts have not been signed so far. Unfortunately, I have to admit, that even being a member of the Commission for World Championships and Olympiads of FIDE (hereinafter referred as WCOC), yours truly is not updated with the real situation, and greatly concerned about the lack of transparency and the possible consequences.
Mr President, I call you to make everything possible in order to resolve all the disagreements, and not to let the chess world divide, as it happened in the recent past.
2. Grand Prix series
The FIDE Grand Prix series that serve as a qualifier for the FIDE Candidates Tournament also raise a lot of concern. While here the prize fund was also decreased by about 50 per cent, there are other issues to be resolved as well. The whole Grand Prix cycle that was supposed to be confirmed by the end of 2013 was only confirmed in August, and the players have just one week to confirm on their participation. That is especially disturbing, given that the time control stipulated in the contract differs from the one supported by the players (see the ACP poll) . It doesn't make major difference for the organisers (after all, the game would last the same number of hours), but it is disturbing that top players' opinion is ignored again and again. I have raised this issue in WCOC several times, but got no reply. There is a hope that after this letter the things might change.
3. Women's World Championship
It is shocking to see no official news for the Women's World Championship scheduled to start in 1.5 months. Sixty four ladies are supposed to take part in this most prestigious competition, and they can neither prepare for the event, nor to accept invitations to other tournaments in September-November period. Having no official news about World Championship tournament just a few weeks prior to its commencement is unheard of, and I ask you, Mr President, to confirm or postpone it officially without further delay.
Dear Mr President, as you see, there are several urgent issues, and on behalf of the ACP and the global chess community, I ask you to take all the necessary steps in order to restore the order in the chess Kingdom.
The ACP President
See more here.
This was on top of an earlier complaint agreed to be taken up by ACP to FIDE protesting irregularities in the participation of non-qualified players in the Women's Grand Prix currently being held in Sharjah, UAE.
I cannot speak for Kasparov but he should well understand that change can also begin from the bottom, with grassroots programmes that grow the base and throw up talent, and also develop public, corporate and government interest.
With real development, eyes will be opened and perhaps even facilitate the possible renewal of too many non-performing leadership of national chess federations.
FIDE now belongs to Russia but also to the extent that Vladimir Putin can get its oligarchs to continue its finance because Ilyumzhinov has conclusively showed in this election that his promises of money are not real and already there are signs that they would prefer having another Russian at the helm and four years might even be too long!
Gens Uma Sumus (We Are One Family).
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.