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Opinion on the Situation in Modern Chess and FIDE Politics

By GM Evgeny Sveshnikov, published in Shakhmatnaya Nedelia (Chess Week), Russia
English translation by GM Alexander Baburin, first published in Chess Today No. 951of 16 June 2003.

3:1 in Favour of Swindlers

In an interview to the Russian sports newspaper 'Soviet Sport' and then at the Assembly of the Russian Chess Federation in Dagomys, the FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov made a proposal to change the system of point-scoring in chess: a win should be awarded with three points, draw – with one.

During a break at the Assembly I came to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and asked: "Are you serous about this proposal or was it a joke? Have consult with any of the World Champions or Grandmasters?". He thought for a while and then said: "We shall discuss this at the General Assembly of FIDE." I decided that most likely the FIDE President was joking and also jokingly replied: "If FIDE votes for this proposal, I will have to create an alternative Chess Federation!".

One of the journalists in Dagomys called Ilyumzhinov's idea an attempt to shift the attention away from the real problems in chess. Indeed, today 'drawing death' is not a threat in chess: everyone fights – in closed tournaments to stay there, in opens – for higher prize. Also, the knockout system works well in chess.
Upon hearing the news, GM Yuri Balashov replied wittingly: "Why to give just 3 points for a win?! Give at least 4!". If the proposal will be accepted, the likelihood of 'game throwing' will increase dramatically. I can say that with the 3-1 system there will be people still playing fairly, but with the 4-1 system even they would have to play without draws!

For and Against K. Ilyumzhinov

What I like about the FIDE President

  1. He loves chess and understands them well. During the Russian Championship in 1994 I witnessed how he watched for 2 hours the game Tiiviakov-Scherbakov. Ilyumzhinov chose the most interesting game in the round and the little-known (then!) names of young players did not put him off.
  2. He is a true citizen of his country. During the military attack on the Parliament building in October 1993 he was there with a white flag, trying to stop the conflict. I think that was the best reaction for a civilised man.
  3. Unlike Garry Kasparov and former President of Russian Chess Federation Andrei Makarov, who believed that chess should not receive state funding, Ilyumzhinov in one of his interviews said that the state benefits from investing in chess. I agree with that.

What I do not like about the FIDE President

The main problem is people surrounding Ilyumzhinov. The question begs itself: how many games one needs to buy and sell in order to become his assistant in FIDE or even FIDE Vice-President? Perhaps this sounds too harsh, but we see in his team such people as Crisan and Azmaiparashvili, who bought whole tournaments! This is an open secret and they don not deny it themselves. How is it possible that these people are in the leadership of FIDE?

It bothers me that FIDE leaders such as Kutin and Makropulos during chess events simply don't get out of casinos. One can claim that this is their private business, but on the other hand I cannot trust them with FIDE money!

Difficult to find trust-worthy people in chess? Maybe, but we have such GMs as Salov and Seirawan, who command high respect amongst their colleagues. Why are they not working in FIDE? There are many real problems in chess, which they could help solving. Here I would like to outline just a few requiring the urgent attention of FIDE.

Urgent Matters

  • World Championship and qualifying tournaments;
  • Bringing sponsors and investors to chess;
  • Separation of the classical and rapid chess;
  • Organising of individual and team World Championships in rapid chess;
  • Integration of rapid in chess in Olympiads
  • Improving of the rating system, introducing ratings for rapid chess.

Chess games have commercial value; therefore tournament regulations should have a clause about property rights on games played in the tournament. If such a clause is omitted, then players should be proprietors of their games by default.

We need to increase the role of chess professionals in the workings of FIDE. In the past few years we saw so many changes in the rules of chess! Surely, life is changing, but all alteration should take place only upon approval by the Player's Council. We cannot trust only bureaucrats and arbiters to change the chess rules. The Players' Council should also control awarding of chess titles. And we need to know the FIDE budget and how it is spent. We should not forget about junior chess and social problems of chess professionals and trainers. Surely this list could be continued. FIDE should assign people to deal with each issue, have a clear and transparent budge and set deadlines and performance control checks. Is this difficult? Yes, but this is what FIDE is for!

All text Copyright Alexander Baburin unless otherwise noted