Most of the attention since yesterday has been on Garry Kasparov’s announcement of his candidacy for FIDE President. What has been lost on most chess websites is Kirsan Ilyumzhinov’s bid for re-election. Ilyumzhinov has been the head of FIDE for the past 18 years and is seeking another four years. There was an awkward moment when at the end of his hour-long address he was asked to give a definitive answer on his candidacy. After a moment of levity, he stated, “Yes. The answer is ‘yes’.”
Kasparov’s quest for the head FIDE post came amid speculation about his aspirations. For the past 20 years, Kasparov has been at odds with the FIDE establishment and has worked on the last two campaigns to unseat Ilyumzhinov. Despite Kasparov’s role in opposition, Ilyumzhinov completely crushed both Bessel Kok (96-54) and Anatoly Karpov (95-55). Kasparov has put together his team and is already on the campaign trail. It will be the toughest fight yet for Ilyumzhinov.
Ilyumzhinov announced his re-election bid at the end of his address at the 84th FIDE Congress in Tallinn, Estonia. He spoke for an hour on a number of issues including the administration’s successes and pledged US$1million for the Chess-in-Schools program (made similar donation in 2010). He emphasized that he has spent US$70million of his own personal fortune during his tenure. However, the pressure has certainly increased as many have spoken on the lack of stable sponsorship. The Economist released an article recently about the state of chess and spoke dismissively about its prospects of being a marketable sport. This will be the focal point of the next election.
Ilyumzhinov will have on his side the stabilization of the world championship cycle (although the women’s cycle is still flawed) and to showcase this success, he will spare no expense and effort to make the upcoming Viswanathan Anand-Magnus Carlsen match a rousing success. This event will no doubt give him the biggest stage to display his platform. Kasparov will undoubtedly be in Chennai, India for the match and will also seek an audience. The chess match has begun!
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov’s Presidential Address
at the 84th FIDE Congress in Tallinn, Estonia.