The buildup to the 2014 FIDE election in Tromso, Norway was so tense you could feel it in the air. As representatives from 176 federations filed into the Universitetet i Tromsø (UIT) auditorium there was a buzzing of excitement. However, it was a matter of time before the meeting had to address controversial issues during the campaign.
Ironically, most of the meeting centered around the well-known case of Gabon and the violation of it constitutional voting rights. The founder of the Gabonnaise Chess Federation Bartholemy Bongo was unceremoniously replaced as a delegate by FIDE. He alleges that this was discovered that the board was removed once the federation was found to be supporting Garry Kasparov.
George Arko-Dadzie, President of Ghana Chess Federation,
raising an inquiry about Gabon.
Kasparov also weighs in on several issues including that of Gabon.
The Chess Drum ran a story on the issue which the issue became a legal battle. This set off a series of frantic exchanges with a number of authorities. Dr. Jean-Claude Essis Essoh spoke on behalf of Gabon (since Bongo was no longer a valid delegate) and asked how there was such a change made.
The FIDE Electoral Commission (headed by Margaret Murphy of U.S. Virgin Islands) had to address how they arrived at the decision. Both George Arko-Dadzie and Githinji Hinga of Kenya also pressed the issue on this matter. GM Nigel Short accused Murphy of evading the question of how they decided to retain a delegate who apparently had little documentation.
Nigel Short was on the attack concerning
the AGON agreement with Andrew Paulson.
After the roll call, there was a coffee break. One could obviously see strategies and tactics being laid out. When the session reconvened, GM Short raised a point about the dealings of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and his role in AGON. The FIDE President denied any complicity in these dealings. After indicating that Ilyumzhinov had a conflict of interest, Short later asked about the sum of $500,000 that AGON owed FIDE. Nigel Freeman deflected this by stating that the circumstances of the Grand Prix event being cancelled resulted in a deference of payment.
A showdown occurred between Dr. Jean-Claude Essoh of Cote d’Ivoire and…
…Georgios Makropolous seen gesturing.
Another contentious moment in the meeting also involved an African nation as Dr. Jean-Claude Essoh of the Cote d’Ivoire demanded to know why FIDE has neglected and ignored African concerns. He cited that there were only five trips this year to Africa… all being in the election year. Georgios Makropoulous had little patience for his line of questioning since he had pressed issues earlier and at the African Assembly. He told Essoh sit down and wanted him to relinquish the microphone. Essoh refused and stated that he would not relinquish the microphone.
“I am a dues-paying member of FIDE and I have the right to be heard.”
~Dr. Jean-Claude Essoh, Cote d’Ivoire Delegate
Ilyumzhinov waved his hands to indicate that Essoh should speak, but Makropoulous kept asking for the microphone and even hinted at having him removed. After a standoff Essoh decided to relent, but he attracted several interviews afterwards to get his point amplified even more. What was his point? Here are his words… coming near tears at the very end.
“I was trying to give him an opportunity to recognize with me that the situation of chess in Africa is dire. There is a need for a lot of efforts to bring Africa up to speed and give it the possibility to compete with the other portions of the world…The FIDE President is accountable for this situation because he has been the FIDE President for 19 years.”
Dr. Essoh got a deluge of interview requests.
Both candidates were allowed 15 minutes to make speeches affirming their candidacy. Kasparov chose to spend time extolling the virtues of the Kasparov Chess Foundation and his programs on five continents. He stated that this election is not about personalities, but the “future of chess”. He also clarified his views on certain issues including the notion that he supported a change in the voting parity of federations.
This may have been the result of his support of Anatoly Karpov who was in support of such pronouncements. He reinforced his support for “one nation, one vote”. Kasparov asserted that all debts are forgiven… all fees are reduced 50% tomorrow… August 12th. He also mentioned a language commission Rex Sinquefield’s pledge of $10 million for supporting FIDE programs.
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov’s seven-minute speech did not mention any specific programs or accomplishments, but he pledged to inject $20 million TODAY! This got a raucous cheer. He also mentioned creating an Africa Foundation and wanted to appoint long-time rival GM Nigel Short as Chair. Surprisingly, advocated donating $100,000 to the Kasparov Chess Foundation. Another raucous cheer. He ended on the note of federations working together and invoking the motto, “GENS UNA SUMUS”.
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov looking very relaxed while…
… while Garry Kasparov looks a bit worried.
Githinji Hinga (Kenya) and Sonja Johnson (Trinidad & Tobago)
discuss issues of the campaign.
It was instructive that out of all the countries registered, only Gabon did not vote out of 34 African nations present and six valid proxies. Uganda was allowed to vote despite the delegate missing roll call. There apparently was an extenuating circumstance. The Electoral Judge Carol Jarecki read the tally: Ilyumzhinov 110 Kasparov 61 with four spoiled ballots. There was immediately a cheer after 110 was read and congratulatory hugs were exchanged.
A range of emotions in this photo.
Ilyumzhinov accepts the result with a speech.
Garry Kasparov being interviewed after defeat.
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov giving a statement.
In his victory speech, Ilyumzhinov thanked everyone and stated that he wanted to “spend all my life for FIDE”. Does this mean that Ilyumzhinov intends to be “President for Life”? In the meantime, Kasparov sat dejectedly and was soon deluged with a number of reporters and journalists on his views of the election. His words were very strong. “It’s a very sad day for chess,” he said resignedly. A member of the Kasparov ticket Afrika Msimang also weighed in…
I find it mindboggling that people could allow one to become an institution instead of just a leader. Maybe I am spoiled because my leadership in my own country where my leader Nelson Mandela said, “Good leaders groom successors.”
Her words were very strong in expressing issues that continue to plague the continent. However, Msimang said that the problem was not FIDE or “Mr. Kirsan”, but the onus was on the African delegates who seem to be easily swayed by “fairy tales”. “We have become the authors of our own misery,” she stated.
South Africa’s Afrika Msimang
All photos by Daaim Shabazz.
The assembly’s focus on Africa was a mixed blessing. On one hand it is good that Africa wields such influence, but on the other, it gives the perception that Africans are swayed by promises despite stagnation on the continent. There only seems to be visits and investments on the continent every four years. There have been negligible advancements in Africa in the past four years, but perhaps Essoh’s impassioned plea will give the entire assembly food for thought moving forward.