Nigel Short to stand for FIDE President

GM Nigel Short (England)

This year is an Olympiad year, but more importantly, it is a FIDE election year. So far there has not been much in the way of campaigning, but in the past several months, there have been several announcements made. Earlier in the year we saw Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Georgios Makropolous announcement their quests for the FIDE Presidency. More recently we have heard from British Grandmaster Nigel David Short standing for the office.

Short’s name precedes him in the annals of chess. He has been a world championship contender against Garry Kasparov when the two decided to break away from the FIDE championship cycle. It was a short-lived experiment (no pun intended), but provided the professional circuit with an alternative to what people felt had become a moribund system.

Kasparov later admitted that his ill-fated attempt was not the best approach, but the championship crown was finally united by Viswanathan Anand. The Indian legend actually toppled Vladimir Kramnik of Russia who beat Kasparov in the Brain Games championship. Thus, there was a time that different players held disputed championships. What is even more perplexing was that FIDE had several champions featuring players outside of the top 10.

Nigel Short vs. Garry Kasparov, 1993 PCA World Championship
Photo by Telegraph

GM Nigel Short making a point
at the 2012 FIDE General Assembly in Istanbul, Turkey.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

After a system was devised and the championship cycle united, Anand held the championship for five years. He was eventually beaten by Magnus Carlsen in stunning fashion. While Anand and Carlsen have added stability, the auspices of the championship have been held by AGON, a Russian company with close ties to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Here is an interview he granted to The Chess Drum during the 2012 Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey.

During the 2014 FIDE General Assembly, Short made an inquiry as to the relationship between FIDE and AGON. This became a sticking point in the 2014 election. With Short continued campaign against FIDE’s long-standing Ilyumzhinov, he has decided to stand for the office of FIDE President a month after Georgios Makropoulous had announced his candidacy. It should be quite a battle with the embattled Ilyumzhinov and a candidate who is (for better or for worse) tied to him.

Nigel Short has a history of “stirring the pot”. Here he is pictured questioning the FIDE/AGON agreement at the FIDE General Assembly in Tromso Olympiad in Norway. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Short, now 52, may have an advantage as he is an outsider who may want to “drain the swamp,” but there will be questions about his experience as an administrator. While Short has been unmoved in his positions of FIDE negligence and corruption, he will have to address a bevy of questions about an array of topics. Short is not a neophyte to the campaign trail as he was part of the team lobbying for Bessel Kok, Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov.

So does Nigel Short stand a chance? The answer is not so simple. From one standpoint, the vote will be divided which means that he does not have to achieve an overwhelming majority. You have a reigning President who still maintains some of his loyalist ties, a Deputy President with a large apparatus supporting him. For Short, you have a legendary player who has been active politically, is well-traveled and has wide support among smaller federations. This could play in Short’s favor.

Nigel Short is still winning tournaments,
but can he score an ultimate victory in Batumi?
Photo by Maria Emelianova

He has been very critical of both Ilyumzhinov and Makropolous which means he is fighting opponents who will be united on most issues. These opponents will seize upon some of Short’s unpopular commentary which caused the British Grandmaster quite a bit of backlash. Ironically, in the latest New in Chess (2018/3) he hurled invectives against Susan Polgar who holds considerable capital in the chess world.

Incidentally, many of her fans also represent (among many segments) vast numbers of women and players from small federations. It is uncertain what type of impact that will have. Being a political activist is far different from being a chief executive of a major international body. We will certainly find out in the coming months how serious of an effort he will make.

Video by GM Daniel King

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