’18 FIDE Election heats up… Africa in the middle

Fédération Internationale des Échecs  (FIDE)

The Chess Olympiad is less than two months away and it will be a very exciting event as usual. However, what will make the event more compelling is the FIDE Presidential elections. There are three candidates remaining after Kirsan Ilyumzhinov bowed out of the race after being adamant on his quest for reelection. FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos, GM Nigel Short and the latest entrant Russian-backed Arkady Dvorkovich will be standing for election. There are rumblings about other possible candidates, but additions at this point are unlikely.

Tshepo Sitale
Photo by Botswana Chess Federation

Of course, there are other continent-wide elections and one of the most contentious will be the one to lead the 47-member African Chess Confederation (ACC). Three candidates have vowed to stand for the position: incumbent Lewis Ncube (Zambia), Dr. Essoh Essis (Ivory Coast) and Tshepo Sitale (Botswana). Sitale has posted an extensive platform which touts good governance, transparency, branding and fundraising as a few of the cornerstones of his platform. Recently Essis announced his ticket which promote similar objectives in his very attractive campaign dossier. He also gave an extensive interview here at The Chess Drum.

Typically what will distinguish these candidates from each other (and the incumbant) is how well they build coalitions. Relationships on the African continent are very complex and the last election in Tromso, Norway demonstrated how loyalties can become divided. In fact, members of the same federations sometimes support different candidates. The reality is that there are no clear voting patterns and the three candidates will have a challenge in securing a standard majority. Not to mention that the issue of “proxy votes” is still unresolved.

Lewis Ncube of Zambia (center) is the incumbent FIDE Continental President for Africa. Here at the 2014 Chess Olympiad Ncube chats with Kezzie Msukwa of Malawi. Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Ncube, long associated with Ilyumzhinov, has now thrown his support behind Dvorkovich. Incidentally, Ilyumzhinov was suspended by FIDE and subsequently lost any credibility to assume the position. While Makropoulos seeks to distance himself from the Ilyumzhinov era, Short has been on the attack accusing him of continuing the agenda.

The soft-porn site Short referred to is the one run by Canadian Grandmaster, Kevin Spraggett. Makropoulos has indeed used Twitter with the support of his running mate IM Malcolm Pein, Short’s fellow compatriot. Exchanging barbs with Short, Makropoulous even solicited input from Garry Kasparov, a strong critic of the Russian bloc.

While all of this is stewing, the African campaign is stepping in high gear, but there were other issues besides the ACC candidates. There was a very informative article written on Africa Chess Media titled, “The Chess Olympiad, Africans and Finance.” The article details the history of subsidies for African federations and the predicament of securing those funds every two years.

Why is this of utmost importance? These funds may have an impact on the ability of federations to attend the Olympiad and thus affect the election results. Africa Chess Media reported on the one million two hundred thousand euros (€1,200,000) that FIDE is using for federations needing travel subsidies. Here were questions raised:

  • According to Mr Zurab Azmaiparashvili, Georgia have paid the subsidy to FIDE, can it be confirmed that this has truly happened?
  • If the funds have been remitted to FIDE, what is the allocation criteria that FIDE would use to determine which federation gets what, from the subsidy?
  • Four years ago, the list of beneficiaries was released on the 21st of June, and now we are in July, when will the list be made public?
  • Considering the fact that most African federations need to book their flight tickets early to save costs, when would these funds be made available to each federation? Before, during or after the Olympiad?

As far as the list, FIDE had released details of travel subsidy on July 13th.

FIDE is pleased to announce the travel subsidy for participants for the Chess Olympiad & Congress, Batumi, Georgia 2018. All federations will receive more travel subsidy in 2018 than they did for Baku in 2016. Many teams that did not receive a team grant in 2016 will do in 2018. They are Nigeria, South Africa, Bhutan, Chinese Taipei, Malaysia, Thailand, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine & Wales. In addition the ECU will be paid 30,000 euros to assist federations that are not receiving any travel subsidy. (details, country listing)

While FIDE finances suffered as a result of sanctions from the U.S. Department of Treasury, the organization is seeking to rehabilitate its financial standing. The sanctions resulted in FIDE’s limited ability to raise and deposit funds for its operations. In previous Olympiad periods, African federations have been mired in financial shortfalls, visas glitches and other logistical challenges. It appears that these issues are not yet sorted out and many will require resolution.

Deputy President Georgios Makropolous in a fierce exchange with Dr. Essoh Essis during FIDE Congress in 2014. Both are campaigning for office. Could they work together if they assume their respective offices? Dr. Essis believes so. Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Arkady Dvorkovich with President Vladimir Putin

Arkady Dvorkovich with Russian President Vladimir Putin
Alexei Nikolsky/AFP via Getty Images

In terms of the presidential election, a recent ChessBase article showed the respective tickets and the distribuion of nominations. Makropoulos had 64 nominations for his ticket. This is more than the other two parties combined (Dvorkovich, 13; Short, 6).

Arkady Dvorkovich entered the race just one month ago and is a relative outsider in this campaign. Although not a chess competitor, he is an able chess politician with the weight of the powerful Russian Chess Federation, where he served from 2007-2014. Meanwhile, Nigel Short has presented his ticket to all federations and launched his hashtag and website called “cleanhands4fide.” However, it’s still too early to make an assessment given the dynamics that will play out at the General Assembly and Congress.

It is clear that this will be a very contentious campaign and a bitter election. Each of the candidates will have to answer questions about their executive experience, record of effectiveness and ability to build coalitions. One of the unknowns will be whether the elected ACC President can make any progress in working with the new FIDE President. There are some complicated relationships brewing and it will be interesting to see who supports whom.

(Update: There have been accusations by Makropoulous of tampering through “bribery” and a FIDE anti-corruption committee has been set up to head off such these attempts. Both Dvorkovich and Short scoffed at these efforts and a Twitter war ensued. An interesting article run by chess.com targeted some African officials of receiving tickets to the World Cup in Russia from Dvokovich.

It appears that Africa is the only region being targeted as recipients of “gifts” which seems to be a bit unbalanced. Is Africa (again) being made the scapegoat of failings of the electoral process? It appears that many still fall prey to universal stereotypes and cannot believe that an African can attend the World Cup on their own funds. It is apparent that Africa is painted as a destitute continent, but assuming that all Africans are poor is very presumptuous.)

Party Information

FIDE President

Georgios Makropoulos (@makro_chess, FIDE Forward)
Nigel Short (@nigelshortchess, #cleanhands4fide, cleanhands4fide.org)
Arkady Dvorkovich (@ADvorkovich)

ACC President

Lewis Ncube (Facebook)
Dr. Essoh Essis (Facebook, platform)
Tshepo Sitale (Facebook, platform)

8 Comments

  1. Georgios Makropoulos discussing his rationale for standing for election and the case of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov’s fall from grace. Ilyumzhinov has withdrawn as a candidate and has been suspended from FIDE on ethics violations. Video by Batumi Olympiad Organizing Committee

    GM Nigel Short being interviewed by Sagar Shah during
    the 3rd Kolkata International in May.
    Video by ChessBase India

  2. Below is an excerpt from controversial piece by Daniel Schofield in the UK Telegraph titled, “Russia in the dock again – over chess election.” The resulted in an inquiry of four African federation and possible acceptance of junkets to the World Cup. Ben Wanjala ultimately showed the receipts that are presented.

    Accusations of Russian state interference in a democratic process, hobnobbing with murderous dictators and an alien abduction – welcome to the battle for the presidency of the World Chess Federation (FIDE).

    There are three candidates for the October election, which precedes the World Chess Championships in London: British grandmaster Nigel Short, FIDE deputy president Georgios Makropoulos and Arkady Dvorkovich, a former deputy prime minister of Russia and head of the country’s football World Cup organising committee. No prizes for guessing which candidate is associated with allegations of corruption and vote-buying.

    These include hosting FIDE delegates on junkets at the World Cup and Russian embassies directly contacting chess federations to sway votes. With the presidency decided on a one-country, one-vote basis, the potential for corruption among the 188 delegates is vast. So serious are the accusations that FIDE has set up an anti-corruption commission to oversee the election.

    Link: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/2018/07/17/russia-dock-chess-election/

  3. It appears that both Makropoulos and Dvorkovich have asked each other to step down and join their ticket and that Ignatius Leong has suggest a Dvorkovich-Short union!

    ZURAB AZMAIPARASHVILI: “NOBODY WANTS FOR THE HEAD OF FIDE TO BE SOMEONE WHO GOT THERE BY MEANS OF DIRTY WAYS”

    https://batumi2018.fide.com/en/news/zurab-azmaiparashvili-nobody-wants-for-the-head-of-fide-to-be-someone-who-got-there-by-means-of-dirty-ways

  4. Fédération Internationale des Échecs  (FIDE)

    FIDE issues statement on arrears and voting rights

    In the latest twist on the FIDE campaign, the organization’s Treasurer Dr. Adrian Siegel addressed a July 18th inquiry by Andrey Filatov (Russian Chess Federation) concerning federation debts. Citing a FIDE letter, Filatov wrote Executive Director Nigel Freeman concerning federation debts and their relationship to voting rights. Filatov asserted that federations must cover their financial obligations by July 23rd or they will not be allowed to participate in the FIDE Olympiad and FIDE President elections in Batumi.

    Letter_from_Russian_Chess_Federation_18-07-2018

    FIDE Treasurer Dr. Siegel replied to Filatov’s inquiry by stating:

    “…In the invoices sent to all federations there is no mention at all that they cannot participate at the General Assembly if they don’t pay prior to July 23rd. Thus, even if the arrears are not paid federations can vote at the election. This electoral rule has already been applied in the past election and I don’t know why the Russian Chess Federation tries to make up a case against FIDE’s administration without any facts…” (link)

    Dr. Adrian Siegel, FIDE Treasurer
    Photo by World Chess

    On the same day, Arkady Dvorkovich (candidate for FIDE President) had sent the following e-mail to a list of chess officials with the concern that their voting rights would be abrogated if debts were not settled. As mentioned by Filatov, some of the federations receiving the letters were not included on the arrears list.


    De: Arkady Dvorkovich
    Assunto: A letter from Arkady Dvorkovich
    Data: 18 de julho de 2018 10:01:58 GMT+2

    Dear chess friends!

    Yesterday we got an information about some national chess federations receiving letters from the FIDE office. In this letter FIDE informs federations about their debt. The debt that must be covered before July 23 – or the respective federation won’t be allowed to participate in FIDE Olympiad and FIDE President elections in Batumi.

    Please pay attention that these Federations are not listed in the debt list on the FIDE website (https://ratings.fide.com/arrears.phtml). This sort of non-transparent approach is typical for the current FIDE leadership. It allows to manipulate and press certain federations, creating an advantage for one particular candidate in the forthcoming FIDE President elections. Very important information that must be publicly available is hidden. We consider this situation unacceptable and we will stand against such a policies.

    Please check your debts. We believe that coming elections are crucial for the future of FIDE and entire chess world, and we hope that every delegate will be able to cast their vote in Batumi.

    All the best,

    Arkady Dvorkovich, Candidate for FIDE President (link)


    …and to Dvorkovich, Siegel replied,

    On July 16 and 17, we have sent to all the federations the invoices for the usual charges (event fees, trainers fees, arbiters fee, etc.) of the first six months of 2018 (as we have done in past years). In all these invoices no deadline for payment was given, i.e. we have not said that federations cannot play at the Olympiad or that they cannot participate at the election if they don’t pay their debts by a certain date. (link)

    The list of federations in arrears has 14/22 being from Africa. Of course there has been a lot of discussion on Africa and their influence on the outcome of the upcoming election (here and here).

    It is ironic because this issue came up in 2008 when Freeman (then FIDE Treasurer) threaten to ban three nations (Nigeria, Ethiopia and Uganda) from participating in the Dresden Olympiad due to arrears. After tense negotiations and frantic fundraising efforts, those nations were finally cleared.

    Incidentally, the FIDE Handbook under “03. Financial Regulations” (section 6.3) reads,

    “On 1st July and 1st January the Treasurer lists on the FIDE website those countries that are deemed to be over six months in arrears. Until the arrears have been paid off, players from these Federations cannot participate in any FIDE events that are under the aegis of

    a) the World Championship & Olympiad Commission or Events Commission,
    b) Continental competitions that provide qualifiers to any of the aforesaid competitions.” (link)

    Arkady Dvorkovich, Candidate for FIDE President
    Photo by Vladimir Barksy

    Could it be that the Dvorkovich campaign is referring to the FIDE regulation listed in the handbook? Perhaps. The Chess Drum contacted Dr. Siegel (with a reference to the regulation) and he indicated,

    “You are absolutely right regarding the Financial Regulations. However, in the past years our goal was rather to see teams playing and not sanction them due to late payment. Personally I prefer this procedure. Of course this should mean that teams cannot be banned due to non-payment but prior to an election this would give a very bad spin. Furthermore, some candidates might come up with the idea that they will get the vote of a federation if they pay the arrears.”

    The last point is an interesting one. It is ironic that Nigel Short made the following tweet on yesterday:

    Both Siegel and Short may have different political stances, but it is clear that arrears are a strategic point of concern. The issue of federation dues (and arrears) been debated for many years and was part of a stinging debate at the 2004 General Assembly (See 2004 Minutes, section 2.2.1 from 75th Congress – MS-WordPDF). Indeed, in an election year, that policy will undoubtedly have to be revisited.

    FIDE is still grappling with the ability to handle its financial affairs due to sanctions brought on by the U.S. Department of Treasury. FIDE funds were transferred to two fiduciary accounts on May 4th after the closing of its bank accounts by UBS in Switzerland. Just a week ago, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was suspended by the FIDE Ethics Commission on July 18th. It appears that everyone is scrambling to fill the vacuum of a pending post-Kirsan era.

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