Should FIDE voting be transformed?

André Schulz has penned a provocative article titled, "Who Controls FIDE?" and it appeared at It dissects the voting allegiances for both Kirsan Ilyumzhinov's "Chess Fidelity" and Bessel Kok's "Right Move" tickets and argues that there should be a system that provides nations with more influence with more voting power. His contention is that federations such as Belize, Madagascar, Malawi and Uganda should not have the voting power of more influential federations such as Germany, Russia, Spain and France. He draws a number of analogies to other sports organizations where votes are determined by a specific criteria. In a measured response by Nigerian Femi Adebajo (who currently resides in the United Kingdom), he provides the reader with some additional consideration of the issues raised in the article.

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FIDE Elections (Femi Adebajo)

The recent article by André Schulz published on the Chessbase website throws up a number of intriguing questions. Some of these stem directly from the opinions of Mr Schulz on the voting arrangements for the FIDE Executive and his preferences for the future distribution of voting power in the FIDE family.

The FIDE motto 'Gems una sumus' kind of gives the game away and suggests that the founding fathers felt that chess players belonged to one big family and not a dichotomous arrangement based on your wealth, achievements or self-assumed importance. FIDE is the ruling body of chess worldwide and derives any legitimacy it has on a fair and scrupulous observance of democratic standards, the most basic element of which is one member one vote. It must not be forgotten that the largest global sports bodies, FIFA and IOC are run on similar democratic norms. The specific interests of titled players are probably better represented by other organisations such as ACP.

I think it's unfair to suggest that voting power of national chess associations be based on such changing variables as number of titled or rated players or similar measures of achievement in tournament play. The world of chess exists well beyond the formal structures of tournament play and FIDE ratings, nay titles, are not the only measure of chess activity in a country. If as Mr Schulz suggests, it is somehow wrong for Madagascar, Malawi, Belize and Uganda to have the same number of delegate votes as Russia, Germany, Spain and France (his big four!) then you are headed in the terrible direction of adjusting delegate votes by complex mathematical formulae that must include such factors as number of GMs (why stop at just number of titled players), number of world champions, average rating of all the players in a country etc and then you have to factor in the number of non-tournament players. Such a demographic contortion would rapidly become unworkable and a fertile ground for endless disputes and unwholesome practices to secure voting advantage. And what happens if the number of active or titled players in a country changes over time?

I wonder how reliable Mr. Schulz's tables are in view of the admissions and assumptions in the paragraphs preceding them- here are a few:

1. 'It is difficult to find the historical regulations for the election of the FIDE president, but I assume that they were the same then as they are today'; -
this information is available.
2.' Although there are no reliable figures on the number of chess players in the different countries, or at least none that are easily accessible, there are certain known figures that allow us to draw relevant conclusions'.-
No sir, these figures don't allow you to draw any such conclusions!

3. 'Canada and the US, i.e. the entire North American continent'-
I think Mexicans (and William Winter) might disagree with that one!

4. 'The following table gives you an impression of how many chess players are actually represented by these federations '-
the extent to which the declared support of a national association represents the unanimous opinion of all its members is debatable. For example, some UK players support Bessel Kok, some the incumbent and many are undecided.

Now coming to the tables themselves, there are surprising finds. I am familiar with the chess scene in Nigeria and noted with wry amusement that it is alleged that there are zero active players and zero titled players in that country. The last time I looked, there were at least 3 male International Masters and 2 male FIDE Masters from Nigeria and it also cannot be correct that there are no active tournament players, even untitled, in that country (I have played in some of these tournaments and I'm not a ghost!!). One wonders how many holes are in the rest of Mr. Schulz's tables and figures but if the above example is any guide I wouldn't dare to think.

I hope the ticket that best represents the interests of all in the FIDE family wins the election and thereafter has the support of all in bringing unity, order and real progress to the whole chess family.

Femi Adebajo
Milton Keynes, UK.

Posted by The Chess Drum: 1 May 2006