Interview of the FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos given to Yuri Vasiliev of &quotSport Express&quot newspaper. Print
Friday, 11 June 2004 00:00
We are publishing the interview of the Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos given to the "Sport-Express", Yuri Vassiliev during the Women`s World Chess Championship in Elista, Kalmykia, Russia.
You can read the Russian version at Sport-express site

We are publishing the interview of the Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos given to the "Sport-Express", Yuri Vassiliev during the Women`s World Chess Championship in Elista, Kalmykia, Russia.

You can read the Russian version at Sport-express site

Sport Express 8 June 2004

Georgios Makropoulos: Why were they silent in Prague?

FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos is known in the chess world with its tendency to abbreviations simply as Makro. Makro is in the higher echelons of world chess power for little less than a quarter of a century. FIDE President F. Campomanes (Campo) had a need for him and he strengthened his position under the current FIDE President K. Ilyumzhinov (Kirsan)aˆ¦

During the FIDE Congress in Bled I personally witnessed how this Greek with his ironic manner is able to govern a big audience. His large expressive eyes shine, his voice is as thunder, as if the spirit of Zeus the Thunderer is alive in him and his nose which is similar to the beak of a bird of prey feels the mood of the audience to the least detail. Makro seems to now wave the folds of his jacket, take off from the speaker`s place and chisel through holes in the heads of those who in his opinion, wrongly understand the FIDE`s motto We are One Family.


- Mr. Makropoulos, the refusal to participate in the forthcoming FIDE World Chess Championship in Tripoli of many strong Grandmasters has seriously damaged the prestige of this event. It seems that the claims of the players are reasoned and easily satisfied. Why, for example, the FIDE leadership itself did not sign the contract offered for the players? Was this only because of the fear that the players can sue FIDE in case of a conflict as Mr. A. Karpov mentioned during the recent press conference in Moscow?

- As for the absence of the number of the top players at the Tripoli World Championship, its roots have to be sought for in the Prague Agreement 2002. Unfortunately, there in Prague, these top players who are now boycotting the World Championship, were silent or simply ignored the chess summit. I was the only one who proposed a totally different variation of the chess world unification. I was proposing to organize the tournament with the participation of Kasparov, all FIDE World Champions and also finalists and semifinalists of the last FIDE World Chess Championship. It would have been an excellent tournament with the participation of Ponomariov, Anand, Karpov, Khalifman, Svidler, Ivanchukaˆ¦

This variation did not suit Kasparov. He was supported by Yasser Seirawan, who, as you remember, was the main ideologist and initiator of the Prague Agreement, the essence of which is not only to bring Kasparov back to FIDE and organize the unification match, where he could meet with the winner of the aˆ?classic branchaˆ? Kramnik-Leko. Seirawan proposed a beautiful perspective of creation of the professional structure in the world chess.

- Yes, I remember very well, how Gary Kasparov was carried away with this idea and he was very inspired when talking to me about it after the Pragueaˆ™s meeting. Why did this project die before being born?

- In Prague Seirawan said that he would propose to FIDE a business plan of the creation of such professional structure. Bessel Kok who organized the meeting in Prague, promised to actively participate in the realization of these initiatives, to attract sponsors. But I had my great reservations, and I shared them with the FIDE President K. Ilyumzhinov. In the presence of Z. Azmaiparashvili and A. Orlov I said: :"Kirsan, I do not believe that either they will prepare the business plan or that they will find sponsors with money. I will be happy to be mistaken, but if I am right then we shall found ourselves in the situation when we shall have to spend much more money and you, Kirsan, will have to pay for all of this".

- As was the story during many years before the euphoria in Prague.

- Yes, correct. Alas, it turned out that I was right. Where is now Mr. Kok and his sponsors? Where is Mr. Seirawan with his business-plan? But now everyone is united in criticizing K. Ilyumzhinov that he is seeking for money in such problematic regions as Libya. But Libya was the only country which had offered to finance the organization of the World Championship.

We are at the same side of the barricades

- Before we would like you to tell us about some peculiarities of the Tripoli Championship, I would like to hear your reply why there is no signature of any FIDE high official on the contracts sent to the players. At the afore-mentioned press-conference, this problem was also part of the declared statement of the Russian Chess Federation.

- Anatoly Karpov stated at this press-conference that FIDE does not want to put its signature under the document because of its so-called fear to lose in the court in the case of the conflict. These words put everything upside down. FIDE is not a commercial organization and cannot offer any contracts to the players. I do not know why, but either Karpov or those who share his point of view did not think that FIDE, which looks for the money for the players, is on their side. If the Championshipaˆ™s organizers violate the agreement, that the Federation, together with the players, will sue such Organisers. We are the same side of the barricades!

About privileges

- Recently I interviewed Vishy Anand, outstanding Indian Grandmaster, who said directly why he would not play in Tripoli. Vishy believes that it is not fair to give privileges to one player (meaning Kasparov). In fact, this Championship is a qualification tournament to play against Kasparov, and the person who shall win in Tripoli, shall have the title of the FIDE World Champion only for half a year, if of course, he will not succeed to win over Kasparovaˆ¦

- I have no single doubt in the sincerity of Anand, whom I deeply respect. He does not play with his words, says what he thinks and acts based on his idea what is correct. But a number of the strongest Russian players, as we came to learn from unofficial meetings, are sharing the position of Anand but are afraid to say it straight and make up various absurd reasons of their non-participation similar to the absence of these notorious signatures. These people were silent in Prague, and now they chose the tactics of the boycott, as they are not courageous enough to name real reasons of their refusal. As for the privileges given to Kasparov, everyone perfectly realize that the participation of this chess historyaˆ™s greatest player is like a magnet for the sponsorship money. And those top players who do not want Kasparov to have a chance to return to FIDE, do understand this very well. In Prague I was also proposing to consider the World Cup, which would have taken place in India, as qualification for the top players, who were participating in it. But this proposal did not receive any support. I can understand the position of Kasparov, who did not want to complicate the situation. But I cannot understand these top players who were silent in Prague, and now are trying to discredit FIDE in any possible way.

- So, you are sure that the real reason behind the refusal of a number of the top Grandmasters to play in Tripoli is that they are not happy with Kasparovaˆ™s privileges?

- I have no doubt in it. In Prague they did not want to speak straight about it, as they were afraid to be seen by the public as enemies of the chess world unification. Now they also do not state real reasons of their refusal, and try to shift responsibilities to other peopleaˆ™s shoulders.

Sensitive issue

- However, I can give you a different kind of an example. Recently a very respected Grandmaster Boris Gulko, ex USSR Champion and USA Champion, called me from New Jersey. He told me that he had already purchased a ticket to Tripoli, but had to return it after the scandalous statement of Mohammed Al Gadhafi, the World Chess Championship Organising Committee Chairman and son of the Libyan leader Moammar Al Gadhafi, where it said about aˆ?Zionist enemiesaˆ? who want to aˆ?filteraˆ? to the territory of the Arab state. According to Gulko, after this statement, discriminating the citizens of Israel, he thinks it impossible for him to play in Tripoli. We can understand Boris Gulko as a person of faith, who also has an Israeli citizenship. The speech at the above-mentioned Moscow press-conference of Peter Svidler is to the same tune. Some other playersaˆ™ interviews also have some hints to the aˆ?Israeliaˆ? problem. What would you say to this?

- Libya offered to FIDE to organize the World Championship in Tripoli and I repeat, at that moment it was the only real proposal, with necessary financial guarantees. During our negotiations with the Organisers an agreement was reached that they have to send invitations to all players without any exception. This is according to our regulations. But, unfortunately, the regulations have no provisions in respect of the visas for the accompanying persons: coaches, bodyguards etc. Libya was strictly following our regulations. When the scandalously known statement of Mohammed Al Gadhafi was published in Internet, we immediately requested the clarification form the Libyan side. We received the answer that there had no been such a statement. What really happened, was that Mr. Al Gadhafi was asked whether he sent personal invitations to the Israeli players, and the Organising Committee Chairman replied that he personally did not send such invitations. And he once again confirmed that the Organising Committee guarantees all the players without any exception, entry visas to Libya. - FIDE published a press-release in this respect. So, we should have cancelled the Championship due to some conjectures which are found in Internet, should we? FIDE was in written exchange of correspondence with the Israeli Federation, which was making enquiries in respect of the provision of the security for their players and entry visas for accompanying persons. Moreover, the discussion was about having a meeting somewhere in Europe between the representatives of Israel and Libya. The Libyan side had no intention to open their plans about the security of the players, and this is natural for intelligence services. I can give an example of our country. Greece is going to spend 1 billion 200 million USD to provide the security of the participants of the Olympic Games 2004 in Athens. All intelligence of the world is involved in the solution of this problem, but nobody shall tell you, what is the exact procedure. It is because the security is to the major extent, the guarantee of the success. Finally, the Israeli chess players decided not to participate in the Tripoli World Championship. They are right when they say that they cannot go to Libya without their trainers and accompanying persons. Our regulations have nothing in this respect. When we were creating these regulations, we could not imagine that such a problem could arise. At the next FIDE General Assembly this provision shall be changed. On the other hand, I can understand the Libyan side too, as they, due to the security reasons is not going to allow the armed security of the Israeli players enter their country. This is a very sensitive issue, but where do you see the discrimination of Israel?

The Unification shall take place

- I alongside with the other have the feeling that it could have been possible to save the Ponomariov-Kasparov match. Then FIDE would not have lost precious time and would not have had all these problems it is facing now. In your opinion, was this match doomed?

- Already during the Bled Olympiad we were undertaking the steps to meet with Ponomariov, but he was avoiding us. That is why we had to go to Wijk aan Zee, in order to try to have a clear discussion with the FIDE World Champion during the traditional tournament, and this brought an ocean of criticisms addressed to us as we were in the way of Ruslanaˆ™s playing. By the way, Ponomariov had a bad start at that tournament, and after our meeting he won over Kramnik. Ponomariov might have won the tournament, should our negotiations be continued. On a serious note, we had the impression, from the very beginning, that Ponomariov was not ready to play the match with Kasparov and was avoiding it by all possible measures. Should the least possibility to save the match exist, the FIDE President would have had used it. But according to the information at our disposal, when Ponomariov sent his last and very strange letter to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, he was purportedly aiming at the match cancellation.

- Why did not you substitute Ivanchuk instead of Ponomariov? As far as I know, Vassily was ready to play with Kasparov.

- Because it that case Kasparov would not have played against the FIDE World Champion. That is why we decided to organize the World Championship in Libya, to enable Kasparov meet with the highest title holder in FIDE. This is along the lines of the idea of the chess world unification.

- Do you believe that it shall take place?

- There is no other way for the chess community. At the forthcoming October FIDE General Assembly we shall announce exact dates of the match of Kasparov with the winner of the World Championship in Tripoli.

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