Interview of the FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov Print
Monday, 10 May 2004 00:00

We are publishing the translation of the interview of the President of the Republic of Kalmykia, FIDE President HE Kirsan Ilyumzhinov given to Sport Express on 8 May 2004 in respect of the Women`s World Chess Championship (21 May - 8 June) that will tak place in Elista from 21 May to 8 June 2004.

Read the interview of the FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
We must fulfill the Prague Agreement otherwise the World will not understand us.

The President of the Republic of Kalmykia, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has been very busy recently. Women&rsquos World Chess Championship (21 May - 8 June) had to be transferred from Batumi to Elista, and some of top participants of the World Chess Championship (18 June - 13 July) have refused to go to Libya due to various excuses.

Diplomatic slalom.

J.: Kirsan Nikolaevich, why Elista once again became "a reserve airport" for one more FIDE event. This time it is Women&rsquos World Chess Championship that was close to collapsing.

KNI: To clarify the whole situation it is necessary to tell you how the idea to hold the Championship in Georgia appeared. Once, I visited Georgia upon invitation of the President at that time, Eduard Shevardnadze, and during our meeting, where top Georgian players Nona Gaprindashvili, Nana Alexandria, Nana Ioseliani, and the President of Georgian Chess Federation Zurab Azmaiparashvili were present, he said: "I wish we could revive the glorious traditions of the Georgian Chess School. And for a start I think we should host the Women&rsquos World Chess Championship."
FIDE Congress supported the initiative of the Georgian Chess Federation and the Women&rsquos World Chess Championship was scheduled for May, this year in Tbilisi. However, when the Georgian Authorities changed, the National Federation of the country stated that they faced financial problems with organization of such event in Tbilisi. Then the country attracted new sponsors in Batumi upon the approval of the Ministry of Culture and Sports. Several times already this city hosted many outstanding chess competitions, during the latest five years Georgia welcomed participants of the European Team Championship, the European Individual Women&rsquos Championship, the Transcontinental Championship Europe-Asia and annual Festivals of Black Sea Countries... FIDE agreed to move the Championship from Tbilisi to Batumi and on 15 April I visited the Autonomous Republic of Ajara and together with its ex-leader Aslan Abashidze we signed the agreement to hold the Championship in Batumi.
Unfortunately, the political situation in this region has worsened. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Culture and Sport of Georgia officially declared that it was impossible to guarantee the safety of the participants of the Championship in Batumi. Then I had to go to the South again. At our meeting the newly elected President of Georgia Mr. Mikhail Saaakashvili suggested that the World Championship is moved back to Tbilisi as it was initially planned and he was ready to find sponsors for it. But I said that we had an agreement with Aslan Abashidze and I could not accept this proposal without his consent. I left Tbilisi for Batumi and had a conversation with Abashidze. Having soundly estimated the situation he took the brave decision, that I am very grateful to him for, and agreed to move the World Championship from Batumi, not to Tbilisi, but to Russia, to my native town Elista. We discussed this variant with Georgian President and he was not against this decision. I invited Mr. Saakashvili to visit Kalmykia and take part in the Opening Ceremony of the Championship moreover that eight Georgian women chess players will participate in the event.

J.: Indeed you had a very difficult diplomatic slalom in the mountains of Georgia in order to solve the question with this tournament… Who will be sponsoring it now?

KNI: Adjara patrons of art agreed not to recall their sponsorship. They provided us with the prize-fund and money for organization purposes. 500 000 US dollars have already been transferred to FIDE account from Georgian chess enthusiasts.

J.: No doubt that all Russian fans will support the Russian chess players at the forthcoming World Championship: Alexandra Kosteniuk from Moscow, Kosintsevs sisters from Arkhangelsk… But at the time of Soviet Union I happened to cover several World Championships with the participation of the famous Georgian women chess players and I will be glad if for example Maia Chiburdanidze or Nana Ioseliani present us the great performances of their skills in Elista.

KNI: By the way, I offered to the fivefold Women World Champion Nona Gaprindashvili to be the representative of FIDE Presidential Board at the Championship in Elista, and the great chess master accepted my proposal. Besides, Nona Terentievna was very happy to learn that she will be accommodated in the newly built five-star hotel equipped with a nice billiard room and she will have a chance to enjoy this game.

Professionals must play but not become politicians.

J.: As far as I know the frequent Champion of Russia Peter Svidler, who won his first gold medal of Russia and quite a good Korean car namely in Elista, is also a big fan of billiards. It was exactly ten years ago and I covered that tournament from the very beginning till the last round.

KNI: I understand what you mean…Yes, Svidler as well as some other top grandmasters haven&rsquot signed player&rsquos undertaking for the World Chess Championship in Tripoli, Libya.

J.: What do you think was the reason of their refusal?

KNI: The main aim of FIDE is popularization of chess. In 1998 FIDE held World Chess Championship in the center of Europe - Groningen and Lausanne. The World Chess Championship 1999 took place in America, Las Vegas. The World Chess Championship 2000 was successfully held in Asia, Delhi and Tehran. In 2001 we moved to Europe again and organized the World Championship in the heart of Russia - Kremlin.
The decision to hold the world championship in Africa in one of the Arabic countries goes with FIDE policy and we have been supported by most of the National Chess Federations. Libya is a member of UNO and has reinstated its diplomatic relations with all the countries. Recently its Leader Moammar Al Gathafi was invited to Brussels and now the European Union is very enthusiastic about the possibility of fruitful dialogue with Libya where the political and economic sanctions have been already cancelled. Nowadays, many businessmen and politicians from different countries, including rather conservative, streamed to Libya.
I would like to underline that 114 out of 128 World Championship qualifiers have already confirmed their participation. As for those who refused… It&rsquos a pity, but it is their right - to play or not. Although to my mind a real chess professional must play but not become a politician. For example, one FIDE ex-World Champion in his interview has mentioned the fault of the Libyan Leader whom, as he says, he cannot forgive and thus will not come to Tripoli. But the blamed one lost his daughter in the bombing of his house by American air forces. This cannot be forgotten and forgiven. But Al Ghatafi found enough strength to give his hand to the world community. Why should then strike a pose then? This is neither noble nor wise. As it has already been published in your newspaper, the Organizing Committee of the World Chess Championship in Libya guaranteed entry visas for all 128 participants.

J.: Some players supported by the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP) express their disagreement with, as they say, one-sided contract for participation in the World Chess Championship offered by FIDE. Why didn&rsquot your lawyers agree with their colleagues from ACP and there is no signature of FIDE officials under the document sent to the players.

KNI: The content of the undertaking is standard and it does not have many changes. The same undertaking was applied at the World Championships in Groningen - Lausanne and Las Vegas… For example Khalifman signed the same contract before he won the World Championship and received his prize-money as well as Karpov who lost during the 1st round in Moscow. I repeat, I do not understand why all of a sudden this standard document gave rise to this reaction.

J.: Maybe the reason was that the prize-money stipulated by the contract for participation in Las Vegas World Championship was not paid out in time, and practically there was nobody to bear the responsibility for it...

KNI: Not all the participants received their prize-money with delay as most of them were paid in Las Vegas. By the way, many decided to try their luck in the casino so that at the end of the Championship they had to borrow money to get back home… The main reason of this delay was the problems with banks in the USA. But then everybody got their prize money including those who are blaming FIDE now.

J.: In my telephone conversation with the ACP President Joel Lautier he was bewildered by the fact that according to the undertaking for Libya the winner can play with the permanent World Rating List Leader Gary Kasparov only in 2 years.

KNI: This is a misunderstanding and it has already been settled. The Match between the new FIDE World Champion and Kasparov will takes places approximately in January next year.

J.: Where exactly? I heard that the earlier announced Vietnam does not want to host this tournament.

KNI: You are right; Vietnam would like to host the next Men and Women&rsquos knockout Championships instead of the Match between the new FIDE World Champion and Kasparov. Vietnamese are interested to support more local chess players participating in the event. We can understand them. In this case it will be easier to attract sponsors.

For the moment we already have serious proposals from Dubai and Cairo to host the Match with Kasparov&rsquos participation. We also have other bids. Hopefully during World Championship in Tripoli we will be able to officiate its venue.

J.: Does its prize-fund remain the same?

KNI: Yes, 1 million US dollars.

J.: It was Lautier who expressed his doubts in respect of your plans to complete the unification process proclaimed in Prague in May 2002. Can you state now with confidence that the match between the winners of FIDE World Champion 2004 - Kasparov and Kramnik - Leko matches will take place?

KNI: It goes without saying that all the points of the Prague Agreement must be fulfilled. Otherwise the world, chess and non-chess, will not understand us and will not take us seriously.

J.: When can this match be held?

KNI: I think it will take place not earlier and not later than next summer so that the participants could recover and thoroughly prepare for it.

J.: Maybe the prize-fund of this absolute World Championship will be bigger than the one, let&rsquos say, in Dubai?

KNI: We count on 2 million US dollars.

J.: What is your opinion about the increased activity of the Ukrainian Sport Committee and the proposal of the FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov to organize the tournament with the participation of Kramnik, Leko, Anand, Kasparov, Ponomariov and the winner of the World Championship in Libya?

KNI: Why then Leko qualified for the match with Kramnik? And why Ruslan forgot to invite his compatriot Vasiily Ivanchuk for his tournament? Actually the realization of this project would require reconsideration of the Prague Agreement. We would have to organize the new chess summit, and we have already wasted much time. As for the collapsed match with Kasparov in Yalta Ponomariov should thank those around him that was by the way proved to the subject by the President of the Ukrainian Chess Federation Viktor Petrov in "Ves sport".

Chess fever became permanent

J.: Kirsan Nikolayevich, 10 years ago during the mentioned above Russian Championship at the dinner in the house of your mother you said that your dream was to infect Elista with chess fever… Since then such events as World Chess Championship Match, Chess Olympiad, more than ten Russian Championships among men and women took place in Elista and now it will host Women&rsquos World Chess Championship. Has your dream come true?

KNI: Ten years ago I could not even imagine that local players will become masters and grandmasters. And today our girls study in Saint Petersburg and Volgograd institutes of physically training in the chess departments. We have our own International Arbiters and even World Champion under 10 Sanan Sjugirov. Our grandmaster Ernesto Inarkiev will go to World Championship in Tripoli and I believe he will perform successfully there.

I think I can say that the real chess atmosphere that I dreamt of 10 years ago has been created in our republic. Actually by nature fever disappears very fast, but our chess fever is serous and for good. I am sure of it.

J.: I remember during the match Karpov - Kamsky in Elista the organizers faced difficulties with guests&rsquo accommodation. And during Chess Olympiad the participants were complaining that it was too stuffy in the playing hall as air-conditioners did not operate. What about participants and audience of the upcoming Championship?

KNI: All this is in the past. There are no problems with air-conditioning; there is a swimming pool, sheltered tennis courts and bowling center in City Chess. Guests can also enjoy the swimming pool in the recently opened 5-star hotel. City Chess can easily accommodate 300-400 people and there is not a single day without guests, it constantly hosts various events. Thus the participant and guests of the Women&rsquos World Chess Championship will not have any problems. In behalf of all the people of Kalmykia I say: "Welcome to Elista!"

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