Kirsan Ilyumzhinov suspended from chess

The "revenge" of Garry Kasparov and the US Chess Federation might be involved in the case.
In the World Chess Federation (FIDE) there was a split. Yesterday, on its official website, a news appeared that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who was in charge of the Federation for more than 20 years, "announced his resignation as president." Despite the fact that Mr. Ilyumzhinov himself immediately refuted it, the message continued to remain on the site. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov called the incident a "provocation", accusing of it the US Chess Federation first and foremost: the Russian functionary in 2015 got into the US sanctions list. President of the American Federation Gary Walters, commenting on his position, told Kommersant that "the time has come for a new leader," and sources say that Mr. Ilyumzhinov has serious opposition inside the FIDE.

Yesterday on the main page of the official website of the World Chess Federation there was news about the resignation of its president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. The text of the news said that "at the end of the meeting of the FIDE presidential council", which was held on Sunday in Athens, Mr. Ilyumzhinov "announced his resignation." It was allegedly "brought to the attention of the members of the council," and in April there should be an emergency meeting dedicated to this topic.

The news could be considered a sensation. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is one of the most unsinkable among the top sports functionaries. He took the post of FIDE president in 1995 and kept it, despite the fact that in the last elections he faced very strong opponents: in 2010 he was confronted by the 12th world champion Anatoly Karpov, and in 2014 - by the 13th champion Garry Kasparov. Against his legendary compatriots, Mr. Ilyumzhinov won fairly convincingly. At the same time, he repeatedly stressed that he does not intend to quit as the head of the federation, which is one of the largest in sports, at least until the next elections, which will be held in 2018.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov almost immediately denied the report of his resignation. Some members of the presidential council, for example, the president of the Russian Chess Federation Andrey Filatov, who described the news as a "frame up", also stated that they do not know anything about it. Meanwhile, it soon became quite obvious that it was not a question of error or fantasy of one of the ordinary FIDE employees. The fact is that the note about the resignation of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov continued to remain on the main page of the site throughout the day, despite his own refutations and the words of other officials. And Kommersant sources in chess circles, commenting on what happened, confirmed that it looks like a consequence of the "political and managerial crisis" in the federation.

Explaining the origin of this message, in an interview with Rossiya 24, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov said that, in his opinion, it represents "the intrigues of the American Chess Federation." Mr. Ilyumzhinov linked them to the plans of Garry Kasparov. The great grandmaster who confronted Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in the 2014 elections really cooperates closely with the US Chess Federation: his Chess Foundation is on the list of its sponsors, and Mr. Kasparov himself is constantly involved in the activities of the structure. In the election campaign three years ago, the team of the incumbent FIDE president used a "corrupt" argument against Garry Kasparov, effectively accusing him of bribing the influential general secretary of the federation Ignatius Leong. According to Mr. Ilyumzhinov, Mr. Kasparov again intends to run for president. About the "American version" Kirsan Ilyumzhinov also told in an interview with "Kommersant" (see the material on this page).

Relations between Mr. Ilyumzhinov and the United States have intensified recently. In November 2015, the US Treasury included FIDE President in the sanctions list "for assisting the Syrian government in buying oil from the Islamic State terrorist organization" (banned in Russia). Before that, the chess federation had already given America the right to hold another match for the world title. Rejecting the charges, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov challenged the decision of the US Treasury in court, but wasn't present at the match between Norwegian Magnus Carlsen and Russian Sergey Karyakin, which was held late last year in New York and turned into a sports hit.

Yesterday, Kommersant contacted the US Chess president Gary Walters. Mr. Walters, commenting on the statements of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, said that "a few weeks ago" his federation published an open letter addressed to FIDE. "One of his points was concern about the contradictions that continue to surround Kirsan Ilyumzhinov's activities," he said. Gary Walters confirmed that the position of US Chess is that "it's time for a new leader in chess".

American sanctions, according to sources familiar with the course of the meeting of the presidential council, were almost the main subject of discussion at the last weekend in Athens. And, as it turned out, a number of members of the FIDE key body insisted that they seriously complicate the performance of the president's functions. "The fact that within the federation formed a group of people who want to participate in the struggle for power," - says the source of Kommersant, close to the organization.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov admitted: in "behind-the-scenes" conversations with him, some members of the presidential council raised the issue of resignation, but refused to disclose their names. The source of Kommersant, who knows the principles of FIDE's work, advised paying attention to the fact that after Mr. Ilyumzhinov's entry into the sanctions list, he transferred part of his powers, including financial ones, "to avoid collisions" to the first vice-president Georgios Macropoulos (now his post is officially called "deputy president"). "It is Makropoulos today, in fact, oversees the daily work of the federation, including the work of the press office and the filling of the site," the source continued.

All Kommersant's attempts to contact Mr. Makropoulos yesterday failed. And the head of the press service FIDE Anastasia Karlovich, who oversees the information resources of the organization, responded to a request to comment yesterday's scandal that "at the moment all official information is on the FIDE website" and "there are no other comments".