Kirsan Ilyumzhinov denies that he will step down as FIDE president. Today the FIDE website brought this remarkable news, which was confirmed to Chess.com by the executive director of FIDE, Nigel Freeman. However, Berik Balgabaev, Ilyumzhinov's assistant, called it "fake news."
Photo: David Llada.
"At the end of the Presidential Board meeting in Athens, Kirsan [Ilyumzhinov] stated that he resigned. An extraordinary PB meeting was called upon to discuss the matter," Freeman told Chess.com.
It couldn't be stated more clearly, but whether it's true still remains the question.
Today the FIDE website reports of Ilyumzhinov's resignation:
At the end of the Board meeting held in Athens, Greece on the 26th March 2017, Mr Kirsan Ilyumzhinov announced his resignation from the position of FIDE President. The Presidential Board has been formally advised of this announcement and an extraordinary board meeting has been called in April.
The extraordinary presidential board meeting is supposed to take place in April, also in Athens, Freeman told Chess.com, but specific dates haven't been set yet.
The FIDE website today claims that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is stepping down.
"Fake news," Balgabaev emailed Chess.com today. In a phone call he stated: "It's not true. He only said that if it is necessary that he should step down, he will. But he hasn't signed anything yet."
Asked why this news appeared on the World Chess Federation's website, he replied: "FIDE is a big organization."
Balgabaev couldn't give more details, but announced that Ilyumzhinov would come with a statement later today.
Chess.com contacted other FIDE officials, but nobody is willing to provide more information on what exactly happened. "The official information is on the official website," FIDE's press officer Anastasiya Karlovich told Chess.com. "I cannot give any other comments."
In Russian mainstream media Ilyumzhinov has denied stepping down, and blames "the Americans." On the website of the Russian Chess Federation, Ilyumzhinov says that he plans to continue his work as FIDE president. He gave a brief interview with Chess-News along the same lines.
Update: Chess.com received these two statements from Ilyumzhinov, addressed to FIDE.
To Nigel Freeman, Ilyumzhinov wrote:
I have noticed that the information about my alleged resignation published on the FIDE website is untrue.
Thus, as FIDE President I urge to publish the letter attached.
The actual letter is addressed to the FIDE Presidential Board and "All National Chess Federations." Ilyumzhinov wrote:
Dear chess friends,
In mass media there were some messages about my alleged resignation from the position of President of FIDE President. [Sic] In this respect, I would like to state the following: I have not submitted any official requests for my resignation and do not intend to. Neither of circulating rumors and speculations on this subject is true.
Gens una sumus! We are one family!
Ilyumzhinov at the World Rapid & Blitz in Doha, December 2016.
Ilyumzhinov's presidency has been under pressure since sanctions were imposed on the FIDE president in November 2015. The U.S. Department of the Treasury included Ilyumzhinov in its list as he was part of a group "providing support to the government of Syria, including for facilitating Syrian government oil purchases from ISIL."
Soon after, Ilyumzhinov stepped down temporarily as president, but his status remained unclear since. He wasn't involved in legal, financial and business anymore, but at official FIDE events he was still acting as the president.
At the FIDE Congress in Baku, in September 2016, the member federations decided that the situation wasn't serious enough to ask for the president's resignation. However, it was agreed upon that if things wouldn't improve, he couldn't run for another term in 2018.
Ilyumzhinov has been the president of the World Chess Federation since 1995. His reign has been controversial from the start, with mainstream media continuously referring to his claim from 1997 to have met with aliens. According to critics, playing chess with dictators Muammar Gaddafi and Bachar Assad has damaged the reputation of the sport even further.
Correction: an earlier version of this story stated that Ilyumzhinov would announce his resignation at the next extraordinary PB meeting. However, according to Mr Freeman Ilyumzhinov said "I resign" at the Presidential Board meeting that finished this week in Athens.