The Forest Law on FIDE stolen President Election

Sep 29, 2010, 8:46 AM |

Chess world shocked as Karpov fails to capture top job

Accusations of foul play fly as unpopular Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is re-elected president of world body over former champion

Anatoly Karpov Anatoly Karpov: campaigning to restore chess to the position it enjoyed in the 1970s and 80s. Photograph: Alberto Saiz/AP

The international on Chess" href="">chess world descended into chaos and bitter accusations of cheating today with the controversial re-election of the president of the World Chess Federation, who defeated the former world chess champion on Anatoly Karpov" href="">Anatoly Karpov.

Amid tumultuous scenesthat saw delegates shout abuse at each other in an overcrowded hall, the incumbent Russian candidate, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, won the clear backing of a majority of the world's 160 chess federations. He defeated Karpov, his fellow-Russian, by 95 votes to 65.

The ballot reconfirms Ilyumzhinov as the head of Fide, the world chess body. But speaking from the scene of the vote, Karpov's supporters this afternoon described the ballot as a "farce", and said Ilyumzhinov had used "intimidation, bullyboy tactics" and even "blatant corruption" to steamroller his way to victory.

Speaking from the Siberian city of Khanty-Mansiysk, where the ballot was held, CJ de Mooi, the president of the English Chess Federation, said: "It was unbelievable. This was a farce of a vote."

"You wouldn't believe the blatant breaking of rules and Fide's written statutes. It's amazing. There wasn't even a pretence of fairness and free speech.".

De Mooi said Ilyumzhinov, Fide's president for 15 years, had refused to allow Karpov's supporters to address Fide's general assembly meeting; instead, he turned off their microphones and carried on speaking himself. He also ignored legal points raised from the floor, eventually storming off stage with Fide's ruling board, de Mooi said.

The result is a bitter reversal for Karpov, who had pledged to clean up world chess amid longstanding accusations of corruption and malpractice under Ilyumzhinov's eccentric leadership. The English, French, German, Swiss, and US chess federations all backed Karpov – as did his one-time bitter chess rival, the world champion-turned-opposition politician Garry Kasparov. (It was Kasparov who in 1985 usurped Karpov's world chess crown.)

Karpov's supporters point to widespread irregularities in the vote, which saw up to 56 countries vote by proxy, with Zambia voting for Kenya, China for Burma, the UAE for Kuwait, and so on. They also allege that several delegates may have been improperly influenced.

'When you are a small African or Asian country and someone says, 'Here is a brown envelope,' what can you do?" de Mooi asked.

The English delegation in Siberia includes the grandmaster Nigel Short, who was said to be "stunned" by Karpov's electoral rout. The vote took place alongside Fide's annual chess Olympiad. Short is a vociferous critic of Ilyumzhinov, a chess-loving millionaire and former leader of on Russia" href="">Russia's Kalmykia region who claims to have been abducted by aliens.

In an interview this year with Russian state-tun TV, Ilyumzhinov recalled how aliens wearing yellow space suits had appeared on his balcony. They invited him aboard their UFO and took him to the stars, he said. This encounter took place in September 1997, he went on, adding that three people, including his personal driver, had witnessed it.

One anxious MP then wrote to Russia's president, on Dmitry Medvedev" href="">Dmitry Medvedev, inquiring whether Ilyumzhinov could have disclosed state secrets to his alien visitors. The next month, Medvedev replaced Ilymuzhinov as leader of Kalmykia, a small, oil-rich Buddhist region on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Despite toppling him from political office, the Kremlin has steadfastly backed Ilymuzhinov's bid to maintain his grip over chess's ruling body, an apparent consolation prize.

In May, Russia's chess federation voted to support Karpov – 16 times world champion – as its Fide candidate. Astonishingly, Arkady Dvorkovich, a senior presidential adviser, then overturned the decision and announced he was nominating Ilyumzhinov instead. The west has been in favour of Karpov, the Kremlin consistently against him. It is, by any standards, a surreal inversion of cold war chess politics.

In an interview with the Guardian earlier this year, Karpov said he was mystified by the Kremlin's refusal to support him. "Maybe they want to keep the person in charge under control. But I don't see why the president of Fide should be under the control of any one country. We don't make politics. We play chess!" he said. Karpov bristled at Ilumzhinov's description of chess as a "hobby", exclaiming: "I was world champion. For me, it's my life!" Karpov had campaigned to restore the popularity chess used to enjoy during the seventies and eighties, when Karpov fought his series of epic, globally followed chess battles with Kasparov.

With world chess currently lacking a backer, he also wanted to attract corporate sponsorship. Karpov also intended to open Fide offices in Moscow, New York and Paris, thus bringing chess back to a bigger audience. "My idea is to make moves to bring chess back to the world's map, to make it part of the world's geography again," he said earlier this year.