The incumbent FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov defeated his Challenger Garry Kasparov with 110 votes to 61 at the FIDE Presidential elections, held today during the General Assembly in Tromsø, Norway. Below is a report on what happened today on the political chess board.
The General Assembly was held at Tromsø University, a few miles outside the city, to host all 175 delegates, the FIDE Board members and media.
Traditionally, the meeting started with obituaries and all officials and delegates stood up for a minute of silence.
In the preceding year, the following people passed away: GM Vugar Gashimov (AZE), IA Jean-Paul Touze (FRA), GM, IA Gyula Sax (HUN), GM Andrei Kharlov (RUS), Mr. Selimir Manojlovic (SRB) – Vice President of the Serbian Federation, GM Dragoljub Velimirovic (SRB), Mr. Rafael Tudela (VEN) – former FIDE Vice-President, GM Marcel Sisniega Campbell (MEX), GM Robert E Byrne (USA), GM Dmitry Chuprov (RUS), GM Milan Matulovic (SRB), WGM Alexandra van der Mije (NED), IM John A Grefe (USA), IM Lazslo Zsinka (HUN), IM Zbigniew Doda (POL) and IM Sinisa Joksic (SRB).
The hall of the Tromsø University
After the anthems of Norway and FIDE, the first item on the agenda was the report of the Electoral Commission. Its Chairman, Margaret Murphy stated that there had been three meetings: a month ago in Athens, to verify the list of delegates, one in Tromsø, to verify the list of proxies, and a third one to verify the reassigment of proxies.
Criticism came from a few supporters of Garry Kasparov. Prospero Pichay of the Philippines asked: “Is a proxy valid when it is solicited with intimidation?” Essiz Esso of Ivory Coast spoke on behalf of Gabon, and raised the issue of the sudden change of the federation's name.
Essiz Esso of Ivory Coast speaking on behalf of the former (?) President of the chess federation of Gabon
To all questions, Ms Murphy gave more or less the same answer: “We received all documents, we discussed them, and we made a decision based on all documents. We did your job.”
Mr Essiz Esso continued asking questions (and making political statements simultaneously). The FIDE President then came with a rather brilliant solution. ”I spoke with the [new] President and I told him to vote for Garry Kasparov!”
It was Mr Kasparov who then took the mic to elaborate on the criticism, but he was interrepted by someone, reminding him that all speakers should introduce themselves.
- “Who are you?”
- “I am the delegate of Croatia.”
- “Sorry, I was was under the assumption that the FIDE delegates remember the names of World Champions, there are only 16.”
Garry Kasparov during the General Assembly
When questions of Mr Kasparov and others were also answered with “We received all documents and we have made our decision,” English delegate Nigel Short asked Ms. Murphy:
- “Do you think ‘we made our decision’ is an appropriate answer?
- “Yes, I do.”
- “So you're saying you're not answering anything.”
- “No, I'm not saying that.”
Then Mr Ilyumzhinov gave his traditional report of the past year. He took the opportunity to announce two GP tournaments in October-November in Baku and Tashkent, and gave a firm promise that the Anand-Carlsen match would start on November 7th in Sochi.
After he finished, Mr Short again took the microphone again and asked about the leaked agreement between Mr Ilyumzhinov and Andrew Paulson - the latter also attended the meeting today. Mr Ilyumzhinov said that this agreement had never been in effect. “I only spent money on FIDE, more than 80 million dollars. I didn't earn.”
FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumhinov
He then told a long story about Bessel Kok (who ran for presidency in 2006) and his expenses, and Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos also used several minutes on an answer. Further criticism from different delegates was then countered by the argument that the President's report can only be discussed for 15 minutes.
This resulted in even more protest, and Mr Makropoulos and Mr Freeman started shouting. Mr Freeman: “Please respect the rules of this house! Blame Mr Short!”
However, the aformentioned Mr Essoh Essis refused to stand down and hand over the mic. Security was needed to have him silenced, and Mr Freeman, the FIDE Treasurer, started his financial report.
Mr Short again asked a question, this time about a 500,000 Euro deposit that Mr Paulson's company Agon was supposed to pay to FIDE, but still hasn't done so. “What is the justification for FIDE not demanding that money?” Mr Freeman answered that it had to do with the Chelyabinsk GP being cancelled and Agon taking care of the London GP.
After the lunch break, the elections finally started with a second roll call.
Kasparov asked for a few minutes extra time for each ticket member (of both teams) to present himself/herself, but Ms Jarecki decides not to allow it. Mr Kasparov mentioned three pillars, education, technology and social methods. “FIDE lacks corporate sponsorship. There are too many empty promises. I'd like to thank Mr Ilyumzhinov for his 19 years of service, but it's time to move forward.” He added: “Tomorrow, the entire FIDE budget will be doubled,” and applause followed.
Kasparov addressing the General Assembly
Mr Ilyumzhinov used only 7 of the alotted 15 minutes, and in his speech he mostly reacted to Mr Kasparov's speech, doubling all his opponent's promises. “Rex Sinquefield will provide U.S. $10 million tomorrow? I will pay 20 million today!” He also promised to sponsor the Kasparov Chess Foundation (!) with U.S. $100,000.
After the two speeches, Ms Jarecki explained the procedure and showed the voting area, joking “there's nobody in there, no back door!” Then the voting started, in alphabetical order. Mr Asefi Zaheeruddeen of Afghanistan was first to enter the booth.
Ms Carol Jarecki of the British Virgin Islands
This took about 1.5 hours, and the counting took about an hour as well. And while everyone was chatting away, suddenly Ms Carol Jarecki came back on stage, and everyone sat down and stopped talking.
Without hesitation, she gave the result: “Suspense... Alright everyone. The incumbent, Mr Ilyumzhinov, 110 votes, Mr Kasparov, 61 votes, with 4 invalid.” There was lots of shouting and celebreating as soon as she said “110”.
The Ilyumzhinov team congratulating their man
Mr Ilyumzhinov came right on stage for a short winner's speech. “I want to thank everybody. We work for chess, I'm a FIDE man, I am proud to serve and work and I want to spend all my life for FIDE!
I also want to thank the greatest chess player, the 13th World World Champion that he took part in this presidential campaign and he raises the image of FIDE very high, thank you Garry Kimovich! I also want to invite members of the Kasparov team to work in our team.”
Interviewed right after, Mr Ilyumzhinov said: “In 19 years we have not had a single case of corruption. I am very proud of my work. I spent more than U.S. $80 million to support chess around the world.”
Mr Ilymzhinov speaking to the press
When a VG reported asked more questions about the million he mentioned in his speech, Mr Ilyumzhinov answered: “I can find an investment of U.S. $19.5 million for the Chess in Schools project. That's why announced this figure of 20 million. We can invest this. We have already several million dollars for this project. This project is existing.”
“Is this old money or new money?” the reporter asked. First Mr Ilyumzhinov said he didn't understand the question, and after the reporter explained it, he said: “I will check with my financial directors, my friends.”
Garry Kasparov, who suffered the biggest defeat of his life since he lost the world title to Vladimir Kramnik in 2000, remained surprisingly calm. He said to the journalists: “It's a very sad day for chess. I thought the numbers would be slightly better but after this cheering reaction about the 20 million dollars, I knew it was over.”
Mr Kasparov speaking to the press
About his strategy, he said: “Maybe wrongly, I avoided any personal attacks. We focused on positive things, plans, the future. They had no plans, nothing.”
“FIDE is ill. So many years with the same man and the same people around him, it poisons people's minds. It takes time and medicine to recover.”
Nigel Short was interviewed by VG right after the meeting. He said:
“It's an absolute tragedy what has happened today. It's worse than I thought. A crushing defeat. (...) We've got a despotic regime who is ruining the game of chess and chess will stagnate. For many more years actually as a result of this. There's nothing wrong with chess players. If you ask in the playing hall, I'll bet 9 out of 10 will vote for Kasparov. The problem is: delegates. If the delegate has received an incentive to vote in a particular way, it doesn't matter whatever reason or logic is presented to him.”
In 2006, Bessel Kok lost 54-96 to Mr Ilyumzhinov and in 2010 Anatoly Karpov (supported by Mr Kasparov) lost 55-95. With 25 more votes this time, the ratio hasn't changed much - percentage wise, Mr Ilyumzhinov's victory was even been bigger than last time. It is clear that his team still enjoys a dominating support of about 64% of the member federations.
In the evening, Zurab Azmaiparashvili of Georgia (close to the Ilyumzhinov team) defeated Silvio Danailov of Bulgaria (friends with Mr Kasparov) 33-18 to become the new President of the European Chess Union.