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As Support Deteriorates, Ilyumzhinov Announces $30M Investment

As Support Deteriorates, Ilyumzhinov Announces $30M Investment

In a new letter sent to all chess federations, FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov today announced a $30 million investment in chess. Meanwhile Jorge Vega, continental president for America and an important ally of Ilyumzhinov in earlier elections, has publicly chosen the side of the other FIDE officials.

Photo of Ilyumzhinov: David Llada.

This week, open letters are appearing one after another, and the English Chess Federation has called upon FIDE to release the full transcript of the recording of the recent meeting in Athens. 

The situation around Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and FIDE (find Chess.com's earlier reports here and here) seems to be heading to a climax on April 10, while new information is coming out little by little. 

New promises.

On Tuesday, Ilyumzhinov sent a remarkable letter to all chess federations, making new promises in his typical, joyful style. He still plans to bring the number of worldwide chess players to "one billion," as he has stated before, and now reveals his ambitious plan to do so:

For its implementation, I intend to lay the foundations of a systematic work that will let me achieve this goal. Even being under sanctions, I registered a charitable foundation "Kirsan Fund" in the United States.

Its activities will cover North and South America. This month, I plan to open the Kirsan Fund in Brussels (it will work in Europe and Africa) and in Seoul (it will cover Asia, Australia and Oceania). I intend to invest 10 million dollars in each of them.

Ilyumzhinov says the project will focus on current chess in schools programs, but that it will also include new programs titled "chess in villages," "chess in families," and "chess for people with disabilities."

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Critics will be reading this letter with one thought in mind: the last day of the FIDE presidential elections of 2014. Right after his opponent Garry Kasparov had announced a $10 million investment "tomorrow" if he would be elected at the General Assembly in Tromsø (Norway), Ilyumzhinov announced in his speech that he would double that amount: "I will pay $20 million today!"

Only minutes later, Ilyumzhinov defeated Kasparov with 110 vs 61 votes. But the $20 million never reached the FIDE accounts.

Jorge Vega joins FIDE officials.

It's hard not to see Ilyumzhinov's letter of today as desperation. It came hours after a statement on the FIDE website by Jorge Vega, one of his strongest allies in earlier elections. Vega, who was somewhat critical of Ilyumzhinov during the Baku general assembly in September 2016, has now publicly chosen the side of Ilyumzhinov's current opponents within FIDE.

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Jorge Vega. | Photo: FIDEAmerica.com.

The continental president for America helped Ilyumzhinov to obtain votes in Latin America during the battles with opponents in earlier elections, such as Bessel Kok (2006), Anatoly Karpov (2010) and Garry Kasparov (2014). However, today Vega subscribes to the version of what happened at the last presidential board meeting as described by other FIDE officials:

Firstly, and in order to clarify, I should like to inform you that the subject of Mr. Ilyumzhinov's resignation as President of FIDE was never on the agenda or proposed by any member of the PB during the meetings, it was Mr. Ilyumzhinov who mentioned it on three occasions at the first meeting and in the second, which took place behind closed doors, announced on more than one occasion that he was resigning the Presidency in the midst of a very strong emotional crisis.

Vega's next point is interesting. He is suggesting that a proposal made by Ilyumzhinov regarding Agon, the company that has the rights to organize events in the world-championship cycle, is the main reason for the current crisis.

I can reiterate that what triggered this crisis was not a request by the PB to abandon the position of President but a proposal of Mr. Ilyumzhinov regarding AGON, the company to which FIDE has granted the rights of execution of the events of the World Championship Cycle, which was overwhelmingly rejected by the Presidential Board.

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The cooperation between Agon and FIDE has always been somewhat peculiar. 

Back in 2012, when FIDE signed the contract with Agon (then run by Andrew Paulson), it was agreed upon that Agon would pay a deposit fee of $500,000. This fee was never paid, while Ilyumzhinov was given the authority "to take the personal decision as to whether to terminate the contract with Agon," as deputy president Georgios Makropoulos stated later.

In 2014 Chess.com obtained a document that suggested that Agon was secretly run by Ilyumzhinov himself. According to the contract, which was signed by both the FIDE president and Paulson, it was Ilyumzhinov who owned 51 percent of the shares. Both Ilyumzhinov and Paulson denied that the contract was in effect.

In 2015, FIDE's presidential board agreed that a payment of 20 percent of the prize money of the Berlin World Rapid and Blitz Championship, from Agon (now run by Ilya Merenzon) to FIDE, would be postponed until the next championship—albeit against the will of FIDE's treasurer Adrian Siegel.

That the presidential board "overwhelmingly rejected" Ilyumzhinov's proposal regarding Agon recently in Athens, suggests that patience is running out among the FIDE officials.

Status of the 10 April meeting.

A legal battle was to be expected about the question whether FIDE officials could actually initiate the extraordinary presidential board meeting, scheduled for April 10 in Athens. As noted in our previous report, it is the president who calls for such a meeting according to the FIDE handbook.

As also stated in our report, crucial in these matters might be Ilyumzhinov's decision in December 2015 to "withdraw from any legal, financial and business operations of FIDE," after the U.S. Department of the Treasury had levied sanctions against him. We asked: What exactly is his power right now? Can deputy president Georgios Makropoulos call for an extraordinary presidential board meeting? Can he make other decisions?

Precisely these questions were addressed in open letters that appeared after our report. First, Ilyumzhinov argued in a letter on March 31 that the upcoming PB meeting will be "irregular," and the decisions that might be taken "invalid."

I withdrew from legal, financial and business operations of FIDE only vis-à-vis third parties. With regard to my powers within FIDE, I never intended to delegate these powers to Mr. Makropoulos as US sanctions had no impact in this regard.

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Then, Makropoulos replied to Ilyumzhinov following our reasoning, and even attached a letter from FIDE lawyers.

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Except for Andrey Filatov, the president of the Russian Chess Federation and FIDE vice president, Ilyumzhinov seems to have lost his support among FIDE officials. Back in September 2016 they stated that Ilyumzhinov couldn't run for another term in 2018 if the U.S. sanctions were still in place. The (financial) situation with Agon didn't improve things.

Ilyumzhinov has been the FIDE president since 1995. Over the last 22 years, his position has never been as shaky as today.


Earlier reports:

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