BREAKING: Ilyumzhinov Steps Down Temporarily As FIDE President
Following a unanimous decision by the FIDE Presidential Board Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has stepped down temporarily as FIDE President today. For the moment FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos is the acting president.
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is no longer representing the World Chess Federation. This decision was taken during a three-hour Presidential Board meeting in the Royal Olympic Hotel in Athens today.
“Following the announcement by the US Department of the Treasury that the US levied sanctions against Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, Russian citizen and FIDE President, Mr. Ilyumzhinov has informed the Presidential Board that he will withdraw from any legal, financial and business operations of FIDE until such time as Mr. Ilyumzhinov is removed from the Office of Foreign Assets Control sanction list,” writes Nigel Freeman, Executive Director of FIDE, on the FIDE website.
1.5 weeks ago Ilyumzhinov was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for “providing support to the government of Syria.” In a reaction Ilyumzhinov stated that he has no accounts or property outside Russia.
“Mr. Ilyumzhinov advised that he has initiated legal procedures in the US aiming to request additional information and reverse restrictive measures put by the US Department of the Treasury,” added Freeman in his statement. “During the next Presidential Board meeting, Mr. Ilyumzhinov will update the Board as to the progress of the legal procedures.”
FIDE Presidential Board Meeting in Athens, report of the FIDE President pic.twitter.com/iVyXhl5LXP— Anastasiya Karlovich ( @NastiaKarlovich) December 6, 2015
“Mr. Ilyumzhinov’s decision to withdraw from any legal, financial and business operations of FIDE is to enable him to concentrate on clearing the situation with the US Department of the Treasury” is what Freeman gives as the main reason for the FIDE President's decision.
“The aim is to protect the good name of the organization,” said Zurab Azmaiparashvili, the Continental President for Europe, to Chess.com. “He has the moral right to individually fight for his rights, when he is accused. It's better for him to do that and not be the FIDE President at the same time.”
The decision did not come as a surprise to the FIDE Board members, said Azmaiparashvili, who attended the meeting in Athens today. “We expected it. It's a hard decision but it's the right decision.”
For the moment Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos is the acting president for FIDE, until the Presidential Board decides otherwise. If Ilyumzhinov does not return, a new FIDE President will be elected in 2018.
A name that is often mentioned as a serious candidate to succeed Ilyumzhinov is Andrey Filatov. The Russian business man, who attended the Presidential Board meeting via Skype, is currently the President of the Russian Chess Federation.
Although it seems to come down to the same thing in practice, Ilyumzhinov actually denied to Interfax today that he has stepped down. “I remain president of FIDE. But at my request, a presidential council has limited my authority in the financial sector of the organization in the United States.”
Last Thursday the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, openly suggested that Russia is benefiting from oil trade with ISIL. Erdogan mentioned that a “famous Russian chess player” was involved. Several media have stated that he was refering to Ilyumzhinov.
Nigel Short, a former FIDE Delegate for England who still follows chess politics closely told Chess.com: “I think it is a necessary maneuver to save face for now and to allow FIDE to function properly in the short term.”
“The problem that I see is that all the same rotten structures are in place. That is why I'm not celebrating. I'll be happy to see Kirsan go but if he's replaced by the people who have supported him for years I don't think the chess world is in any better condition.”
It's unclear to what extent the organization of the 2016 World Championship match will be affected. Last week Ilyumzhinov stated in an interview that he was planning to travel to the U.S. despite the sanctions, choose on a venue and sign a contract.
“I don't know why he said that; if he signs it's with us,” Ilya Merenzon told Chess.com. The owner of Agon, who has the commercial rights to organize the match, said that Agon is currently looking at two cities: San Francisco and New York.
Merenzon thinks Ilyumzhinov's decision will have a positive effect on closing a deal for the match. “It will make it easier. Sponsors would require treasury clearance and now that's not an issue anymore. It was one of the reasons: he didn't want to damage relations with sponsors, including ours.”