Ilyumzhinov Withdraws From FIDE Presidential Elections
After 23 years, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov will no longer be the FIDE president in October 2018.

Ilyumzhinov Withdraws From FIDE Presidential Elections

| 66 | Chess Politics

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov today announced that he is withdrawing his candidacy for the upcoming FIDE presidential elections on October 3 in Batumi. Instead, he is supporting Russia's new candidate, Arkady Dvorkovich.

"I decided not to nominate myself in October this year at the next FIDE Congress as the president of this organization," Ilyumzhinov told the Russian news agency Interfax on Friday. "I support the candidacy of Arkady Dvorkovich for the post of FIDE president," Ilyumzhinov stressed.

Ilyumzhinov's decision was widely expected after Dvorkovich announced his candidacy. Dvorkovich received overwhelming support from the Russian Chess Federation two days ago.

Ilyumzhinov became FIDE president in 1995, and is the second-longest tenured leader of the World Chess Federation in history. Alexander Rueb, the organization's first president, held the position two years longer, from 1924 till 1949.

At the last elections, in 2014, Ilyumzhinov defeated Garry Kasparov convincingly. Only a year later, problems started when he was put on the sanctions list of the U.S. Department of the Treasury for being part of a group "providing support to the government of Syria, including for facilitating Syrian government oil purchases from ISIL."

Thereupon, Ilyumzhinov withdrew from the legal, financial and business operations of FIDE, and Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos took over those tasks. At the 2016 Baku Olympiad, key FIDE officials stated that Ilyumzhinov could no longer run for FIDE president in 2018 if he were still on the sanctions list.

Early 2017, Ilyumzhinov started to lose further support from FIDE officials. In March, at the end of an emotional presidential board meeting in Athens, he allegedly stated that he resigned from his post, which was brought as a news item on the FIDE website. 

An extraordinary presidential board meeting was organized a month later, again in Athens, where it was confirmed that Ilyumzhinov would remain president but with limited powers.


Ilyumzhinov with his assistant Berik Balgabaev at the extraordinary presidential board meeting last year. | Photo Maria Emelianova.

Also in April 2017, he announced that he would be running for another term. In October of that year the FIDE executive board passed a non-binding motion asking him not to run.

The problems became insurmountable when Swiss bank UBS closed FIDE's account because of Ilyumzhinov's presence on the American sanctions list. Soon after, Makropoulos announced his candidacy for FIDE president, thereby officially taking distance from the president he had served under for decades.

Initially, the Russian Chess Federation reluctantly supported Ilyumzhinov, who had presented a dubious ticket that included a person that doesn't exist. However, earlier this week, the RCF supervisory board voted in favor of Dvorkovich instead.

Incidentally, earlier today Dvorkovich announced his ticket for the elections. It includes three grandmasters:

  • Deputy President: GM Bachar Kouatly (France)
  • Vice Presidents: Mahir Mamedov (Azerbaijan), GM Julio Granda Zuniga (Peru)
  • General Secretary: IA Enyonam Sewa Fumey (Togo)
  • Treasurer: GM Zhu Chen (Qatar)

Besides Dvorkovich and Makropolous there is a third candidate: grandmaster Nigel Short. So far, he has used his Twitter account to announce some of the members on his ticket (without mentioning their indended roles):

  • President of the Oceania Chess Confederation, Paul Spiller (New Zealand).
  • Former USCF president and current president for FIDE zone 2.1, Ruth Haring.

Short also named Bessel Kok, FIDE presidential candidate in 2006, as "senior advisor."

The three candidates need to deliver their tickets and support from at least five FIDE-affiliated chess federations to the FIDE secretariat by July 3, 5 p.m. Athens time.

Many things can still happen, but one thing is clear: the Kirsan Ilyumzhinov era comes to an end this year. Or maybe not.

In an interview with Sport Express, Dvorkovich today hinted at a cooperation with Ilyumzhinov: "I think that a lot has been done in recent years. The team of Ilyumzhinov is doing a great job in promoting our sport all over the world. We talked with Kirsan Nikolayevich, and I expect that he will support my candidacy. He has a huge experience, which I hope to use."

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