Makropoulos To Run For FIDE President
Georgios Makropoulos, currently the deputy president of FIDE. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Makropoulos To Run For FIDE President

| 51 | Chess Politics

Earlier this week, FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos announced his candidacy for FIDE president. For the October 2018 elections he will most likely run against the incumbent FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who rejected a request from the presidential board to step down.

An explosive FIDE presidential board meeting took place April 7-8  in Minsk, Belarus. While several other topics were discussed, the meeting mostly demonstrated the current affairs in FIDE politics. The short version is that there's hardly any internal support for Ilyumzhinov left, and that Makropoulos wants to take over.

Requesting Ilyumzhinov to resign

During the meeting, the board members asked Ilyumzhinov to resign with the following resolution:

Dear Kirsan

The Presidential Board has resolved:

In the light of:

a) The imminent withdrawal of FIDE’s banking facilities by UBS,
b) The inability of FIDE to obtain replacement banking facilities while you remain nominal President and
c) subject to US Treasury Department sanctions,
d) The consequent severe difficulties facing FIDE in funding its obligations and its commitments to the chess family,
e) The adverse publicity that reflects badly on FIDE’s reputation and undermines the confidence of all those who are or
would be involved in chess,

That in the interests of the organisation:

You should resign with immediate effect.

In October 2017, a similar, non-binding motion was passed at the FIDE executive board meeting in Antalya, Turkey. According to the FIDE statutes, only the general assembly is able to send away an active president.

The above resolution, which was supported by the presidential board with 14 votes to one with no abstentions, was triggered by FIDE's alarming bank situation.

As reported by in mid-February, the Swiss department of UBS bank informed the World Chess Federation that it will close its bank account, in April at the latest, due to Ilyumzhinov's presence on the sanctions list of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The bank account hasn't been frozen yet, but will be soon. UBS extended the deadline for FIDE to April 30 of this year, so the federation has less than three weeks to find another bank.

1st FIDE Presidential Board meeting, April 2018

The presidential board meeting in Minsk, Belarus. | Photo: FIDE.

Ilyumzhinov himself did not attend the board meeting (claiming health issues, according to Makropoulos, but couldn't verify this). However, he quickly responded in Russian media saying that he is not going to change his plans. "I am not going to resign in any way," he said. "Moreover, in September of this year I will again run for the post of FIDE president."

It is unclear how strong Ilyumzhinov's support from his homeland is. Andrey Filatov, the president of the Russian Chess Federation and presidential board member, expressed his support in the past but hasn't attended FIDE meetings for about a year now.

The only person who voted against the resolution was Lewis Ncube, the continental president for Africa. Other close supporters are Ilyumzhinov's assistant Berik Balgabaev, Willy Icklicki (member of the constitutional commmission and the ethics commission), and Silvio Danailov, former president of the European Chess Union.

At the board meeting, Makropoulos said that he has sent a complaint to the ethics commission concerning Ilyumzhinov, Balgabaev, Icklicki, Danailov, and Ncube for "spreading lies and defamatory statements."

Makropoulos running for president

Furthermore, Makropoulos announced his candidacy for FIDE president at the upcoming presidential elections, on October 3 in Batumi, Georgia.

Makropoulos has been the president of the Greek Chess Federation since 1982, and vice president of FIDE since 1986. As deputy president, he has been responsible for actively running the organisation since 1996.

Makropoulos and Ilyumzhinov in 2016 in Thessaloniki.

Ilyumzhinov and Makropoulos in 2016 in Thessaloniki. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

In a phone call with, Makropoulos answered some questions.

Why are you running for president?

"The main reason I have decided to run is because we need to protect this organization. We have tried to talk to several people that they could be candidates and Kirsan always tried to block our candidate."

[Last month, FIDE was very close to presenting a candidate from the United Arab Emirates, but at the last moment he changed his mind. Makropoulos didn't want to elaborate, also not on how Ilyumzhinov is trying to block them finding new candidates. –PD.]

"The truth is somebody should stand. We should not allow Kirsan to run alone and win this election, that would be a disaster for our organisation today. If we want stability in FIDE then it’s obvious that somebody else should run and win this election. That’s why I decided, after many board members and delegates asked me to run.

"I was the one who had to do this, because I feel very much responsible for this organization. I had to take this decision."

Who will be in your team?

The team will mostly be the same, but it will also consist of new members. The team will be announced later."

Is Malcolm Pein going to be involved?

"Yes, we are working closely with him. Malcolm understands, as many people understand today, that we need a solution and Kirsan is not the solution.”

[Pein, who is also a board member of the Grand Chess Tour, played an active role in the agreement between FIDE and the chess federation in Saudi Arabia to get the 2017 FIDE World Rapid and Blitz Championship to Riyadh. –PD]

Will there be a place for Ilyumzhinov in the team?

"It’s possible. Based on the regulations we have in FIDE, Kirsan would normally speaking be getting the position of honorary president, but only if FIDE will not be facing the problem that we are facing today. But if we will not have such problems, then he can have such a position and I hope that he would like to cooperate with us and help us as much as he can help."

Are you confident you can win this election?

"Yes, very much."

Ilyumzhinov has won the previous three elections with big numbers. Why will it be different this time?

“OK, Kirsan won with big numbers because of our support; he didn’t win with big numbers because he has direct support from the federations. All our group was supporting Kirsan. Today, from our group he only has one person, Lewis [Ncube], who is supporting him.

"Kirsan has no chance to get many votes in Europe, not in the Americas and I think also not in Asia. His hopes are in Africa, by promising big money, support for everybody. But I believe in Africa there are a lot of decent people. Nobody will be able to bribe the Africans. Maybe some federations will think that it’s not important that the president is under sanctions but in general the majority, I think, they care about what’s going on in FIDE."

Makropoulos with Vega

Makropoulos at the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Tbilisi in 2017 with Jorge Vega, the continental president for the Americas—a longtime supporter of Ilyumzhinov who has now switched sides. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

What changes are you planning to make?

"I want the federations to have direct participation in the general assembly and I have negotiated with the organizers in Baku to compensate all the delegates for the air tickets. I did the same for the Batumi general assembly. If we have elections, the delegates should be present there. This story with the proxies should stop. We are going to compensate all the delegates for the tickets. This is very important to me; if we want to make sure that democracy is working for our organization, then let’s make sure that the delegates are there.

"We will not follow Kirsan’s game of promising money to get support because of money. We
will try to work with the federations and explain them that it’s the time that we should stick
to the principle and that there is no chance that this organization will survive if we don’t
accept the principles."

You say that you don't want to play the game of promising money, like Ilyumzhinov does now. But why, as deputy president, did you never openly criticise Kirsan for this? Why, over the past two decades, were all of Ilyumzhinov's promises accepted and smiled at, even though it was clear they were never going to be fulfilled? Aren't you partly responsible for broken promises too?

"If you have followed my comments during previous elections, you must have noticed that I have always been particularly ironic for money promises, no matter who was promising this money, either from our camp or from the opponents side. Of course, it is impossible to control Kirsan in order not to promise millions. My comments earlier were referred specifically to bribery. In Greece, when we have elections in my federation, we don’t promise even a chessboard towards the clubs so that people would vote for us.
"FIDE must protect the pride and the independence of the poorer federations, by helping them develop in such a level that no candidates would try to buy them off."

Any other big changes you plan on?

"Another proposal I am working on is to change the FIDE statutes. The term of the president should not be more than two terms, so eight years. And for myself, I am only planning to run for one term [four years –PD], to make sure we have stability in FIDE again, and then someone else can take over."

Can you say something about your program?

"I don’t want to discuss the program just yet, because it’s something that should be approved by my team also. I don’t want to rush. But I can say that it’s time to go for radical chances in many things."

Azmaiparashvili Makropoulos

Makropoulos with Zurab Azmaiparashvili at the European Team Championship in Crete in 2017. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

What is the current financial situation?

"We have proven, over the last 2.5, three years, that this organisation can survive without the need of some extra financial help outside of FIDE, without a patron. Today our reserves are over 1,700,000 euros. We have succeeded in creating reserves and we are hoping that by the end of the year the reserves will be even bigger. I have said in Baku that we should try to have reserves of 2.5 million, and spend the money on top of that on all the chess projects around the world."

The deadline of February has been postponed until April 30. How will the bank problem be resolved?

“We have asked them to wait until the election has finished; they have not accepted this yet. The truth is, today we cannot find any bank. We have approached more than five, six banks and they have denied to get our accounts. I believe really that no bank would like to have an account of an organization where the president is under sanctions of the American ministry of finance."

What if nothing changes, what will you do on May 1?

“We are preparing some solutions. We have a very interesting and generous offer from our Vice President Khalifa [Mohammed Al-Hitmi, the pPresident of the Qatar Chess Association –PD], who said: ‘OK guys, if FIDE gets such a serious problem, then you can use my money and my accounts. I am ready to pay on behalf of FIDE until you solve your problem.’ Which is something of course. In an emergency situation, we will be able to pay salaries, for example. But this can only be a temporary solution.

"Also, we’re working out some other ideas. Everybody should understand that this is a situation that FIDE should not face in the next four years. We should solve the problem in the election.

"Kirsan many times said that he loves FIDE but today he showed that he doesn’t care about this organization. He could solve easily this problem by resigning today, but he doesn’t. Instead he is attacking many board members and not stepping down. And I am expecting worse, now that he knows I am running. I was already informed that there are really disgusting articles in Russian media, attacking me, and attacking also Filatov."

Silvio Danailov, long-time friend and manager of GM Veselin Topalov and former ECU president, has been highly critical of the current FIDE administration, and in support of Ilyumzhinov, in recent months.

What is true of the story that FIDE paid for your hospital bill a few years ago?

"This is an unbelievable story that Kirsan has created. In Antalya I referred to this story, in the minutes, and Kirsan didn't deny any of this. Just before Tromsø I was in hospital fighting with cancer, Kirsan called me and said ‘don’t worry about your problems, I am sending $100,000 to FIDE and they should take care of your bills and your treatment. He sent a letter with his original signature. [ has seen the letter.] This was 73,000 Euros. FIDE spent 45,000 Euros for my treatment for the next two years. Still, there are 28,000 Euros in the bank.

"Kirsan at some moment decided to use this against me. He never sent the money, he never signed any paper, I am using FIDE’s money...apparently he forgot his letter. But I want to state clearly that I have not used or spent any single euro of FIDE budget money. Kirsan himself, decided to give his own money, so that money from FIDE would not be used. I thanked him 5-6 times for his generosity—he never said “what money are you talking about?” Contrary he was very proud that he helped his friend. Unfortunately, he now attempts to use his gesture, in an ill-mannered way and in an effort to defame me."

The FIDE presidential elections will take place during the general assembly, on  October 3, alongside the Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia.

Correction: an earlier version of this article stated that the resolution was supported by the presidential board with 16 votes to 1 with no abstentions. However, honorary members have no voting rights so the signatures of Javier Ochoa (Spain) and Mario Ramirez (Mexico) did not count and the result was 14-1.

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