Only two candidates for FIDE President

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Ilyumzhinov vs KarpovAfter weeks of speculation and uncertainty we now know that the 2010 FIDE Presidential Election will be contested between the incumbent, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, and former World Chess Champion, Anatoly Karpov. The deadline for nominations passed on 28 June, though not, as we’ve come to expect, without controversy.

By Colin McGourty

There were two unknowns right up until the last moment. The first was the full line-up of Karpov’s ticket. We knew about his candidates for Deputy President – Richard Conn Jr (USA), Treasurer – Viktor Kapustin (Ukraine) and Vice President – Alisa Maric (Serbia). The new additions are: General Secretary – Abd Hamid Majid (Malaysia) and Vice President – Dr. Aguinaldo Jaime (Angola).

The greater mystery, however, was which candidate the Russian Chess Federation would finally choose to nominate. After the fiercely disputed events of 14 May (when a majority of the RCF Supervisory Board voted for Karpov), the expulsion of Chairman Alexander Bakh from his office on 20 May, and Ilyumzhinov suing Karpov earlier this month, there was a strange lull in proceedings. The election campaign moved to Latin America and Arkady Dvorkovich, Chairman of the RCF Supervisory Board and economic advisor to President Medvedev, seemed oddly reluctant to engineer a new vote in his favour. There were even rumours that after all the RCF had nominated Karpov, leaving Ilyumzhinov in a tricky position.

Yesterday, however, the FIDE website published the nominations received by the deadline. Ilyumzhinov's ticket was already known as well: Deputy President - Georgios Makropoulos (Greece), Vice President - Lewis Ncube (Zambia), Vice President - Beatriz Marinello (USA), General Secretary - Ignatius Leong (Singapore), Treasurer - Nigel Freeman (Bermuda).

At first glance we can conclude: 1) Both candidates had a Plan B – Ilyumzhinov is also nominated by Argentina and Mexico, while Karpov is nominated by France, Germany and Switzerland, and 2) Ilyumzhinov was the final choice of the RCF. This latter point is handled with customary modesty by the Ilyumzhinov campaign website:

However, let there be NO MISTAKE, no bits of ‘curiosity’ here…

THE CHOICE IS CLEAR FOR RUSSIA…RUSSIA’S ONLY CHOICE IS KIRSAN ILYUMZHINOV!



A second glance at the FIDE website, however, paints a different picture. Given there in Russian and hasty English translations are the minutes of a meeting of the RCF Supervisory Board held on the deadline day itself, and an exchange of letters between FIDE and the RCF.

What they reveal is that Alexander Bakh did actually write to FIDE to nominate Karpov as late as 23 June. From the screenshot at the bottom of this Chessbase report we can also see that Karpov had accepted the RCF’s nomination on 22 June. Holding a new meeting as late as the 28th might therefore seem like a reckless piece of brinkmanship, but in fact it appears to have provided a smooth technocratic solution to the problem.

In a curious symmetry with the meeting where Karpov was nominated, 17 delegates voted unanimously on all points raised (4 of the Karpov voters seem, as long predicted, to have switched sides). Those present were informed that Bakh had tendered his voluntary resignation, to come into effect on the 10 July. The reason for this can only be speculated upon, though Mark Crowther’s suggestion of a “go quietly or you'll really regret it kind of ultimatum” seems spot on. His replacement is to be the 30-year-old Ilya Levitov, previously better known to a chess audience as Evgeny Bareev’s co-author on From London to Elista. He also appears to have headed the PR Department of the Egorov, Puginsky, Afanasiev & Partners law firm, whose legal opinion Dvorkovich relied on to declare the nomination of Karpov on 14 May invalid.

The short meeting included no discussion of the nomination for FIDE President, but there was a sting in the tail: point 4 voted Dvorkovich the right to represent the RCF to third parties. He sat down afterwards and used his new powers to write to FIDE and confirm his earlier (likely invalid) letter announcing the RCF’s support for Ilyumzhinov. The only other loose end to be tied up was the letter Bakh sent to FIDE. Levitov responded to FIDE’s query by writing that Bakh’s document was “not a legally valid document”.

And so the dispute in the Russian Chess Federation ends, “not with a bang but a whimper”. Of course the Karpov campaign may choose to legally challenge the Russian nomination, but in a way the current state of affairs might suit all involved: Ilyumzhinov has avoided the embarrassment of losing his own federation’s support, Dvorkovich has taken a step back from the damaging PR of his earlier actions and is free to concentrate on other matters (here he is on the BBC talking about his plans to bring the FIFA World Cup to Russia in 2018 – while on his Twitter account he wrote, “Yesterday I held the first [sic] Supervisory Council of the Russian Chess Federation, we've started to get out of our nosedive”), Bakh has regained the emperor’s favour and can organise chess events without fearing criminal charges relating to his time at the RCF, while Karpov… Karpov has in any case been nominated and still has strong claims to be the moral victor of the Russian campaign. It’s true that technically his candidacy could still be challenged (FIDE’s regulations include “No person can be elected to a FIDE-office against the will of his national federation”), but in the absence of a third challenger it’s hard to imagine that even FIDE would contemplate an “election” with a single candidate.

So now it’s all down to winning the votes of chess federations worldwide. Ilyumzhinov appears to be leading in endorsements by around two to one (claiming 55 supporting federations at the moment), though as the case of Honduras demonstrates (where both candidates can provide signed statements of support) what finally matters is the vote in Elista this September. There’s still a long way to go.
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