Russian Chess Federation Switches Support To Dvorkovich
Ilyumzhinov lost the support from his federation, which chose Dvorkovich (photo: Kremlin) instead.

Russian Chess Federation Switches Support To Dvorkovich

| 48 | Chess Politics

The Russian Chess Federation has elected Arkady Dvorkovich as its candidate for the FIDE presidential elections. The Kirsan Ilyumzhinov era in chess seems to be coming to an end.

In an absentee ballot, 24 votes were received by the Russian Chess Federation's secretariat by 6 p.m. Moscow time on Wednesday, June 27.

Twenty-two Supervisory Board members voted in favor of Dvorkovich and two in favor of Ilyumzhinov. 

At a board meeting on May 6, Ilyumzhinov and his ticket had received a fragile endorsement from the Russian Chess Federation. Andrey Filatov, President of the federation, expressed his reservations, saying a meeting would be held with the Foreign Ministry "because some people on the ticket raise questions."

Dvorkovich, a former Deputy Prime Minister and a former Assistant to the President in the Russian government, announced his candidacy two weeks ago. Few doubted he would get the support from the chess federation.

The seasoned reporter Sarah Hurst has suggested that the Russian government, not wanting to lose its grip on the chess world, has ordered Dvorkovich to take up the FIDE leadership: "Dvorkovich is also well aware that former Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev has been jailed for eight years and that a similar fate could await him if he fails to toe the Kremlin line," she said.

In the fight for votes from the chess delegates, Dvorkovich seems to have enjoyed his first success as far as the African continent is concerned. Lewis Ncube, the current Continental President for Africa (and running for another term), has announced that he no longer supports Ilyumzhinov, but Dvorkovich instead.

Arkady Dvorkovich Lewis Ncube

Dvorkovich and Ncube at a meeting on June 17. | Photo: African Chess Confederation/Facebook.

A source told that Ilyumzhinov introduced his team members to Dvorkovich on June 17, and some of them have now switched sides. Ilyumzhinov's chances to win another FIDE presidential election have seriously diminished, but he still hasn't announced his withdrawal. 

Ilyumzhinov, FIDE President since 1995, has always been controversial. On the one hand he's a strong diplomat, and has invested millions in chess. On the other hand, he has been linked to the murder of a journalist, and raised eyebrows for visiting dictators and stating he was abducted by aliens.

Ilyumzhinov at the 2017 Moscow Grand Prix

Ilyumzhinov at the 2017 Moscow Grand Prix. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Leontxo García, a highly experienced chess journalist who writes for El País, commented to

If Kirsan withdraws or not is only important from the news point of view. The most important matter is if there is any chance of changing the mentality among FIDE officials. They supported Kirsan as long as he was able to provide a lot of money, which has been his main contribution to chess.

Last September, after one whole day with Kirsan in Chongqing (China), I could feel that his interest in chess as an educational tool is very sincere, although his ways to promote it are not the best. However, Kirsan was born and educated, and made a lot of money, in a culture where corruption was very normal on daily basis. Then he landed in FIDE, where the culture of corruption was already consolidated by Florencio Campomanes [the previous FIDE president - PD] and his team since the eighties.  I was, as a journalist, a direct witness of it since the Dubai Olympiad in 1986.

Therefore, corruption is something natural for many of the current FIDE principals (fortunately, not all of them). And not only that: they are also very inefficient in terms of marketing, image, communications, sponsors, et cetera.

To have a different president in October will mean something good for chess only if the new team is not corrupted and has a professional approach to how chess shall be promoted all over the world. The new members of the board must understand how much chess can contribute to a better world (especially as an educational, social and therapeutic tool) if they do a good and honest job.

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