A look at the upcoming FIDE Congress

SEPTEMBER 1 — Every year, the World Chess Federation (FIDE) Congress takes place and concludes with the General Assembly (GA) which delegates from member national chess federations have the right to attend.

On years where there is a World Chess Olympiad — held every two years — the Congress is also held concurrently so while Baku, Azerbaijan will host the Olympiad from September 1-14, 2016, it will also be the host for this year’s Congress from September 4-14, 2016.

FIDE elections take place every four years and since the last election was held in Tromso, Norway in 2014, it will be at the Olympiad and Congress to be held in Batumi, Georgia in 2018 where the next opportunity for a renewal of FIDE leadership will happen.

Or is that really so?

For months now, several parties within FIDE have been manoeuvring to oust Kirsan Ilyumzhinov who has increasingly been seen to be a liability; his apparent sole contribution being that he, perhaps through want of a better candidate, is still tolerated by Russia.

There is the recent revelation of the sad state of FIDE finances, starting with the shockingly small budget relative to the claims of an organisation which says it is only just smaller than FIFA in terms of both country representation and numbers involved in the game to its overspending.

Chess.com’s Peter Doggers has done a brilliant job in his investigative piece to lay bare the facts.

What jumps out at me from all this is firstly the role of AGON which has been controversially given the rights to FIDE’s crown jewels again, confirming the many suspicions of its critics; secondly, the shocking reality that FIDE has no sponsors, and thirdly there are very serious questions as to the processes in place with regards its financial affairs.

I understand that Ilyumzhinov is a worried man and he has not only stopped pretending he has temporarily stepped aside on matters that affect FIDE with regards the sanctions by the US Treasury but met with his unhappy deputy president Georgious Makropoulous to win back his loyalty as shown on the front page of the FIDE website.

At the same time, AGON has finally announced a venue in New York for the World Chess Championship match to be held from November 11-30, 2016 but to no one’s surprise, no sponsor is yet named although it is all but certain if it does happen, it will be some Russian company roped in for national service.

Despite his constant antics, Ilyumzhinov has perhaps gone a little too far this time by claiming he was not allowed to board a plane to the USA after promising for months that he would be immediately visiting to clear his name (on top of promising to sue the US Treasury).

My read from this is that the FIDE president is looking for sympathy and support from Russia as one of their own but more and more might now be looking to abandon him especially when he is also now saying he blocked certain individuals in FIDE from trying to move the match away from New York.

One official move to impeach Ilyumzhinov has been through a motion made by the Jamaica Chess Federation (for easy reading I have put a copy on my blog) and while its president, Ian Wilkinson, was on the Kasparov ticket, it has nothing to do with that and is most certainly instead backed by influential figures in FIDE together with a large block of national chess federations but still denied by FIDE to be included in the Congress agenda.

The FIDE statutes, as I read them, does not allow for election of a new president but then again the GA can change many things with a two-thirds majority and yet when one sees who the delegates are and the fact that there are so many votes from countries with national chess federations that barely exist, it is perhaps a question of money!

Looking at the Congress agenda, I see applications from South Sudan, Eritria, Kosovo, Liberia, Nauru, and Cabo-Verde to be FIDE members and with perhaps one exception, this is nothing more than a way to create delegates who will often not even be from those countries in order to keep the incumbents in power.

These will join the many constantly in arrears but for some reason (votes?) are being allowed to participate in the Olympiad and Congress in Baku. I would argue that at least 25 per cent of the FIDE membership should enjoy nothing more than provisional membership.

One very controversial motion that has been met with some serious opposition — thanks to the efforts of the ACP (Association of Chess Professionals) — is that of the Russia Chess Federation proposing to open up the World Chess Championship to a challenger with the money and after a slow start, many more have joined in the petition.

Of course the wishes of the chess players are not often seriously considered by FIDE and if the Russia proposal is to be stopped, then it will need some serious backroom dealing with more of the very top players standing up for a fair and equitable World Chess Championship but sadly too many are missing.

At the end of the day, I salute the brave Russian players who dared to sign and mourn the reality that players need to make a living with fear in today’s FIDE.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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