Ex-world chess champion Kasparov fails in bid for top FIDE post

In spite of a fervent campaign during the 2014 World Chess Olympiad in Tromso, Norway, former world champion Garry Kasparov failed to unseat a Kremlin ally from the World Chess Federation leadership.
(Rune Stoltz Bertinussen / European Pressphoto Agency)

Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov failed Monday to unseat an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin as head of the World Chess Federation.

The 110-61 defeat of Kasparov, now a human rights activist and opposition leader living in exile, was seen as a test of Putin’s influence over the federation, known by its French acronym, FIDE.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a supporter of the Kremlin leader who has been FIDE president for 19 years, has drawn criticism from many in the chess world over his 1997 claim to have been abducted by aliens and taken on a visit to another planet.

Kasparov accused Ilyumzhinov, a wealthy businessman and former leader of Russia’s Kalmykia autonomous region, of damaging the chess federation’s image and sponsorship with his claims to be communing with aliens.


Ilyumzhinov, 52, was president of Kalmykia from 1993 to 2010 and transformed the small Buddhist enclave on Russia’s restive Caucasus peninsula into a haven for chess fans and followers of an array of different religions.

The vote for the FIDE leadership took place amid the 2014 World Chess Olympiad in the northern Norwegian city of Tromso.

In an interview with the Norwegian daily Dagbladet, Kasparov accused Putin of using the Russian Chess Federation to exert untoward influence on other member states of the world body.

“It’s not about chess. This is a pure political fight,” Kasparov told the newspaper, repeating his accusations at a news conference in Tromso on Monday.

Kasparov, 51, has been at odds with the Moscow leadership throughout his career. At 22, he became the youngest world champion in history after a controversial replay of the World Chess Championship of 1984, which had been suspended by another Moscow-allied FIDE leader before Kasparov or his opponent, Anatoly Karpov, had secured the necessary number of wins.

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