chess

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Mind Games - PaulBroekhuyse paulbroekhuyse@gmail.com

The world chess fed­er­a­tion lacks many im­por­tant qual­i­ties, but petty vin­dic­tive­ness isn’t one of them. The fed­er­a­tion (of­fi­cially known as Fed­er­a­tion In­ter­na­tionale des Echecs or FIDE) has just demon­strated its prow­ess in this field by ban­ning former world cham­pion Garry Kas­parov and Asian chess or­gan­iser Ig­natius Leong from hold­ing of­fi­cial po­si­tions or at­tend­ing of­fi­cial meet­ings for two years.

Now given that FIDE meet­ings are about as in­ter­est­ing as watch­ing paint dry — and given that the only FIDE po­si­tion Kas­parov’s in­ter­ested in is the top one — I imag­ine Gazza’s only com­plaint will be that this ban isn’t long enough.

The drama stems from last year’s FIDE pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, where Kas­parov tried and failed to un­seat long­time in­cum­bent Kir­san Ilyumzhi­nov. Leong, for­merly an ally of Ilyumzhi­nov, had changed sides and joined Kas­parov’s team. Dur­ing the course of a bit­ter cam­paign, a sup­posed agree­ment be­tween Kas­parov and Leong emerged in which Leong promised to de­liver votes while Kas­parov vowed to give money.

But to whom? Kas­parov in­sisted the cash was for Asian chess de­vel­op­ment; FIDE in­sisted it was a di­rect bribe to Leong. On that ba­sis, last month a FIDE kan­ga­roo court found Kas­parov and Leong had breached its Code of Ethics. Pos­si­ble penal­ties ranged from warn­ings to $US25,000 fines, loss of ti­tles and bans of up to 15 years, so the two-year penalty could have been worse.

Kas­parov com­mented: “Back in Rus­sia I got used to be­ing falsely ac­cused by pup­pet courts and this one has as lit­tle value and cred­i­bil­ity as those. Be­ing ac­cused of cor­rup­tion by Ilyumzhi­nov is like be­ing ac­cused of for­eign ag­gres­sion by Putin!

“My mis­sion has al­ways been to pro­mote chess and to build the fu­ture of the game. I once hoped that could hap­pen with FIDE, but it is clearer than ever this work will con­tinue de­spite FIDE, which con­tin­ues to take resources out of the sport and to drive away those who love it.”

The whole thing was a show trial, of course, in the finest tra­di­tions of po­lit­i­cal pay­back. And you have to won­der what Ilyumzhi­nov hopes to achieve by it. The former Rus­sian politi­cian and multi-mil­lion­aire has hung on to power by spray­ing money around to win the votes of lots of lit­tle coun­tries, while larger coun­tries de­spaired. His rep­u­ta­tion is, ahem, some­thing less than pris­tine. Kas­parov, by con­trast, is one of the great­est play­ers in his­tory and revered by mil­lions. And no FIDE ban will change that.

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