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.