Russia’s FIDE

JUNE 18 — In less than two months, delegates from the 180 or so National Chess Federations that make up the membership of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) will go to the ballot to decide if it will be Kirsan Ilymuzhinov continuing to rule beyond his 19 years or if his first serious challenger in the shape and form of legendary 13th World Champion Garry Kasparov will be able to usher in the change his year-long campaign has long promised.

The lines are clearly drawn, with echoes of the Cold War — an entrenched incumbent backed by Putin’s Russia against a human rights activist and leader of Russia’s opposition who has been forced to make the US his residence and carry a Croatian passport together with that issued by his homeland.

It is clear that if every chess player had a vote, then Kasparov would win by the biggest margin ever with millions of votes in a fair election, but the reality is it is the representatives of National Chess Federations who decide and they are a mixture ranging from big to small with various levels of activity and which mostly enjoy little support for the game in their countries.

FIDE is organised along continental lines and traditionally Europe has largely supported any opposition to Ilyumzhinov but in the Americas it is the exact opposite which means for this election the battle grounds are really Asia where it is split down the middle and in an emerging Africa.

Asia has long been a fixed deposit that ensured the current FIDE remained in power but it has been eight years of neglect under the non-existent leadership of Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa Al-Nehyan resulting in a clear concentration of resources and activity in the Middle East that increasingly worsened since 1986 when the Asia Presidency moved to UAE and then to Qatar and back again to UAE.

This has resulted in an “Asian Rising” challenge led by National Chess Federation of the Philippines President Pichay Prospero Jr who is running as the standard bearer of Team Kasparov for the Asian Chess Federation (ACF) elections and he boasts a well-balanced ticket with four of the five zones outside China and India represented and in terms of federation representation — 43 of 51 as opposed to the other group’s less than half of the ACF membership.

Members of his team include Tengku Ahmad Badli Shah, honorary secretary of the Malaysian Chess Federation (standing for deputy president); Bakyt Omurzakov, vice-president of the Kyrgyz Chess Federation (vice president); WFM/CM Helen Milligan, administrator at New Zealand Chess Federation (secretary general) and Shaker Alafoo, International Arbiter and International Organiser from Bahrain (treasurer).

But perhaps the biggest surprise has been the emergence of Africa as a voice for change and like in Asia the votes are now split down the middle despite claims of the incumbent. Kasparov has seen enough signs to become increasingly optimistic that these continents are swinging to him and together with Europe, ensure victory.

Whatever it might be, what is clear is that Ilyumzhinov is pulling out all the stops with Russia’s political might. It has gone from the original aggressive visits and promises made with local Russian ambassadors in attendance to further misuse of FIDE assets by having an increasingly compromised FIDE Executive Director and his staff working hand-in-hand to change voting delegates, even erasing existing Federations and replacing them with new ones!

The following correspondence made public is typical:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

From: Santens, Ank

Sent: Monday, June 16, 2014 1:05 PM To: ‘NIGEL FREEMAN’

Cc: ‘mahmod.hanif@gmail.com’; Garry Kasparov (kasparov.garry@gmail.com)

Subject: RE: Afganistan – Urgent!

Dear Nigel,

This is not a response. You as the Executive Director of FIDE and the FIDE Secretariat decided to make these changes. You removed the person who has been listed as the President and Delegate for years without any notice or explanation. You owe an explanation to Mr. Hanif and the Afghanistan Chess Federation. Mr. Hanif has no idea whatsoever as to why these changes were made. You are not giving Mr. Hanif and the Afghanistan Chess Federation any due process. You are the Executive Director of FIDE. You are bringing shame to the office by acting the way you are.

Best regards,

Ank

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

From: NIGEL FREEMAN [mailto:nigelfreeman@fide.com]

Sent: Monday, June 16, 2014 12:17 PM To: Santens, Ank

Subject: RE: Afganistan – Urgent!

Dear Ank We will forward this to the Electoral Commission.

Best regards Nigel

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

From: Santens, Ank [mailto:asantens@whitecase.com]

Sent: 16 June 2014 16:46 To: ‘FIDE-office’; ‘NIGEL FREEMAN’

Cc: ‘mahmod.hanif@gmail.com’; Garry Kasparov (kasparov.garry@gmail.com)

Subject: RE: Afganistan – Urgent! Importance: High

Dear Nigel,

I attach Afghanistan’s letter nominating the Kasparov ticket, signed by Mr. Hanif. There can be no doubt that this is the reason for the recent inexplicable (and unexplained) changes on the FIDE website directory for Afghanistan. The recent events regarding Gabon and Afghanistan put beyond any possible doubt that the FIDE Secretariat and you are biased and do not act with fairness, impartiality and transparency that is required of a sports governing body and its Executive Director. We reserve all our rights.

Regards,

Ank

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

From: Santens, Ank [mailto:asantens@whitecase.com]

Sent: 16 June 2014 16:46 To: FIDE-office; NIGEL FREEMAN

Cc: mahmod.hanif@gmail.com; Garry Kasparov (kasparov.garry@gmail.com)

Subject: Afganistan – Urgent! Importance: High

Dear Nigel,

We are informed that sometime in the last few days (between 9 June 2014 and 16 June 2014) the information for Afghanistan on the FIDE website has been changed: Mr. Mahmood Hanif, President & Delegate of the Afghan National Chess Federation (copied in this email), has been removed and replaced with “a “Mr. Haji Mohammad ALMAS ZAHID” as “President” and a “Mr. Zaheeruddeen Asefi” as “Delegate.” Mr. Hanif has been the President & Delegate for Afghanistan for years. Copies of the listing for Afghanistan on the FIDE website (attached) show that Mr. Hanif was listed the President & Delegate for Afghanistan as late as 3 September 2013 and 9 June 2014. Now that Afghanistan and Mr. Hanif have nominated the Kasparov ticket (http://www.fide.com/component/content/article/1-fide-news/7982-nomination-for-presidential-tickets.html), this information has been changed. We understand that Mr. Hanif did not receive any notice from FIDE or explanation as to why his information has been removed so suddenly. This is unacceptable. The information on the FIDE website must be restored to its prior status and Mr. Hanif must be listed as the delegate for Afghanistan on the list of delegates to be published and sent by FIDE by 5 PM Athens time this evening. If not, we will bring all necessary complaints and publicize this unacceptable behavior.

Regards,

Ank

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Shocked? Well, in places where Russian ties are strong, the countries’ political leadership have been pressured to the point where recalcitrant National Chess Federations have been summoned and instructed to vote for Ilyumzhinov and there are cases where delegates are named or government officials instructed take their places, sometimes even proxies signed and handed over.

So what is the response of a country like Malaysia whose National Chess Federation asked for and welcomed Kasparov when he spent three days helping raise both the profile of the game and contributed much needed funds?

The chess community was energised and happy, the government and many corporations took notice. Collectively the members of the Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) rose as one to endorse. One of their own, Tengku Ahmad Badli Shah, even offered to be on the ticket to reiterate our total support and when the Minister of Culture and Sport before giving his blessing asked who they wanted and supported, it was a loud and unanimous “Garry Kasparov for FIDE President”.

Yet the same president of MCF, Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib, placed there eight years ago by a long-serving and ageing Datuk Tan Chin Nam who preferred him as a successor to a chess player in Datuk Sri Dr Edmund Santhara, has not signed the nomination papers as requested, then declined to provide an open letter of support that is already public, and refuses to allow his deputy running on the Kasparov ticket to have the vote as delegate.

Even in his 70s he remains a politician, and while he will likely give his vote to Kasparov as originally promised and also demanded by everyone in Malaysian chess, he will keep his options open to the very end, and sadly this will be the case with too with many Federations who are waiting to see what price Putin will be willing to pay them to ensure FIDE remains Russia’s FIDE.

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/what-you-think/article/russias-fide-peter-long

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