21 November 2017

Spectating the 88th FIDE Congress

FIDE has just published its annual set of internal documents emanating from its most recent Congress, 88th FIDE Congress: Executive Board Minutes and Annexes (fide.com); 'FIDE publishes the minutes and annexes of the Executive Board meeting that was held in Goynuk, Antalya, Turkey, 13-14 October 2017.' As in nearly every year, they provide the best view that an outsider has of the internal workings of the organization.

Just as I've always done after previous Congresses, I looked first at the 2017 Executive Board Minutes. I was not surprised to see that the U.S. sanctions against Kirsan Ilyumzhinov are still FIDE's most pressing issue. I discussed the background for those sanctions in last year's post, Spectating the 87th FIDE Congress (December 2016), and they are not to be taken lightly. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, Ilyumzhinov served as a middleman between two groups who were unable to conduct business openly. Following are initial, relevant excerpts concerning the impact of the sanctions as taken from the minutes of the 88th FIDE Congress, Executive Board meeting.

1. Brief of President K. Ilyumzhinov.

[Ilyumzhinov] said that as for his sanctions, are they in the way when he travels, develops and promotes chess? You know that since December 2015 he is in the process of clarifying his situation with the U.S. Department of Treasury. He has officially signed two contracts with the U.S. lawyers who defend his interest in this case. Lately there had been four hearings on his case in the U.S. Dept. of Treasury. He was sure that he will be invited to the USA very soon. As for trips, besides the USA, he is able to visit all countries in all continents. He paid his trips in air company Lufthansa and others, he stayed in hotels and organised events and this did not interfere with his activities abroad.

He also established the Chess for Peace Foundation in Washington, London, and Brussels. During this year he has organised many events, by paying and assisting through this foundation, to many chess clubs in quite a few countries. He attracted many companies and many businessmen from all over the world. He has received invitations from more than a hundred countries and many Russian regions, to come and give a lecture, to bring books and chess equipment, to attend opening of various chess clubs, and to help chess federations. Yesterday many Presidents whom he met, invited him to visit their countries.

1.1. Report of the Deputy President. [G. Makropoulos]

I would like to say that after Baku [87th FIDE Congress] we had successfully organized, probably the best World Championship in chess that we have organized, ever in New York. And it was on a very high level organized with great success in media and internet. I think Mr. Merenzon, will refer later to specific numbers. And I remind you that this was an idea of Kirsan to organize this championship in New York. And it was very pity that at the end he was not able to go there. He said that few days before the event, he tried, and they stopped him.

I was there but I tried to avoid going to the opening ceremony or to the closing ceremony. Other officials from FIDE, they have represented FIDE in these ceremonies. When I was there, I tried to keep a very low profile for one reason. I didn’t want to downgrade the importance of Kirsan on that period because we were giving a fight, first of all, to protect our Organization of the fact that Kirsan has been under sanctions, but at the same time, we didn’t want, of course, Kirsan to leave FIDE, and we didn’t want Kirsan to be insulted from all these… that were going in our family. I will refer to this later in my report. [...]

One of the most important efforts that we have to do in the last period… it was, despite of the problems that we were facing, to try to keep the stability in our organization. The truth is that it’s not easy. We face really serious problems that I have to refer to them, but what I want to say is that for me, all these problems, they were not political and they were not personal because many times it has been an effort for these problems to be presented as political problems between the people or personal problems.

I would like to remind you that in Baku, in General Assembly, there was an effort to go to a voting against Kirsan Ilyumzhinov being president in FIDE under sanctions. It was not clear what exactly the people that had the initiative to present their proposals were looking for, vote of non-confidence, whether they were going to go farther to force Kirsan to resign. We stand by Kirsan, and we make it clear: we understand that the sanctions are a big problem that we have in FIDE, but we don't believe that this Organization should insult Mr. Ilyumzhinov by trying to force him to resign. We don't want this. We're not looking for this, and at least few people there, they made it very clear.

I can remember myself, Jorge Vega, Israel Gelfer, that we made very clear that what we believe is that Kirsan should not run to the next elections. And maybe on that moment there were people in the meeting that were thinking that we don't believe really on this, and we say we are expressing this view because we just wanted to protect Kirsan on that moment. The truth is that we really believe this. And we have to make a big effort the next months to convince Kirsan that he should not run.

I think Adrian [Siegel, FIDE Treasurer] can refer to the problems that already we have faced with our banks and our insurance company in Switzerland, and the situation, of course, it can be worse in case that Kirsan is the president because now we have stopped everything, all the efforts in Switzerland to take out our accounts from the banks there, because we have explained that Kirsan is not a part of the decision making procedure, that he is not involved in the business of FIDE, he’s our president only. And somehow we convinced them that they should not insist.

But the truth is that if Kirsan could win these elections and comes back, they will believe, all of them, that we were cheating them, that we were lying to them, that we are not a serious organization. Immediately they will kick us out. So all these months we were trying to convince Kirsan not to run, to find an alternative. Somebody else could. We had even discussions about the possibility that Mr. Filatov could run. We had discussions even one year and a half about such a possibility or somebody else from FIDE, even from another country. Unfortunately, we could not reach an understanding that this is what we should do in FIDE. Kirsan really wished very much that he should run at least for one more term.

Later in the meeting, Ilyumzhinov gave a more detailed defense of his personal actions, but I'll save that for another post. Along with that item, I'll look at the same subjects I covered in connection with last year's 'Spectating the 87th Congress':-

On my other chess blog, I'll do a follow-up to last year's report:-

That should keep me busy for the next month or so.

No comments: