FIDE Election: A Call for Unity
An Open Letter by Ignatius Leong

13 May 2006

Dear Chess Friends,

I am writing this in a follow-up to the Open Letter by Dato’ Tan Chin Nam “On Why Unity Is Strength”. While I agree with the spirit of Dato’ Tan’s letter, I had difficulty convincing myself of the practicality of a joint Kirsan Ilyumzhinov-Bessel Kok presidency. While such a proposal may work in other situations, Kirsan is no ordinary FIDE President. As a Head of State, a certain level of protocol is due to him, and a joint-presidency may not reflect this. So with due respect to Dato’ Tan, I continue…

The current FIDE Election presents the Chess World with a unique opportunity to morph into a modern, professional, dynamic, transparent and sustainable organisation.

Two eminent persons, the incumbent president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and the challenger Bessel Kok, each anchors a ticket in a winner-takes-all election.

The decade-long incumbent: charismatic, controversial. The challenger: a professional corporate leader with impeccable credentials and a long association with chess.

Kirsan has his detractors. As one who has watched and worked with him close-up over the past decade, I say to his critics: “Government always looks easy when right, and so devilish when wrong, the further you are away from the seat of power.”

Bessel comes to battle fresh, without chess leadership baggage. This works for and against him. He can fight the good fight — and lose.

To Kirsan, I say your patronage has served FIDE well in the dark difficult years following your bold move to shoulder the thankless burden of the presidency in 1995. Is it not best to ease off while on top of your game?

To Bessel, I say you look like a one-election wonder. Win or lose, you are unlikely to be back for another contest four years on. If you lose, you might turn your back on a benighted FIDE, or worse, take your supporters with you to form a parallel organisation. The result: a diminished FIDE and an insufficiently representative new organisation. Lose-lose for chess.

In 1994 and the intervening elections after Kirsan was first elected President, FIDE Elections have been characterised by intrigue and cynicism.

But enough of that. Let us together light a candle rather than curse the dark.

To both Presidential Candidates, I say: Chess life is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Bring out your gravitas. Consider FIDE’s overriding need now and ever: Institutions in an organisation that is a value proposition to commercial sponsors and which survive changes in the Presidency.

Reject the mindless cruelty of winner takes all, the worthy loser fading into the dark. Rise above the fray.

In this spirit, I propose the following 6-man Unification Ticket to replace the present two 5-man tickets:

Position Candidate Federation Remarks

Chairman: Ilyumzhinov, Kirsan RUS With casting vote on Presidential Board

President: Kok, Bessel NED The dynamic change agent.

Deputy President: Dato’ Tan, Chin Nam MAS Another chess luminary to serve as the glue on the Board.

Vice President: Kouatly, Bachar FRA Brings business approach to the position.

General Secretary: One to be nominated by Kirsan and the other by Bessel.

Treasurer: One to be nominated by Kirsan and the other by Bessel.

Nominated Vice President: One to be nominated by Kirsan and the other by Bessel.

Nominated Vice President: One to be nominated by Kirsan and the other by Bessel.

I believe this proposal is balanced and acceptable to both Presidential Candidates. I urge them to consider and accept this as a way out of the impasse and destructive competition. I appeal to Dato’ Tan to answer this call to international service at this hour so pregnant with possibilities. I appeal to my good friend Bachar to re-join the establishment with a fresh focus. Drop the baggage from 1994, 1996 and 1998 and help build a strong business-oriented FIDE. I believe this proposal is win-win-win.

I appeal to Federations (Presidents/Secretaries/Delegates) to support this call to Unity. Please email me your support at and I will update everyone accordingly on the website

I also appeal to all Honorary Members of FIDE and the world chess community to support my proposal in a similar way.

My parting words to both Presidential Candidates: My proposal is made without fear or favour and in the best interests of chess as I see them. It is a proposal for Unity. I shall be disappointed if either of you rejects it. In such event I shall support the Presidential Ticket that accepts my proposal.

Yours truly,
Ignatius Leong
Delegate, Singapore Posted by Picasa

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