Mr. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, President of FIDE and Kalmykia, kindly shares his views in a rare interview.

Born: April 5, 1962
Ethnic background: Kalmyk
Education: Moscow State Institute of Foreign Relations (MGIMO)

Degrees and titles
– Honored Academician of Interregional Science of Science Academy of Russian Federation
– Honored Doctor of National Academy of Applied Sciences of Russian Federation
– Full Member of Russian Social Sciences Academy
– Full Member of New York Academy of Sciences

– Gold Medal of Peace for Humanitarian Activities
– Medal “300 Years of Russian Navy”
– F. Plevako Gold Medal
– Order of Friendship
– Order of St. Nicolas
– Order of Dignity — St. George with sword
– Triumphal Crown of the National Academy of Applied Sciences
– Honored Citizen of Elista
– Pierre Obrie Sign (France)

– Deputy of the Supreme Soviet of Russian Federative Republic
– Member of the Federation Council of Russian Federation
– Honored Deputy of Elista Municipal Board
– President of Russian Chamber of Entrepreneurs

Career history
1979-1980 — Mechanic-fitter at Zvezda plant, Elista
1980-1982 — Military Service
1982-1983 — Mechanic at Zvezda plant, Elista
1983-1989 — Student at Moscow State Institute of Foreign Relations
1989-1990 — Manager of Soviet-Japanese Company “Liko-Raduga”, Moscow
1990-1993 — President of SAN Corporation, Moscow
April 1993 — present — President, Head (since Oct.2005) of the Republic of Kalmykia
November 1995 — present — President of World Chess Federation (FIDE)

Questions for FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

1. You are currently holding two prestigious and very important positions, President of Kalmykia and FIDE. How do you manage to combine running both positions at the same time?

The legendary Bulgarian prophet Vanga once told me that it was my fate to become a “double-president”. So, as they say, you cannot escape your fate. I am still young and strong and I am not tired of this double weight because both jobs are still of much interest for me. And in both cases I feel responsible for what I have promised to fulfill.

2. We all know that you love chess and you are a good player. However, what made you want to be the President of FIDE a decade ago and what make you want to run again this May in Turin?

I was the man of the moment in 1995. FIDE was ready for a change at the helm. I offered my candidacy as I felt I could make a difference. I am running again this time as I do not feel I have the right to leave the reforms that I started 10 years ago unfinished. It would be a betrayal of the Chess community’s hopes. With all the experience our team gained during this decade it is time to go on with our work in FIDE.

3. You have hosted and sponsored so many international events in your home town Elista as well as putting chess in the schools in your country. Because of this, is there a chess boom in Kalmykia? Are there some young talents who we should watch out for?

This boom became especially noticeable after the Karpov-Kamsky Match. We have witnessed a rapid development of Chess in Kalmykia during this last decade. Beside the Chess Olympiad in 1998 and the World Cup 2005, Kalmykia has organized seven Russian Championships and eight Russian Women’s Championships. And we also made Chess a regular class in our schools. The results are very pleasing.

The young Sana Sygirov became World Champion among children under the age of 10. Baya Kovanova became the Russian Champion under 18. Darsen Sanjaev – the Russian Champion under 10. All these young Chess talents were born in Kalmykia and I am very proud of it.
I hope that the coming Topalov-Kramnik Match in Elista will inspire our young players for the new victories.

4. I do not believe that any organization can be perfect. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. As a FIDE president for more than a decade, what do you feel have been your biggest accomplishment(s) and what area(s) do you think you and your team need to improve on?

Our greatest victory was the recognition of Chess as a sport by the IOC. That is one of the achievements I am really very proud of.

Concerning the future, I am convinced, that we have to improve the marketing system of FIDE, launching some projects that will bring profit and as a result – more money for the World Chess development.

5. What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of your rival team, especially Mr. Bessel Kok and Mr. Ali Nihat Yazici? Why do you feel that you are the better or more qualified candidate?

On principle I do not criticize others, no matter what they say about me and what campaign methods they use. I deeply respect all the members of the opposite ticket and as FIDE president I will welcome all the rational initiatives and competition from the rival team. I leave it to Delegates to judge their strengths and weaknesses. My team has a proven track record.

6. If you are successful in remaining as the FIDE president, what specific plans do you have to help popularize our beloved game worldwide? What will be your first action and what will be your biggest challenge in the new term?

Our main plans for World Chess and FIDE development, our program “Chess. FIDE. Fidelity.” will be presented in Turin to the delegates of the General Assembly and the participants of the Chess Olympiad.

7. Women’s Chess is a very important issue for me. What plans do you have to improve the Women’s World Championship format and its prize fund? In some tennis Grand Slam tournaments, women earn the same or almost the same as men.

In chess, women have the potential to draw the same if not bigger interests from the media and the mainstream fans. However, women in chess earn only a small fraction of what the men earn in the World Championship.

Because of this, there is not enough monetary incentive for some of the top rated female players in the world to participate in the Women’s World Championship even in their prime. Some can earn more from exhibitions and other chess activities than competing in the Women’s World Championship. Do you feel a need to change this?

The necessity for change in this area is obvious and we also mention it in our program.

8. Do you have an ambition to get chess on television? If yes, how do you plan to do this? If no, why not?

Much has been said about Chess on TV but now it is time to try to make this dream come true. It is also one of the points of the program.

9. A lot of people think that Topalov should get an automatic invitation to the 2007 World championship regardless of the outcome of his upcoming match against Kramnik. He is also the top rated player in the world right now. Do you think you may reconsider this issue?

In addition, some people made the accusation that the organization of upcoming unification match between Topalov and Kramnik is politically motivated. What do you say to those people?

Some people are seeing just what they want to see. You can’t avoid that, so you just let them say whatever they want.

The Chess World will get the unification Match that will solve in one shot a lot of problems of the last decade. This “clash of the Chess Titans” will attract more public attention to Chess in general and I am sure that it will be a really historic match. THE MATCH as some journalists already call it. The Match is the only thing that counts. And I am very proud that it will take place in Elista, the capital of my homeland.

10. What are the chances of chess becoming an Olympic sport in the foreseeable future? What has to be done for this to happen?

This is one of our main future goals. We started this process and we intend to finish it successfully. It will be a result of many years of hard work of the FIDE team. We already passed the first stage – the Recognition stage. The next step is to become an official Olympic sport and it will take a couple of years or maybe some more. But I am glad that we are already close to it.

Thank you very much in advance for your time. My readers and I wish you the best in the upcoming election. Do you have any additional message for chess players and heads of chess federations worldwide?

The message is always the same: “Gens Una Sumus!” Let’s stick to this main principle. If we keep our unity, we will solve all the problems successfully.

I would like to thank Mr. Ilyumzhinov for taking time to answer the questions. As Mr. Ilyumzhinov stated above, it is up to the delegates to decide the future of FIDE.
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