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Grandmaster Karpov Prepares Next Move In Bid For FIDE Presidency

  • Yelena Vlasenko

Chess Grandmaster Anatoly Karpov (right, in file photo) received a majority of the Russian Chess Federation's votes for the nomination.

Chess Grandmaster Anatoly Karpov (right, in file photo) received a majority of the Russian Chess Federation's votes for the nomination.

MOSCOW -- A conflict surrounding the Russian candidate for the presidency of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) has been simmering for weeks.

At the end of April, Kremlin aide Arkady Dvorkovich, one of 32 members of the supervisory council of the Russian Chess Federation (RShF), announced the federation would back Kalmyk President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov for reelection as FIDE head.

Ilyumzhinov, whose colorful resume includes a purported visit by aliens, has served as head of the world chess body since 1995.

Dvorkovich said the decision was made "after a number of consultations with members of the RShF supervisory council and other federations," adding that "a majority of [national] federations are ready to support Ilyumzhinov's candidacy."

The news came as a surprise to Anatoly Karpov, one of Russia's most revered grandmasters, who was the official world champion from 1975-85 and FIDE world champion from 1993-99.

Karpov, who has waged a highly public campaign in defense of his nomination, talks to RFE/RL's Russian Service about his plans as he moves ahead with his campaign.

Contrary to Dvorkovich's claims, Karpov had won the support of dozens of national chess federations for his own bid at the presidency of the world chess body. Moreover, during a May 14 meeting of the RShF, it was Karpov -- not Ilyumzhinov -- who received a majority of votes for the nomination.

Dvorkovich, who failed to attend the meeting, refused to recognize the results, and reiterated his complaints and his continued support of the Kalmyk leader in a letter to the RShF. Karpov followed in kind, writing that "Dvorkovich and Ilyumzhinov cannot change the results of the vote.... I won in an open vote involving delegates from every corner of Russia's vast expanse, and it is with pride and honor that I will represent my country."

He added that many federation members had already called his attention to the fact that Dvorkovich "in his own letter tried to frighten the national organizations, warning them that they shouldn't support my candidacy." Karpov also suggested that Dvorkovich was working with the full support of the Kremlin.

Some observers have suggested that Ilyumzhinov, whose term in office as Kalmyk president ends this year, may have fallen out of the Kremlin's favor, and that an extension of his FIDE post may be an attempt to cushion the blow.

The row turned even uglier last week after armed security guards evicted the RShF from its premises and sealed off the property. Federation Chairman Anatoly Bakh said the takeover was punishment for the organization's refusal to accommodate Dvorkovich's request to back Ilyumzhinov.

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