‘Efforts on to include chess in the Olympics’

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, President of the World Chess Federation (FIDE).-V. GANESAN Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, President of the World Chess Federation (FIDE).

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who was in Chennai recently for the closing ceremony of the World Chess Championship, spoke to P. K. Ajith Kumar about Garry Kasparov’s challenge in the coming FIDE elections, Magnus Carlsen’s emergence as the new World champion and India’s conduct of the World Championship.

On November 25, 1995, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov took over as president of the world chess governing body, FIDE. The former President of the Republic of Kamlykia has been at FIDE’s helm ever since. He is hoping for another term despite the challenge posed by former World champion Garry Kasparov at next year’s election.

Ilyumzhinov, who was in Chennai recently for the closing ceremony of the World Chess Championship, spoke to Sportstar about Kasparov’s challenge, Magnus Carlsen’s emergence as the new World champion and India’s conduct of the World Championship.

Excerpts:

Question: Are you happy with the way the World Championship was organised in Chennai?

Answer: I am very happy. It was conducted extremely well. FIDE would like to thank the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa for sponsoring the World Championship. But for her enthusiasm and total support, this World Championship would not have come to India.

Can India hope for more major events?

Yes, definitely. Chennai itself could have some big events in the near future. I have talked to the Chief Minister about the possibilities of conducting some important women’s events, such as the Grand Prix and the World Championship. She is keen about FIDE’s proposals. I am also impressed by her scheme to introduce chess to schools. That is the way forward for Indian chess.

Don’t you think it is time India hosted the Chess Olympiad too?

Yes, very much so, as India is one of the strongest nations in world chess. We have already started talking about having the Chess Olympiad in India. We are considering Mumbai, New Delhi and Chennai as possible venues.

You were very keen about chess being in the Olympics and had even got it as an exhibition sport at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, with Viswanathan Anand and Alexei Shirov playing a two-game match.

My efforts are still on to include chess in the Olympics. FIDE is already in discussions with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to include chess in the Winter Olympics. We will have an official meeting with the IOC in February 2014. We would like to make it to the Summer Olympics eventually, but we thought we could get an entry into the Winter Games first.

What are your thoughts on Magnus Carlsen becoming the new World champion?

I think it’s good that we have someone like Carlsen as the World champion. He is young, dynamic. He belongs to today’s generation and could attract even more young people towards chess.

How confident are you of winning the FIDE elections against Garry Kasparov?

I am contesting the elections because of the support of so many people in FIDE. I would happily step down if I found somebody else suitable to lead FIDE, somebody who has an interest in administration and could find the time. It is nice to see that Kasparov wants to be the FIDE president, but I am confident about my chances in the elections.

The organisers allegedly banned Kasparov from the media centre during the World Championship here…

I have heard that Kasparov had complaints about him not being received by FIDE officials. But he had not informed the organisers in advance. If he had, we would have welcomed him adequately.

How do you look back at your long tenure as FIDE president?

With gratification. I have been able to take chess to just about all corners of the globe. FIDE is now financially a strong body, which was not the case when I had taken over, 18 years ago. I have had to spend over $70 million from my own pocket for FIDE’s activities. Now, I don’t have to do it, as big sponsors are coming forward to work with us. Recently, I was approached by some big business groups in New Delhi, who wanted to conduct major chess tournaments. My biggest achievement, I feel, is that I could have a united World Chess Championship. Earlier, we had the PCA World champion, the Braingames World champion, the FIDE World champion… I am happy that there is only one World champion now.