The 2014 FIDE Election Campaign of the 19-year incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is certainly the dirtiest we’ve ever seen. His mudslinging and cheap shots are the acts of a desperate man doing desperate things.

Why is Ilyumzhinov’s team playing so dirty? Garry Kasparov has them frightened by bringing fresh energy, more money, and new ideas to chess.

Kasparov represents needed change, removing a stale and corrupt regime consisting of Ilyumzhinov together with Georgios Makropoulos and others, or “Makro & friends.” The Ilyumzhinov team’s frantic personal attacks show they know how weak their support is this year and how many of their 2010 supporters have abandoned them in favor of Kasparov’s team.

I have long been disillusioned by Ilyumzhinov’s FIDE, yet because I love chess and never had the means to have a realistic chance to put together a winning ticket that would be devoted to serving chess, I agreed to join him many years ago. Now I have realised how naïve I was to believe that I could make a difference on the inside.

When I was approached by Kasparov to be a part of his team – professionals, sponsors, and real chess players, all who love our game passionately – I immediately jumped at the chance. This was clearly a once in a lifetime opportunity for all of us to finally bring chess to its rightful place in the eyes of the world.

Kasparov warned me that when I openly declared to be with him that I would be vilified in ways I could not imagine possible. He knows how to read an opponent and he was 100 percent right!

By lobbing false accusations in an attempt to smear me, Ilyumzhinov insults both the members of our team and, more importantly, those who support us in our quest for change. For transparency and to allow me to have access to funds to bring development to my region (which FIDE has failed to do for decades, despite Ilyumzhinov’s promises), I asked for and was given a contract for the same through the Kasparov Chess Foundation.

We cannot be “buying” votes unless there are sellers and many of the Asian federations who are supporting us have even gone on record to say that they are insulted as they have not asked for nor received anything! My contract with Kasparov and KCF puts in writing that all the funds go to the promotion and development of chess, not to me, or anyone else, personally.

Kasparov’s agreements here and around the world offer guarantees with the money in place and a proven plan to grow chess in an atmosphere of transparency and mutual support. This is what federations need and what sponsors want – and exactly what Ilyumzhinov’s people are afraid of.

In contrast, Ilyumzhinov wants everything off the record and behind closed doors. His feats of corruption are epic. Case in point: his gross misuse of FIDE resources and US$10 million Ilyumzhinov claims to have put into Global Chess for his campaign. When faced with reelection, he is quick to dispense empty promises such as the US$500,000 he pledged to African nations when he visited earlier this year. It was a blatant copy-paste from his 2010 campaign, but the federations aren’t falling for this trick again now that they have a clearly superior alternative in Team Kasparov.

From its website, it is clear FIDE is being treated as nothing more but Ilyumzhinov’s private company. His correspondence is for election campaign visits. Even the requests for his nomination were done by FIDE management and FIDE employees in its Athens and Moscow offices. And suddenly, and never before seen, there is an abundance of FIDE seminars being held in all parts of the Earth. This money does not belong to Ilyumzhinov. FIDE does not belong to Ilyumzhinov. He is abusing the organization and the national federations he is supposed to serve.

Who is helping Ilyumzhinov swing into action after 19 years of stagnation? His campaign has had Russia’s help through its ambassadors and embassy staff in every country, and they openly go around offering university scholarships, academy buildings, federation offices, prize money for tournaments, etc. Not that these promises are likely to be fulfilled, of course. As with Ilyumzhinov’s own promises, they will evaporate as soon as the election is over even if he were to win.

Again in dramatic contrast, Garry Kasparov visits with top officials publicly with great media attention. Sports and Education ministers, Olympic Committee presidents, even many heads of state have embraced him and have pledged immediately to participate in his ambitious plans to grow chess as a sport and in education.

What is more, Kasparov brings sponsors to the table everywhere he goes and has the overwhelming support of the chess community. All this incredible public and financial support while Ilyumzhinov’s FIDE is claiming they cannot find sponsors because chess is a “bad product”!

One might believe that because I am so terrible that FIDE suddenly needed me to be removed as General Secretary, but the truth is simpler. Until Ilyumzhinov found another way, I was a signatory to FIDE’s spending as prepared by the elected Treasurer and approved by the employed Executive Director who, lo and behold, is the same person in Nigel Freeman!

With the spending that is going on in FIDE, it is not just my usual questions and objections (all of which are ignored), but the fact is that I was now on Kasparov’s ticket so it takes little imagination to imagine what I would be saying today!

For example, just before Tallinn Congress, FIDE was transferring funds to some federations in the Americas. Before I signed off, I asked the Treasurer-cum-Executive Director what that was for and the reply was that those were Ilyumzhinov’s 2010 election promises. The Treasurer-cum-Executive Director approved for to FIDE pay these for Ilyumzhinov saying that he would repay at a “later date.”

To be clear, Ilyumzhinov was spending FIDE money, federation money raised from dues and fees, to attempt to finally fulfill personal promises he never kept from four years ago!

Again, desperate men do desperate things. It is sad that the FIDE president is so primitive as to embarrass himself and damage FIDE in chess with such behaviour: his smear campaign; his corruption; his empty promises.

In May 2013, recognising a money-making opportunity with the coming elections, Ilyumzhinov’s inner circle came up with a plan to raise US$30 million where US$25 million would be distributed among a group of 20 “key” persons. The remaining US$5 million would be spent on the campaign to buy federation votes. It was promised my share would be as much as US$2 million but I did not want to be part of this immoral scheme.

I had put all this behind me and was already a member of Team Kasparov (and under attack daily from Ilyumzhinov and “Makro & friends”), so it was a surprise that last November in Chennai his intermediaries offered me US$1 million to leave Team Kasparov and to re-join Kirsan! It is they who are going around trying to buy support with direct cash payments to individuals.

Less than one month later, in the first week of December 2013, former Kirsan Vice President Zurab Azmaiparashvili, now a Continental candidate for Europe, came to Singapore “to help his son’s family move house,” and made a final offer, doubling the money to US$2 million. The new wrinkle to the deal was that I had to take it and disappear from the chess world for one year, after which I would be “re-engaged” into the Ilyumzhinov family. When I again declined, Azmaiparashvili warned me: “This is the second and last chance, otherwise…”

Of course Ilyumzhinov must want to believe Kasparov’s deal with me is simply richer than his – that’s how a corrupt mind works. It assumes everyone else is just as corrupt.

In their FIDE and with that worldview, Ilyumzhinov and “Makro & friends” can never understand that I am with Kasparov out of my love for chess.

Ignatius Leong
FIDE General Secretary
May 25, 2014