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Open Letter from Bessel Kok

It is now or never…..

” The extraterrestrials put a yellow spacesuit on me. They gave me a tour of the spaceship and showed me the command center. I felt very comfortable with them.”

If you believe this sentence is extracted from a delightful children’s book about aliens, you are wrong. This is a statement of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, President of the World Chess Federation FIDE, one of the largest Sports Federations in the World. Kirsan, former President of Kalmykia, a small (former) Soviet Republic has been leading the Chess World for 20 years.

His trip in outer space is not Kirsan’s only achievement.

In 1996, he tried to organize the World Championship in Baghdad (with his friend Saddam Hussein), played a Chess game with (another) friend, the deposed leader of Libya Muammar Gaddafi.

Kirsan believes (as he states) that “Chess is a gift of God, I am its guardian, its keeper. For me Chess is religion, join me in spreading the faith…”

It is an admirable sentiment, but his prayers did not really raise the interest level for supporting Chess with corporate sponsors neither did it contribute to the development of Chess in Schools…

Internationally Chess did not develop at all.

This is why back in 2006 I decided to challenge Kirsan at the Fide Elections in Torino. I lost with 54 against 96 votes. A clear defeat. We then realized that you need more than just a good program to win these elections. My team and I learned that offering jobs with financial rewards to delegates, paying airfares and promising funds to Federations was common practice in the pre-election period. It certainly helped to get more votes; it certainly did not help the promotion of Chess.

Four years later, former World Champion Anatoli Karpov, suffered the same fate.

We are now eight years later. In August 2014 in Norway none other than Garry Kasparov will stand as a candidate to succeed the incumbent President.

After both attempts of Anatoli and myself failed, I believe this is a unique and final opportunity for the delegates to once and for all change the leadership in FIDE.

Finally you as FIDE delegates have a (last?) chance to have your Chess Federations associated with an extraordinary World Champion. Through your support for Garry you will raise the awareness of this brilliant game of Chess with both corporate sponsors and the wider public. Finally you will have the possibility to create real leadership in FIDE by a globally known professional who can truly be an ambassador for the Game. Finally you can end Kirsan’s 20-year presidency of FIDE that is mostly characterized by conflicts and stagnation.

Eight years ago as an introduction to my election campaign, my friend Grandmaster Nigel Short stated the following: “It is hard to understate the importance of this election as the future of Chess is at stake. Either FIDE stays a cowboy organization, mired in sleaze and shunned by corporate sponsors or it becomes a modern, professional sporting body committed to exploit the game’s very potential”

Now, eight years later, Nigel’s words have lost nothing of their meaning…….

Dear delegates, if you really want the change to happen… It’s is now or never.

Bessel Kok
Former Chairman of the World Grand Master Association
Organizers of the S.W.I.F.T tournaments and World Championship Candidate Matches