Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Chess Kingpin

It seems to be "take pot shots at Kirsan" week. Chessvibes, for instance, have just dug up an old Foreign Correspondent episode from way back in 1998! Not exactly the sort of TV apperance that paints a flattering picture. Then again, when you front up to TV journos claiming some sort of ET encounter, I suppose it hardly matters. And it doesn't really matter because you know you've pretty much got things nicely stitched up.

Yesterday, Radio Free Europe had their own little feature of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Like it or not, they were right on the mark with this one:

To be fair, Ilyumzhinov has shown considerable zeal in promoting the sport.

At home, the Kalmyk leader has used his presidential influence to make his the only region in the world where chess is a compulsory elementary-school subject. He has also built a gleaming, multimillion-dollar complex, Chess City, outside the Kalmyk capital, Elista, meant to serve as a mecca for chess fans fancying a trip to Russia's deep south.

And throughout the world, he has spent millions from a personal fortune amassed during Russia's unregulated post-Soviet privatization to promote the game internationally, particularly in underdeveloped countries where chess has yet to gain a foothold.

Ilyumzhinov's avid expansion efforts have seen chess being played in ever-greater numbers in new parts of the globe, like Africa and South America.

Therein lies the rub for the Karpov camp. For whether one approves or disapproves of Kirsan, his money does make things happen. Because of that, he'll win the upcoming FIDE elections.

Read more in "In Battle For Chess-World Dominance, Eccentric Ilyumzhinov Playing Unbeatable Game".

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