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Tag: Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

Waters Muddy as Kirsan Ilyumzhinov Resigns, but Didn’t…

It is hard to find supporters for FIDE‘s Dear Leader Kirsan Ilyumzhinov outside of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and those loyal to the oppressive regimes of Iran and Syria. Yet, the man manages to get re-elected to the post every cycle since 1995! Several attempts to oust him including a poorly run campaign by former World Champion Garry Kasparov have failed. 

The FIDE website and some chess news outlets reported yesterday that Kirsan had resigned as FIDE President following a special board meeting in Athens, Greece. Before cities around the world started the fireworks show, Kirsan himself released a statement via the Russian Chess Federation stating that he had not resigned from FIDE. Moreover, he claimed that the announcement was made because he is the victim of a plot by the United States to overthrow him. 

Kirsan’s dealings with dictators like Muammar Gaddafi (pictured above) has damaged chess’ international reputation and set back FIDE’s efforts to have chess recognized by the Olympic Committee. He was sanctioned by the U.S. Government in November 2015 for providing support to the Syrian government and stepped down temporarily until he could clear up the sanctions. However, he has remained a key figure in some of FIDE’s biggest events, which has led to some confusion in the professional chess community. 

Kirsan continues to assert that he has not resigned, but things seem to be more unclear now than ever before. According to the FIDE website through official statement, AGON (evil), and the professional chess community outside of the Russian Federation, Kirsan has been officially removed because he stated in the 26-Mar-2017 meeting that he had resigned.

Read comprehensive coverage:

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America Shows Agon How an Open Market Works

Just prior to the start of the 2016 World Chess Championship (WCC) in New York City, Agon Limited filed suit in United States Federal Court against Chess24, Chessbomb, and ChessGames.com to prevent them from broadcasting the moves just as they did (and lost) in Moscow earlier this year.

“These entities expend no time, effort, or money of their own in organizing, producing, or hosting the chess events for the World Championship and instead reap economic benefit from free-riding on the work and effort of World Chess.” – Reuters

However, just as with their loss in Moscow, New York District Judge Victor Marrero ruled in favor of the defendants for most of the reasons that have been covered on this blog and in countless others in the chess community already. The most important of those? CHESS IS FOR THE MASSES!


Chess is a game that transcends all boundaries. (Credit: WikiMedia)

RIAA of the Chess World

Although they were readily handed defeat in two countries, Agon promises to continue pursuit of its business model despite widespread business and consumer disapproval. Despite obvious attempts to assist the company with its model, Agon refuses to acknowledge that its attempts to restrict access to tournament moves is misguided. As a direct result, it seeks to force consumers to engage its unreliable and third-rate content delivery system instead of offering a compelling service for fans of the game to watch and enjoy.

Agon has quickly turned itself from an obscure entity into the modern chess equivalent of the Recording Industry Association of America which successfully sued a multitude of families in the early 2000s for downloading mp3 files from Napster and other file-sharing services. By suing grandmothers and teenagers for untold millions of dollars, the RIAA quickly became synonymous with corporate greed, censorship, and created a gap between recording artists and their fans from which some artists never recovered.

Hope for an Agon awakening remains dim, but I am pleased to see that both the United States and Russia dealt a blow for freedom to its blatant attempts to monopolize public domain information.

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The Agon Widget from Hell

Remember back in March when Agon, the FIDE puppet company responsible for organizing and managing the World Chess Championship cycle limited the live game broadcasts and infuriated pretty much everyone except their billionaire Russian investors and mafia henchmen? Well, run-on sentences aside, the Agon mafia has returned to show its ugly teeth in the run-up to the World Chess Championship in New York City this November with an announcement that broadcast of the games will be limited to a widget designed to be embedded into an external website to broadcast the games. Peter Doggers at Chess.com breaks the announcement down a little more. When you have finished reading his excellent report, behold the new widget:

Agon’s WCC broadcast widget. (Credit: Chess.com)

According to the official statement,

First, and most importantly, the live moves of the World Chess Championship match will be made available for free to responsible chess websites and other media organizations that take our official broadcast widget.

Although it is presented as the most important part of the broadcast announcement, the idea that the WCC moves should be free is buried in the typical Agon-FIDE hyperbole and legal threats to the chess community and its myriad of online portals. For example,

It is fair to say that the furor that followed divided the global chess community. We were asked, “Does Agon have the right to prohibit anyone from broadcasting the moves as they were made?” We believe that we do and that we have a strong legal position. We also have the full support of the World Chess Federation and many others within the game.

Agon acknowledges that its actions divided a deep and thriving community, but it still fails to see that the divide is between Agon-FIDE and everyone else, not a divide among the chess community. In fact, I don’t believe that I’ve ever witnessed an online community come together en masse like the chess community did when Agon announced its monopoly. With its restrictive broadcasting agreements and tactics aimed at subverting the established ecosystem, Agon has alienated itself from countless people who care about chess and want to see it grow. Furthermore, to assert that its position is legitimized by a FIDE endorsement is no different than saying that its okay to restrict the games because the Kremlin says so. In addition, those within the game that are often quoted by Agon-FIDE couldn’t care less about broadcast rights for chess. Their names are solidified in the annals of chess history and their view is always from the front row…at the board!

What we are doing has never been attempted before in the chess world. It is a revolutionary approach and I am sure we will probably make some mistakes in its implementation before we are finished.

Really? It hasn’t? Do they mean that nobody has ever created a chess widget before to cover broadcasted games? How interesting because Chessbase has one and Chessbomb has one that regularly broadcasts live tournament games. This kind of drivel expounds on how little Agon-FIDE really knows about the depths of ingenuity, innovation, and connectedness that exist in the online chess world.

Suspicious Widget

As a veteran of nearly thirty years of computer and network development, I can say that most competent webmasters are reluctant to arbitrarily add external widgets to their platforms. Companies often gain the trust and respect of their customers by demonstrating commitment to that platform’s service before said platform allows their widget or code to be embedded within their framework. For me, I trust Chessbase and Chessbomb because they have earned trust and respect as reputable companies with a legitimate interest in furthering the game of chess. Agon has done nothing but drive a wedge between the chess community and the organization that is supposed to be championing our game.

Would you trust a Soviet JavaScript or PHP widget on your network or content platform? I sure as hell wouldn’t. Call me paranoid, but the truth is always buried in fine print and revealed in data breaches or midnight special forces raids.

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Russia Makes Play for Control of WCC Cycle

There are some people out there who believe that the Russian Bear has been awakened and that the country is swiftly moving back to its Soviet history or at least, a future influenced by the political and ideological positions of its Soviet ancestor. While the world is distracted by the Olympics in Rio, Zika, and Russia’s (non)participation in the games, the Russian Chess Federation has made a play for control of the World Chess Championship cycle by submitting a proposal to FIDE that would effectively allow sponsors to buy positions in the championship and undermine any chance that chess has for expanding its audience and recognition as a competitive sport. Here is the letter in its entirety:

To: Chairman of FIDE Commission for World Championships & Olympiads (WCO)
Mr. GEORGIOS MAKROPOULOS

Dear Mr. Makropoulos,

Russian Chess Federation asks the Commission to consider and (if needed) improve and approve the below mentioned amendments to the current system of determining the World Chess Champion at the 87th FIDE Congress (04–14.09.2016 Baku, Azerbaijan). RCF suggests adding an article to the rules governing World Chess Championship matches stating that the World Chess Champion can accept the challenge of any player who can contribute to the prize fund and the costs of holding of the match.

Herewith a number of basic conditions should be fulfilled:

• The FIDE President would have the power to veto any proposed match. Any proposed World Championship match would be carried out under the auspices of FIDE and according FIDE rules.

• 50% of the prize fund will go to FIDE.

• The match must be held before the end of the current FIDE qualifying round, that is, before a challenger has been determined by the Candidates Tournament.

FIDE Vice President
President of the Russian Chess Federation Andrey Filatov

Needless to say that many in the world outside of neo-Soviet insanity are unhappy and have launched a petition against the proposed changes. The Association of Chess Professionals issued a response to the Russian request and has launched a campaign to encourage FIDE to reject the proposal. Of course, knowing that Kirsan and Putin are best buddies leaves little hope that the next World Chess Champion could be nothing ore than the man whose country is willing to pay the price for a seat at the board.

Here is ACP’s response to the proposal:

The Russian Chess Federation submitted an official proposal to the FIDE Congress for an addition to the current World Championship Cycle rules: anyone guaranteeing a required prize-fund can challenge the reigning World Champion.

We as ACP believe that this idea is completely detrimental to chess for a number of reasons, among which:

– The World Champion Title must be achieved only through a proper sport cycle, especially at a time when chess is increasingly recognized as a sport. The RCF proposal goes against the chess tradition and against the very spirit of modern chess. Although purchasing the right for the match was common practice 100 years ago, it was more of a sad necessity than a good system.

– Staging a “commercial” match would seriously undermine the appeal of the regular cycle match. As things stand, the Title Match is a unique event which is held every two years and which acts as a catalyst for all the chess world. Even so, it is very difficult to raise proper funds for the World Championship Match – we do remember several examples from the recent past and we are witnessing the same problems right now. Who would be interested in paying for the ‘regular match’ if it is no longer a unique event? Who would organize the Candidates under these circumstances? Who would regard chess as a proper sport a company can invest in?

– The World Champion Title would be devalued and, more importantly, the image of chess would suffer greatly at all levels and worldwide. It would also put the players on grossly unequal terms: some would have to battle their chances out against the best players of the world in the regular cycle, others would buy their shot at the title by securing the money. This is outright unacceptable. It could also bring a disrepute to our noble game, opening the door to problems we can’t even foresee now.

– The RCF proposal would inevitably mess up the World Championship Cycle. It would also limit the World Champion’s participation in other events, as he would need to spend most of his time preparing/recovering after the matches. Again, this is certainly not desirable.

The ACP strongly opposes changes to the World Championship Cycle that undermine the very sporting sense and the unique value of the World Chess Champion Title. Our opinion is supported by the results of the ACP Poll – 2016, where over 80% of the chess professionals clearly disapproved the idea of purchasing the rights for the Title Match. If you share our vision, please help fighting this proposal and join the ACP stand by signing and endorsing this statement. The RCF proposal could be approved already in September, and we feel the chess world has to take a clear stand on the matter before then.

ACP Board

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Hou Yifan’s Withdrawal Shows Need for Reform

Women’s World Chess Champion Hou Yifan shocked the chess community when she announced last month that she had withdrawn from the Women’s World Championship Cycle, citing disagreements with FIDE over how it conducts the tournament process. Chessbase published transcripts from a recent telephone interview with Yifan and Frederic Friedel where she expressed disappointment in FIDE leadership’s continued support of the current tournament format. As it stands, the Women’s World Chess Champion (hereafter annotated as WCC) is often chosen through knockout tournaments where the winner earns the title despite the possibility that they might possess an ELO rating 100-200 points below Yifan, who is currently the highest rated female chess player in the world.

Trouble with the Knockouts

You can read the article yourself via the link above, but the main point of her argument is that the WCC is often selected via a 64-player knockout tournament format. This format places Hou and her counterparts on equal footing and gives an unfair advantage to players who might not qualify to challenge her in any other setting. If the highest rated player in the tournament has a bad game and is eliminated by a lower player, it creates an opportunity for a player to assume the title of WCC without possessing the qualifications. For her, a knockout tournament is not necessarily a bad thing. However, she views it as an unreasonable format for choosing the WCC. I agree wholeheartedly. Can you imagine if Magnus Carlsen’s title was on the line in some 64-player invitational where a single bad day could send the title into the hands of another player?

I cannot see the men allowing such a method to be used by FIDE to determine the champion, and the women of the professional chess world should refuse to stand for it as well.

Hou’s Plan and FIDE’s Silent Stand

Glass ceilings and gender barriers are coming down all over the world, but FIDE remains trapped in its antiquated ways. Hou’s plan for changing the tournament format is, as Frederic mentions in his article, amazingly simple. She proposes that the same format used to select the World Chess Championship title currently held by Magnus Carlsen be used for the WCC. A series of qualification tournaments would send certain players to a Candidates tournament where the winner would advance to challenge the reigning World Champion. As a compromise, Hou has suggested that the winner of the knockout tournament be declared the challenger to the reigning champion, not the champion themselves. The plan sounds simple enough, but according to Chessbase, FIDE has retained the 64-player knockout format because it is popular among the female chess players.

It is not difficult to imagine why the format is so popular…it reduces much of the legacy of the WCC to a lottery.

yifan

Hou Yifan has big dreams for reforming women’s chess.

It is easy to place the blame on FIDE, which is an organization that has a sorted history of cronyism, manipulation, and disregard for what is best for promoting international professional chess. Countless recommendations for improving tournament cycles and gameplay have been provided by some of the world’s greatest chess minds. Yet, those recommendations and ideas have been met with the standard fare that Hou has received for her comments: to be discussed at the next board meeting. As someone who has spent a considerable amount of time in government service, I can tell you that it will probably be discussed at the meeting, but the world stands a better chance of Kirsan’s aliens invading than the board agreeing to change the WCC cycle format. Yet, it is this comment in Frederic’s interview that reveals another troubling element to the situation:

FF: Sounds perfectly logical. However FIDE has said that the current Women’s system is very popular amongst the girls since they get to play a lot of interesting events …

What is going on here? FIDE is, potentially, holding on to a format because it is popular, among the women on the circuit. It might be popular, but is it right for the future of women’s professional chess? Unfortunately, one does not have to look far in cyberspace to see the back and forth with people who believe that women cannot play beautiful chess or do not deserve the respect of their male counterparts. The chess audience on Twitter is notorious for this kind of banter, but does the general consensus of the women’s professional chess world about the 64-player knockout championship actually hurt perception of their ability? I would argue that it does! If the women players are arguing for more recognition and appreciation for their art in one breath, but supporting a tournament format that undermines the legitimacy of the highest female chess achievement, then the fight for equal respect of female chess players is what ultimately suffers. That, along with the countless other young girls who are hunched over their chessboards this morning with dreams and aspirations of being a GM or a WCC.

What to do?

Bureaucracies have a notorious history of taking simple ideas and transforming them into disastrous monstrosities. The fundamental elements that make bureaucracies like FIDE so inefficient are probably what will enable the WCC cycle to retain its imbalanced format (for now). Hou Yifan’s withdrawal from the cycle and her recommendations for changing how the WCC is selected should be a wakeup call for the leaders of the professional chess world, but it will most likely fall on deaf ears. In the meantime, the world will continue to watch as its great chess players are increasingly isolated and ostracized by the organization whose mission is to grow and promote our game.

Gens Una Sumus, without clear direction or a promising future.

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Kirsan Illyumzhinov Sanctioned by the United States

You might have already read this story making waves across the online chess community, but its potential effects on international chess warrant another mention. The United States Department of the Treasury has slapped sanctions on Kirsan Illyumzhinov because of his continued support of oppressive regimes like those in Syria and the former governments of Iraq and Libya. Kirsan’s eccentric political connections are well known and often despised within the chess community, but these sanctions come primarily because of his connections to the government of Syria. American intelligence has linked Syrian government assets to support of the terrorist group known as ISIS. These sanctions come at a difficult time for Illyumzhinov and the World Chess Federation as the organization is actively searching for a US-based venue for the 2016 World Chess Championship.

For an in-depth exposé into the developing story along with the official response from Kirsan himself, check out this article on Chessbase.

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FIDE Endorses Online Team Matches

The World Chess Federation recently announced that national chess federations can organize rated team matches online using the FIDE Online Arena. Although the stated reason is to give poorer federations opportunities to compete in expensive team events, it is evident that this is a strategic move to place FIDE in line with the evolution of chess. Chess has always been an interest of computer programmers and scientists. Many of the first programs built to demonstrate processing power were chess engines. Chess.com and its competitors such as Playchess and Chess24 have trailblazed an exodus of players from tournament boards to online arenas.

In fact, Chess.com did this recently with the addition of its rated US Chess tournaments. I think this is a good move by FIDE. It will be interesting to see how many federations take advantage of new opportunities opened up by evolving technologies.

Read more on Susan Polgar’s website and from the official FIDE Press Release.

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Russia’s Next Major Move



It is no secret that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov loves Russia and its benevolent leader Vladimir Putin. Chess websites and blogs painted the web today with news that the FIDE Candidates Chess Tournament 2016 will be held in Moscow. The winner of the Candidates tournament will face Magnus Carlsen at the World Chess Championship 2016 in the United States. Of course it is no real surprise that the tournament is set for Moscow. The FIDE president has a long history of mingling with some of the world’s most unusual and dangerous people.

  • Muammar Gaddafi
  • Saddam Hussein
  • Aliens

Okay, so the third one is up for debate but he once tried to arrange a World Championship match in Baghdad and played chess with Gaddafi shortly before the dictator was overthrown by UN and UK forces. Curiously, Ilyumzhinov visited Libya and Iraq both shortly before their downfalls. Now as Vladimir Putin’s Russia continues to take on more aggressive roles in world politics, Ilyumzhinov is once again cozying up to the longtime president. Is Russia making moves to become a major influence in world chess once again? My money is on the revitalization of a Soviet-like chess machine and the return of the Russian Bear.

Read more about the 2016 Candidates Tournament on Susan Polgar’s website.

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The Press Release Rant of the FIDE President

FIDE (the World Chess Federation) published a press release yesterday referencing the recent push for Kirsan Ilyumzhinov to take over as president of FIFA. Obviously Ilyumzhinov was flattered by people calling out for him to gain control over another international sports organization while most people outside the world of professional chess scratched their heads at the mention of his name or spent their time reading his Wikipedia entry to get some idea of what was going on at the World Chess Congress. After reading the convoluted press release it seems that Kirsan does not intend to run for the position of FIFA president. True to his idiosyncratic ways, the FIDE president has chosen to remain focused on chess and will work to leverage his 15 minutes of futbol fame to promote FIDE and its activities.

Read more from FIDE.com.

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