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Sunday, July 21, 2013

World Chess Day July 20: Fide President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov Interview in The Voice of Russia

Alexandra Kosteniuk's Chess Blog for Daily Chess News and Trivia (c) 2013

Hi everyone, 

Fischer facing Boris Spassky, Chess Olympiad, Havana, 1966. Photo credit: © RIA Novosti, Paporov

A few minutes with the President of the International Chess Federation (FIDE): July 20th, is the 89th anniversary of the founding of FIDE, the International Chess Federation, in honour of which The Voice of Russia posed a few questions to its president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

DK: Let’s begin with what we might call a demographic question. It seems to me that elite chess players have been getting a lot younger over the last half century. Is that just my imagination, or have you noticed the same?

Ilyumzhinov: Well, yes, chess has gotten younger, because of technology, meaning computers and the internet. Whereas formerly you needed to have a sizeable chess library to properly analyze top-level games, nowadays all you need is a computer. It is no accident, therefore, that the age of players has been dropping, akin to what we saw in gymnastics a while back, for instance. Elite players can be very young, age 15 to 20. For example, a few years ago 16 year-old Hu Yifan of China became women’s world champion, and in London just a few months ago 22 year-old Magnus Carlsen of Norway won the right to play a match for the world title. Young elite Grandmasters like Sergei Kariakin and Ian Nepomniashchii, among others, are only about 20, and you can’t compare 40-50 year old players with them. Chess has indeed gotten a lot younger, both women’s and men’s chess.

DK: Chess fans are much better acquainted with world champions than they are with players who haven’t achieved that level of glory, and I assume that when growing up as a chess enthusiast you were similar. It would be interesting to hear who was the first world champion with whom you were able to meet and have a real conversation. And what you may remember of that meeting.

Ilyumzhinov: The first world champion I met was Mikhail Tal, from Riga. He became champion very young, when he was not yet 25 {he was 23 –D.K.}. The two of us met in Kalmykia, of course. I’ve met Vassily Smyslov, Boris Spassky, and others, including Garry Kasparov, and Anatoly Karpov. But more than any of them, I remember meeting Bobby James Fischer, or Robert Fischer. I got acquainted with him in Budapest, in December 1995, and I played four games against him. I consider Fischer a chess genius. His games are all very interesting, and he is a genuine gold standard of chess for many, for several generations of chess players.

DK: Of all your predecessors as President of FIDE, who was the most senior one to give you advice, and do remember much about that advice?

Ilyumzhinov: Well, let me say that FIDE exists since 1924, so we’ll be celebrating its 90th anniversary next year. We have had six presidents, I being the sixth. I had a close relationship since 1994, before I became FIDE president, with President Florencio Campomanes, from the Phillipines. At that point he had already been atop FIDE for 12 years. We had met briefly in Moscow once, but then I spent time with him in Manila in 1994, and I couldn’t help but see how this man devoted his life so fully to chess, to propagating chess. When Campomanes was president, chess was still not very popular in Africa and in many countries in Asia. He went to those countries himself; he opened chess clubs and chess schools. His motto was “Chess for me is not just a game. It’s not just a hobby. It is all of my life.” He lived by chess, and perhaps you could say he died with it.

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