India backs FIDE President Ilyumzhinov


By Vijay Tagore, Mumbai Mirror | Updated: Feb 18, 2018, 12.00 AM IST

It is inconceivable that world chess could have anything to do with Syria, ISIS and American sanctions. But hold your breath, the World Chess Federation (FIDE) has got embroiled in such a mess that a Swiss bank is now threatening to freeze its accounts.

The man at the centre of the controversy is the very head of FIDE, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. The US government has put sanctions on Ilyumzhinov for “providing support to the government of Syria, including for facilitating Syrian Government oil purchases from ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).” As a result, UBS, a Swiss bank, has announced it will immediately close FIDE’s accounts. The sanctions apparently have been in place for the last two years.

But Indian chess officials say the situation is not as serious as it is made out to be and Ilyumzhinov continues to be the head of world chess. “Normally, as a sports organisation, we don’t get into political things. We see this as a political move and nothing to do with chess federation. The president (Ilyumzhinov) has told us he has done nothing wrong. He has said it is only a political thing. We trust our president. But to safeguard the interest of FIDE, we have asked him not to interfere in financial matters and he has agreed. We have sent that resolution to the bank. He is an elected man and you can’t throw out an elected person,” DV Sundar, a former All India Chess Federation (AICF) secretary and current FIDE vice-president, told Mirror.

Ilyumzhinov, a known aide of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has denied allegations but evidently his denials have not cut much ice with the Swiss bank. FIDE treasurer Adrien Siegel has said Ilyumzhinov’s position is damaging their business. “Kirsan Ilyumzhinov’s problems severely damage FIDE’s business activities and we’ve to look for a new bank connection. In the process of this change, we anticipate some problems,” the treasurer said in a letter that has been put up on the FIDE website.

Sundar says there is no threat to the Candidates tournament which will identify the challenger for world champion Magnus Carlsen. The eight-player tournament will be held in Berlin from March 10 to 28. “There is no impact on FIDE activity, everything is going smooth,” Sundar said.

Ilyumzhinov beat Garry Kasparov for FIDE presidency in the 2014 elections. The next elections are due during the Chess Olympiad in September this year.