Thursday, 13 September 2012

Averbakh 12 - Florencio Campomanes.

The late president of FIDE is first mentioned in the book on page 111, at the Portoroz Interzonal (1958) in the capacity of second to the Filipino master Rodolfo Tan Cardoso (born 1937). This, however, was not his first appearance at an international chess contest; the always dapper Campomanes played on board two for the Philippines at the 1956 Moscow Olympiad.

Not wishing to reinvent the wheel, more about Campomanes can be gleaned here, an obituary that skips, being on the FIDE web site, some of the racier aspects of his life. His conviction and gaoling are touched upon in a somewhat unsatisfying New York Times obituary. There were many other suspicions about the reality of his financial affairs, which I won't discuss.

An allegation that has been made is that he was an agent of the KGB. This has always struck me as somewhat fanciful. A highly intelligent man, he knew how to play the game of life, as hinted at in my previous post. No more need be read into it. On page 204, Averbakh gives an instance of Campomanes acting in a manner unbefitting a KGB officer: In the final analysis, the FIDE president has refused to satisfy the legitimate protests of the Soviet side, … Far more plausible is that Campomanes was susceptible to an inducement from Gaidar Aliyev, as hinted at by Averbakh on pages 205 and 206. Minds innocent and quiet, I suppose, might believe that the extra one hundred thousand dollars was all spent on seminars for players in developing countries.

His spirit lives on.


Ilyumzhinov the current FIDE president is far worse than Campomanes ever was, thus the former president of Kalmykia is not beyond aping the old and questionable ways. For a modern day example of hoped for gullibility, one can look here. Consider the words: Then in the afternoon by the hotel swimming pool we met the Federation members and handed over the chess equipment FIDE had donated which included their first chess clocks. No intimation of the monetary value of this gift is given, one has to guess. Not very much, I speculate (depending upon the make, a chess clock retails at around thirty pounds sterling; if there were a hundred clocks, that would be £3,000 and that's assuming that the buyer lacked the nous to negotiate a discount. Furthermore, it is not clear from the article whether these were old clocks that FIDE was abandoning. Indubitably, a key word is equipment, but a clock is usually the most expensive item when equipping). Note, however, the insinuation that recent court actions are going to make a considerable difference, specifically: The first case was won back in September 2010 and it cost upwards of 750,000 euros. I don't know what the figures are for this second case. Is there a clue in Averbakh's memoirs where this money would otherwise have gone? There is, it's on page 235:

I can testify myself that, at the seminars for players from the developing countries, which I attended as a lecturer, most of those present were not players at all, but people whose support Campomanes needed.
The current FIDE president has introduced several rule changes that many consider inimical to the game, including a speeding up of time controls and zero default times (thus if a player is present at the venue on time but not properly seated he loses). He is dogged by allegations of corruption and murder. Sponsors, save for those with links to the Kremlin, are largely absent.

Given Ilyumzhinov's manifest unsuitability, it's not a great leap of imagination to ascertain what was behind the recent court actions orchestrated by Kasparov. Quite simply Ilyumzhinov no longer controls the subventions that Moscow sends to Kalmykia, they appear to be managed by Alexey Maratovich Orlov, Ilyumzhinov's successor as president of Kalmykia (there was a deal struck with Arkady Vladimirovich Dvorkovich, the then special advisor to the president of the Russian Federation in 2010. Ilyumzhinov agreed to step aside, in return he was promised a successful re-election as president of FIDE). Ilyumzhinov, rather than dipping into his personal fortune to get his way within FIDE, has sought recourse to various ad hoc schemes of money raising, including levying fees on arbiters, many of whom are not well off and are performing these services for at most expenses. The devouring of FIDE's money by lawyers ensures that, come the next FIDE presidential election, it may be more difficult for the incumbent to purchase victory. It is remarkable that some deluded sea-green incorruptibles are shocked at this tactic, these useful idiots of Ilyumzhinov seem to believe that this is a terrible crime and that there can actually be a clean election at FIDE! They protest that the English Chess Federation should not have supported Kasparov. They protest that the Federation was at risk, even though the directors had taken legal advice that the assurances were solid (would a major international law firm supply its services if its partners thought there was a meaningful possibility of not being paid? Note too that the Federation has direct control of very few assets, members, such as this one, have a maximum liability of one pound, those most at risk would be the directors authorising this action). It is unfortunate that the details of the Federation's involvement were not made public in a timely manner (these same sea-green incorruptibles, a veritable committee of general security, insinuate, without evidence, that certain officials of the ECF are dishonest, rather than guilty of an oversight) and that the erstwhile ECF president jumped the gun, but that has no bearing as to whether the decision was right or wrong. We are told of the "Development" meeting at FIDE:You can sense some real anger in the room. Well quite, some of these delegates could well feel the loss personally!

Sadly, the ECF's mishandling of the execution of the court case (i.e. not telling the Federation's Council), but not the substance, has led to a challenge for the position of ECF delegate to FIDE. A challenge born in malice and buttressed by loathing. The reality is that many within the UK chess scene have never forgiven Nigel Short, our current delegate, for, amongst other things, what he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph after the death of Tony Miles. Short is unquestionably abrasive, which is why I greatly prefer him to the challenger. We are dealing with a man in charge of FIDE who will stop at nothing, as any who trouble to read of the murder of Larissa Yudina can see for themselves. Certain sea-green incorruptibles effectively prefer Ilyumzhinov to Short!

Before his successful election three years ago, grandmaster Short canvassed his peer group, he provided a list of grandmasters who supported him on 9th October 2009. It's early days yet, nonetheless, I consider it noteworthy that Short's challenger Rupert Jones, a FIDE insider who is head secretary of its development commission, hasn't come up with the name of any English grandmaster in his camp; moreover, Jones was the ECF's International Director for three years! One has to wonder what kind of director he was. Certainly, he's the kind of International Director who doesn't know his ELO from his Elo (Arpad Elo invented the grading system), which is very basic indeed. Even his FIDE master title is misleading. Examining his ECF grading history, one sees that he is light years off the pace (to assist those unfamiliar with the ECF's grading system, a FIDE master would be expected to have an ECF grade in the range 205-215 to enjoy any credibility. His FIDE grading history, available here, tells the same story.).

A fortnight ago, after the conclusion of the Berezovsky-Abramovich court case in London, a Financial Times report (1st September, page 3) included in its final paragraph the words: What's most amazing is that the judge made a distinction between the two guys: that one was honest and the other dishonest," said a Russian investor. "I have no idea how she could come to this conclusion". It had me in stitches. Apparently, there are those in English chess who believe that Ilyumzhinov can be removed by boy scout methods. They want someone less waspish than Short and they don't want Ilyumzhinov at FIDE. But to go from defiance to complaisance; from a strong player, who even his detractors admit has been a good delegate, to someone who wears multiple hats (Papua New Guinea delegate, FIDE commission head secretary); from an opponent of Ilyumzhinov to the Kalmyck's useful idiot is extraordinary. I find it incredible that anybody sound of mind would even have nominated such an unsuitable challenger, but such is the nature of the ECF's ersatz timocracy.


1 comment:

Paul McKeown said...


Thank you for this - very well put.

I would recommend two sources of information for those who aren't informed of Ilymzhinov's methods to maintain power:

Schaakmat in Kalmukkïe, Martin van den Heuvel, Uitgeverij Aspekt, 2000, 95pp

Curse of Kirsan Adventures in the Chess Underworld, Sarah Hurst, Russell Enterprises, 2002, 285pp

Van den Heuvel's book tells of his experiences as an election observer for the OSCE in the Kalmuk Republic in 1999. He and his colleagues were shamelessly harassed and hindered throughout the election campaign. What he learned was that Ilyumzhinov and his coterie were prepared to use any means to maintain power, including political assassination. He also learned that public money received for the sound governance of the Republic (e.g. funding for desperately needed housing projects) was never used for the ends for which it was distributed by the federal government, but found its way into the private accounts of Ilymuzhinov's allies.

Hurst's book is quite well known in the English speaking world, so needs no further introduction