Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: It's time for intellectual and creative people to unite

The other day, the social media advised that the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which was supposed to start on July 23, but was subsequently postponed to the next year due to the pandemic, might not take place at all. The reason why? According to the head of the Japanese organizing committee for the 2020 Games Yoshiro Mori, this can happen if the pandemic cannot be stopped within a year. The possibility of holding the Olympics with a minimum number of spectators, or even without them is also considered.

The background to the concern is banal: money. According to Yoshiro-san, the delay has already robbed the Tokyo Olympics budget of several billion dollars. Obviously, the absence of living spectators will completely pierce a fatal hole in it. It is no secret that the organizers of the Olympic Games receive the main income from the sale of services, tickets and paraphernalia to sports fans, so the sale of TV broadcasting rights alone is unlikely to make up for the lost income.


I must say that I learned about this while still under the impression of the magnificent celebration of the International Chess Day in Evpatoria, in which I was lucky to take part. The chess capital of Crimea managed to adequately organize the celebration, bringing much of positive emotions to its participants from young chess players to venerable grandmasters.

Comparison of the two sports events took place in Evpatoria  and Tokyo made me think. They may have different scales, but their goal is the same: the promotion and development of sports. At least that's what the Olympic Charter says. How can you sacrifice your main task because its implementation will not bring the expected income to the organizers?
I think that making a profit should not at all be a part of the interests of international non-governmental organizations, which are the International Olympic Committee and other international sports federations. Consequently, a decrease in the estimated income from holding competitions is not a reason to abandon them at all.
Alas, we don’t live in an ideal world. In practice, the viability of a sports federation is determined by its commercial success. And who, if not me, should know about this: when I became sixth President of the International Chess Federation (FIDE) in 1995, I discovered that we had nothing to finance even the next Chess Olympiad, let alone other competitions. For renting of premises, organizational expenses and the very prize fund, money is always needed.
As a result, the administration and leadership of sports federations have to spend more time looking for sponsors, making up budgets, inventing new sources of income than worrying about developing their sport. As a result, federations are commercialized, and sports, especially high-performance sports, are increasingly becoming the lot of professionals. Even if it is contrary to the statutes and programme documents of sports associations.
This is neither good nor bad, this is the reality and big sport is forced to live in it. Unfortunately, FIDE lives in the same reality. The founders of the International Chess Federation left us the motto "Gens una sumus" -  we are one family. It means that FIDE unites all fans of chess around the world and protects their interests. But the truth is that today FIDE is more of a professional association for professionals.
Yes, of course, the federation is making certain efforts to promote and develop chess, but, as offensive as it may seem, this is secondary to organizing tournaments, maintaining ratings and other routine that provides a decent income for professional chess players.
At the same time, no matter how paradoxical it may sound, no one in FIDE at that time could say how many people in the world actually play chess. Today, the federation unites 191 national federations. But in order to find out how many people in the world play chess, we had to order an independent study.
According to the report, at that time, about fifteen years ago, about six hundred million people played chess more or less regularly all over the world (including using computer simulators and gadgets). In response, I set an ambitious task to FIDE: "One billion chess players means one billion smart people." Achievement of this goal was not to simply join the ranks of our federation's adherents.
If you remember, in those years the concept of the “golden billion” was popular, a kind of global paradise on earth, whose inhabitants can indulge in doing nothing, and people in many countries dreamed of being among these lucky ones. Even in Russia, the idea of ​​mass education of the "qualified consumer" was persistently promoted.
But how useful will a billion people drinking expensive champagne and wearing fashionable rags be to mankind? The world is much better off with a billion of smart people who create the critical mass that will influence politicians, officials and "captains of the economy", forcing them to make smart and responsible decisions; just like the gravity of a small moon affects the processes taking place on Earth.
Of course, the “billion” is relative: the more, the better. Much more important is where to get these smart people, given the current state of education? There is only one answer: to develop chess as much as possible.
So, despite the fact that we at FIDE made a lot of efforts to achieve this goal, I am still not sure that everything possible was done. The reason is still the same: concern for those who are already professionally engaged in chess.
Trying to get as many people interested in chess as possible, we together with like-minded people launched several special programmes: for schoolchildren and farmers, as a game for family leisure, etc. Moreover, I even seriously thought about creating a chess game in which any pawn always has a chance to become a queen.
I understand why the task of ensuring that one billion people play chess on the planet is so difficult to solve: in a professional chess association, such as FIDE, there are always more important and more urgent matters related to the organization of competitions for those who are engaged in chess professionally.
Therefore, lately I have been affirming the opinion that non-professional chess players, chess amateurs, need their own international organization focused specifically on spreading chess and protecting the interests of amateurs. A kind of union of chess lovers.

Of course, we are not talking about creating an alternative organization to FIDE. Let me remind you that at the end of the last century, there were already two attempts to split FIDE, and both times the organizers of alternative associations tried to lure the professionals who had already achieved high results and proved their talent. They did not succeed, but the federation did not benefit from it either.
And it’s no wonder. As a human being, you can probably understand the desire of some masters who are dissatisfied with FIDE to create their own professional organization. But this is a dead end. There are not so many professionals and, whether someone likes it or not, they already have a powerful and reputable organization protecting their interests.
However, ordinary players do not have such an organization. It is assumed that they are also covered by International Chess Federation, but this is only a formality. I repeat: they must have it. The Federation has done and continues to do a lot for the development of professional chess. But in order to stand firmly, you need at least two supports. That is why a chess organization is needed to unite amateur chess players.
I am sure that this idea will be supported by everyone who is interested in the intellectual development of mankind: Nobel laureates and leaders of scientific collaborations. I am convinced that the leaders of many states would welcome if their people behave more reasonably and responsibly. And this is exactly what chess is taught: first think, then make a move. I believe that only chess can overcome the negativity that is currently captured the world.
Such an alliance, directly uniting millions, and perhaps hundreds of millions of thinking people all over the world, would become a powerful force that is difficult to ignore.
For example, I have long dreamed of holding a chess match on the border between North and South Korea. Imagine a thousand players on both sides! However, it is difficult for the Foreign Ministries of the two countries that are not on friendly terms to come to an agreement. Nevertheless, it is much easier for a non-governmental international association to organize such a tournament.
Imagine a meeting of the presidents of different countries in the negotiations on disarmament. What impact on the outcome of the negotiations will have the folk chess festival, which is taking place in the same city and at the same time? I am sure that ten thousand chess players of all ages from different countries will clearly demonstrate that it is not necessary to hold a club behind your back to reach an agreement.
"To everything there is a time," the ancients commanded us. And I believe that the time has come for chess lovers - the most intellectual and creative people - to unite. Not only for the sake of your favourite game, but also for the good of all mankind.