Ilyumzhinov: «The Popularity of Chess is Growing Despite Internet Temptations»

–As President of FIDE, which goal is most important to you?
–The programme «Chess in Schools» has achieved significant results. This enterprise is already implemented in several countries- Turkey, Armenia and Slovenia with experimental projects launched in Thailand, Vietnam and Israel. Agreements have been planned with India, China along with some other countries.
About 500 million people play chess today. We would like this figure increased to one billion-the critical mass that would make a significantly noticeable difference to the world. After all, the more people that play chess, the more reasonable and just our world will become.

Finally, we have achieved considerable success in the fight to include chess into the programme of the Winter Olympics. It's the warmer countries, the ones that are poorly represented at the Games and rarely seek medals that are the most interested. The most curious thing is that the IOC itself is keen on the inclusion of chess into the Olympic Games. They are constantly thinking about how to expand the advertising markets in Asia and Africa.

Why did Russia only get to 4th place in the World Cup?
– The Russian Chess Federation will sort it out. I think its leadership is competent enough to identify the causes and draw their own conclusions. However, Russia was, is and will be one of the strongest chess countries.
Do you communicate with Garry Kasparov these days?
– No, but it is not because I feel negatively towards him. Garry Kasparov is a great player, and his political views are exclusively his own affair. In fact, the whole of the chess world is waiting for the respected champion to start doing what he does best-playing Chess.
– Since you've been elected as FIDE's president has your personal relationship with Anatoly Karpov improved?
– For the main part, it was never spoilt. Yes, there were a few objectionable remarks against FIDE and its employees during the campaign.  However, this is not unusual during electioneering. Even professional politicians sometimes make mistakes in this difficult period. Everything is intensified-emotions, outlook on the world and its people.
I met with Karpov a few minutes after the election results were announced and offered him the post of lifelong envoy to FIDE's international organizations. Now we are working together for the benefit of chess. I hope that the work of Anatoly Evgenyevich will bring positive results.
Why don't the deputies of the State Duma support the legislative proposal to take the programme «Chess in Schools» nationwide?
– Maybe it is more correct to say that it's the regions that are mostly interested in it. Statistical data show excellent results on the beneficial effects of chess on the educational process and other aspects of school life.
There are exemplary regions in Russia where the programme is implemented at the highest level. For example, the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area Yugra, headed by Natalia Komarova, hosted the 39th World Chess Olympiad and the 81st FIDE Congress. A magnificent chess centre was built there, where the battle for the World Cup took place.
However, this is the tip of the iceberg. What is most important is that 15,500 children and adolescents are engaged in chess, and that special chess lessons were introduced in 42 secondary schools. In addition, there are the Tomsk and Pskov regions, the Republic of Kalmykia, and others. In Russia, the educational system is undergoing reform and we hope that chess will take its rightful place.
Until 1995 there were three official annual tournaments in FIDE's calendar. Now there are about twenty and more than 6,000 ranking tournaments. Certainly, this is your achievement.However, I feel that young people's interest in chess has declined.Do you agree with that?
– I guess not. It is just that the times are changing. To some extent chess flourished in the Soviet Union because of the backdrop of political intrigue. The Russian, Spassky against the American, Fischer; «our» Karpov against «renegade» Korchnoi; the ‘child of changes’ Kasparov against the system's representative Karpov. Now there is no intrigue.
15 years ago, chess did not have to compete with PlayStation, computer games and the temptations of the Internet. However, here's the paradox: the competition is growing but chess is becoming more popular. The number of people playing chess is growing by leaps and bounds and the amount of countries involved expands strongly.
A young boy from Poland and a girl from Peru were amongst the winners of the recent World Junior Championships, for players under 20. Impossible to imagine 25 years ago.

Ivan Shvets
August 30th, 2011