Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: "I returned the debt of the Soviet Union to Fisher "

About the first steps in FIDE

The delegates of the General Assembly of FIDE almost unanimously elected me President in Paris on November 24, 1995. If you remember, chess was in economic, financial and political crisis in 1995. And the World Champion Kasparov left FIDE and created an alternative organization "Association of Professional Chess Players" in New York. Championships were held in two versions. There were two Champions at the time: on the one hand Kasparov, on the other hand Karpov. I thought then: why cannot such clever people agree with each other?

FIDE was bankrupt; its debt was more than one million Swiss francs. When I came to the office, there were a wage arrears and a debt for renting the office and computers.
FIDE did not even have money for the match Anatoly Karpov vs Gata Kamsky. There was no money to hold the Women's World Championships, where Xie Jun and Judit Polgar claimed the champion title. And there was no money for the next chess Olympiad. Officially there were only a few tournaments in the FIDE calendar for 1996.
FIDE at the time was not recognized by the International Olympic Committee. The situation was extremely difficult. And, probably, that was why the delegates of the FIDE Congress elected me unanimously. They hoped that I would bring FIDE out of the political and economic crisis.
On the unification of the chess world
I actively started working with the world champions. I met with them many times and asked for their help and advice: Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, Bobby Fisher, Boris Spassky, Vasily Smyslov, Nonna Gaprindashvili and Maya Chiburdanidze. I am grateful to these chess players, the leaders, who gave me the right advice and directed me at that time.
We managed to unite the chess world. We have the single system of rallying a champion; there are no other versions as before: the version of the PCA, the "brain games" version, when Kramnik defeated Kasparov and everyone wondered what kind of version it was. We held a unification match of champions on these two versions in Elista in 2006, and the participants signed an agreement with FIDE that after that match there will be the only one champion in the chess world.
And in October 2006, Vladimir Kramnik won the match against Veselin Topalov and became the only absolute champion of the world. Thus, the conflict between the two versions was over. That was preceded by a Prague meeting, which we had with Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov, Vladimir Kramnik and Bessel Kok, who created an alternative organization with Kasparov. And we signed an agreement on the unification of the chess world in Prague in 2002.
In 1999, in Seoul, the IOC executive committee recognized chess as a sport and FIDE as the only sports chess federation representing the interests of chess players in the sports and Olympic movement. After that, FIDE was included in all commissions and work of the IOC. Starting from 1999 all chess players pass the doping tests. True, there was a problem throughout the year; we tried to establish with the dope commission members what substance should be considered as dope for chess players. Chess was presented as an exhibition sport at the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000, and we are represented in all continental and regional games: Asian, African, Southeast Asian countries and the Caribbean...
About the popularization of chess
Today, more than 600 million people play chess on our planet. And the chess boom is evident in many countries of the world. Indeed there was a chess fever, chess was popular in the Soviet Union, it was known because of Bobby Fischer in the US, in some European countries (Germany, France, and Yugoslavia) and due to the World Champion Jose Raul Capablanca in Cuba. But there were hundreds of countries left behind, where they did not even heard about chess. It was 25 years ago.
Why they played chess in all parks and in yards at the time? It was because the world with great attention watched who would win: the Soviet system or the "imperialist" one. Boris Spassky personified the Soviet ideology and Bobby Fisher embodied the alien to us American one. Who was smarter? Chess was politicized. Even Vysotsky wrote a series of songs about how they sent him to play with Bobby Fischer...
Then there was another intrigue: would the Soviet Communist Karpov win or the dissident from Switzerland, who escaped from the USSR, Viktor Korchnoi. And Soviet people watched the match Karpov vs Korchnoi, which was held in the Philippines in Baguio. Then there came the child of perestroika Garry Kasparov, who wanted to destroy the Soviet communist ideology by defeating Karpov. There it was: politicization and bringing the ideological content to chess. The attention of the whole chess world was concentrated only on two outstanding chess players but thousands of professional players, who dedicated their lives to chess, were left behind. I am talking about more than 150 national chess federations and millions of amateurs.
Therefore, in Paris, in 1995, I proclaimed the slogan that FIDE is an organization for thousands of professional chess players, hundreds of national chess federations and millions of chess fans.
About meeting with Fisher
After becoming FIDE President, I decided to meet with all the world champions. I received a positive response from all of them but Fisher. When I asked for an explanation he replied that I was from the USSR and he did not communicate with Soviet citizens. Why? Because some publishing house published his book "My 60 Memorable Games" in the 70s. It has long been a manual for many generations of chess players. I also grew up reading this book. They printed 100 000 copies but did not pay the author's fee to Fisher. Fisher asked the country's leadership to pay him $100000 after the Soviet Union collapsed and the Russian Federation was formed. But then there was a problem with nonpayment of salaries and pensions and they couldn’t pay attention to, according to Vysotsky, "praised" Fisher. I'm sorry to say it but they showed Bobby the door.
He was offended and said that he would not have any more business with Soviets. I told Andre Lilienthal that, as a patriot of my country, I was ready to pay the debt of the whole Soviet Union. An hour later Fisher called and said he was ready for communication. I wanted to send him money by transfer, but after a few hours he called again and said that he did not believe in transfers and asked me to bring the cash. I took this money and brought it to Budapest where he himself met me at the airport. I repeat once more, Fisher is an unsurpassed chess master and genius of mankind.