Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: "Boozy chess? Let’s play!"

- After the legendary duel between Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov in 1984-1985, matches for the title of World Champion were held everywhere. The only exception is Moscow, once the chess capital of the world. Thanks to you, this injustice is eliminated. What other goals, as head of FIDE, are you planning to achieve?
My goal is even more global today – to increase the number of people playing chess to a billion. Today, out of 7 billion people on Earth, only 600 million play chess including women and all age groups. I came up with the programme "one billion chess players – one billion smart people". I will strive to implement it.

- A billion chess players? Is it real?
Of course. We must introduce chess in all schools in the world. We will start with the Tomsk region, Khanty-Mansiysk, Tatarstan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia. Children are taught chess from the first grade in Vietnam, the United States and Mongolia. They are taught chess from kindergartens in China.
We began to teach chess children from the age of five in Kalmykia, and they became more disciplined and successful in their studies. Although schoolchildren are overloaded with homework these days, you can teach chess at least once a week – on Saturdays, for example.
After all, chess develops both hemispheres of the brain – imaginative and logical. Recently I flew from China with Alexander Zhukov, who headed the chess federation of Russia several years ago. We played with him for the whole flight that lasted eight hours. We played more than a hundred games! And the flight went very quickly.
- Who was the winner?
I do not actually remember: sometimes he won, the other times I did.
- Was it an ordinary chess game? Not the "boozy" one?
Not at all. We played three minutes’ blitz and had to think quick. By the way, what is the "boozy" chess? I've never heard of it.
- This is when you have to drink a glass of cognac or vodka if you lose a piece or when you put glasses instead of chess pieces on the board. It is very popular in Russian backyards.
Wow, that’s amazing! Well, if I would have spare time I'll try to play "boozy" chess someday.
- You were awarded the title of Hero of Kalmykia. How do you feel about such things?
Thank you, I feel normal. I have not clung to things, awards or titles since childhood. As the Buddha taught, one should not get used to anything in life, not even to the life itself; because your X-hour will inevitably come. It could happen any time: 50, 60, 90 or 100 years later but everyone will have to go eventually.
You should not get used to, for example a car: it will eventually rust. You will not take beautiful dress or expensive watches with you after you die. It is not a fact that they even will dress you in a good suit before putting you in a coffin. Who will evaluate your social merits in the afterlife? It is pretty silly to think that if you behave yourself then you will walk around the Garden of Eden full of apples, and if you will misbehave then the devil will fry you. We, Buddhists are more complicated: we believe in 108 rebirths and karma.
- What is your current rebirth?
It is 68th, which means I live 69th life. This was revealed to me by a monk from Tibet. He meditated and saw my past lives. It was amazing to learn who I was! A Catholic, an Indian, and a star!
- It seems that you manage to accommodate two incarnations in one life: once you were President of the Republic of Kalmykia and you are head of FIDE now...
And, mind you, all the ministers are appointed but I was never appointed. I was always elected: three times in Kalmykia and four times in FIDE. Two years ago, Karpov and Kasparov fought against me at the FIDE elections. 104 countries voted for me and 50 voted for Karpov. But I'm not clinging to my position. They offer me some other posts and I refuse even now.
Some people think that once they become a governor they will fill their and their relatives’ pockets first and think about people’s needs later. Quite the opposite, I brought my own money to Kalmykia and spent several hundred million roubles there.
- Just like Abramovich in Chukotka.
Now that I am no longer President of Kalmykia, I still care about it. I made one of my Moscow businessman friends to register his company in Elista so that he will pay taxes there.
- Recently you became the guardian of the relics of the Buddha. This is probably the most unusual thing you had to do.
You can say so. In Sri Lanka, with the consent of the President and the monks they presented me with what was never taken out of the country before – four bones of the Buddha. I brought them to Elista and they are kept in our central Buddhist temple now.
- They were never taken out of Sri Lanka but were you allowed to dispose of them at your discretion?
- Yes, for some time I kept them in my house. I can bring them to Moscow if someone wants to see them.
- I was always surprised by people who, no matter what post they occupy, manage to do a dozen things at the same time. You are one of them. How do you manage it?
I'm just working. I graduated MGIMO in 1989 and since then I have not had a single day off or went on leave. I work on January 1 even. That’s how I manage so much. I finish my work at three o’clock in the morning and I get up at seven.
- Do you feel rested after getting just four hours of sleep?"
- It is quite enough, a lot of sleep is harmful.
- Do you prefer not to waste time on food?
I eat what God provides. I do not care if it’s fish, meat or fried eggs. I have not eaten anything since last night, which is a whole day. Same thing happened the day before yesterday. I simply forgot.
- And are you okay?
I am fine. I'm sitting here playing chess with you. I still will have to attend several meetings today.
- Does your family approve of such a way of life?
I live for myself but not for family. Every man must live for himself: no one owes anything to anyone. When I became President, there was not a single temple in Kalmykia. Apparently no one believed that people should have them. I built forty Buddhist (including the largest one in Europe) temples and twenty Orthodox churches on my own money...
- Well, and still you say that one must live for oneself.
I meant it in the sense of realizing your abilities. When you think that you have to do something yourself that is fine, but if you think that Gorbachev or Putin has to build something for you it is wrong. In latter case, you are a failure in this world. You need to help from the heart and not because you should do it.
- You did a lot to advertise Kalmykia. Before you came, they did not really know anything about it in Russia...
Yes, many consider it an honour to visit it and not only the Russians. I received a letter from the King of Saudi Arabia, who wants to come to us for falconry. I talk about my homeland when I meet with heads of other states, which is quite often. I visited 108 countries last year only.
- Does it mean one country in three days?
Sometimes two countries in one day. Once I managed to meet with five presidents in eight days...