Ilyumzhinov: "My idea of the knockout system justified itself"

- Last year's match between Kramnik and Topalov had probably made you worry a lot. Did you lose the desire to invite chess players to Elista?

It has already become a tradition to hold major competitions in Elista – a city that has become the centre of world chess. We will continue to host the highest level tournaments every year to maintain the prestige and popularization of chess in Kalmykia and Russia.

In addition, we began to cooperate with an international organization of disabled children, and we organized a tournament for children with disabilities this year. As for the toilet scandal... Well, it only added piquancy to chess.
- That is, you recall it with a smile now?
We are all humans. This is life, anything can happen, especially if there are big money involved and the title of the absolute World Champion is at stake. As we have seen on the example of Topalov’s team, players themselves do not always participate in decision making. Here in the Chess City I negotiated for three days and nights and, thank God, the conflict was resolved.
- What measures have been taken to prevent such incidents from happening again?
We put "jammers" everywhere to exclude the interference of computers. Also, rest rooms and toilets will be shared to exclude any suspicions. Another measure is to reduce time control. When Topalov and Kramnik played a tie-break with time control of 25 minutes per game, both sat on the stage and neither of them went to toilet.
You have visited Elista last autumn and must remember that games with "long" time control gathered half the audience while tiebreakers were crowded and the number of viewers of live games on internet had grown tenfold. The fastest games were very intense and more interesting. In addition, their quality was not too different from the ones that were played with the classical time control.
- Is your new proposal – an hour for a game?
Maybe a little more but we are aiming that goal.
- Will classical control remain for only the most important tournaments?
Yes, for example, for world championships. But still we will cut it from 7 to 4-5 hours and by 20-25 minutes for all other official tournaments. With whoever I speak to, all chess players support the reduction of time control in private conversations.
During the World Chess Olympiad in Turin we conducted a survey among women. 100% supported the FIDE time control. I think 90 percent of men support it. Vladimir Kramnik, when we recently met with him in Paris, said: "Classic time control must be maintained for world championships but rapid chess is needed for entertainment purposes."
- Kirsan Nikolaevich, you conducted a bold reform in the mid-90s: world championships were held on a knockout system. These tournaments have become popular both for chess players and fans. Didn’t you mind to give up your invention?
Life is changing, we cannot stand still. For any large-scale structure it’s important to avoid stagnation and keep up with the times. We decided to hold world championships on the knockout system at the Presidential Council of FIDE in Singapore in 1995. I was tired then of running between Karpov and Kasparov trying to reconcile them.
I tried to persuade them both, and the entire chess world froze in anticipation. Leading grandmasters lost interest in chess: there were no money, no prospects and only somewhere up there few people shared prizes among themselves. It was necessary to take extraordinary steps to overcome the usurpation of chess power.
At that time it was very hot in Singapore – 40 degrees. I went outside and met Alexander Roshal in front of the hotel (May he rest in peace). I say: "Alexander Borisovich, we must come up with something." We sat in a cafe discussing possible reforms all night. Roshal then wrote an article entitled "Volley of ‘Aurora’ in Singapore."
No one supported me when I spoke at the meeting for the first time: they said, the classical formula of the game breaks down. Passions flared up so high that we even had to declare a break. But time has shown that that idea has justified itself. I allocated $5 million for the prize fund.
Many chess players, who were among the world’s top 20-30, told me that they were able to plan their annual budget: you will get $40-50 thousand once you play 3 or 4 rounds in a world championship. Thanks to this, we retained professionals in chess and raised interest to the game.
Duel between Kramnik and Topalov brings us back to the classic match system. I proposed to turn knockout tournament into a World Cup and to give the right to a match with World Champion to its winner. Thus, we will hold the Cup one year and the World Championship another year.
- For about thirty years, crown’s contender was determined in a series of matches, until candidate matches did not go into oblivion in the mid-90s. They reappeared once in Elista. Would they disappear again?
It turned out that it's very difficult to find sponsors for such matches. Chess players from Hungary, Israel, Norway, the USA, France and other countries will play in Elista, but the national chess federations could find money for tournaments in none of them. They say that there will be money for a crown match, but not for candidates’ selection.
When the decision on the candidates' matches was under negotiation, Makropoulos and other FIDE chess functionaries assured: there will be no problems with money – sponsors will line up. And as a result, they asked me to provide them with money. After all, who gave those $500 thousand for the prize fund? President of FIDE did it once again. But I said, I have had enough – it was the last time I give the money.
And it is much easier to find sponsors for a match for the crown; you can even hold a competition. On the other hand, the interest in the World Cup will increase now, and the factor of chance will influence less on determining the worlds’ best chess player.
- Have you given up the idea of ​​including chess in the Olympic Games?
We work with all structures – commissions, committees and associations of the IOC, and we ask them to formulate the criteria that an international sports federation must meet in order to become an Olympic sport. They still unable to do it, and we still pressurize them.
Why did curling deserve to become an Olympic sport? By the way, when they made their way into the Olympic movement, they had a motto: "Curling is chess on ice"! That is, "chess on ice" has become an Olympic sport but not chess as such.
- Probably, now it is time to make your way to the IOC under the motto: "Chess is curling on the table"!
A good idea! Thank you, authorship will belong to you.
- What is the situation with the general compulsory training of chess in Kalmykia and in other regions of Russia?
We are fine. It is in full swing in Kalmykia: children take part in all competitions. I think the idea of ​​general compulsory training of chess will soon be supported by the State Duma and the government. We cooperate with the Ministry of Education.
The Russian President supported us. We had a chat in the Chess Palace, and on June 17 2005, Vladimir Putin officially supported my proposal to include chess lessons in the school curriculum. Chess has already come to schools in many regions of Russia.
If the State Duma has enough time to pass the law on beekeeping, they should have few more minutes to pass the law on general compulsory training of chess. Moreover, the deputies are struggling with consumption of beer in public places, so let them offer chess everywhere – in cafes and restaurants.
We opened a grandmaster school in Elista and have just laid the foundation stone of the chess academy in Yekaterinburg. Last week, we were in Astrakhan with the management of Lukoil, where the local governor had also become interested in chess.
I had another idea of organizing a show "Stars on the chessboard" in Yekaterinburg. There are already "Stars on Ice" and "Stars in Ring". Russia, it seems, is an intellectual country, so why should we exchange punches with each other? Let the stars better demonstrate that they can think. Many play chess: artists, politicians, and businessmen. We will create several teams of three people; each will have a captain-grandmaster. Let the people see who is good at intelligence and who is not.
- Some chess players haven’t visited Elista for 5 to 10 years, and they say that they hardly recognize the city now...
And they will completely not recognize it in two years! In 2009, we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of voluntary joining of the Kalmyk people with Russia. The President of the Russian Federation supported the development programme of Kalmykia: in two years, we will build 60 new large facilities: about $1 billion has been allocated for their construction.
Imagine, our small republic attracted about $10 billion investments this year. We will connect the last district of Kalmykia to the gas mains in September. In 1998, when we hosted a chess Olympiad, only one district was connected to the gas mains, and soon the whole republic will enjoy it.
- A street near khurul is named Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Is he your relative?
He is my grandfather. Before World War I, he worked in the gymnasium. He joined the Bolshevik Party in 1914, led revolutionary agitation at the front and later was a commissioner of the Second Cavalry Army. He was killed in 1919. One of the Rostov region’s collective farms was also named Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.