Kirsan Ilyumzhinov talks about chess, God and wealth

- I know that you were recently nominated for the IOC presidency.

Chess players are striving to get in the Olympic family since 1924 especially in the recent decades. Although, it is difficult to prove the expediency of this aspiration. As they say, if you cannot defeat a movement, you should head it. To popularize chess, the FIDE presidential council decided to nominate FIDE leaders to the IOC leadership.

- Is this your fourth presidential post? If I am not mistaken, you were the president of the football club "Uralan". And "Uralan" joined the elite group only after you became the president of the republic.
Yes, "Uralan" joined the big leagues for the first time in 1996. We trained Alexey Smertin, who later played for Chelsea, Kormiltsev, Yashkin, Luhvich and Litvinov. Later, we lost and resumed our membership in the big leagues twice.
I remember that we actually got a new team in the beginning of 2001. I called up the coach and players and said: "Guys, I become the president of "Uralan" club. If we do not get into the big leagues in the next season, I would leave the post of the president of Kalmykia and FIDE, because this would be a complete failure for me. I am ready to give you as much money as you need. But I have to receive a firm guarantee in return."
Naturally, everyone promised that they will try hard and work hard. Then it occurred to me that obligations should be equivalent. After all, if the club does not join the big leagues, I lose everything: both the presidential chair and my entire career. So, I fetched few dozens of bullets and said: "If Uralan loses, you go to the steppe and shoot yourselves at the end of the season. At the same time, write suicidal noted. I put my whole life on stake, so you should!" And I gave everyone a bullet. The result was predictable: "Uralan" joined the big leagues in one season and all the players returned bullets, which they kept for a year.
- They say you still gave them Mercedes?
Once, I told my players that the one who scored the first goal will get the keys to a Mercedes – it was actually parked by the stadium. This opportunity was given to Artem Yashkin – a penalty was imposed on the Muscovites. But Artem did not realize it, later explaining this by the fact that when hitting the ball he saw his Mercedes before himself instead of football gate. Since then, I decided not to promise anything in advance.
-Are you a rich man?
Wealth is a relative concept. I consider myself a self-sufficient person. I do not do things that I don’t like. If I do anything, it means that this is my favourite hobby. Then I can work for days without days off. Honestly, I have not had a single vacation in the last ten years.
- Is this your decision or do you just follow some idols?
This is personal. I most appreciate the Dalai Lama, Genghis Khan, Hussein, Lenin and Jesus Christ for their ability to combine diligence, order, morality and wisdom. I consider the recent execution of Hussein an extremely uncivilized act. Especially, when it happened in dungeons, on the eve of the New Year's holiday.
- You, it seems, were personally acquainted with Hussein?
Yes. In 1994, I was going to visit him, and my mother cried and did not want me go. She said there was shooting, blockade and Saddam Hussein himself was a murderer.
Still, I went. I wanted to see for myself how Iraq opposed the whole world and, most importantly, the United States. After TV crews filmed our meetings with Hussein, I asked to give me films. I explained the reason: my mother cried. She didn’t want me to go there. Saddam said: "I invite Ilyumzhinov’s mother to be a guest of Baghdad. Let her not be afraid!"
Hussein was intelligent and cultured person. He supported chess and understood its value. It was in Baghdad that I planned to host the 1996 FIDE Championship between Anatoly Karpov and Gata Kamsky. But after numerous protests the match was played in Elista.
- Have you been friends with the Dalai Lama for a long time?
Since 1991, when he was in Moscow. The Dalai Lama also visited Kalmykia. I was still a deputy of the Supreme Council. We met, he invited me to visit him, and I visited the residence of His Holiness in Dharamsala in 1992. Since then we communicate. I am very grateful to him. He is a very unordinary spiritual person.
In general, we have a unique republic with three religions – Buddhism, Orthodoxy and Islam. There was not a single temple 12 years ago – neither Orthodox nor Buddhist. We built 40 Buddhist temples, 22 Orthodox churches and a mosque.
- Is it true that the tooth of Buddha will soon be moved to Kalmykia?
The Buddha, according to the legend, had forty teeth. Seven remained to this day. Five of them are kept in Buddhist monasteries in the south of India; two are kept by the living incarnation of the Buddha – the 14th Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. Teeth, like everything associated with the name of the founder of religion, are sacred relics for Buddhists around the world. Touching the shrine, in the opinion of Buddhists, guarantees healing of diseases and brings fortune. The Dalai Lama, who has two such teeth, agreed to give us one of them for rent for 49 years. This holy invaluable relic will be kept in the largest in Europe Buddhist temple in Elista.
- As far as I know, you met with the pope.
I met with Pope John Paul II for the first time in 1993. In 1995, I received a congratulatory telegram from him in connection with my election to the post of FIDE President. I was very surprised: does the Pope himself follow this? And he was the first to congratulate me: I was elected on November 24, and on the morning of November 25 the telegram was already at the headquarters in Lausanne.
When I came to the Pope's residence, I gave him chess set. He set up his chess position. Checkmate in two moves! It turned out that he was a master of sports in chess and a master of FIDE in drawing up chess tasks and sketches. When he lived in Krakow, priest Wojtyla’s chess puzzles were published in a local newspaper every Saturday. Later, when he was a Cardinal in Poland, he published a book about the best chess compositions of all time.
- You once said something about the "unearthly" origin of chess.
Yes, I believe that chess is created by God. What is the proof of divine nature of chess? Every year, archaeologists find evidence that chess was played by the same rules in America, India, Japan and China. Look, there are 64 cells on the board and human DNA has 64 codons! Well, is this not the gift from the Almighty?
The president of Kalmykia and the International Chess Federation fulfilled the dream of Ostap Bender about New Vasyuki. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has built Chess City in the steppe republic. A bronze monument to "the son of a Turkish subject" (Ostap Bender, -Ed.)  was installed in Elista, the capital of Kalmykia. The two-meter-tall Ostap holds a chessboard under his arm and a knight piece in his hand.
There is a boulevard in Chess City named after the ‘Great Combinator’ (Ostap Bender, -Ed.).   The second official name of this chess town is New Vasyuki.