Khan and Shah

We bring to the attention of our readers the most interesting excerpts from an interview with Kirsan Ilyumzhinov to Itogi magazine.

- Is it true that you bought the rights to publish Gorbachev's memoirs?
- Yes, I bought the rights to publish memoirs and their adaptation. I consider Mikhail Sergeyevich one of the outstanding people of the era. I have always been attracted to large-scale personalities, like Pope John Paul II, Dalai Lama, Bobby Fisher, Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi.

These are the ones who influence the course of history. Gorbachev first stopped the cold war, then changed the political system. Therefore, he always interested me as a person. Especially, since we are neighbours: Kalmykia is a neighbour to Stavropol Territory, where he came from. It is very interesting how a man from the Stavropol hinterland became the person of the century.

- Does politics interfere with chess often?
You can recall the fight between Bobby Fisher, who was the personification of capitalism, and a representative of communist ideology Boris Spassky. It was supposed to show if capitalists were smarter then communists. And from recent history, you can recall Saddam Hussein. In 1996, he proposed to hold the World Championship in Baghdad and was ready to provide a prize fund. Exactly at that time, the match between Anatoly Karpov and Gata Kamsky was suspended. Karpov agreed to go to Baghdad and Kamsky was willing to play, but the Americans said he would be in trouble if he went to Iraq. Sanctions against Iraq were already in force.
I wrote a letter to the US State Department saying that we play chess and don’t fight. We do not bring weapons there but chessboards only. But you couldn’t import even pencils there because of the sanctions. Apparently, it was believed that Saddam Hussein would make an atomic bomb out of pencils.
I was periodically criticized for communicating with tyrants. But Berlusconi and Sarkozy did embrace the same Gaddafi.  And suddenly he became an outcast, a tyrant. But neither a single political prison nor a single political prisoner was found in his country. It was a prosperous state: the lowest salary was $ 1000, public utilities were free, and newlyweds received 64 thousand dollars to buy an apartment.
-You often find yourself in countries where hostilities are taking place. In what capacity do you go there?
As a chess envoy. Last year, I visited 108 countries and more than 60 this year. Many people invite me. In the spring, for example, I was in Seoul at an international conference, where, among other things, the issue of the unification of the two countries, South and North Korea, was discussed. I delivered a speech there.
- So, will there be unification?
- I suggested inviting 100 hundred North Korean children to the bridge where UN troops stood and put 100 tables with chessboards there. My idea was to gather 100 South Korean children on one side and 100 South Korean kids on the other side of the bridge.
Another of my ideas is to draw a line of peace on the Arab-Israeli border. I proposed to put a thousand chess table for children to play chess there. I discussed this idea with Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinians, who totally supported this idea. The Israeli leadership does not seem to have any objections either. It is feasible. The same would be true for Nagorno-Karabakh, where Armenian and Azerbaijani children can play, and for Tiraspol. Let the children of Transnistria and Moldova meet. Thus, chess performs a peacekeeping mission.
- What are your goals now?
- The world is far from peace. Why is this happening? It’s not because there are not enough resources on our planet – the resources of coal, oil and gas are immense. Tsiolkovsky said that the Earth could easily provide food for 50-60 billion people.
What and who is missing today? Thinking people. I have a dream of increasing their number to a billion. The arithmetic is simple: 7 billion people live on our planet and 600 million play chess. Leo Tolstoy wrote about the positive influence of chess on the development of human intelligence, and Lenin believed that chess is mind gymnastics for the mind. Once a BBC journalist asked Albert Einstein: "Why is chess needed?" He replied: "Young man, why do you think that you need to train the muscles of your body but not the muscles of your brain? The only way to train the muscles of the brain is to play chess."
If one billion will play chess, then the cumulative IQ of humanity will rise. Hence, more intelligent people will be in governments. And the number of wrong decisions will decrease. Consequently, there will be fewer wars and crises. How to achieve it? Do you know how children in Kalmyk schools were taught to play chess? Sit down, put your hands under the table. Do you want to move a knight? Think first, and then use your hand to move the knight. This simple technique makes the child think about what he is doing. One of the programmes that I am now actively promoting is to introduce chess as a school subject. I travel around the countries promoting this idea. I think this is worth doing.