More than a Game

I was once asked why I had given up my promising career as a Russian politician and plunged into FIDE activities, especially when the chess world, frankly speaking, was not going through a good time.  This is a good question and deserves a detailed answer.
Of course, my decision was influenced by the fact that since childhood my soul was immersed in chess.  It was painful to see how the game, so popular in our country, slowly disappearing into oblivion, while the chess community was torn apart by internal quarrels.  However, we must be honest: my ambitions played not the last role.
By 2010, I managed to be the youngest member of the Supreme Council of Russia and the Soviet Union and I governed Kalmykia for 17 years.  What could I do next?  Become a minister or run for president of Russia?
Yes, of course, it is very honourable.  However, what actually can a president do?  The biggest achievement would be to make the citizens life better.  Well, possibly the peoples of several allied countries.  My goal is to make life better all around the world.  No wonder I had insisted on the inclusion in the Steppe Code (the Constitution of the Republic of Kalmykia) the item on the personal responsibility of each citizen of the Republic of everything that happens on Earth.

From my point of view, chess is the very tool, the fulcrum for a level, which Archimedes would have been able to move the world.  Moreover, I dare say, the founding fathers of FIDE thought so.  Let us remember that our organization was created during the Olympic Games in Paris, when the first World Chess Championship was held at the Majestic hotel in 1924.  The agreement on the establishment of the International Chess Federation was signed, the emblem FIDE– the chess knight against the background of the globe- and the motto ‘Gens una sumus’ – ‘We are one family’ was approved on the first day of the tournament.
This motto had troubled me for a long time.  What was its meaning?  The overconfidence of the founders?  The fact is that FIDE originally consisted of 14 countries: Argentina, Belgium, United Kingdom, Hungary, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, France, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland and Yugoslavia.  This position was generally consistent with the level of chess popularity.  While they were aimed at the whole world ...
Eventually I realized that being chess players, FIDE founding fathers were able to look far into the future, to calculate that the ancient game will gain immense popularity, roll over the world as a giant tsunami wave.
Recently, I saw an impressive line of people who wanted to attend the opening of the Berlin Rapid Chess Championship.  In addition, it is not just Berliners - there were people who came from other regions of Germany, from various European countries, from the United States.  There were people with children, even very small ones!
Today Hollywood film blockbusters about chess.  The presentation of the film ‘Pawn Sacrifice’ about  the ‘Match of the Century’ between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer in 1972 took place at in Berlin same time.  This is a very thrilling film because it depicted not only one of the episodes in the career of the great American chess player but also the confrontation between Soviet and Capitalist ideologies, and  to the ’war of nerves’ that went along with it..
It is no wonder that the film defined the match as ‘The World War III on the chessboard.’ The film’s action takes in the chess room decorated on the background with the huge backdrop with the logo and slogan of FIDE.
The German politicians, ministers and members of parliament attended the film presentation.  Leaving the room, they asked the fourth FIDE President Friedrich Olafson and me about the reason for such emotions and what ‘una sumus’ really meant.
However, the fact of the matter is that chess came to us from time immemorial, and for good reason the Founding Fathers took the motto of the late poet Claudian. He meant the citizens of the contemporary Roman Empire speaking of ‘one family’.  Rome was heir to the Greek civilization.  However, it was the custom in Greece) to stop all wars and civil strife at the games in Olympia (which the Baron Pierre de Coubertin restored many centuries later).
By the way, there is another clue hidden in the motto of FIDE is related to the era of the ancient Olympic Games.  By proclaiming ‘Gens una sumus’, players do not declare their affiliation to a certain closed, elitist society.  On the contrary, it is an open invitation to unite.  Those Greeks believed that sport was a combination of strength and intelligence, so the Olympic Games programme included not only competitions in javelin, jumping, running and pankration, but competitions in versification and recitation as well.
Today my task as president of FIDE is to attract the maximum number of supporters to our game.  Thus, we are going to experiment, try to synthesize something new combining chess with other sports.  For example, the chess-boxing where rivals meet in the boxing ring first, and then at the chessboard.
At first glance, this is incompatible.  The mayor of Kiev, the boxing World Champion, Vitali Klitschko admitted to me that chess helped him win in the ring.  He really is a very good player. He tries to play every day with his brother or with his children.  Pele also told me that only the team that is able to calculate all the combinations can achieve success on the football field.
Chess as such is the synthesis of different aspects of human activity.  As Mikhail Botvinnik used to say, "Chess is a combination of science, art and sport."  Chess is a sport, because the result is important.  It is a science because, as stated Yuri Averbakh, "ending is pure mathematics."  Moreover, it is art, because it is beautiful.
Short matches played by Tal, Alekhin, Fischer, Morphy are comparable in their beauty to the symphonies of Shostakovich and the creations of Mozart and Beethoven.  By the way, Einstein who spoke about chess, as "the best way to exercise the muscles of the head," had another hobby - playing the violin and was a very good musician.
Nevertheless, in order to understand this beauty, you must learn to play chess.  That is why I am persistently promoting the lessons of the ancient game in schools and universities.  In my opinion, any person claiming to be cultural should be able to play chess.  Nobody is surprised that in order to become a civilized person one first must to learn the alphabet and the multiplication table.  However, chess is much more than the multiplication table.
Chess disciplines the mind, trains the habit of analysing multiple consequences of one’s actions.  Men, unfortunately, are inherently lazy and we instinctively choose the path of least resistance.
When I studied at The Moscow State Institute of International Relations, one of our neighbours in the dorm in order to avoid getting off the couch used the mop handle to change channels on  TV, standing a few meters away.  We laughed at him at that time, however pretty soon the TV remote controls appeared in our home.  Now there are technologies to enable us to communicate with the TV set and the computer using only the power of our brain waves.
Cool? It is hard to say.  In fact, the same path of least resistance led us to the creation of the atomic bomb.  Today there is no need to make enormous efforts to gather troops and to arm millions of people. One can launch a hundred missiles at the opponent's head and victory is assured.  However, if the initiators of the nuclear arms race had thought about the future, they possibly would have realized that they would never be the sole possessors of the nuclear cudgel and that they could expect the threat of getting atomic rain over their own heads.
That is why I strive to increase the number of people playing chess up to a billion and more.  Even if chess did not become part of their lives, and they do not achieve significant success in the game, they would still get used to thinking.  Moreover, is more important to think ahead of the curve.
They would realize that we all are one family, and co-operation is always better than competition. The Earth we have is one for all and the sky is one for all.  They should be treated carefully, mindful of the legacy for our distant descendants.
Such understanding is very close to the preservation and improvement of the whole of our beautiful universe.