Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: "Leonardo da Vinci was very fond of chess"

- Kirsan Nikolaevich, they call Carlsen a genius of modern chess. Karjakin is a strong chess player. However, has he a chance to win the chess crown?

Magnus Carlsen is considered as a child prodigy. He can squeeze the water out of clay. As far as Sergey Karjakin is concerned, he is very balanced. He has fighter’s backbone. He would not be lost even in the most hopeless situation. To defend the world title is more difficult than to climb a mountain. I think that Karjakin is a little better psychologically. He has nothing to lose.

And the atmosphere, which surrounds the match now, reminds me of 1972. It was the year when the US opposed the Soviet Union. Bobby Fischer from New York and Boris Spassky from Moscow fought not only for the world title, but were trying to prove whose ideology was better and who was more intelligent: with the communist or capitalist upbringing. Taking into consideration the recent sanctions and that Sergei parents and Sergei were born in Crimea, the current situation is close to what it was in those days. So Karjakin will fight to win.

- Apart from sports and ideology there is another issue – the financial one. What does the winner getapart from chess crown?
According to the contract, the prize fund is € 1 million. And it is divided in the following proportion: 60% gets the winner and 40% gets the defeated.
- Does the FIDE provide this money?
The FIDE same as the FIFA and the IOC are public non-commercial organizations. We organize financing; arrange the venues to hold tournaments. The money is paid by organizers or sponsors. A number of investors, ranging from the Mayor's office, donated to the match in New York. The Mayor wrote me a nice letter: ‘Thank you for the Championship in New York. We love chess and play it in all our parks.’
It is worth to stress that we are simultaneously holding several dozen other events to popularize chess. Tournaments among children and veterans, solving the chess puzzles and compositions, master classes and simultaneous plays will be held in New York. I announced this year to be the Year of Chess in the United States.
- Will Karjakin and Carlsen have to undergo the drug testing?
There are no doping scandals in the FIDE. Today, we are the only international sports federation not involved in a doping scandal. Starting from 99s, when we were recognized by the IOC, we cooperate with WADA.
- "You know, Lasker adopted some vulgar tricks, so it became impossible to play against him. He puffs cigar smoke in the face of his opponents. And he deliberately chooses the cheap cigars so that the smoke is disgusting. The chess world is in trouble," said Ostap Bender. Do they use psychological techniques these days?
Quite often. Every player wants to win because he's a sportsman. When Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi played in the Philippines, Korchnoi team accused their rival of bringing psychics and hypnotists with him. They sat in the front row and tried to influence the mind of Victor Lvovich so that he would make a wrong move. After that, we started to install the glass partitions.
The third world champion, Cuban grandmaster José Raúl Capablanca, was very fond of cigars and always smoked the Cuban ones. Can you imagine what was it like? Once, during the international tournament, the World Champion Tigran Petrosian seemed to have touched a queen. However, there is a rule: you must make a move once you touched a piece. But he could not make that move; otherwise he would have lost the queen. And then he started to use that queen as a spoon to stir sugar in a tea cup. Later he said that he had taken that piece, because he could not find a spoon.
Some players snore, some begin to knock on the table leg with their feet. Thus, we sign agreements with chess players with such provisions as not to snore, knock and sniff, and so on. We prohibit smoking in the tournament halls. But it is not the main problem now. The real problem is cheating.
- Is it the electronic ‘doping’?
Yes, the use of electronic devices for tips. For example, you play a game and your coach sits at a computer and looks for the best move. Then the player runs to a toilet to see the tip or invents some other pretext to excuse himself. Today, the technology is advanced to such extreme that one could plant microchip into watch. The player looks at his watch and then makes a move. It is possible to plant an earphone in his ear or the lapel badge. Some have sensors implanted in their hands!
We are fighting against it; we install the devices for radio jamming. But there are excesses. During a match for the title of the World Champion between Veselin Topalov and Vishy Anand in Sophia, the security service of hotel installed such a powerful hardware that people from the neighboring hotels and institutions rioted: their computer and mobile communications were completely jammed. Nothing worked! They could not understand what was causing it.
Sometimes coach sits in the audience and gives a hint using his eyes: if he blinked twice, it means that a player should move the knight; if he blinked three times it means that a player should move the rook. That’s why we install partitions to make sure that there would be minimal contact between the players and the audience. We check the toilets seats for the hidden computers. The prizes are huge now. And there are many homegrown inventors, who come to chess players and tell them about a trick that is untraceable for arbiters or offer to buy a superspy device.
- Is it true that you have established a dress code for players so that they should be dressed formally?
Yes, there is a dress code. It is abnormal situation when players are dressed in flip flops, shorts and T-shirts during the opening ceremonies attended by heads of states. That’s what happened in Delhi. Another example: we held a World Championship attended by the Vice-Premier of the Russian government. She saw players all dressed casual. She asked: "Kirsan, what is it all about?" I said it was our players. I'm sorry but they live in their own world. However, after that we included a respective clause in our contract and we request that any official opening or closing ceremonies should be attended by players dressed formally.
We will hold the Women’s World Championship in Tehran in February. The debate flared up. A chess player from the United States said she would not come, because, according to the dress code of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a woman needs to have her head covered. Thus, she began to complain that she should put shawl on her head. We held the Women's Grand Prix this year, which was attended by GMs and chess players from Ukraine, Georgia, Russia, Bulgaria, India and China. They all perfectly well played with scarves on their heads.
- Meanwhile the debates about what is chess do not cease. Can you argue that chess is a sport?
In 1995, when I was elected as the President of FIDE, I met with the IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch in Lausanne. He said, "Kirsan, say what you will, but chess is not a sport!" However, the ancient Greeks, when they began to hold their Olympic Games, used to say that the sport was a combination of strength and intelligence. And that’s what I said to the President of the IOC: "You have strength and the FIDE would boost your intelligence". We have worked hard for four years to make the IOC to recognize us.
Why is chess a sport? Because in chess, as in any kind of sports, only result is important: one can lose, win or end with draw. When we examined the chess players as athletes, we attached sensors to them and observed that the average chess player loses 1-2 kg during a game. One of the World Champions lost about 20 kg during a match.
It is not by chance, that the great scientist Albert Einstein once asked a BBC reporter: "Do you play chess?" The reporter replied: "I have no time for such nonsense." And then Einstein said to him: "Young man, why do you find time to train the muscles of the body – arms and legs – and not to train the muscles of your brain?"
- What professional injures have chess players?
When you are lost in thought, you may fall and cut your head or hit the chess piece so hard that you would injure your finger. Just recently I received a complaint that there was no doctor at one of the children's tournament in Moscow. Doctors are needed there because one boy smashed his forehead while the other one dislocated his finger.
- You played chess with Gaddafi before his death, met with Assad and after that you were sanctioned by the US. Who of the heads of states is playing chess best now?
I would say that I played with many. Muammar Gaddafi was very fond of chess. He played with his grandchildren. The President of Vietnam loves chess. When he was in Kalmykia, he saw the ‘Chess City’ and attended the chess lesson for the first graders. After he returned home, he introduced chess as a compulsory subject in his home province.
Mongolian President Elbegdorj plays chess well. He became addicted to it when he was in the Lviv Military-Political School. The President of South Africa Zuma plays chess. Their previous head of state Mandela spent in prison 21 years. And all these years he played chess. Zuma has also been jailed for 8 years. And when he was released, first thing he did was to open the international chess academy in his native village.
The former President of Hungary Janos Kadar played chess. The Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev plays chess too. Last year, at the Women’s World Chess Championship in Sochi we made Vasya the Robot that moved chess pieces and pushed clock. That was how the Prime Minister had tested the power of artificial intelligence.
However, the chess players make not only well-known politicians but good designers, architects and artists. No wonder that Leonardo da Vinci, for example, was very fond of chess.