Crown for Garik

In principle, a great politician should be a villain, otherwise he will poorly manage society. A decent person in the role of a politician is like a sensitive steam engine or helmsman who declares his love while holding the steering wheel: the ship goes to the bottom.

Honore de Balzac
Khanty-Mansiysk. September 2010
On my first trip not related to basketball, I went to Khanty-Mansiysk for the Chess Olympiad. Before that, I covered exclusively tournaments with a ball, shield and tall people for 12 years. And then there was the FIDE presidential election. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Anatoly Karpov fought for the chair of the head of the International Chess Federation.


You know, I immediately realized that Kirsan Nikolaevich would win. He looked too confident, he knew his work too well and was personally familiar with almost every delegate from all countries that were members of the federation. And I was also struck by his speech, after which the audience exploded with applause.

After that, I was sure that the 12th world champion had no chance. Despite the fact that he was supported by his eternal chess opponent Garry Kasparov, who always used to be the number one. Garry Kimovich tried to take the initiative into his own hands, but he clearly spoke in unfamiliar territory. When he began to speak aggressively, one of the African delegates shouted: “Shut up!” which caused a great scandal and heated discussion in the press.
And much has happened before the voting... On the eve of the elections, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov made a statement saying that he had withdrawn the lawsuit against Anatoly Karpov. The then head of FIDE has filed a million roubles lawsuit against Karpov for “discrediting his honour, dignity and business reputation” basing on ex-world champion’s interview.
The lawsuit was withdrawn after Ilyumzhinov knew about the statement of Karpov, who publicly admitted that he did not want to offend FIDE president in any way.
“I am satisfied that Anatoly Karpov officially admitted that he did not express anything that could offend my honour,” Ilyumzhinov told Soviet Sport. - I am extremely glad that the elections scheduled for 29 September will be held in a working and friendly atmosphere.
So, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, ex-president of Kalmykia, a long-time leader of world chess, the man who was accused of killing a journalist and the one who, according to him, met with aliens, eventually turned out to be a businessman who was one of the first to fall under US sanctions...
With such an interesting character, I have been able to communicate for the last ten years...
Troms. August 2014
Four years we did not meet much often. I was already a promoter of Seryozha Karyakin, and for a year, I was an official of the Russian Chess Federation. But I had little to do with FIDE. But everything changed in Norway. The Russian Ilyumzhinov again went out to defend his chair, but this time against Croatian citizen Garry Kasparov. Yes, Garry Kimovich, who has a Balkan passport, was nominated by this country. Naturally, our federation, led by Andrei Filatov, provided all kinds of assistance to Kirsan. Kasparov was beaten by a wide margin. Later, I went on a bicycle for an interview with Ilyumzhinov and almost died when a car hit me. Fortunately, I escaped with several bruises.
“Could it be an alien influence?” I thought then...
110 votes for and 61 against. With this result, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov defeated Garry Kasparov for the presidency of the International Chess Federation. The vote caused an extraordinary stir around the world. The elections were highly politicized, because Ilyumzhinov’s opponent did not hide the fact that he enjoyed financial support from the United States in his campaign.
Ilyumzhinov found time to share his views with Sport-Express. The conversation took place in the president’s hotel room well after midnight. Despite being tired, Kirsan Nikolaevich looked fresh and cheerful, managing to answer endless phone calls during the interview. By the way, Russian President Vladimir Putin one of the first congratulated him on being re-elected.
- You have been occupying the main chess chair for 19 years. Are you still not tired of all this fuss around you?
- They say that even metal gets tired if it is constantly under pressure... But I'm such a person that I need to raising the bar of excellence in my life every day. To take another height is the true buzz. Seeing that your idea came true and helped people. Defeat a strong opponent.
Therefore, I went to the polls. After all, there was no rival stronger than Kasparov. Upon learning that Garry Kimovich decided to run for president, I praised heaven.
- Really?
- Absolutely. This is such excitement! Kasparov is a unique master, maybe the best chess player of all time; he is aggressive, assertive, and emotional. Ready to crush anyone who gets in his way.
He challenged me, and we started playing a long and very interesting game. What else could you dream of!? I, the first-class player from Kalmykia, am fighting the 13th world champion, the idol of millions of people around the planet. It can be said that this fight gave me such impulse that I had never experienced, and the victory brought an extreme satisfaction.
- In the morning before the election, did you think that you would win with such an impressive result?
- Of course, not! On the contrary, I was tormented by doubts. Our headquarters has done tremendous pre-election work. Over the past year, I have visited more than 60 countries, met with the leaders of almost all of the states, and delivered to them all the points of my programme in detail. But Kasparov showed such self-confidence here in Troms, that it was impossible to call him an outsider.
I admitted that the outcome of our battle could be decided by one vote. Therefore, it was very important to maintain confidence in our election speech to the delegates of the Assembly, so that this decisive vote would definitely be mine and not Garry’s.
- When did you became certain of your victory?
- Having learned the results of the vote. But I was ready for any outcome. I had nothing to be ashamed of; I have been conscientious in my work for 19 years at the head of FIDE. We raised the federation from the ruins! It's hard to believe now, but in 1995 there were only three official tournaments on FIDE calendar. Just think about this number! And today there are already ten thousand of them!
After Kasparov split the chess world, everything gradually fell into place. Our main success is a logical and comprehensible cycle of the World Cup. Contenders Tournaments are held every two years, and so do matches for the crown. Chess lovers have long dreamed of such stability. And today, thanks to the painstaking work of FIDE, they have this stability.
I think that recognition of this fact predetermined my victory over Kasparov. He had nothing to beat such a trump card with.
With all the ambiguous attitude towards Ilyumzhinov, it is necessary to recognize that he is a great politician and strategist. And most importantly, he did a lot for chess. And this cannot be denied; this must be appreciated and respected. Several successful Olympics, organizing of the knockout system that still exists and is considered the most spectacular tournament in history, the world championship in rapid and blitz, assistance rendered to grandmasters in difficult times, and the brilliant release of Boris Spassky from French captivity! No matter what, Kirsan is a great manager.
Moscow region. November 2015
I have done hundreds of interviews in my life. But one of the most unusual and interesting took place on the 20th anniversary of the leadership of Kirsan Nikolaevich in FIDE. Ilyumzhinov invited me to his country house, we sat at a magnificent table with snacks and iced vodka, and the conversation poured out like a strong drink that burns the throat and ease the mind. This conversation is worth a separate book, it fully reveals the identity of Kirsan. I hope that fragments of this conversation will not leave anyone indifferent.
Kirsan is a fit man. He drinks rarely but never gets drunk. During the conversation he looks into your eyes, answers uncomfortable questions thoughtfully, choosing words. There is Buddhist humility in him and at the same time a Kalmyk steppe excitement. Initially I have not been perceived as a journalist, but rather, as an ally in chess. He was very polite. I also do not look away and try not to avoid sharp moments. And there were plenty of them.
"What does the World Chess Federation mean to you now?"
-It means everything to me. It means an indescribable love for chess. It means pride for everything that I have accomplished. I don’t have time for sleep – I never did. I live on planes. And why do I do it? I tell myself: “Listen, Kirsan, you made a promise 20 years ago to make chess the number one sport in the world. So that’s what you’ve got to do!” What was the state of affairs in the world of chess in 1995? It was a mess! Chess was popular in the former USSR, but when it collapsed, interest waned. It had a following in a few European countries, was somewhat popular in the United States, Cuba and the Philippines… and that was it! No one else was interested in chess. Now I go to Mexico, assure the President that we are the future, hold chess lessons at a few schools. One year later and chess is part of the compulsory sports education in every single one of the country’s 200,000 schools. And that’s what I do all over the world.
 - How did you convince the kids to play with boring pieces?
- Children in the era of colourful computer games, with the right approach, still prefer to move knights and bishops rather than play in shooter video games. And for these twenty years I am ashamed of just one thing. It is for the fact that I could do more. But, unfortunately, sometimes you also have to sleep. Now, if it were possible to use the hours that I spent asleep for the development of chess, then I would have achieved more. The chess world trusts me, otherwise I would not have defeated Karpov and then Kasparov, two of the greatest champions in history. The people chose me, and I am ready for another twenty years to work for the benefit of chess.
Do you have time to think about yourself? You should take care of yourself.
- I love my job, and for the sake of it and I don’t care how it affects my health or how much of my own money I have to spend on it. I am not going to take a Rolls Royce or Rolex to the grave with me. It is important for me to leave a name after myself. Now more than 600 million people know the chess rules on our planet, the task of FIDE is to bring this figure to a billion.
- What is the most memorable meeting you have ever had?
- For me, probably the greatest and most mysterious person in the history of chess is the eleventh world champion American Robert James Fisher. I don’t think chess would have been the same without him. I’ve told the story of how we met on countless occasions, and I’m still amazed that I somehow had the acumen to pull the meeting off. This is how it happened…
Bobby was aggrieved with the whole world and he was demanding royalties from the Soviet magazine Fizkultura i sport [“Physical Culture and Sport] because it had published his book called Sixty Memorable Chess Games. He wanted the money owed to him under copyright law. I won’t tell you how I came up with the idea, but I decided to pay him out of my own pocket, $100,000. To be honest, I was prepared to pay one hundred times that amount. Having a real-life meeting with Bobby Fischer is like meeting God!
- Did not he ask to wire money straight to his account?
- He didn’t trust banks. He saw deceit and collusion everywhere. So I flew to Budapest to meet him with a plastic bag full of cash. We met in the flat of Andor Lilienthal, a well-known Grandmaster. I told the story about how I brought Fischer black caviar, Russian bread and Stolichnaya vodka a thousand times. I’ve recalled that scene a thousand times. Fischer sat there, gobbled up the caviar straight from a knife, raised his shot glass and then used the knife to open the plastic bag. There were ten smaller bags inside, each containing $10,000. He opened the bags and, just like in the films, started to count the money meticulously, placing the banknotes right on the table. All the notes had stamps and signatures were in the right place. My jaw hit the floor… I was a little embarrassed for the champion.
- He had to count the whole hundred thousand?
- When Bobby counted out about half (I thought that he would do this until the morning), Andor Arnoldovich and his wife Olga Alexandrovna managed to convince him that everything was in order. And then I was shocked again. The champion put all the money into a grocery net bag! And only after that he relaxed, raised a glass, hugged me wholeheartedly and said that for the first time in his life he was not cheated. I was so moved that I couldn’t hold tears. Then we got completely plastered...
The end of this crazy meeting was at the airport where Fisher escorted me. I did not even notice that he took this unfortunate net bag filled with money. But later I began to notice that people were staring at us. Well, there goes an eccentric guy with dollars stick out of his net bag. Bobby took off his jacket, wrapped it round the bag and held it to his chest.
-Is it true that after you finished school you went to work in a factory, just to spite everyone?” Or is it a joke?
- it’s a true story! At school, I was an excellent student. It so happened in childhood that everywhere and always I had to be the first. I won at various republican Olympiads - it was a matter of principle for me. Indeed, in my life, I have received only excellent marks. The road to any Moscow university was open to me: Moscow State University, MGIMO or Baumanka. But I chose a factory.
- Why?
- At that time, the Zvezda factory sponsored our school, and they rebuked me for not helping our factory.                                                                                                                  I was ashamed. I thought: well, Kirsan, they say, you can get excellent marks, but can you make a detail in the workshop? Despite the protest of my parents, I went to a factory. Thus, Ilyumzhinov, a gold medallist, winner of the Kalmyk championship in adult chess, becomes a simple fitter making parts for incubator heaters. My salary was 80 roubles. After a couple of months, I was working overtime during the night shifts. My salary rose to 300 roubles, more than my father and my mother earned.
- Did you gain everyone’s respect?
- Not at all. The other blokes in the factory pushed me up against the wall next to the toilet. They wanted to beat me up the way they do at summer camp. I could feel the fists starting to rain down, but it didn’t turn into a proper beating. It was a warning: “You think you’re the smartest person here, kid? We’re not working to the plan – we work our tails off at the end of the month to get the quota done and receive a bonus. Now your ‘feats of labour’ mean that we’ve got to make 25 parts a day instead of 15. We’ll teach you what’s what around here, quick smart.” That’s when I understood that even under socialism it’s better to work less.    

"I had to work at a slower pace. But I’d learned a useful lesson. I learned that you can exceed expectations through perseverance and desire.
- Why does Kasparov behave so aggressively towards you?
- And we used to be friends. And I have great respect for him now. He is a great champion and fighter, a bundle of energy and emotion. I used to go to his house and eat pelmeni and I loved it. His mum, Klara, made really nice pelmeni. So what happened? Kasparov doesn’t know how to be friends with someone for a long time. Maybe that’s why he hasn’t had much success in politics. That is, he probably behaves like a child in his political affairs. That’s why nobody voted for him at the last elections in Norway. Nobody wanted him to lead FIDE, even though he’s got probably the best name to be doing it.  
"I’ve helped Garry out on a number of occasions, from little things to million-dollar deals. I’ll never forget the time when he sold me the crown that he won after he beat Karpov in Lyon. Korloff had made a unique piece of jewellery – a crown in the form of two “Ks”. It was gold (it weighed more than 8 kilograms) with 1118 diamonds. Kasparov was supposed to sell the crown to some Sheikh or other and then use the proceeds to help Armenian refugees. The Sheikh pulled out of the deal, so, naturally, Garry turned to me. And how can you not help Garry out? We agreed that I would pay him $1 million for the crown. In the end, Kasparov thought that the French government would take a 30% cut of the deal and that I should cover that as well. That’s when I got angry. The agreement had been made, and now I was supposed to cover taxes as well? 

- "Did he resign himself to the fact that he would lose money?
- No. He had to smuggle the crown to Zurich, where I was waiting for him. He shoved it into a sports bag and covered it with books. The usual vigilance of the customs officers went by the wayside when Garry offered to sign some memorabilia. By the way, it was quite funny watching my assistant and Garry hunched over counting how many diamonds there were – for some reason, there were five more than when they had set off. That’s how I gave the thirteenth World Chess Champion $1 million. I’ve still got no idea why I need that crown, which is sitting in a bank safety deposit box.   
I’m waiting for Garry to call. He knows how to get in touch with me. Maybe someday he’ll come to his senses, call me, come back to Russia and do his best to promote the game of chess.
- How did it come about that you became a candidate for FIDE President?
- It was the end of November 1995 at the FIDE Assembly in Paris. I’m flying there just to hang out and take part in the discussion of holding a chess Olympiad in Elista.
Up until that time I hardly knew anyone at FIDE, I was acquainted of course with the then president Florencio Campomanes. What happened then defies logic. The arbiter, a delegate from Kazakhstan called Bulat Asanov, kept me posted on what was happening at Novotel, which had been booked up by the French lock, stock and barrel. There were two camps: those who wanted to topple Campomanes – they were Anatoly Karpov and the French vice-president of FIDE Bachar Kouatly who backed him. And of course, Campo’s team which, according to Karpov, was in cahoots with Kasparov.
- And you managed to outwit them all?
- I could write a book about how I found myself in A crossfire, how I, a patron of chess and the youngest President of a Republic, someone with no personal axe to grind and totally independent, was first offered to be the First Vice President and then President. Nobody thought the delegates would vote for an obscure young guy. Everyone wanted to enlist me on his side without taking me seriously. They flip-flopped all the time. Karpov’s main fear was that Kasparov would come to power through Campo. Campo wanted either to hold on or to install his man. And then up popped Ilyumzhinov. Everyone was playing his card for future benefit. But I ended up holding all the trumps.
- But surely you couldn’t run without the government’s approval because you were the President of Kalmykia. Whose advice did you seek?
-I had to call President Yeltsin himself to ask for his blessing. Incidentally, I also called Kasparov with whom we had been eating dumpings just the previous day. Garik (Kasparov) told me in so many words that FIDE’s days were numbered. I’ll form my own professional association, which will be calling the shots and if you bid for FIDE Presidency I don’t want to see you again.
And Yeltsin blessed me. He said: “Come on, raise the Russian flag over Paris.”
It’s hard to imagine the reaction of the delegates who didn’t know me before and who decided that a 33 –year-old could raise FIDE from the ashes. It must have been God’s will that I went to Paris to have lunch with friends and after having a beer first with Campomanes and then with Karpov realized that I had a chance to become the head of the chess world
- You worked with many leaders of the Russian Chess Federation: Makarov, Bakh, Zhukov, Dvorkovich. What can you say about the current president of the Russian Chess Federation Andrei Filatov?
- Filatov is a unique man. Finally, Russian chess has a leader who is a real professional. Andrey Vasilyevich majored in chess at the Minsk Physical Culture Institute, and today he is one of the richest men in Russia. That means his head is in the right place.
-Are you two getting along well?
- It’s a long time since I felt so comfortable working with the RCF. Filatov’s backing helped me to win the election in Troms in 2014 where I ran against Garry Kasparov. In recent years, we’ve become good friends and reliable partners.
I seldom met people who have as much energy as Filatov. He manages to do everything; I think he hardly ever sleeps, which reminds me of myself. Andrey Vasilyevich is crazy about art and it is due to his efforts that chess and art have become inseparable. The world title match was held at the Tretyakov Gallery. The Alekhine Tournament was held at the Louvre and the Russian Museum. Russia championships have been held at the Kazan Kremlin and at the Rukavyshnikov estate. Last October we opened together an exhibition of Soviet and Russian art in Abu-Dhabi. For the first time the Arab sheikhs and oil tycoons were able to see the works of our great artists from the Filatov Foundation without leaving their country. The exhibition was a runaway success. When you work side by side with such people, you feel that you are growing wings.
- You are often seen at banquets together…
- Filatov is an interesting man not only to work with but also to have fun with. A wine-grower, he produces the best red wine in the world at his vineyard in Bordeaux, he is fond of the Russian bath and he is a good story-teller. He has enough of them to fill a whole book. Someday, we’ll publish joint memoirs and believe me, it will make fantastic reading. One story he likes to tell is about how he was put on a wrong flight (like the main character in the popular movie “The Irony of Fate”) and only realized it when the plane landed in Delhi.
I hope Filatov will be the head of the RCF for a long time. It will be good not only for Russia, but also for world chess, which is my own task. I take this opportunity to congratulate Andrey on another sign of recognition. Just recently he got a UNESCO award for contribution to international cooperation in the cultural field and his efforts to preserve the historical heritage. And the other day he was awarded the title of Honorary Member of the Russian Arts Academy for his services to popularizing Russian and Soviet art.
By the way, he is still an outstanding chess player. We played on a giant board in the centre of Troms and he won…
- Why did you choose to join the army instead of going to university? Youthful idealism?
-Some say that the army is wasted years. I disagree: two years away from home taught me a great deal. After working at a factory I did another crazy thing. I wanted to test my mettle and I went to the draft station in 1980 and asked to be sent to Afghanistan. My parents thought I had gone bonkers, but I was adamant. I never got to Afghanistan, but I served in the North-Caucasus Military District. My romanticism quickly evaporated when I was confronted with bullying.
- "Did they beat you hard? Only, don’t tell me that you managed to bring the “old guys” to heel.
- I still have this picture before my eyes. Four new recruits, including myself are standing, heavy army belts in our hands. Four rebels who don’t want to be humiliated by the older soldiers. The lights go out, and we come under a hail of blows, we are fighting back, but it is a losing battle. Blood, pain, limp arms. However, they didn’t touch us any more after that. I acted as the main “negotiator” with the “oldsters.” I told them that they were overdoing it. Custom is custom, but we are human after all. After that incident there was relative peace.
- Did chess help you in the army?
I’ll never forget how I was cleaning and scrubbing the “Lenin corner.” Heavy broom, wet floor mop. Two second-year recruits sit at the table sipping tea and playing chess. At one point they get into an argument as to whether there is a mate. I ease towards them and sort out the situation. Then I win a couple of games blindfolded. Naturally it earned me instant respect. From then on instead of doing chores I sat over the chessboard. That was great. When I recall kitchen duty… greasy floors, dishes, peeling potatoes for 2,000 men. Meanwhile my friends were sending me letters about how they were passing their year-end exams and having fun with girls at the discotheque. It brought tears to my eyes, which ran down my face. But I knew that it was my choice, my path, and I had to slog it out. The years in the army, the heavy belts, gruelling mess duty, blood and bruises and constant lack of sleep made a man out of me.
- How did you catch the attention of the Pope?
-Does the Pope, one of the most influential people in the world, often invite someone to his residence? Imagine my surprise, shortly after I was appointed FIDE President, at getting an invitation from the Vatican. Pope John Paul II wanted to meet me? What for? It was a mystery to me.
- Did you solve it?
Yes, as soon as I entered his office. There was a chessboard on the table. Honestly, I thought that the Pontiff would offer me to play a game, but I found a position laid out on the board. My task was to mate the Black king in five moves. It was a tough puzzle. Then the Pope offered me an easier one. I solved this one (mate in two moves) and I realized that the Pope was not just a chess fan, his hobby as a young man was to compose chess puzzles. He was anxious to demonstrate his talent to the youngest ever FIDE President. After that we communicated a lot. It was a very important meeting for me. Could an ordinary guy from Kalmykia ever dream of being in the Pope’s office?
- You got a lot of flak for inventing the knockout system. How was the idea of a play-off system in the world chess championship conceived?
-It was a month after I was elected FIDE President. My initial task was to unite the chess world. The split threatened the very existence of chess. Kasparov, as always, wanted to have everything his own way. Karpov also stuck to his own line though he did not quit FIDE. During the first month I had to pay off all the Federation’s debts out of my own money (about $1.5 million), set up the office and buy out the office cars FIDE had pawned because of its financial problems, start negotiations about the World Chess Olympiad in Armenia which was about to be wrecked. I had to introduce into the calendar many new events because officially there were only four, I stress, four world-level events (now there are more than 30 and the number of official competitions tops 12,000). My main task though, was the Karpov vs Kasparov match.
- How did you go about it?
- I managed to meet the two in Elista. We got some vodka and had genuine Kalmyk mutton cooked for us. We had a hard drink and then I planked down a million dollars on the table and said, you two play the match. They agreed. It seemed I had accomplished the impossible by getting two irreconcilable men to make peace. But as soon as we went our own ways they were at it again, each setting impossible conditions. I ran out of patience.
- Was that how you hit on the idea of the knockout system?
- Precisely. We had a meeting of the FIDE presidential council and I put forward my proposal to use the knockout system in world championships. The best 100 (now the best 128) grand masters play knockout matches according to the Olympic system. No ties, in the event of a tie the result of a match is decided in raid and blitz games. I backed up the proposal with a prize fund of $5 million. "
-Did they agree?
"On the contrary, there was general indignation. The Council was categorically against it. Turning a classical world championship system into some kind of knockout show? The old guard were at my throat. And the fact that a hundred people would get a chance, that the prices were huge, and that an ordinary grand master who would never make it to the elite would have a chance to win and make a lot of money enough to last him several years – even those who dropped out in the first round would collect a tidy sum – the “old guard” would not listen to it.
-How did you manage to persuade them?
-After a break I made a tough statement. Either we play knockout and stop yielding to Kasparov’s and Karpov’s whims, and I provide the five million dollars or I resign. As you see, I won. At the end of the day, the knockout system helped to reunite the chess world. It discovered to the world such talents as Carlsen and Karyakin. Knockout still exists in the shape of the prestigious World Cup recognized by fans to be the most thrilling chess contest.
-Do you ever regret telling the world about your meeting with aliens from outer space in 1997?
"You know, before deciding to tell the press that I had met extra-terrestrials, I took two sheets of paper. On one I wrote down all the pros of telling that true story – I stress – true story. And on the other I wrote down all the contras. I ended up with no pros and a lot of contras: derision, smear campaign in the press, being called mad and so on. But you know why I decided to tell about my contact with aliens? I dreamed of telling the world that man is not alone in the universe. I don’t want to go into the details of that meeting. Let me just say one thing: There are many groups that study other planets. There is plenty of evidence though it is clear anyway that we are not alone in the Universe. This is reinforced by what world champion Vassily Smyslov told me.
-He too?                                                                                                                                        
"Smyslov kept it secret for many years. He shared it with me in 2000 during a knockout tournament at the Kremlin. He admitted that during his match with Hübner “it” came to him at night and showed him how to play the next day. They talked and discussed the position. The next day the pieces were arranged on the board exactly as it was discussed. That helped him to win. Smyslov looked me in the eye and asked me: “Kirsan, did you actually meet them?” When I said, yes, he exchanged conspiratorial looks with his wife...

-I know that you are very fond of Boris Spassky.
I have always been on good terms with Boris Spassky. Like all world champions, he is a unique individual. I always tried to help him as much as I could. I gave him a luxury cottage in Elista that he liked to visit.
"Unfortunately, as you know he had a stroke in 2010. Then there was this messy story of his escape from France. The press at the time was full of allegations that after his stroke his wife had been mistreating him, while he was eager to come back to Russia because he hoped the native land would cure him."
  -Did it cure him?
-After Spassky left Paris without any documents, like in a detective story (many still think Ilyumzhinov himself had a hand in his “escape” with the help of friendly secret service ) we tried to help him to recover and he is now better though he still has to move about in a wheelchair. But he attends many chess tournaments. A month ago at the last world blitz and rapid chess championship in Berlin Spassky attended the premiere of the American film “Pawn Sacrifice.” It is a Hollywood film about the famous Fisher-Spassky world title match in Reykjavik in 1972.
It is not over yet
The great ones also leave when their time comes. In 2018, FIDE was headed by Arkady Dvorkovich. Ilyumzhinov did not even fight for the chair in which he sat for 23 years. But I would not be surprised at all if Kirsan Nikolaevich would one day return, landing on an interplanetary ship, and arrange a match between Earth and Mars. We are all used to the fact that a simple guy from Kalmykia is able to work miracles. Especially since now, communicating with grandmasters of the highest rank, I hear nostalgic notes that under Ilyumzhinov they had much better life. Kirsan Nikolaevich was able to make people love him. So I think that he will still be able to lead his pawn to queen, the only question is, on which planet will it happen?
RCF PR Director Kirill Zangalis