Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: «My Main Wealth is Meeting Interesting People"

- You hold the post of the President of FIDE for 20 years. What are your immediate tasks and next frontiers to solve and overcome?

- The style of my work has remained the same: to look ahead and make plans to go further. As soon as I became the President of FIDE, I decided that I should meet and talk to all the champions, namely Fischer, Kasparov, Karpov, Spassky and Smyslov and with all the pillars of the leadership of FIDE. Having collected a lot of information this way, I started to work out my next steps.

The number one goal was not related to the financial crisis but to the need of developing a strategy to unify the chess world. I should add that in the early years of my presidency I was spending my own money on staff salaries, car rental and the maintenance of the FIDE office in Lausanne. The money started to arrive from sponsors after the unification only. The second part of my work was the wide-spread popularization of chess. We are recognized by the IOC as a kind of sports but we need the large-scale participation. It is necessary to ensure that our planet has at least a billion of chess fans- the smart people. Thus, I travel round the world and visit almost 100 countries annually.

- When you announced the World Cup knockout, did you consider it as a temporary measure?
- Yes, it was, on the one hand, the support for the ‘middle class’ of chess professionals, and on the other hand, a step towards the unification.
In 1998, I allocated $ 5 million for the first Championship knockout in Groningen-Lausanne. It was the biggest prize money in the history of chess. In 1999, the Las Vegas prize was $ 3 million. That stopped the outflow of grandmasters. Along the way, it had ended the practice of ‘black funds’ - the fees that were paid to champions and stars ‘under the table’.
I mean, I perfectly well knew that the knockout Championships were the temporary measure. However, this system has proved its worth. Nowadays such Championships are called the World Cups and enjoy recognition and popularity in the world of chess.
Journalists ask me why I don’t want to return the Championships knockout system, which Magnus Carlsen calls on.  I replied to Carlsen that he could make his proposal for consideration at the FIDE Congress. Although I'm sure that almost all of the other members of the Presidential Council would vote against it, because there is no reason to change something that works so well. However, I, myself, out of respect for the Champion, will vote for his idea.
- The popularity of chess is based on media attention and the number of enthusiastic fans. Which is your higher priority?
- With the help of media parents must recognise that children should be taught how to play chess. However, it must be done on the state level. What the leaders of TV channels are thinking about when they close up the world's best chess program? After all, the state and media are shaping the public perceptions about what is important and what is not.
Let me add the following. The number of world top rated players has increased 11 times in the recent years. 186 National Federations are the members of FIDE. As you can see, I did not sit idly by. And I really want that the recorded world chess fans would be 10 times more when we meet on the 25th anniversary of my presidency.
- Do you regret that you could not continue business activities during all these years?
- It's more regretful for my friends and acquaintances that lived on my money. However, I maintain a philosophical attitude towards this situation. Naked we came and naked will go with nothing to take to another world. Once I had two aircrafts then I sold them and built the Europe's largest Buddhist temple...
-You surely must have felt that something terrible was going to happen when you came to Libya and played chess with Gaddafi?
- I was always attracted by extraordinary personalities. Man does not live too long, thus his main wealth is communication with interesting people. As far as Hussein and Gaddafi are concerned, I wanted to understand how they manage to keep order in the countries burdened with the difficult conditions of the ethnically diverse society.
When I went to Libya, the war had just begun... When I met with Bashar al-Assad and opened the chess club for children, many people asked me why I went there. However, it turns out now that I was trying to do the right thing.
The Americans admitted that if Hussein and Gaddafi were left alone there would be not any IS. Those were the secular states. In Iraq women didn’t wear burqas but the European skirts and elegant hairstyles and visited discotheques in the evening. The people were riding the bicycles; the music was played until late in Tripoli. However, they became refugees pouting into Europe now...
Time has shown that I was right. Over many years I have been sponsoring the Arab Cups.
We should have, as planned, held the match Karpov vs, Kamsky in Baghdad... We have organized the World Championship in Tripoli. After all, I, along with the chess world, stand for the universal values.
There is no business or politics. We try to promote the culture, make the humanity more intelligent. However, the most important thing is that peace and serenity should reign in the world.