FIDEThe race for the presidency of FIDE (the World Chess Federation) is heating up with controversy and negative campaigning. In his effort to unseat incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, former World Chess Champion and Russian political activist, Garry Kasparov, has been accused of buying votes.

According to a contract discovered by The New York Times and confirmed by an attorney for Kasparov’s campaign, the challenger has entered in to an agreement with Ignatius Leong of Singapore for a payment of $1 million in return for the votes of 11 Asian Chess federations. Half that money is clearly conditioned on delivery of votes but the attorney, Morten Sand, claims that all funds are for the “explicit purpose of chess development and programs” and that “no money can or will be allocated to individuals for personal use.”

Ignatius Leong is actually the current general secretary of FIDE under Ilyumzhinov. His agreement with Kasparov represents Leong switching sides in the election.

Payments under the contract, $250,000 annually for four years, are to be made by the Kasparov Chess Foundation to the ASEAN Chess Academy, an organization aimed at teaching Chess to children but owned by Mr. Leong. Further, the agreement calls for the opening of a FIDE office in Singapore headed by Leong and additional payments (to be negotiated separately) should Leong deliver more than 15 votes.

But the intrigue doesn’t end there! Regarding how a draft of the Kasparov-Leong contract made its way to The New York Times, Mr. Sand suggested that it was the work of FIDE officials:

On the opening day of the 2013 FIDE World Cup in Tromsø, Ignatius and I understood that high FIDE officials possibly had access to the draft Agreement now circulated. I sent it to Ignatius in July, using his FIDE email account. The only way to get possession of this draft is through the administrator of the mail account in FIDE. There can only be political reasons for why this is now made public in such a way.

FIDE Executive Director Nigel Freeman then responded to this accusation by releasing the following official statement:

The statement of Morton Sand is entirely false. It is obvious that there is an attempt to drive the discussion away from the substance of this issue, i.e. whether such contracts are ethical or not. For the leaking of confidential documents, Garry Kasparov’s team should perhaps look amongst themselves.

Following that, another spokesman for Kasparov said via Twitter:

How do you know it’s false? If you have reviewed the logs for his account, why not make them public?… Unless of course you’re just saying it’s false as an excuse to put inappropriate campaign news on the official FIDE site. Again.

Ilyumzhinov has also taken to the FIDE website with an open letter calling on Leong to resign.

Not that Ilyumzhinov is any stranger to controversy either. He was largely unknown in the Chess world before being helped in to the position of FIDE president by the previous holder of that position, who himself resigned after being convicted in the Philippines of financial irregularities involving the 1992 Chess Olympiad in Manila. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is the former president of the Russian republic, Kalmykia; claims to have been abducted by aliens; alleges that Chess was invented by aliens; and was a supporter of Libyan dictator Qaddafi.