Is Kirsan Ilyumzhinov on his way out as president of FIDE (the World Chess Federation)? According to the organization’s website, he resigned Sunday at FIDE’s board meeting in Athens. But this man who consorts with dictators, claims to have been abducted by aliens, believes that aliens are the source of Chess on Earth, and is the subject of sanctions by the U.S. government for providing support to the Assad regime in Syria claims such assertions are false.

Ilyumzhinov does admit that he offered—unofficially, in discussions after the close of the meeting—to submit his resignation if necessary but has also since published an open letter to FIDE’s board stating that he never did resign, nor does he intend to.

Many would not be sad to see him go. There have been longstanding accusations of corruption. Nor has he actually been in charge of FIDE’s day-to-day operations recently, having stepped out of that role since the imposition of the sanctions. Still, Ilyumzhinov did soundly defeat democracy activist and former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov in the last election for the FIDE presidency (an accomplishment commonly believed to have been achieved with the support of Russia’s President Putin). And the idea that he has lost the support of the national federations would come as a shocker.

FIDE’s Executive Director Nigel Freeman states that an Extraordinary Presidential Board meeting will take place April 10th to discuss the situation. But don’t expect this situation to remain calm until then!

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Panama Papers and Chess Corruption

Kirsan_IlyumzhinovAn investigation in to the Panama Papers by the Guardian (UK) and Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany) has brought to light evidence supporting long-alleged charges of corruption in the World Chess Federation’s leadership. The organization, also known by its French acronym, FIDE, has been led since 1995 by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. The man is a former president of the Russian republic of Kalmykia, famously claimed to have been kidnapped by aliens, and is currently a subject of sanctions by the United States for alleged support of the Syrian government.

According to the Guardian, the records of Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca reveal a financial connection between Ilyumzhinov and two firms that have had contracts with FIDE to run high-level tournaments, including the World Chess Championship, during his term. The first, Global Chess BV, was set up by Ilyumzhinov in 2006 and was granted global commercial rights to all FIDE events in 2007. Later that year, Ilyumzhinov sold Global Chess to Russian-Israeli businessman David Kaplan, who kept his position private by designating his son as director. Kaplan was then appointed by Ilyumzhinov to head a new FIDE office in Moscow and was given an executive position in charge of development.

In 2012, those FIDE commercial rights were given to (and remain with) another firm, Agon Limited. According to the Guardian, a memorandum from that year “suggested that Ilyumzhinov was to be a hidden beneficiary of Agon, owning a secret 51% stake.” For his part, Ilyumzhinov claims that document was never put in to action.

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Kirsan_IlyumzhinovTwo months ago, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), said that the United States should prosecute Gary Kasparov (his opponent in the last election) for corruption. It seems, however, that the U.S. government has other priorities. The Treasury Department has designated Ilyumzhinov a supporter of Assad’s government in Syria and imposed sanctions, including freezing all his U.S. assets and prohibiting U.S. citizens from transacting business with him.

Ilyumzhinov was among four individuals and six entities sanctioned. According to Treasury, he was designated for “materially assisting and acting for or on behalf of” the Government of Syria, the Central Bank of Syria, and other suspect individuals.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is no stranger to international controversy, having been a public supporter of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

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Ivan TetimovFIDE is investigating another Bulgarian Chess player for possible cheating but has encountered some resistance from the Bulgarian Chess Federation. Ivan Tetimov was seen holding his hand to his ear throughout a recent tournament, yet arbiters found nothing inappropriate when searching him (he went on to finish in first place). At a subsequent tournament, however, Tetimov refused a search and was thus disqualified.

In late March, the World Chess Federation’s Anti-Cheating Committee requested information about Tetimov from the Bulgarian Chess Federation but was rebuffed:

Bulgarian Chess Federation have no intention to collaborate with the current FIDE management. In my personal opinion this management together with the commissions appointed by them are not competent and professional enough to rule FIDE and the world of chess.

Of course, this did not go over well with FIDE, which through it’s lawyers on May 7th threatened the Bulgarian federation with “exclusion.” Apparently feeling the heat, the Bulgarian Chess Federation responded the next day with the requested information.

No other information about its investigation has yet been revealed by FIDE. It is interesting to note, though, that Ivan Tetimov is a friend and former teammate of another infamous Bulgarian player suspected of cheating, Borislav Ivanov.

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