REPORT ON THE TORINO CONGRESS
FIDE Congress Business in Torino was handled by our delegate Bill Kelleher and our Zonal President Robert Tanner. I expect they both will be submitting reports. I was there to handle matters relating to the Presidential Election and and to charges of a Scandal in the USCF that was published on the campaign site of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.
Upon arrival, the first person I met was Bessel Kok. He was having lunch in my hotel with a couple of delegates. He updated me on the status of the election and graciously assigned his assistant to drive my wife Teresa and me to the playing hall and to assist with my formal registration and various matters of logistics.
The one thing that struck me that first day was that everyone was communicating. There were sides of course but this contested election was mostly fought behind the scenes. Both the Bessel Kok’s “The Right Move” and Kirsan Ilyumzhinov’s “Chess Fidelity” Campaign had campaign booths as did ICC, and other chess entities. Both sides were talking to each other and I thought that to be a good sign for post election cooperation.
See the photo taken in front of The Right Move booth, I am with Geoffrey Borg, Campaign Manager for Bessel and Candidate for General Secretary of FIDE. Geoffrey did not become General Secretary but he did become a Vice President. Seeing the value of a booth and not being able to afford one myself, I bought a bottle of red wine, got lots of plastic glasses, placed them on a table by the eating area and declared the table USCF headquarters for the day. A wise move, on my part. Sitting there, Teresa and I met an endless stream of Congress attendees, many friends who I had not seen in years and, in fact, a few of my visitors didn’t even want a glass of wine. His name was Rodney Thomas I had a very interesting chat with Rodney Thomas who was there as part of our delegation. Rodney is an IBM employee who is very involved in scholastic chess and listened with me as both of us got a good feel for what we would see during the remainder of the Congress.
When I saw Kirsan Ilyumzhinov he gave me a warm hello and a hug. This after I seriously criticized him and his administration during the campaign. The man has charm and a winning smile (see photo) I remain his critic but recognize his strengths. Yasser Seirawan had earlier interviewed Kirsan. As related to me my Yaz, he began the interview with several softball questions and then moved to the four very comprehensive programs of Chess Development outlined in depth on THE RIGHT MOVE web site. Yaz asked: “Okay Mr. President, what are your plans?” Kirsan thought for a moment, and replied, “I have read Mr. Kok’s proposals, they are very well thought out and very good. I adopt all of them!” Kirsan and his team won the election. There have been many charges of bribes, deals and threats that made this happen. See below: “Was the election Fixed?”
Early-on, I spoke to the FIDE Deputy President Geogious Makropoulos about the elections. He said that he wanted USCF to have a seat on the Presidential Board and declared that he would support either Beatriz Marinello or Bill Kelleher for that position. He asked whom we wanted and I replied Kelleher. He said okay he would support Kelleher. Apparently Doyle, Tanner, Kelleher and perhaps Beatriz all had previously spoken to Makro and left with understandings slightly different but not inconsistent with mine. Kelleher did run for one of the Vice presidencies and won as did Geoffrey Borg. So two RIGHT MOVE supporters found their way to FIDE’s 2006 to 2010 Presidential Board. See the photo below of Doyle and Tanner conferring with Makro in the eating area outside the playing hall. It was just before the election and Makro was gloating over how big a margin Ilyumzhinov would win the election. So I bet him that he was wrong. Although, Kirsan won, Makro’s margin was too high and I won a little bit of money.
One of the best moments of the Congress was the Induction of GM Yasser Seirawan into the Hall of Fame. Over a year ago Yasser had been voted in but due to conflicts was never able to arrange for a formal induction. I discussed this with Yasser before the Congress and we agreed that, if the US Trust concurred, we would do an induction at the Olympiad in front of our team at a special dinner or perhaps combine it with another event.
Do to timing the only opportunities were either at the Internet Chess Club (ICC) reception or during the annual Bermuda Party. Bermuda turned out not to be possible and it took some convincing by me to get ICC President Joel Berez to break with his tradition and incorporate something like a Hall of Fame Induction into his party. Below, Tim Redman of the US Chess Trust presented Yasser with a plaque thus officially inducting him. Sometime in the near future, there will be a more formal induction of Yasser at the Hall of Fame and Sidney Samole chess museum located in Miami.
There was another vote, aside from the presidential elections that was important. It was to decide the site for the 2010 FIDE Chess Congress and Olympiad. There were five bids: Riga, Latvia; Poznan, Poland; Budva, Montenegro; Buenos-Aires, Argentina and Khanty-Mansiysk, Siberia. The General Assembly would decide the matter by vote. Budva was the expected winner. Over a three-day period there were presentations by senior government officials of each of these bidders, each presentation was followed by a cocktail party each one more elaborate than the preceding one. When I saw the Budva presentation, I was disappointed. It was poorly done in my opinion. Poznan was the only other one I saw up to that point and, although superior to Budva, fell short of what i had hoped to see.
The best and most professional presentation was that done by Khanty-Mansiysk, Siberia. Khanty is a newly developed area. A short time back few ever heard of it. Now this sparsely populated area pays 25% of all the taxes collected in Russia. How can that be? Oil of course – 7.5% of the World Supply…and this super-rich area wants to host many chess events.
The temperature in Khanty is above zero in September when the Olympiad would take place. The organizers offer a quarter of a million dollar prize fund; nothing like this ever existed before. They also offer free charter flights from Frankfurt, Madrid, Istanbul and Singapore. In addition free hotel rooms and meals for everyone attending, pocket money to participants of developing countries. As Michael Corleone would say, there’s was an offer that couldn’t be rejected and it wasn’t.
Aside from their excellent presentation, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, Khanty had a cake.
And they had a professional fashion show of white fur coats. Here are two of those fur coats:
Although I had no vote, Khanty won the bidding and will host the 2010 Olympiad and FIDE Congress.
All did not always go so well. I lost my wallet, passport, money, credit cards, medical cards, Skymiles card, etc. It was a cause of great concern and panic for me. Fortunately, the wallet was found two days later. I thank the Italian organizers who assisted me during that period. I also thank all those who offered me money and other help – Steve Doyle, Robert Tanner, Bill Kelleher, Bessel Kok, Yasser and several others. FIDE Exec Assistant Polina was helpful making calls and setting up appointments. In Fide despite the strong feelings and conflicts there are many fine people.
Contesting Ballots: Preceding the voting, credentials had to be authenticated. Bessel’s Kok’s Attorney Eric Kelzey, voted the 2004 European lawyer of the year, accepted nothing without full proof. Signatures on the proxies had to be verified, and credential differences of some countries, such as Peru which had different delegates competing for recognition, were in fact never resolved thus leaving Peru without a delegate representing them. Eric Kelzey, is seen below pacing in front of lower head table.
Below is a picture of FIDE Honorary President Florencio Campomanes with members of the Chinese Chess Team. I was impressed with the Chinese team jackets and upon my return to the US saw to it that funds were budgeted to purchase team jackets for members of our World Youth team scheduled for October 2006 in the nation of Georgia.
Last and best of all, I congratulate our team and ladies team, The United States was represented by an outstanding group of young men and women. We should be all very proud of our players. They excelled in their play and off the Board represented the qualities that make our country so great. Gata Kamsky said it all after receiving his medal: “I am proud to be playing on this team.” Below is a photo of our team. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the women’s team.
left to right: Gata Kamsky, Alexander Onischuk, Hikaru Nakamura, Gregory Kadainov, Varuzhan Akobian team captain John Donaldson. The other team member GM Ilda Ibragimov was slightly out of camera range and only part of his right leg made the photo – not the best photo shot of the year but this entire team did magnificent and we can all be proud of them. They came in 4th out of 140 or so national teams.