Fischer, Kasparov and the Others

Fischer, Kasparov and the Others can be purchased directly from the author for $12.95 (postage included). Mail check to Don Schultz, 3201 South Ocean Blvd. #703, Highland Beach, FL 33487

Quotes from readers of Fischer, Kasparov and the Others:

GM Larry Evans: “That’s the wise thrush, he sings each song twice over, lest you should think he never could recapture the first careless rapture” – Browning. When CHESSDON came out in 1999, the first time around, I noted: “This memoir is a valuable and accurate rendition of tempestuous events that shaped chess history in the last half of the 20th century.”

Distinguished Journalist and Historian Daren Dillinger: These are stories of back-stabbing dirty politics . . . and the conflicts involved between the egos of chess personalities.  This makes for  a tapestry weaving together the good, the bad and the ugly . . . the very ugly.  It’s all here, a player’s seduction by a KGB agent,  a Russian police chief known as the Bloodthirsty Dwarf  who tried to fix a tournament in his country’s favor.  How, when, why? . . . and what really happened behind the scenes. From the 1960’s to Iceland in ’72, to Don’s current involvement on the USCF Board of Directors . . . it is all here.

GM Yuri Averbakh: “A great book, I recall many of the same things as Mr. Schultz. Good contribution to chess history.”

Chapter 1: “The Manipulators”

Have you ever heard of Chess City? You have not? It’s a suburb of Elista. What, you never heard of Elista? Elista is the capital of Kalmykia. You say you haven’t heard of Kalmykia? None of this is surprising since Chess City, Elista and Kalmykia are, up to now, not well known.

Kalmykia is a Russian Republic located adjacent to the Caspian Sea. Remote from populated areas, it has a population of about 300,000, mostly of Mongolian decent; its citizens are represented in Russian legislature bodies and vote in the Russian national elections. Unlike most Russian states, Kalmykia has its own embassy in Moscow and its own official ambassador to Russia. Aside from foreign policy and some taxes, it functions as an independent state. Recently some of the world’s largest reservoirs of natural gas have been discovered in Kalmykia and because of this you can expect to hear much more about Kalmykia in the years ahead.

On April 12, 1993, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov became the first elected President of the Republic of Kalmykia and was reelected in 2002. He is an avid chess player and is also the president of the governing body of world chess, Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE). Ilyumzhinov’s creation, Chess City, was built to house the 1200 participants to the 1998 Chess Olympiad and has, among other things, become the home for FIDE’s publication and rating departments.

Ilyumzhinov became one of the first Russian multi-millionaires after the collapse of the Soviet Union He personally contributes vast sums of money to chess promotion. Ilyumzhinov also adds prestige to FIDE. His “Head of State” status opens the door to new opportunities for chess. Yet, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is an enigma.

Despite the prestige of a “Head-of-State” he brings to FIDE, world opinion of FIDE has never been lower. Ilyumzhinov contributes millions of dollars to FIDE, yet FIDE is on the verge of financial collapse. Ilyumzhinov is either a visionary laying the groundwork for the long-range development of both his country and the chess world or a despot wasting the resources of Kalmykia in the pursuit of finding a place for himself on the world stage. He is either a great chess philanthropist or the latest in a long line of manipulators of international sports for personal political gain.

Why would any head of state seek to manipulate chess, generally considered a relatively unpopular game? The answer is that chess is far more popular than most people realize and is becoming even more popular. In the USA, 29 million people know the rules and play at least two chess games a year. Outside the US, chess is far more popular. FIDE has 162 member nations; this is more than any sports organization in the world except for the World Soccer Association and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). When the great Soviet track star Valery Brumel shattered the World high jump record, he still finished second behind World Chess Champion Tigran Petrosyan for the Soviet Union’s premier “Athlete of the Year” award.

Because of its popularity, during the cold war leaders of the communist world used chess to propagandize communism. They appointed leaders of their chess federations primarily on the basis of loyalty to the party. For example, take the case of Viktor Baturinsky. Viktor, a chessplayer and historian had served under Russian Police Chief Nikolai Yezhov during the period from 1936 to 1938, a period in Russian history called “The Great Terror.” During this period, Yezhov, also known as “The Bloodthirsty Dwarf”, instituted three-man traveling commissions to prosecute, judge and execute on-the-spot state dissidents. At the age of 21, Viktor Baturinsky served as the junior member of one of these commissions. Afterwards he rose to full colonel status in the KGB. He was their man and they appointed him to head their Soviet Union Chess Federation.

Within FIDE, Baturinsky and his predecessors used the power of his government to coerce national chess federations from Eastern Bloc countries to toe the line and vote as they were told. He determined whom among the Soviet superstar chessplayers could participate in International competition. When players exhibited independence, harsh restrictions on their freedom were imposed. I recall, at the Merano World Championship match, a press conference with Karpov. From the start it was made clear to the press that any questions that had political connotations would be answered by Baturinsky and not Karpov.

We will read more about Ilyumzhinov and Baturinsky in the pages ahead but first let’s go back to square one.

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