Karpov interview on Crestbook

by admin on June 6, 2010

I’m pleased to announce my first officially sanctioned translation for the Crestbook website! For those of you who enjoyed reading my translations of Sergei Shipov’s commentaries during the recently concluded Anand-Topalov match, this is especially good news. I expect that I will continue translating articles from Shipov’s website, www.crestbook.com, on a regular basis. The full translations will be posted there, and I will post “teasers” on this blog.

The first article I’ve translated is an interview of Anatoly Karpov by Yevgeny Surov that was posted last week. Let me give you a little back story. As many of you may know, the election for the presidency of FIDE (the International Chess Federation) will take place later this year. For the last fifteen years this has been a formality, as the position has been occupied by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who is also president of a small republic in the Russian Federation, called Kalmykia. Ilyumzhinov has been able to defeat his challengers rather easily, despite having a number of detractors.

However, this year may be different, because former world champion Anatoly Karpov has entered the race for the presidency. Already Karpov has received endorsements from, for example, the German and American chess federations. His name recognition and his unbeatable chess credentials guarantee that he will be a tough opponent for Ilyumzhinov.

Already, some rather amazing things have happened, and the election is still three months away. Most importantly, to understand the interview you have to realize that a candidate must be put forward by his own country’s chess federation. You might think it would be easy for Karpov to garner the support of the Russian Chess Federation.

However, the deputy president of the Russian Chess Federation, Arkady Dvorkovich, is a supporter of Ilyumzhinov. As reported here by www.chessbase.com, the Russian Chess Federation nominated Ilyumzhinov in April; what was not reported at that time (but Surov mentions in the interview) is that the decision was made at a meeting held in Dvorkovich’s own quarters (not at the RCF), with a small portion of the Supervisory Committee in attendance (8 people, nowhere near a quorum).

On May 14, another meeting was held at the RCF offices, with a quorum of the Supervisory Committee present, and this meeting nominated Karpov by a 17-0 vote. In retaliation, Dvorkovich took the extraordinary step of hiring a private security firm to seal the RCF offices, locking out the actual president, Aleksandr Bakh. You can read more about this amazing turn of events here (again, at www.chessbase.com), and also a report on which the ChessBase article was based here.

I am keeping my editorial comments to a minimum, for now at least, so that I can reasonably claim to be an impartial translator. Now you know the back story, so let’s get on with the Karpov interview! As I mentioned above, these are selections from the interview. If you would like to read the whole thing, please click here.

Anatoly Karpov: Chess Players Will See the Difference between Ilyumzhinov and Me

An Interview with Anatoly Karpov by Yevgeny Surov

We met with Anatoly Karpov in the heat of what I am not afraid to call a war for the presidency of FIDE. For this reason, even the breezes of the village of Poikovsky, where the school founded by the 12th champion of the world is celebrating its tenth anniversary, could not waft any other topics into our discussion than the one that is on everybody’s mind.

Surov: Not long ago Kirsan Ilyumzhinov revealed his team, naming the concrete names of his running mates for the FIDE presidential election. Can you say whom you are running with?

Karpov: Not yet, but the team is almost ready.

S: You have said on many occasions that one of your top priorities will be to increase the prestige of the title of world champion, and also to construct a single system for awarding this title. But many grandmasters at, let’s say, the middle level are concerned that when you come to power they will be forgotten. No matter how you look at it, Ilyumzhinov has developed a system under which a grandmaster who is not a serious candidate for world champion can still earn a decent living, but …

K: As far as “earning a decent living” is concerned, that is an overstatement. Even in the World Cup – yes, if you get past the first two stages, you earn a decent amount, but many grandmasters don’t even earn back their expenses for participating. In fact this will be one of the most important tasks that we will set before ourselves – to improve the position of chess professionals. Because the conditions in the last couple years have gone downhill (partly because of the financial crisis, not just because of my opponent’s actions). If it weren’t for the club championship of the European countries, and the European cup, then it would really be hard for grandmasters even to survive. The only ones who make a lot of money are the ones who reach the very top of the chess Olympus, and therefore we must pay more attention to the questions of grandmasters and international masters.

… [Earlier] I was talking about the world championship. I do not plan a complete reform of this system, but some changes are necessary, particularly at the level of choosing a challenger. The matches now are too short (six games is too few), they should be made longer. I won’t even go into the system we had before – the knockout championships cannot be called anything but a mockery of chess and the image of the world championship. Now, thank God, we have given up on that, although it is still present in the World Cup.

S: By the way, tell us about the situation within the Federation. Few people have paid attention to this fact: in the vote on May 14, 17 members of the Supervisory Committee supported you out of 32 (a majority). At the same time, eight people gathered at Dvorkovich’s place. 17 + 8 = 25. The question arises: who are the other seven people? Is this the ace of trumps that you are prepared to play in case Dvorkovich lures two or three votes over to his side? (Some predictions of this sort are currently being made.)

K: No, but what do you mean by “luring” them? You understand that they aren’t just luring people, they are simply forcing them. Maybe Dvorkovich doesn’t even know that under his wing people are being worked over in the most disgraceful way – with threats … That is, chess has gotten itself into a completely incomprehensible state. I won’t even mention all of these re-votes, and documents that are being forged somewhere. And I won’t talk about the seizure [of the RCF] by raiders. Such a thing has never happened before, that the offices of the Federation on Gogol Boulevard have been sealed. I understand that Dvorkovich wants to support Ilyumzhinov, but there is some kind of limit to the things you can legitimately do. And that boundary has been crossed.

S: You mentioned that people have been pressured with threats. Do you have any facts to support that claim?

K: I have some information. They are threatening people with the loss of their jobs, if they occupy any posts in the government. I don’t know how well this agrees with the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

S: Why do you think that the battle for the post of president of FIDE has become so bitter?

K: I don’t know. For me this is simply a mystery. You and I have already touched on the fact that winning the elections is only the beginning of a large task. Ilyumzhinov has already headed the Federation for fifteen years. Certain people are satisfied by his results, but the majority undoubtedly are not. If they were satisfied, there would not be such a large number of countries that have already declared themselves in my support. And these are, for the most part, historically the most active chess powers.

Read the rest at Crestbook!

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