Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the former president of Russia's Kalmykia region in a photo dated Aug. 29, 2003.
To paraphrase Sayre's Law, the politics of chess are the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low.
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was the president of Kalmykia, a Russian republic on the Caspian Sea, for the past seventeen years. Until today that is. Today he resigned. In order, he said, to concentrate on his race to retain his seat as President of the World Chess Federation, known as FIDE (for Fédération Internationale des Échecs). Here's what he said:
I made this decision because I realize that promoting and developing chess around the world is a full-time job and it requires all of my attention.
Which I guess is better than saying he wants to spend more time with his family.
There have been rumors for a while that Ilyumzhinov would step down. The Kremlin has forced a number of other regional leaders to step down as well.
But Ilyumzhinov has been chess mad for years, leading FIDE since 1995. He even built a "chess City" in Kalmykia.
But now he is facing a bruising fight for the presidency of FIDE. He's running against former Chess world champion Anatoly Karpov. Karpov has filed suit against Ilyumzhinov, saying he doesn't have the standing to run, that he really isn't a member of the chess federations he says he's a member of.
Ilyumzhinov released this statement on the FIDE website yesterday:
From the very beginning their actions have been destructive, aimed at the schism of the chess world and National Federations to serve their political ambitions, which have nothing to do with chess life.
The elections are to be held in Siberia on September 29th.
While perhaps unrelated (though you can never tell for sure) you just can't write about Ilyumzhinov without mentioning the last time he came to attention of the Western media earlier this year:
From ABC News:
The aliens came for him on September 18, 1997. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was at home in his Moscow apartment when they came in and abducted him, taking him to their space ship where they communicated with him telepathically.
That's the tale Ilyumzhinov told a popular Russian television host in a program that aired last week.
But Ilyumzhinov isn't simply one of the thousands who claim to have been abducted by aliens, he's also the governor of the Russian republic of Kalmykia and a former president of the World Chess Federation.
Now a Russian parliamentarian wants Ilyumzhinov questioned, fearing he may have given the aliens "secret information," according to the Echo of Moscow radio station.
And not just interrogated by anybody, but by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.