Kremlin Battles To Be King Of Chess Federation

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A battle is brewing on Russia's chessboard: Two Russians are competing for the presidency of the World Chess Federation, and the Kremlin is being accused of interference. Host Guy Raz finds out that it's not all black and white in the world of international chess.

GUY RAZ, host:

The Kremlin also wants to keep its man at the helm of the World Chess Federation. The story began last week when members of the Russian Chess Federation nominated a new leader to become president of the world federation.

Unidentified Man: (Russian spoken)

RAZ: The nominee they picked is the grandmaster Anatoly Karpov. Karpov was the world chess champion from 1975 to 1985 and his supporters believe he can restore the game to its former glory. They argue the current president of the world federation is an embarrassment. His name is Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, and he's also the head of a small Russian republic called Kalmykia.

Ilyumzhinov claims to have once been abducted by aliens, as he recounted in this TV documentary.

(Soundbite of TV documentary)

Mr. KIRSAN ILYUMZHINOV (President, World Chess Federation): I was taken by my apartment in Moscow to this spaceship.

RAZ: For 15 years, he's run the World Chess Federation and the Kremlin wants to keep it that way. Russian officials have declared Karpov's nomination null, but the grandmaster says he'll stand for election, nonetheless, this coming September.

(Soundbite of music)

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