August 3, 2021

Fierce fight for being the Pope of chess | sports

Fierce fight for being the Pope of chess | sports

Corruption is normal and common in the vast majority of countries, and therefore in the International Chess Federation (FIDE), where 185 votes this Wednesday in Batumi (Georgia) to elect a new president. The Greek Georgios Makrópulos represents the power established since 1982. The Russian Arkady Dórkovich proposes very innovative ideas, but his closeness to President Vladimir Putin (he was deputy prime minister) can detract from his support. A third candidate, the British Nigel Short, runner-up in the world in 1993, has been wrapped in the flag of honesty, but has no chance of succeeding.

Dórkovich moves through Batumi with three bodyguards and the driver of a Mercedes. Last year, Putin entrusted him with ordering the recent World Cup. And after he achieved the international presidency of chess, a priority sport for the Russian president, probably because his image is linked to intelligence, for internal consumption. Great paradox: Dórkovich's father, Vladimir, was for many years the right-hand man of former champion Gari Kaspárov, who today devotes his life to attacking Putin by land, sea and air from New York, where he decided to go into exile because his life was in danger in Russia . Dórkovich proposes to maximize educational chess in schools, completely change the image, communication and marketing of FIDE, and sign an agreement of mutual cooperation with FIFA.

Given that Russia is a leading country in terms of corruption, doping, very dark plots and political assassinations, one might think Dórkovich's image is very tainted, since it was also the right hand of President Dimitri Medviédiev. But it is just the other way around: the correct metaphor would be that of a white blackbird. For example, in the recent and very successful book Red Notice, Bill Browder, this account how he became a millionaire in Russia with high-risk investments; later, Putin's government did its best to harm him, including the famous murder of his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky. Unsurprisingly, Browder slanders Putin and his closest collaborators, except Dvórkovich, whom he cites three times without criticizing him. The team of Makrópulos has thrown all possible crap against Dórkovich; for example, relating it to an old friend in his university age, Magómed Magomédov, now in prison, accused of fraud. But nothing that demonstrates Dórkovich's illegal acts.

The price of the vote

Makrópulos also has a white blackbird in his team, the British Malcolm Pein, organizer, journalist, businessman and director of a foundation, of impeccable reputation. Pein says his goal is to clean FIDE from within. "For that, you have to get into the game," he explains, but everyone understands that, in this case, departure is synonymous with sewer.

The author of this chronicle has covered FIDE as a journalist since 1984. And he frequented the corridors of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during the Sydney 2000 Games. There he heard, for example, how a senior IOC executive asked the delegate of a country of the Third World if his son wanted to study at a US university; before the affirmative answer, immediate offer: "Well that we can fix it right now". In FIDE, the price of the vote is much cheaper: a few thousand euros (sometimes tens of thousands), which can arrive in different ways: directly in the pocket of the bribe; paying the debt of that national federation with FIDE; counting trips or promotional campaigns or coaches … In the eighties you could also see nights with prostitutes.

The good news is that the three candidates have made a public commitment to the urgent cleanup that FIDE needs. They did it, for example, on Saturday, during a round table where there were also several experts in the fight against corruption in sports federations. With his usual sarcasm, the third candidate, Short, who will offer his votes to Dórkovich if there is a second round, explains: "Yes, there seems to be some hope that the FIDE motto, Gens Una Sumus [Somos una familia] start to really come true. Because until now the correct motto should be Mafia Una Sumus ".

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