The United States and FIDE By Larry Parr (former editor of Chess Life)

"What a shame that FIDE is run by a wealthy lunatic and a horde of beggars." -- Jack Peters, chess columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

In an e-mail debate on the bulletin board, Eric Schiller states that "America's best course is to demand better from FIDE. We haven't done that."

For lo these many years the United States has never DEMANDED better performance from FIDE. Our FIDE "team" (notably Donald Schultz and Arnold Denker) always offered one excuse after another for why the USA must merely go along to get along. Under America's incoming FIDE representative Tim Redman, a FIDE loyalist who supports its gruesome ways and approved of the persona non grata motion against IM Ricardo Calvo in 1987, nothing will change.


Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

In chess we have the French Defense, the Sicilian Defense, etc. In chess and other politics, we have the Status Quo Defense, which is a species of argument. It is quite distinct from a defense of the status quo. The former is fallacious; the latter is frequently justified.

The Status Quo Defense, which is the favorite ploy of bureaucrats the world over, involves compiling long lists of services provided by a government, corporation or social organization. "Look," they say while gesturing expansively, "at this imposing array of our functions. How can you discard a body that does all of these things?"

Another way of thinking about the matter: Red Moscow and Brown Berlin provided medical care, public schools, paved roads, paid vacations and hot steel rods thrust up anal canals. In his posting of June 17 Eric Schiller spreads a thick layer of the Status Quo Defense on his FIDE toast:

"The wholesale rejection of FIDE is easy to put forth as an armchair kibitzer, but professionals know that FIDE membership is required for professional events. The title and rating system is also under FIDE custody. If you don't actually play chess, at least at an international level, you can pray for the demise of FIDE, but the rest of us know that the entire infrastructure of chess is based on FIDE. The task of administering a worldwide rating and title system, organizing championships and Olympiads, and promoting chess on a global scale cannot be achieved by a few well-intentioned political editorialists."

There you have it: the Status Quo Defense. To strengthen Mr. Schiller's argument, we might also mention that FIDE sanctions world championships for men (the open "section") women, teenagers, acne-ridden adolescents, girls, boys and probably by this time, one for two-year-old toddlers.

Sounds kind of overwhelming, huh? Surely, little can ever change. A bit of tinkering, an occasional oil change and lube, maybe a valve grind every few years. Otherwise, forget it! If FIDE must have a killer as president, then so be it.


The bad news about the Status Quo Defense is that it often plays successfully on the human velleity toward inertia; the good news is that everyday reality repeatedly contradicts its tenets. Tens of thousands of new organizations are formed every year in this world, and many also vanish. On the whole, this process of what is called creative destruction is highly beneficial. It is hated by government bureaucrats and others who seek stasis; it is revered by those who view non-ceasing change as the necessary renewal -- the perpetual springtime of the world.

There is more good news for those of us in chess. Although governments perform thousands of functions, FIDE most assuredly does not. Mr. Schiller's imposing list isn't really so imposing at all. The rating function for FIDE was performed for years by the USCF in the 1980s. As for titles, any group that employs simple numerical rather than involved political criteria would perform better than FIDE. As GM Larry Evans pointed out, all you really need is a computer in a small room somewhere to perform this function instead of horse swapping by a bunch of politicos who feel important sitting in front of national flags at FIDE conclaves.

As many of you know, many FIDE titles were bought and sold or awarded for political reasons. The FIDE title award process was an open scandal. Kasparov recently noted that some professionals are not rated because their federations fail to pay FIDE dues. And both Kasparov and Short were excised from the list, which is supposed to measure objective standards, when they formed the PCA in 1993. "FIDE can be trusted with absolutely nothing," noted both GM Larry Evans and GM Raymond Keene.

Contrary to what Mr. Schiller asserts, the United States is NOT a third world chess country. He is correct when he says that the USCF needs more members (though we have one of the largest, paid memberships in the world) and that American chess needs more sponsors, more events and more media coverage. But he overstates his case by a mile in his attempt to explain why the United States has "neither the right nor the resources to try to take over world chess." Just as obviously, he is creating a straw man by claiming that this writer wants America "to take over world chess."


FIDE needs America far more than America needs FIDE.

The position of the United States in the chess world is about the same as in many other mini-universes on our planet: numerous countries are looking to us for leadership. That's a fact. Candidates for FIDE office travel thousands of miles to meet with members of our Policy Board, and presidents of FIDE makes trips to this country in attempts to quell possible mutinies.

I will never forget when Florencio Campomanes came to the 1985 U.S. Open for the expressed purpose of altering Chess Life coverage of his crooked dealings in FIDE. He succeeded in part. The Policy Board ordered me, as editor of their house organ, to take the heat off Campo. Several years later he even visited Reno for an interview with GM Evans, who clobbered him. (See "My Dinner With Campo" in Chess Life, Feb-March-April-May 1988.)

Now, contrary to what Mr. Schiller may say, FIDE eminentos do not travel, say, to Sierra Leone or Paraguay or Nicaragua or even The Philippines for the purpose of gaining endorsements or avoiding delegitimizing censures. Contrary to what Mr. Schiller may assert, a decision by the United States, say, to leave FIDE would have more affect than the loss of dozens of other countries combined. It would set a shining example for the rule of law.

But, of course, that is not the scenario that I posited and that Mr. Schiller pointedly ignored.

For years the Friends of the USCF have called for the United States to adopt a policy of proactive diplomacy in FIDE. First, the USCF should instruct its representative to contact other democratic nations, beginning with the English-speaking countries and Western Europe. Secondly, the USCF should establish within FIDE a Democratic Caucus of countries that want decisive reform towards creating a rule of law in FIDE. Thirdly, if that proves impossible, then the United States should take as many countries as possible out of FIDE to form a new world chess organization.

Resources? The annual budget of FIDE, as opposed to all those moneys siphoned off by Campomanes for "expenses," is small. Less than what the United States Chess Federation spends in a few weeks. The notion that the USCF, in conjunction with other federations supporting a rule of law in international chess, cannot raise enough money to rate games, award titles and seek sponsors is ludicrous.


It is a cockeyed understanding of this country's "national chess interest" to hitch our star to a corrupt killer like Kalmykia's Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Let's not fool ourselves. Since FIDE is not an organization with a rule of law, the USCF is legitimizing only its dictator when we deal with FIDE -- just as we legitimized Florencio Campomanes during the dark years of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Campomanes left FIDE and international chess a shambles. Ilyumzhinov will do the same. No infrastructure of sponsorship has been built under these abominable men. Instead, we have seen every ethical standard destroyed in our royal game. There is not a single area of chess activity that has been left unbesmirched. The ratings function has been politicized, some players were banned for political reasons, championship matches are held under appallingly unequal conditions, title awards are given in exchange for bribes. And there is so much more that can be said.

For the moment, we have yet another striking example of the potential influence of the United States in world chess affairs. Back at Paris in 1995, the United States briefly and haltingly flexed its political muscles by toppling Florencio Campomanes. Now, in 1998, we have eternally smiling Khan Kirsan seeking to avoid a similar fate by trying to win official U.S. recognition of the FIDE world champion as the only world champion. USCF president Don Schultz met with him last May and his steadfast refusal to answer a simple question about whether he made a deal with the butcher of Kalmykia to change USCF policy and recognize Karpov as the SOLE world champion confirms our suspicions that the USCF is about to tilt its policy towards FIDE.

We have a chance to strike two blows here. First, we continue to recognize Anatoly Karpov as the FIDE champion (by definition) and Garry Kasparov as the whatever-champion by virtue of universal acceptance.

Secondly, we tell Killer Kirsan that he is unwelcome at the FIDE tournament in Las Vegas next December. To this end, the USCF ought to contact the State Department and note that this tyrant certainly fits the legal definition of an undesirable alien.

Undesirable alien? Non-citizens have been denied travel to the United States for far fewer and lesser reasons. Ilyumzhinov has been linked to drug-running, white slavery and murder. He openly represses democrats in Kalmykia, bans opposition parties, loots the treasury and arrests dissidents who disappear or are found murdered. How many legitimate corporations will support chess or FIDE events once they discover Ilyumzhinov's reputation?


Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the president of FIDE, differs from Florencio Campomanes to this extent: Campo was a fifth-rate grafter who treated us like fifth-rate victims; Ilyumzhinov is a real-life thug, who eliminates people when they inconvenience him. Real blood, real grief.

Larisa Yudina, a journalist operating the only opposition paper in Kalmykia (it was actually printed outside Ilyumzhinov's fiefdom) was murdered last June. The suspects detained were former aides of Ilyumzhinov.

Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin has described her slaying as "a contract murder, a political murder." Boris Yeltsin pledges to personally monitor the inquiry -- to the extent that he can monitor anything.

FIDE is in the hands of a gangster who runs Kalmykia as a personal hacienda. The question now becomes whether the resolution to recognize Anatoly Karpov as world champion will be passed by the delegates at the upcoming U.S. Open. Will the United States Chess Federation tie itself to a world chess organization now in the hands of a man who arranges for dissidents to die screaming in cellars?

If the chess politicos have their way, the United States will once again hitch its star to the FIDE wagon. The idea would be repellent even if Garry Kasparov were not the real champion in the eyes of most chess people. But the bottom line is that he is the undefeated champion who downed Karpov in three title matches, a record. (The first was suspended by Campo and one was drawn.)

In 1920 Emanuel Lasker offered to resign his title to Capablanca without a match. He regarded the young Cuban as the obvious successor. Only when Capa raised an unprecedented sum for a title match did Lasker relent and play. How far we have come since Lasker and men like him! Karpov will cling to a worthless title come what may, and there are people at the highest levels of the USCF who are willing to play along with Karpov and FIDE dictator Khan Kirsan.

Kasparov's various umbrella groups are obviously mere vehicles for his personal ambitions, but he is also the champion recognized by the world at large, and he has chosen toadies rather than criminals to run his organizations. The problem with FIDE is that there is absolutely no rule of law. Every rule gets broken, except those that serve the purposes at the moment of the powers that be. The USCF is under no legal obligation to FIDE -- a lawless, rogue world body.

Mass theft, drug-running, white-slavery, murder -- oh, heck, nothing's too good for chess.

Here are links:
Contact address - please send e-mail to the following address: