Reform Needed in World Chess

by Sam Sloan

For years, there have been calls for reform in the world of chess. However, now an unprecedented crisis has arisen because the International Chess Federation has fallen into the hands of a dictator.

I am a candidate for election to the Policy Board of the United States Chess Federation. The Policy Board is not only concerned with chess in the US. It is concerned with international chess as well. We need to take a leadership role in this area. Here is my proposal:

We need to recognize that FIDE is a basket case and to start over. The problem has long been there. The problem is that FIDE, like the United Nations, has tended to be controlled by third world countries who have the votes. FIDE has tended to be politically motivated, not necessarily motivated for the good of chess.

This problem was not so serious until recently. Things still moved along. However, with the election of Kirsan Iljumzhinov in November, 1995 as part of a desperation deal to get rid of Campomanes, FIDE placed itself in the hands of a corrupt dictator who is simply unwilling to work with the international chess community. One of the first things he did was abolish the World Chess Championship competitions for men and women as we knew them.

We thought that we could get rid of him at the 1996 World Chess Congress in Yerevan, Armenia. However, he got re-elected by openly paying bribes to the representatives of the very third world countries who have long been so problematic in FIDE.

It is apparent that we cannot solve the problem within the present structure of FIDE. We need to start all over again.

I propose that the USCF sponsor a new organization called the "World Chess Federation". You ask: Isn't there already a World Chess Federation? The answer is no. FIDE stands in French for "International Chess Federation". It's founders in Europe in the 1920s never envisioned that it would become a world body.

In order to be allowed to join this "World Chess Federation", one will need to be a member of the United Nations. An exception will be made for Switzerland. The starting address for the World Chess Federation will be 353 West 46th Street, New York NY 10036, USA. That is as good an address as any.

It is as simple as that. FIDE, I predict, will wither and die, as everyone will rush to join this new world chess federation. If I am wrong, nothing will be lost.

What does this do? What is the big deal?

The big deal is that many of the so-called "third world" countries who control so many votes in FIDE are not countries at all. Full voting members of FIDE include The Island of Guernsey, The Island of Jersey, The British Virgin Islands, The American Virgin Islands, Hong Kong, Faeroe Islands, Puerto Rico, Wales, Scotland and so on. Even Quebec has made an application for membership, but this has been tabled.

What, you ask, is the harm in this? How does it hurt to allow Hong Kong and Wales to be members of FIDE?

The problem is that the representatives of all these non-countries get their expenses paid to every world chess event. A delegation to an Olympiad, for example, has at least 13 members: Six players on the men's team, four players on the woman's team, a coach for each team plus a delegate. Most countries are allowed one arbiter who must be paid by the local hosts as well.

All of these people must have their hotel bills and meals paid by the local host. Sometimes their air expenses are paid as well.

At last count, there were about 154 members of FIDE. Around 20 of them are not countries.

This would help solve other problems as well. FIDE is filled with stupid and costly regulations passed solely to appease third world countries. For example, the International Master Title is automatically awarded to the African Junior Champion, regardless of how weak a chess player he or she might be. Resolutions like this were passed because it was felt that there was no harm in this.

Another thing concerns languages: FIDE has at least seven official languages, including Portuguese. The hosts are responsible for providing translators for all those languages. The hosts are required to pay to have all submitted documents translated into all these languages. I favor abolishing this. There will be no official languages. We will be free to talk Uzbek. In practice, the language will be English, which most delegates speak, but everyone will be free to speak any language and nobody will be required to pay for translators.

At FIDE Congresses, the meetings tend to be dominated by the African delegates, many of whom do not play chess at all but who were sent by their ministries to make some political point and to take advantage of the free trip. They like to talk at great length, thereby filibustering the real issues. We will impose a rating requirement. Anybody who cannot demonstrate a proficiency at chess at the 1000 level will not be allowed to stand up and address a meeting of our World Chess Federation. That will eliminate most of the speakers, especially the long winded ones.

Kirsan Iljumzhinov, who does not represent any country of the world, will not be eligible to become President of our World Chess Federation, unless he can find a country to sponsor him.

Sam Sloan

Contact address - please send e-mail to the following address: