20 years ago, in late November 1995, President of Kalmykia, businessman Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, was elected the president of the International Chess Federation (FIDE). It wasn’t a sudden turn in his career as a politician. Ilyumzhinov headed the Kalmykia chess team when he was 15. Today the main achievement of the FIDE President is the unification of the International Chess Federation.
“Until 1995, chess was not recognized as a sport,”Kirsan Ilyumzhinov says. “The IOC adhered to the statement of the world champion Mikhail Botvinnik, who once said: "What is chess? It is not just a sport, chess is a science and culture.” We were stuck somewhere between science and culture. After the election, I met with the then-current president of the IOC, Juan Antonio Samaranch, and I am very grateful to him, because my formation as president of the International Chess Federation was due to Juan Antonio Samaranch. We started to work, he told me about some things that we had to for FIDE to become a recognized international sports organization. In 1999, the IOC Executive Board in South Korea in Seoul voted unanimously to recognize chess as a sport. Since 1999, chess has been a sport and FIDE recognized as the only international sports federation representing the interests of players in the sports and the Olympic movement.”
Next it was necessary to collect the players. “We held the first meeting in 2005, in Prague, where Garry Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik, Karpov and I signed a memorandum of cooperation. Then, in 2006, Vladimir Kramnik defeated Kasparov in his version. First, this version was called PCA, then Brain Games, and then Obshtein-group. The Bulgarian grandmaster Veselin Topalov, the world champion of FIDE, signed an agreement with FIDE that the winner would be the undisputed champion, and he will be called world champion of FIDE. In 2006, Vladimir Kramnik won and became champion of the world and the unification of the chess world was completed. This is harmony, this is something of which I and all the members of our family of chess are proud, we have a champion, the Norwegian grandmaster, a child prodigy, Carlsen Magnes, who is also ranked as number one, and he is undisputed champion of the world. He became a world champion, not only in classical chess, and last year he won and became the world champion in speed chess and blitz. And no one now doubts that we have one champion,” Ilyumzhinov says.
According to him, they are back to the match system of the world championship. “Also, women's chess is on the rise. We conduct regular Grand Prix, World Championships, and a lot of other competitions. That outcome. In 1995 in the annual calendar of FIDE there were only three official tournaments. Now in 2015, and until 2020 we have everything almost full, and in a year we already have 12 thousand events. Several tournaments in the annual calendar, 12,000 official tournaments, and more than 100 thousand informal tournaments. This is the result of our work. The number of players that are calculated according to the rating, the official number of the chess rating players has increased exactly 11-fold. The number of arbitrators who judge the chess competitions increased 8.5-fold. According to number of competitions, competitors and countries we are now the largest international sports organization,” the president of FIDE said.
He noted that, according to research by the famous British company UGAF, more than 600 million out of 7 billion people play chess, or know the rules of the game. “Therefore, I fulfilled the problem of our team in 20 years, we have united the chess world, we have one champion, one federation, and we are recognized by the IOC,” Ilyumzhinov states.