What happens to FIDE and chess if Arkady Dvorkovich remains FIDE President?
Andrii Baryshpolets: It would be a disaster. Legitimizing Dvorkovich by the majority of chess federations will be a signal that the chess world accepts being led by a politician from the aggressor country. The good news is that chess has existed for thousands of years and surely will survive another term of dubious FIDE leadership. However, for FIDE, such a scenario does not promise any good.
The very first thing that pops up when googling FIDE is that it is run by a Russian politician. If Dvorkovich truly cared about chess, he would have already resigned.
Which mistakes of the Dvorkovich administration can you point out?
Andrii Baryshpolets: There are many, and they are not news to the chess world. Instead, I would like to point out the commonly overseen issue, namely the perception of FIDE by the people outside the chess community. The very first thing that pops up when googling FIDE is that it is run by a Russian politician. Any interest for further partnership, promotion, media coverage, etc. ends there. If Dvorkovich truly cared about chess, he would have already resigned to avoid further jeopardy to FIDE’s reputation. It is shocking to see that he is running for re-election. What FIDE needs strategically is a shift of paradigm. It must completely give up political sponsorship and sportswashing financing. Instead, the focus has to be on building relationships with reputable corporate partners and sponsors.
What do you mean by sportswashing?
FIDE is being used to whiten the reputation of the Russian Federation. Since October 2018, when Dvorkovich was elected, Russia hosted 11 of 20 major tournaments (including a World Championship match, Grand-Prix, World Cups, a Candidates Tournament, and Blitz and Rapid World Championships). According to the Audited Financial Statements, available on the FIDE website, total income in 2020 was €3 million, of which €1,5 million were from corporate donors. In 2019, the total income was €4,8 million, of which €2 million were corporate donations. Except for OCP S.A., a Moroccan state-owned phosphate rock miner), all donors are either Russian state-owned or private companies. More facts and concrete examples can be found in my open letter and on my facebook page.
What would you do differently from the Dvorkovich administration?
Andrii Baryshpolets: I will put all my energy into changing the image of FIDE and making it a trustable and respectable organization. FIDE should be open and transparent to all member federations and chess players. I dislike the idea that “chess politics” lives by itself and is separated from the chess life of players, streamers, coaches, journalists, etc. I also think that chess organizations like FIDE, ACP, continental chess unions, member federations, and others should make more efforts to attract a young generation of professionals full of energy and beliefs with a genuine passion for chess promotion.
Since Dvorkovich was elected, Russia hosted 11 of 20 major tournaments. FIDE is being used to whiten the reputation of the Russian Federation.
You have been lobbying FIDE’s member federations since 24 February to get rid of a Russian President. How many federations have reacted to you or signed the petition?
Andrii Baryshpolets: Many federations and the European Chess Union have issued statements unconditionally condemning Russian aggression, though not many expressed their position towards Dvorkovich remaining in the office. Just a few days ago, I came across a statement issued by the English Chess Federation at the end of April urging Dvorkovich to step aside. Regarding my petition on change.org, I don’t think it has been visible to a broader audience in the chess world. However, many well-known grandmasters and people from sixty countries have already signed it.
How would you describe the position of federations that haven’t reacted or signed the petition?
Andrii Baryshpolets: I cannot speak for these federations; apparently, they know their motivation better. I guess some are scared to take a stance and become unfavorable in case Dvorkovich remains in the office; some are in disbelief after many unsuccessful attempts to remove Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and have given up their efforts to change FIDE for the better.
FIDE Deputy President Bachar Kouatly, while personally condemning the Russian invasion, has pointed out that large parts of the world stay neutral. Do you agree?
Andrii Baryshpolets: It is unclear what “large parts” of the world means. The United Nations resolution from 2 March demanding Russia to stop the aggression immediately was supported by 141 countries, 5 against, and 35 abstained. It is not about how many countries stay neutral but rather about what is right and what is wrong. Many countries accepted and welcomed the annexation of Sudetenland in 1938. Many remained neutral towards conflicts around the globe in the 1930s. There were countries that remained “neutral” when two totalitarian regimes seized Poland, and some states remained neutral throughout the entire World War Two. Nevertheless, it is still wrong to violate international laws, and it is a pity that we need to learn this lesson again. Concerning FIDE, it is wrong to violate the FIDE Charter, regardless of how many FIDE officials ignore this fact and how many member federations remain neutral.
What violation of the FIDE Charter are you referring to?
Andrii Baryshpolets: Article 4.1 states that FIDE is a fully independent organization and Article 4.2: FIDE preserves the autonomy of chess and sport are being violated. Being a Kremlin high-ranked politician for many years, Dvorkovich cannot duly fulfill his duties under article 18.2: The President shall aim to foster a positive image of FIDE and to ensure that FIDE’s mission, strategic direction, policies and values, as defined by the General Assembly and by the Council, are protected and advanced; and neither article 18.3: The President shall seek to maintain and develop good relations between and among FIDE Member Federations, Affiliated Members, International Olympic Committee, other International Sports Federations, political bodies and international organisations. I have no doubts that it is right to make FIDE independent of political influence and truly transparent and professional. Once it is done, the perspectives of FIDE to globally promote chess and attract partners will be many times more than what we all have seen so far.