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Despot Chess

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FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has once again shown that he's willing to rent chess out to aid the legitimacy of any two-bit dictator. First it was trying to hold the FIDE WCh in Baghdad, then actually having the final in Tehran in 2000, now this report says Tripoli, Libya is next.

Don't get me wrong, I'm as forgiving as the next guy. Far be it from me to hold weapons of mass destruction, blowing up airliners, and hijacking cruise ships against a guy. Let bygones by bygones, I always say, and apparently many of the world's governments feel the same way. "The Lockerbie Memorial Cup" would be such a nice name for a trophy.

This is a disturbing trend if only because Ilyumzhinov is slowly running out of potential despot sponsors. There's only one axis of evil member left to approach, so Kirsan had better hurry before some clever person figures out that North Korea's nuclear program is a hoax and takes out Kim Jong-Il. If that happens FIDE might be stuck looking for honest corporate sponsorship.

Then there are the practical matters. Even if UK players can stomach playing under the auspices of someone who bombed flight 103 and gave weapons to the IRA, what about the Israeli players? Like most Arab and/or Muslim nations, Libya has many official restriction regarding Israelis and even people who have visited Israel. (My US passport was actually issued in Israel after I lost one while living there in 1999. This caused no end of panic when I went to Bahrain to run the website for the Kramnik-Fritz match in 2002. It apparently had to go all the way up to the office of some prince or other, although that may be true with parking tickets.) Many countries, including the US, have special requirements for visiting Libya.

I suppose it would be a positive thing if hosting this event broke down some of those barriers, but this seems unlikely. FIDE is usually the one making the concessions, not visa-versa. Wouldn't it be lovely, if symbolic, if Ilyumzhinov came out and said they would only host the event in Libya if leader Khaddafi lifted such restrictions? If Khaddafi is serious about bringing his country in from the cold it could be an opportunity. But a repeat of the Dubai/Haifa Olympiad fiascos seems more probable.

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    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on February 15, 2004 8:47 PM.

    "More Black Nerds" was the previous entry in this blog.

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