Mig 
Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Q&A with Bessel Kok

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I finally posted our Q&A with everyone's favorite candidate for FIDE president. The "to do list" in the first question are vague boilerplate ("Better management of resources available"? Brilliant!), but most of the answers have real meat on the bones. Nice to hear an excoriation of the 90'+30" control, even if it's what so many of us have been saying for a long time. Vote early, vote often.

38 Comments

He may be your favorite Mig, but the interview itself is very bad for Kok.

No satisfactory reply for his disappearance from chess, no clear views on many subjects, many new promises about bringing sponsors without any real committment, etc. No wonder his alliance with Karpov and the Russian Chess Federation collapsed!

Kok's was a restrained, responsible interview, setting forth goals, burning no bridges. He offers a plausible account of his inability to fulfill the role assigned him at Prague.

He sounds like a guy with whom you could work things out. An example is his treatment of Kramnik's status. Kok acknowledges that Kramnik fulfilled his side of Prague 2002, but notes that time has passed. Kok makes no promises, but suggests something could be worked out, and there's no reason to doubt him.

Kok's responsible, diplomatic tone in itself, would be an improvement on the current FIDE leadership.

One statement in the interview is hard to dispute.

"Failure would be reflected by the situation we have today where a very large number of Federations are still not capable of paying to FIDE annual dues of between 1,000 to 2000 Swiss francs per annum." (Question 3)

Am I the only one to think that, through Giannis, we have the priviledge to have a direct line of communication with FIDE headquarters in Athens? With Makro himself maybe??
Come on, Giannis, don't gloat so fast: you may be out of a job next summer after all...

To my dear friend Ray Derivaz:

I repeat for once more that I have no professional relationship with FIDE.

It just happens that I live in Athens and I really have good contacts not only with the current FIDE management but also with the people from the opposite side (Yazici, etc.). So you don't have to worry about my job: it's well paid and it has nothing to do with chess!

come on guys. Nothing to argue about.Things are simple. Anyone, ANYONE, A-N-Y-O-N-E on this planet can manage FIDE better than this obscure guy Kirsan....

god bless chess...

I loved the interview with Bessel Kok. I think everything he said was with humility and a desire to work things out. but not for him to dictate the answers. he wants a democratic FIDE that will do the will of the people, GM's and Organizations.

I am more than ever convinced his is perfect for the job.

The problem as I read the complaints are that people want Kok to dictate the answers but not be a dictator. Well right now we have a dictator who dictates answers. So make up your mind. do you want to stay in the quicksand with Kirsan the Dictator or do you want YOUR voice to be heard and for things to change.

Kok is Definitely Da Man for the job.

Tommy

Boston, Mass USA
USCF Life Member

Just the expressed optimism alone is enough to get excited about. Mr. Kok's answers are practical and forthright and more importantly, probable. Will this ticket be the perfect anwswer...no? Will it be an improvement over what we have now...yes! If change does't happen now, all we have to look forward to in international chess is increased pessimism in the coming years.

Speaking of real jobs, Bessel has one too, so working full time for chess wasn't really an option. So "disappearance" is a strange term for "going to work." And is he supposed to be out making deals with sponsors on his own time? Funnily enough, he has. Since Ilyumzhinov has been FIDE president, Kok has brought in more private sponsorship for chess than Kirsan.

It's all about openness to me. The current administration has run the place like a banana republic straight out of Woody Allen's "Bananas." Today, we cut the time controls! Why? We don't know! Tomorrow, knock-outs only! Wait, long match! No, no match, round-robin! All decided behind very tightly closed doors behind which sits exactly one person. The Wizard of Il.

Garry Kasparov's comment at the end of his last New In Chess column: "Iíve also been pondering whom to burden with my endorsement for FIDE president. It looks like we will have a three-man race between Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, Anatoly Karpov, and Bessel Kok Ė the ruinous status quo, a return to the crooked past, and someone with the experience to at last professionalize the sport. Tough choice, Iíll have to consider awhile longer..." (http://www.newinchess.com)

Did I really read this post of Mig?

"Kok has brought in more private sponsorship for chess than Kirsan"??????

Am I awake? Or can someone please wake Mig up?

Only in the last 2 years Ilyumzhinov has brought in sponsors with more than 5 million dollars for its men's and women's world championships! I wonder if Kok can ever bring such money for FIDE or any of the top players.

Mig, try to be fair with the guy (Kirsan). I understand that the whole USCF supports Kok but please... some objectivity is still in need!

Maybe you need to learn to read as well as you cut and paste. PRIVATE sponsorship. Corporate, sustainable, for-profit, business plan, bids, professional money. Not looting the Kalmykian treasury or making deals with various dictators who are never seen again and who largely hurt the image of the sport and the ability to attract sustainable corporate sponsorship in the future.

I give credit to Ilyumzhinov for being able to shake loose money from such bizarre places, but the truth is this shouldn't be necessary. I'm not going to be delighted at being thrown a bone every once in a while during years of mistreatment and starvation.

...now if we could only figure out a way to loot the Kalmykian treasury AND attract private sponsorship...

The thing is, that doesn't work. Shadow money and the people who are good at getting it drive off legit money and legit corporations. They speak entirely different languages and want different things for the most part.

Mig, I expected a better reply.

The San Luis event was organized by looting the Kalmykian treasury? Or Libya? Or Khanty-Mansiysk? Jesus! Poor Kalmykia must be able to feed the whole universe...

About bizarre places, I agree that Libya may sound bizarre for Americans but not for the rest of the world. But still, is Argentina a bizarre place? And Russia too? Sounds like the whole world is a bizarre place these days...

About corporations, what about Lukoil and the other Russian oil companies which sponsored the knock-out in Russia? Do they seem to be small corporations for your taste? Has Kok ever dealt with such financial giants other than state telecom companies in Belgium or Prague?

I guess I'm posing some tough questions tonight... And I really wonder why FIDE itself is not responding to all this nonsense of Kok...

If you expect better replies, start talking like an adult.

I include Libya under "dictators who hurt the image of the game and potential for sustainable corporate sponsorship." Americans? How about Israelis? I don't include San Luis under "private sponsorship" since the money came from a public source.

Hah, private oil companies in Russia, good joke. These are the same Ilyumzhinov crowd and in most cases are politicians themselves. They exchange favors in the dark. This is not a sustainable busines model. This is why we have FIDE events "whenever" instead of the consistent calendar required to attract major sponsors and media. No business knowledge or sponsorship experience is required for these crony deals.

Kok has not been the president of FIDE. Asking to compare records directly is stupid. But he has experience dealing with large corporations and corporate sponsors and with chessplayers. Just read his interview. This is sanity speaking. Not "I have money and I will do whatever I want," which is Ilyumzhinov's answer to everything, and yours. "But look at the money that pops up sometimes!" Great. But we can have professionalism, respect, and money too. Not destroying the game and its traditions behind closed doors in exchange for the occasional pile of cash.

So now I get it right. Kok, Mig & Co are suggesting that FIDE forgets the so-called "dark" Russian money, etc. - which mounts to millions - and instead it goes for some unspecified "business model", "professionalism", "corporate blah-blah-blah" which MIGHT bring some so-called "clean" money. A very interesting approach indeed.

Mig, be sure that the national federations will line-up to buy such an attractive package...

Uh, yeah Giannis, Mig is exactly right. It is far, far better to build a true professional business model for FIDE than to use shady money from the former Eastern Bloc. I don't see how any sane person can doubt this!

Yay, Giannis gets it! Maybe he can now explain how the national federations have benefited from the the black - and rare - money from Ilyumzhinov. Unspecified business model? It's being used by hundreds of other sports federations around the world, not to mention companies of all sorts.

And how about talking about the way direction of the organization and the game for once instead of, still, the "money occasionally pops up" distraction. Sponsorship and events are big items, but there are many others. It's not as if there weren't big money events long before Ilyumzhinov showed up.

Supporting the federations, moving into the internet, getting the time controls back, the world championship together, these are all things that have come apart.

Dear Giannis,

you must have an agenda for you to talk like that about Bessel. How can you question Bessel's promises when he never had a chance to implement them. And remember, when a chance came, he was there to try and reunite the chess world.

So why I ask, do you defend Kirsan's policies so much? How can you defend someone who changes rules whenever he can, organises tournaments in places where he knows players cannot play in, who tries and buys votes with money, who tries to buy the FIDE Presidency with a million dollars, who offers a Vice President position to every opponent...need I continue?

On the other hand.....
I was impressed by Bessel's answer to whether FIDE would recognize Kramnik's title. He did not beat around the bush and answered with a strong "NO". That's what I call having a clear mind and direction.

Duncan

Yes, "sane" was the word that came to my mind when I read Bessel's interview. When asked whether he'd prefer to see the world championship decided as a KO, or a round robin, or a match, he said succinctly "Personal preferences are of course not are on the agenda" and talked about the need to build consensus and find a format all the actors are happy with and that would be sustainable.

In all the years of the Kirsan tyranny, I almost forgot what it's like to have a prez who does *not* rule by whim and decree.

Duncan,

No one, including Kramnik himself, has ever considered Kramnik the FIDE champion. Bessel gets no credit for stating the obvious.

If you respect the classical title and the accomplishments of Topalov, Anand, et. al. over the years, you'll be somewhat encouraged by Bessel's remarks about the world championship situation:

"The opinions on how to deal with this are diverse. Personally, as a President I would bring the parties together and in an open dialogue, see if a compromise solution can be found."

Bessel's statement is preferable to any and all of Kirson-FIDE's WCC pronouncements.

Giannis

I want to thank you for posting the way you do. Your constant pushing of Kirsan causes me to think more clearly about the situation and to realize more and more deeply how much we really need Bessel Kok and need to get rid of Kirsan.

So keep pushing. I believe the more you push the more everyone opposes your views and the more they support Bessel Kok.

Greg,

I suppose the "title" here means "World Champion" not FIDE or Classical Champion.

Kramnik considers himself to be the "World Champion" of chess. Alas, Bessel will not recognize that.

I absolutely agree with your last comment.

Duncan

Tommy,

I follow Mig's website for many years now and I never thought that I could change people's minds in here.

The truth is that I don't really care if my "pushing" of Kirsan will create new opposition or support for him. And it doesn't matter anyway. It's not you or me who vote in the FIDE elections. It's the all corrupted chess politicians, either we like it or not.

BTW, do you know that 3 days ago the Russian Chess Federation announced openly its support for Ilyumzhinov? You know, Zhukov, Karpov, etc., the people who were supposed to be against Ilyumzhinov? Isn't it sad that you have to get this information by a virtually unknown chessplayer, rated less than 2100, instead of your "objective" US and German chess journalists?

On another note, there is a big difference between the way Americans and the rest of the world understand chess. For Americans it's more like a hobby, a game. It's an understanding which I respect and which justifies a more amateur and ideological approach. But it's different for people who come from a country like Russia or Greece, where chess is registered as an official sport and it's always in the mainstream media. That's why my views may sound "weird" to you. We see the sport side of the story and the bottom line, people across the Atlantic prefer to wonder if Kirsan is a dictator or not. And if you finally think that he is, you first bomb him and then you try to find his "weapons of mass destruction". Usually without success... ;-)

Giannis,

the fact that Russia gave its support to Ilyumzhinov comes to no surprise and was expected to say the least.

But I very much doubt Karpov was involved in that decision.

And secondly, I will be voting in the forthcoming Turin olympiads and your comment "It's the all corrupted chess politicians" was inappropriate.

Duncan

i wonder how giannis came to the conclusion that "chess is always in the mainstream media in greece"....
Greece almost won the bronze medal in the recent european championship-the greatest success in greek history ever- and it wasnt reported anywhere! Greek GMs Kotronias and Xalkias made some statements that they are quite disappointed from this situation. Nevertheless this is a bit out of the discussion , but i had to say it!

But to be fair , giannis implied something right, it is quite hypocritical to hear all the time Americans to speak about democracy and denounce dictatorships...All we know how many times the USA government supported dicatators in order to promote its interests. The fact is that USA government is so "dirty" as many of the countries Mig has named, but the fact is that USA has the power to legitimize its illegal actions...Everybody knows how relevant the notion of "legal" is....

Right, if you happen to be American you must be 100% responsible for everything your government does and can never speak. Brilliant. Bush didn't win with 100% of the vote so you can cut the crap. And even had he done so it wouldn't make Ilyumzhinov any cleaner. It's just a distraction tactic so please stick to chess, to Ilyumzhinov, and to Kok. Or shall we say that no Greek can say anything about politics because of Cyprus, or Imia/Kardak? Silly, yes?

Now then, if the argument is that "well, everyone is a little dirty so who cares?" I disagree with that, too. We have to aspire to improve things. And I haven't even gotten into the corruption issues; I'm worried about chess, sponsorship, and the federations. The bottom line is that doing under-the-table deals scares off commerical sponsors. The time controls and the world championship format would be reason enough. The completely autocratic way of running things just rubs it in.

Mig i completely agree with what you have said in the second paragraph of your post.

But what are you saying in the first paragraph is a misunderstanding of my opinion. Of course you are not responsible for every action of the USA. But what i do not like is the one-sided critism of western people. Not whatever happens in East is dirty and obscure and not whatever happens in west is "legitimate" and "right" .

ps. Government is a representator of citizens in a democratic society so they do have a relative responsibility.

please do not make me to state some facts about the participation of USA in Cyprus invasion...

I am with Kok and i hope him the best! I just tried to be fair :)

It's being off-topic, not "fair." If Bush were in charge of FIDE or another chess organization that would be different. But saying we can't criticize Ilyumzhinov without talking about US politics (or anything else) is silly. I didn't see anyone making blanket condemnations of "the East". We're talking about a specific organization, a specific person, and some specific deals. And about chess.

My point was that ANYTHING about Cyprus would be completely irrelevant here. Same goes for discussions of global democracy. Ilyumzhinov's defenders need to explain why he's good for FIDE and for chess, not why other people somewhere in the world are bad too (or not).

Please do not call every argument i state as "silly", it doesnt flatter your democratic culture.

Yes Mig, you made blanket condemnations about East. You spoke about Libya, Putin and Russian Oil companies who "exchange favours in dark" , so ,for example, you impicitly claim that western oil companies do not engage in such obscure actions and negotiations and i bet that if Kok make an agreement with a sponsor such as Shell, Exxon, Bp, Oxy etc you certainly would have approved, because in your mind these are the "politically correct" sponsors.

Forgive me but in such a thinking i can discern a bias which i critisize for the sake of fairness. I dont like this Kirsan guy, i want to see world chess in better hands but on the other hand i dont like this "demonology" concerning Illumzinov.
No, he is not satan on earth.
No, Bessel is not messiah of chess.

No room to argue anymore, because i agree with the essence of your sayings, but i sometimes find your arguments a bit of exaggerated and biased and that is why i criticized them.

To Duncan's disbelief, I give you the link to Karpov's magazine, "64", with the title (in Russian) "Ilyumzhinov is our candidate!": http://www.64.ru/?/ru/news/&item=420 Or maybe you would believe that Karpov is not controlling his own magazine?

Too bad that Mig, the USCF and Chessbase felt very shy to publish this information... ;-)

Why do you call this an endorsement by Karpov? The article is about the Russian federation's endorsement, not the magazine's. The title is quoting the federation.

That the Russian federation endorsed the Russian candidate is hardly surprising, or particularly newsworthy. In fact, all candidates are required to be endorsed by their national federation. Had Karpov ever formally presented his candidacy, forcing the Russian federation to choose, it would have been interesting, but he didn't. I haven't listed the dozen+ major federation endorsements of Kok, either. (France, Germany, USA, etc.) Maybe you should start a chess site to report such things as you see as important?

Actually, Mig, if all this geopolitical stuff is all off topic, then why does Bessel identify with the "Orange Revolution"?? Why does he have an endorsement from Vaclav Havel on his campaign site?? Isn't he deliberately identifying with a particular set of movements, which is to say, with capitalism and against socialism, with globalization and against third-world protectionism, with NATO and Reagan and Bush and against "everyone else" including the Muslim world, Russian nationalism, the PRC, etc.? Bessel is evoking these themes with a purpose, that of rallying a certain kind of "pro-democracy" and "pro-private funding" constituency, so it's only fair if people who don't like these themes also notice that he's doing it.

p>

Giannis,

I repeat what I said. I find it hard to belief that Karpov agreed to the Russian's federation choice of Ilyumzhinov.

Duncan

Hello, this is George Mastrokoukos from the FIDE headquarters in Athens.

Before anything else, I would like to congratulate Mig Greengard (saludos!) for his successful website. The blog itself seems to be a pool of many constructive and interesting ideas submitted by the readers themselves!

To the point, my post is intending to clarify one point:

FIDE's major events, that is the World Championship, Chess Olympiad and Women's World Championship, are awarded to organizers & sponsors by conducting competitive bidding procedures under FIDE's regulations. After every bidding procedure a detailed evaluation method is applied to identify the best bid (if more than one received) and then further negotiations take place with the winning bidder.

During recent years, these bidding procedures have resulted to events been awarded in both the "west" (Calvia 2004, San Luis 2005, Turin 2006, Dresden 2008) and the "east" (Tbilisi/Elista 2004, Tripoli 2004, Khanty-Mansiysk 2005, Ekaterinburg 2006). In the coming days, a list of all the bidders for the 2010 Chess Olympiad will also be published.

It is therefore clear that for FIDE there is no separative line between the "western" and the "eastern" world, as long as all sponsors are conformed to the specifications of the International Olympic Committee.

Please understand that my post is of an informative nature and I would not like to reply on any comments or suggestions since my replies might be misunderstood as supportive of one or the other rival parties in the FIDE elections.

PS: On a more personal note, I would like to urge my fellow Greeks, christosk and giannis, to post with their original names if possible, in order to avoid any "misunderstandings" concerning their real identity. They know what I mean!

George Mastrokoukos is right, it is not proper to post under a shield of anonymity. And of course it is more than obvious what kind of misunderstandings can be created given the content of the discussion.

christos
Koutsabelas
Athens

A letter of very low-level by a frustrated Bessel Kok: http://www.rightmove06.org/index.php?set_language=en&cccpage=articleview&set_z_articles=149

In his panic of losing the elections, Kok doesn't hesitate to use the "f" word! A very "business-like" and "corporate" approach indeed!

Furthermore, he seems to be frustrated with Boris Kutin, the president of the European zone, and Ibrahim Al Bannai, the president of the Arab zone for abandoning Kok's ticket.

I would expect a much more civilized reaction by a person who wants to become FIDE president. Kok is becoming an insult to everyone in chess.

Indeed, incumbent FIDE official Makropoulos' use of the "f" word in the link Giannis gave was indeed shameful, and reflects badly on the "(In)Fidelity Ticket" for FIDE. Readers are reminded, however, that this is just an accusation made by the opposing slate, so perhaps Mr. Makropoulos and the current FIDE administration should be given the benefit of the doubt. On the other hand, history does suggest that Ilzhuminov / Makropoulos would be likely to issue verbal threats against national federations that came out in support of the opposing ticket ("We will f*** you"); so the allegation should perhaps enjoy some credibility.

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