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INTERNATIONAL chess federation (FIDE) chief Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who has been at its helm for long 21 years, listed the unification of the World Championships and development of women’s game as two of his major achievements.

Ilyumzhinov, a former president of the Russian republic of Kalmykia between 1993 and 2010, blamed former world champion Garry Kasparov for dividing the chess fraternity, saying, “He was too ambitious.” 

Ilyumzhinov had defeated Kasparov, who had been a hardcore critic of FIDE, in the presidential elections in 2010 and 2014 respectively.

In an exclusive interview with Doha Stadium Plus, the 54-year-old also spoke about the sport’s future and the development work being done under his leadership. 

You had recently said the world needed chess and not wars. Can you elaborate?

I visit more than hundred countries every year. I meet with leaders and heads of national sports federations. I interact with people from different nations.

I had been to the war-affected Libya, Syria and Ukraine.

Most of the armed conflicts happen because there’re very few people who think like chess players. They should think before making decisions.

Why did you say Kasparov divided the chess world?

I know Kasparov since 1990. I had sponsored many of his matches, including a game against computer Deep Junior in 2003 in New York. I’ve helped him out so many times, but he’s an ambitious person. He tried to create a rift in the chess fraternity because he wanted to do business through the sport. He’s very critical of everything, which isn’t good for the sport. 

Do you think Magnus Carlsen is a better player than Kasparov?

They all belong to their times. Kasparov and Viswanathan Anand have had their great days. Today, the world chess belongs to Carlsen. He’s 26 and has great intelligence. 

How much has the sport developed since you became FIDE chief?

When I was elected for the first time, the chess world was divided. Kasparov used to organise his own World Championships under Professional Chess Association. My biggest contribution, I think, was to bridge the gap and unite players. The sport has become more popular since then. Besides, the world body is in a financially-stable situation and the number of competing nations has gone up to 188. More nations will be added soon to the list.

Where do you see the sport in the next decade?

Chess isn’t football, boxing or hockey. It’s slow for the fans to understand. It’s difficult to follow unless you know the rules. We’re working on how to make it more spectator-friendly. 

Will the next classical FIDE World Championships be held in Asia? 

The 2018 World Championships will be held in an Asian country. There’re two candidates, but we can’t name them. The next host will be announced soon.

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