President of the Association of Chess Professionals answered questions by correspondents of Nezavisimaya gazeta (Russia) Sergey and Marina Makarychevs
– Emil, please explain the reasons behind your decision and share your vision of the pre-election situation.
– They are quite simple. Arkady Vladimirovich is a very respected person and not at all new to the chess world. He was in charge of serious international tournaments, including Candidates and World Championship matches. It is of extreme importance to us that he is open to discuss and support the proposals that ACP has put forward over the years, but which have never elicited any response from FIDE. As of recently, especially in the last two years with FIDE bogged down in internal wars, a situation arose in which many top-priority problems of professional chess have not been addressed at all. More often than not, our appeals received purely formal replies, if any. Many conflict situations arose, but FIDE did nothing to resolve them, fearing to spoil relations with some national federations on the one hand, and because all resources were dedicated to internal political struggle on the other. With quite a number of unresolved issues piled up, we stated directly back in 2017 that we would not stay away from the 2018 presidential campaign (for the first time in our history!).
The Dvorkovich program contains many items and ideas also voiced by us earlier. Besides, our decision was swayed by an utterly negative evaluation of the previous FIDE administration's performance. Thus, for example, the 2016 world championship match sported the largest budget, whereas its prize fund was the smallest since 1969. Well, I say this for people to realize what is going on.
– Even though the latest New York match featured a prize fund of 1 million dollars, the previous matches' funds were even higher...
– Indeed, the last fund amounted to a million and so is the upcoming one, whereas the preceding prize pools were slightly higher. While a down-trend is there for everyone to see, let me repeat once again that total matches' budgets have been on the increase all the time, as opposed to the prize money's decreasing or remaining at the same level at that. This picture makes no sense at all. However, it only played into FIDE administration's hands to cover up these terrible inconsistencies in numbers.
– Do you think too much money was spent on the matches? Do you mean the company Agon that managed the latest championships?
– If I had enough space in the newspaper, I could tell everything in detail about it. I would share how much Agon and Makropoulos are involved in this, and how inefficient the expenditure of funds has been indeed. Resorting to ephemeral counting, Agon pulled the wool over people's eyes about 1.5 billion people allegedly watching the match. This said, the match coverage was very poor, especially considering the amounts invested and all that could have been accomplished otherwise! The topic of poor match management deserves a separate article... As for the women's championship match, its coverage was invisible at all!
Yet another terrible problem, which we continue to draw attention to and FIDE does nothing or very little about, is coming to grips with cheating (computer hints). Allocating funds for technical resources and fighting legislatively is simply a must. What we see in reality, however, is that FIDE will display leniency even if cheaters are caught red-handed. The chess world stands in full solidarity with us on this point.
Besides, completely destroyed is the system of women's Grand PRIX FIDE, while the status and level of its men's equivalent have degraded markedly.
– A very important subject is raising the prestige of chess in the world. This wonderful game is worthy of high respect!
– For this to happen it is necessary, above all, to increase respect of FIDE itself, to rule out absolutely non-transparent decisions of its administration. This non-transparency generates disrespect towards the organization itself. People tend to view it as some sort of a bureau, where a bunch of people decide what everyone else should be doing... However, FIDE is one of the largest international sports institutions, listing about 188 countries... Dvorkovich's claim about his FIFA experience being a valuable asset is no hollow words. It goes without saying that FIFA is not an ideal organization, but it's a totally different level of events and cooperation with sponsors nonetheless. Unfortunately, it feels like the chess world is stuck deep in the 90's.
– What is your take on Dvorkovich's chances to win the elections?
– His nomination undoubtedly came late or very late, as opposed to the established practice. However, other candidates were also delaying with their nominations. It is not for nothing that the above mentioned Makropoulos, Dvorkovich's main competitor, has spent 32 years as a vice-president. Even this time he has not been too eager about the presidency, rather preferring to remain a gray cardinal. He just failed to find a person to take a formal leadership role, while retaining real reins of government himself; therefore, he has started running for presidency only six months ago, which is also rather late.
As for Dvorkovich's chances, I believe them to be rather high. We are in for a tough struggle here and an unpredictable outcome for the first time in many years. This is true that when Kasparov was campaigning, they also believed in a very tight struggle ahead. Nevertheless, behind the scenes they knew only too well that it would be hard for Kasparov to challenge venerate politicians. Meanwhile, Dvorkovich has a huge political experience, which will help him not give ground in the area of political maneuvering. The main question is how fair the elections are going be? It is obvious that the current FIDE administration's task is easier in this respect... well, if not to manipulate, but somehow influence the situation. Nevertheless, I know that Dvorkovich enjoys a broad support; therefore, I'll beware of any forecasts, save for one: it will be a neck to neck contest, as they say.