Tug-of-war for FIDE top post as Africans headline candidates’ list

The world chess governing body holds elections every four years and 2022 will be another election year for one of the oldest sporting federations in the world. The elections usually form part of the congress meetings held alongside Chess Olympiad games. This year around five (5) positions are up for grabs, namely: the president, deputy president, vice president, zonal presidents, member of the ethics committee and members of the constitutional committees. Most of the time, the positions are contested in tickets for ease of canvasing – candidates group themselves into and release a united message of elections. The build-up to the elections as well as the elections themselves, are usually a spectacle and elections are always preceded by drama.

Most of the drama comes out when candidates’ list is being released and this is where brothers become enemies, where relationships are broken while some mend. In line with the FIDE elections rules, an invitation for all interested candidates is made within three months before the elections. Application forms for interested candidates are usually released with the announcement and interested parties are required to have the forms filled and submitted to FIDE accompanied by a letter of endorsement and support from member federations.

Several endorsements are required for different positions with the top position requiring the highest number of endorsements. Each candidacy for the presidential ticket must be endorsed by nominations from at least five (5) member federations, among them at least one (1) from each of the four (4) FIDE continents, but by no more than eight (8) member federations in total.

The last elections held in Batumi were marred by drama of its own as the chess fraternity was desperate to get rid of its “life” president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who had been at the helm since 1995. Kirsan was heavily sanctioned by USA because of his support for Syria and that was impacting the operations of FIDE.

The top seat in FIDE had three candidates – the British Nigel Short, the Greek Georgios Makropoulos and Russian Arkady Dvorkovich. Short headlined the elections when pulled out in the last days to the elections. Dvorkovich, who was an experienced sport administrator, having been part of Russian chess and part of the organisers of FIFA World Cup 2018 secured the victory, beating his Greek aggressor by over 20 votes.

African Chess Confederations presidential elections which also form part of the Olympiad’s election fest were also closely contested with Arkady’s ticket represented by none other than Lewis Ncube who won by two votes.

Headlining the candidacy this year is an African brother, FIDE’s former Secretary General CM Enyonam Sewa Fumey from Togo, the first African of our times to gun for the FIDE’s top post. Fumey’s bid is based on two simple premises: distancing the organisation from the influence of Russia in response to the brutal invasion of Ukraine and fostering a grassroots approach to chess development.

He is backed by New Papua Guinea’s Stuart Fancy. The other candidate who will be challenging for the top post is Belgian Inal Sheripov who is deputised by Africa’s Lewis Ncube. Sheripov has received backing from the federations of Ukraine, Zambia, Sierra-Leone, Barbados, and Timor Leste.

The current incumbent, Dvorkovich, is also standing for re-election and recently presented his “ticket”. Besides the former Women’s World Champion Zhu Chen as Treasurer, the Norwegian Jøran Aulin-Jansson and the Azeri Mahir Mammedov as Vice-Presidents, he has brought a very prominent Deputy Vice-President on board, the 15th World Champion Viswanathan Anand.

The fourth candidate, who is obviously riding on the Russian-Ukraine invasion and the need for FIDE to distance itself from Russia is the America-based Ukrainian GM Andrii Baryshpolets. So desperate is Andri to get rid of Arkady from FIDE that he put up a petition on Change.com discouraging the re-election of Arkady into office.

Tip for African presidents – please look for the candidate who is going to make chess better in Africa.

Checkmate!

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