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Will the Russian invasion of Ukraine echo in FIDE elections?

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By Venkatachari Jagannathan

Chennai, Feb 28 (IANS) The Russian invasion of Ukraine has thrown up several questions in the international chess arena, said chess players.

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The major one being the invasion will get played out in the upcoming polls to elect the office bearers of the International Chess Federation (FIDE).

The reason being former Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich is the current FIDE president. He and his team were elected in Batumi, Georgia, in September 2018.

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The poll for electing the office bearers of FIDE has to be held in 2022.

The FIDE officials were tight-lipped when queried about the upcoming elections.

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“Prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Dvorkovich was in a comfortable position and was expected to get a second term without any opposition in sight,” a senior chess Grandmaster with a good international standing not wanting to be quoted told IANS.

In 2018, Dvorkovich had to fight it out against the then deputy president of FIDE Georgios Makropoulos.

“Who will be the likely contender and how the various national chess federations will act are unknown factors now,” a FIDE official not wanting to be quoted told IANS.

The first impact of the Russia-Ukraine war was on the 44th Chess Olympiad that was to be held in Moscow from July 26 to August 8.

Recently, the FIDE announced shifting of the Olympiad out of Moscow owing to the deteriorating geopolitical situation.

The other events that have been moved away from Russia are the first chess Olympiad for People with Disabilities and the 93rd FIDE Congress, which also includes the election of office bearers.

The other question that arises is whether the FIDE Congress would be held alongside the Olympiad as in the past.

One view is that the Olympiad and the meeting of the FIDE Congress could be held separately.

As per rules, elections are to be held in 2022 and there is no compulsion that it has to be held alongside the Olympiad.

In the past, the FIDE Congress and elections were held alongside the Olympiad as it was convenient since office bearers of various national chess federations were also there.

Apart from India, a couple of other countries are showing interest in hosting the Olympiad.

Given the geopolitical situation, Dvorkovich’s nationality and his past position in the Russian government, he and his team would prefer a neutral venue for holding the FIDE Congress.

“We are now in February. The elections are several months away and many things may change during that period,” a FIDE official told IANS.

Meanwhile at its meeting on Sunday, the FIDE Council declared that regardless of the organisation of the Chess Olympiad 2022, FIDE will organise the annual FIDE Congress during the previously planned dates — from July 27 till August 2, 2022 with the election date on August 1.

“The preference is to combine the FIDE Congress with the Chess Olympiad 2022. However, consultations with the potential organisers of the Chess Olympiad 2022 will be carried out and adjustment of the FIDE Congress dates is possible if it does not imply a notable delay of elections,” FIDE said.

The FIDE Council confirmed that the continental elections shall be organised within their constitutional terms.

During his tenure Dvorkovich has taken the game forward, brought in sponsors and set the house in order.

As regards India, the FIDE under Dvorkovich restored the ELO ratings of over 50 players.

“Nearly a decade ago, FIDE, at the behest of the All India Chess Federation (AICF), removed the Elo ratings of dozens of players and expunged their names from the records. Today we are delighted to welcome back all those players with immediate effect,” Dvorkovich had said in 2019.

British Grandmaster and FIDE vice-president Nigel Short had then tweeted: “A hugely positive statement by #FIDE President @advorkovich. #Chess must be for the players & lovers of the game — not for the administrators.”

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be reached at v.jagannathan@ians.in)

–IANS

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