Interview with Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
Russia Today: Talking about winning publicity for chess, does the game need such an advertisement, using the sex appeal of masters to attract attention?
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: Yes, why not, because now chess needs more attractive popularisation and I know Maria Manakova, she is a strong Grand Master and when we talk about investment in chess, the popularisation of chess, we need sponsors and two years ago in Cannes, France, we organised this kind of a tournament with beautiful girls and during this Chess Olympiad and chess tournaments we nominated Miss Chess Olympiad and Miss Chess Tournament in Cannes. And a great number of spectators visited us because of beautiful and clever female players. That is why we need such an advertisement for chess.
RT: That is interesting. Around two decades ago chess was both prestigious and, on the other hand, fashionable. What is the situation now? Is it still a game played by the masses or is it becoming a pastime of the elite?
K.I.: Now hundreds of millions of people can play chess and I am the President of the World Chess Federation, FIDE. It was founded in 1924 in Paris. At that time only 20 countries were members of FIDE, but now 165 countries are members. Every year we organise more than 60,000 chess tournaments and more than half a billion people play chess around the world. That is why chess is so much popular and I think in many countries in Africa, Asia, America and Europe everybody can play chess and many want to play.
RT: State Duma Chairman Boris Gryzlov is pledging more support for chess from the government. Do you think it would help renew interest in chess in Russia?
K.I.: 10-15 years ago chess was very popular in our country, in the former Soviet Union, but now I know that Boris Gryzlov and other officials support chess. Last year in August I met with the Russian President Vladimir Putin and he proposed to introduce chess into the school educational programme, and FIDE have “Chess in School” special programme. I know that Boris Gryzlov also supports this programme. I think many children in Russia will start to play chess in the near future.