Russian reelected FIDE chief

CHENNAI, India (AFP) — A Russian former deputy premier was reelected Sunday as head of international chess federation FIDE, its electoral chairman said, seeing off a Ukrainian challenger who accused him of being part of Moscow’s “war machine.”

A crushing majority of 157 out of 179 national chess associations voted in a meeting in India to re-elect Arkady Dvorkovich as FIDE president, said Roberto Rivello, the chair of the body’s electoral commission.

Ukrainian grandmaster Andrii Baryshpolets, who challenged Dvorkovich with running mate Peter Heine Nielsen of Denmark — coach of Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen — won just 16 votes.

There were five abstentions and one invalid vote.

Numerous Russian officials have been hit with sanctions since the invasion of Ukraine in February, and Russian competitors have been banned by numerous international sports governing bodies.

But Dvorkovich, 50, who served under President Vladimir Putin as deputy prime minister from 2012-2018 when he was elected FIDE president, has retained his position at the chess body.

Baryshpolets told member countries before the vote in Chennai that Dvorkovich has “tremendous ties to the Russian government.”

“You Arkady are responsible for what happened in Ukraine now. You are responsible for building up the Russian government and Russia’s war machine. And we as a chess world, how can we afford this?” the Ukrainian said.

But Dvorkovich said that he took “a strong position of tragic events in Ukraine, as well as supported throughout the Council decisions regarding scaling down Russia’s involvement in FIDE.”

In March Dvorkovich appeared to criticize the Russian invasion, saying in an interview that his “thoughts are with Ukrainian civilians.”

“Wars do not just kill priceless lives. Wars kill hopes and aspirations, freeze or destroy relationships and connections,” Dvorkovich told US news site Mother Jones.

The comments drew flak in Russia and Dvorkovich later seemed to row back, issuing a statement saying that there was “no place for Nazism or the domination of some countries over others.”

This was seen as coded support for the Kremlin, which portrays Ukraine as being run by Nazis and accuses Western countries of seeking to take over Russia’s neighbor by stealth.

Russian domination

Russia has controlled chess politics for decades, including an over two-decade stint by eccentric Russian politician Kirsan Ilyumzhinov — who claimed to have encountered aliens and that the game was invented by them.

Dvorkovich has won praise as an able administrator, particularity during the Covid-19 pandemic and for tough decisions after Russia was banned from international forums over the war in Ukraine.

Dvorkovich roped in five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand of India — one of the biggest names in the sports — as his deputy and running mate in the FIDE election.

“We are running on the solid record and the achievements of the last four years by Dvorkovich and his team,” Anand told AFP in an interview in July.

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