With only two months left before the World Chess Federation (FIDE) elections, Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) is yet to decide whom to entrust with the presidential hot seat.According to BCF president Mothokomedi Thabano, Botswana has not reached a decision on who to vote for ahead of the FIDE elections. The FIDE election which are expected to attract 185 affiliated countries will be on 3 October 2018 in Batumi, Georgia.
In an interview this week, Thabano said the BCF prefers a leader that will be able to push FIDE mandate. “Whoever assumes the positions should able to develop the board game, both locally and on a globally context,” Thabano said. “The ideal president should be ready to treat all equally and have the best interests of Africa at heart. He or she should be well informed about chess activities and ready to react whenever approached for assistance.” One of the reasons Thabano gave for being undecided at this stage is that none of the contesting candidates had made contact with BCF so far. The FIDE presidential candidates include veteran chess player Grand Master (GM) Nigel Short, FIDE Deputy president
Georgios Makropoulos and Russian Deputy Prime Minister from 2012 to 2018 also currently
head of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Organizing Committee Arkady Dvorkovich. Meanwhile, reports coming in from across boarders suggest that the incumbent FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov recently decided to pull out of the race. Illyumzhinov has been at the helm of the international chess body since 1995 and coming into the 2018 elections, he had shown interest of seeking yet another four -year term. However, recent reports have implicated the incumbent in career threatening controversy. The long time serving president was said to be under sanctions from USA and at one point he was advised to resign by the FIDE board to which he refused.
Nevertheless, Ilyumzhinov’s recent change of heart has been seen by many as acknowledging defeat. Ilyumzhinov’s announcement have an influence on his fellow countryman Dvorkovich’s announcement to run for the position.
When news broke that the FIDE president was under sanctions, some of his powers were delegated some of his powers to his deputy Makropoulos. However, when Makropoulos turned around and challenged his boss for the top seat, the chess family could not help but wonder if all is well at FIDE.
It is under such circumstances that even BCF finds it hard to announce their favourite candidate ahead of the elections. The elections are fast approaching and Thabano says the BCF will not make any major decisions before they hear what the three gentlemen have to offer. As for the departure of Ilyumzhinov, Thabano said that he is a good man who had a clear vision of what he intended to do during his tenure. Despite the bad publicity, the FIDE president has been hands on and visited all FIDE affiliates. “He did not neglect African countries because he is Russian, we were all under his wing, he toured all countries during his time,” Thabano said.
Actually, it was just last year under Thabano tenure that Ilyumzhinov visited Botswana for the very first time since his 23 stays at FIDE. During his visit, the FIDE president met with the former Minister of Basic Education Unity Dow. FIDE was proposing that Botswana government should make chess part of the school curriculum.“We hope that the initiative will not die with him, whoever will be taking over has to continue where the president will be leaving off,” BCF president said.
In addition, Ilyumzhinov ensured that chess experts including Grand Masters visited Botswana ahead of major competitions to help improve the performance of local players. In fact, Botswana is expecting an Egyptian GM that has been availed by FIDE next month. The GM is expected to coach the national team heading to the Chess Olympiad in September 2018.
Thabano added that Ilyumzhinov often donated chess equipment to BCF and provided books that assisted in understanding the game better. Quizzed on what he knows so far about the contesting candidates, Thabano remained cagey and said he does not want to be judged on how he defined each candidate at this stage. He however assured that BCF is well informed about all the three candidates.Meanwhile British GM Nigel Short visited Botswana sometime last year. Short was invited by a local based chess trust Talking Squares to play simultaneous games against local players.
It is alleged that during Short’s visit, he had also planned a public speaking lecture while still in Botswana. Short wanted to share his chess knowledge with local players but to his disappointment, only one player turned up to his invite.Out of frustration, Short is said to have vented out on social media and accused Botswana of falling behind in Chess because of its ignorant community. He is said to have uttered racist statements that left Botswana questioning his character. When reached for comment, BCF defended to say that the invite was not properly communicated and perhaps the reason why many did not turn up to lecture.