In the weeks before the FIDE presidential elections on August 7, official candidate GM Andrii Baryshpolets and his intended Deputy President GM Peter Heine Nielsen are fighting an uphill battle. Campaigning with limited resources, the duo advocates that the strong Russian influence in the chess world should not be accepted as a given.
In an interview on Thursday, July 14, via Skype, Baryshpotets said: “With Andrii it will be different. He has a different worldview.” The two have been giving more interviews online, and most of the campaigning is taking place online as well, aided by a website on the “combative” URL fightforchess.com.
A GoFundMe page that was created on June 26 for travel expenses and promotional efforts has raised just over $600 so far. Their biggest channel is Nielsen’s Twitter account that has 17,000 followers.
Most people in the chess world know Nielsen as a grandmaster and second of GM Magnus Carlsen, and before that he was part of GM Viswanathan Anand‘s team. In the last few years, he has been arguably the most vocal critic of the current FIDE administration. But who is Baryshpolets?
Baryshpolets (AB): I’m Ukrainian, as probably everyone knows. I was born and raised in Kyiv. I got my undergraduate degree in economics and a degree in finance in Ukraine. I have been very fond of chess since my childhood. I like to refer to myself as a semi-professional chess player because apparently, despite the fact that I became a grandmaster, I have not dedicated myself entirely to chess. In 2015 I got an invitation from Texas Tech University to join the team and to receive a chess scholarship for education, and I decided to continue in economics. In 2021 I successfully defended my dissertation on agriculture and applied economics. Currently, I have been working for one year at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Los Angeles.
You are only 31 and might lack some of the necessary experience. Do you have the skills to be a FIDE president?
AB: Indeed, it’s very new to me. I never thought about running for FIDE president. This idea came to my mind just around three months ago. I realized that Dvorkovich was trying to get reelected, and at the same time we did not have many good alternatives in the chess world. I thought it’s completely unacceptable to have an election with basically no choice, and I thought we would desperately need a good candidate. Then I got this idea, why not run myself? I realized I have a lot of strengths that would allow me to become such a good alternative. I began to do my best to create the best team possible and to present myself to as many chess federations as possible since I’m very new to so-called chess politics. Many federations never knew of my existence so I took the chance to present myself because I’m a chess player. I’m from the chess world.
Regarding my age, I actually think it’s an advantage. I’ve never been involved in all those things, but I think I’m quite energetic and quite appealing to people. Maybe I lack experience in diplomacy, but I would like to say that it’s about being just and about sticking to values. For me it seems quite simple, because no matter how different we are all around the world, we have fair rules, and if we understand them and we follow them and we don’t play any hypocrisy like we’ve seen many times in FIDE politics, then I think it’s quite easy to find common ground between people.
Maybe I lack experience in diplomacy but I would like to say that it’s about being just and about sticking to values.
That’s what I see in discussions with federations, that actually we speak the same language. We’re all chess players, we’re all from the chess world, we know the problems, and I can assure you that the problems are indeed common, no matter which federation in which part of the world, whether it’s a small or a large federation, the problems are with organizing, with fair play, with financing, and so on. They are the same everywhere. That’s why I do think I have experience enough to understand the chess world, to address the concerns that people have on the ground.
I can also say that I think the president should be more like a representative person. I know that I cannot do everything myself, and I think that you just need to get rid of this idea that we are electing the president and that he’s going to be doing everything by himself. In general, the philosophy should be different. Not only do we need to bring a team that works for FIDE, but at the same time we need to make sure that federations are addressed on their concerns and moreover, federations should also be more active, be rewarded, and encouraged in their efforts.
I see that throughout the years, there has been this situation where federations also distance themselves from making the decisions in the General Assembly, making some good efforts and proposing the agenda. I think that’s also important. Now, the agenda belongs to the FIDE management and the president but at the same time, federations should be more active on this as well. The way that I see this mechanism is that once they see there is more transparency and the answers to their concerns are more adequate, they would be willing to work with FIDE more. So once again, I don’t see any concerns regarding my age or experience because I think it ultimately boils down to whether we as a chess world can create a joint product, meaning a FIDE that’s really adequate and a president that really serves the chess world, not promotes their own agenda and only speaking to the federations before the elections.
Nielsen (PHN): Currently, the president selects seven of the 15 council members, and we think that is generally wrong. The council needs to have more power. Well, it has power but [with] the president selecting that many, it became more autocratic than democratic. We are aiming more for democracy, and we want to see Andrii as a very reputed leader of a democratic organization which is more important than to have an incredibly strong president who runs everything by himself.
When Dvorkovich got elected in 2018, one of the first things that happened was the replacement of the presidential board by what is now the FIDE Council. Members had to sign a confidentiality clause, which seemed like a shift to less transparency instead of more. What do you think about this and, in more general terms, about the current FIDE structure?
AB: The first thing that is necessary is to have a comprehensive audit on the affairs that happen in FIDE. Because really from an outsider’s perspective, we do not understand all the mechanisms and all the relationships between FIDE management, FIDE Council, between commissions. We’re not quite sure if this mechanism is the best we can have, whether it works properly. So that’s the first thing. Also, we don’t try to revolutionize FIDE in any way. We are just trying to see what really works well and what really does not. Definitely for this one we need an adequate audit, and it also needs to be apparent to everyone.
The first thing that is necessary is to have a comprehensive audit on the affairs that happen in FIDE.
About the confidentiality agreement, I think it’s some kind of nonsense. As far as I know, not even all FIDE Council members know what’s going on in FIDE management, what salary people receive, and how things are managed. Also, the rules that FIDE management follows are not publicly available, which is also quite a problem because, again, we do not understand even in general terms what exactly FIDE does, how it functions, why it functions this way.
Also, if you might recall, one of Dvorkovich’s promises in 2018 was to make all the sponsorship contracts publicly available. This has not been fulfilled, and that’s indeed a problem because I see that FIDE goes to some agreements with little explanations to why it happens. This also definitely needs to be changed. I think ultimately FIDE belongs to the chess world and needs to report to the chess world in its actions and also in its functioning.
PHN: Governance in general is very much a key part for us to improve. You mentioned the confidentiality clauses which we generally feel are wrong. Also, in the previous leadership, let’s say there was financial compensation for presidential board members. There can be reasons for that, like an Appeals Committee and so on and so forth, but there needs to be a yearly description of that. These things we will bring back, but we are genuinely trying to go considerably further.
For instance, there is this organization called Play the Game which has a number of recommendations which we intend to follow. One thing that would be immediate is that jobs within FIDE will be open publicly. You can apply for them, and we will try to choose based on criteria which are not just “who helped on the previous campaign.” Just recently the Verification Commission came out with a report (in PDF here) with the list of maybe eight or 15 recommendations depending on how you see it, and we just want to implement all these kind of recommendations from this independent institute that says democracy within FIDE can be improved in that way. General governance is something that we really think we have to try to make ideal or at least improve to a huge extent.
Jobs within FIDE will be open publicly. You can apply for them, and we will try to choose based on criteria which are not just “who helped on the previous campaign.”
—Peter Heine Nielsen
Can full transparency really work as it comes to sponsors? FIDE Director General GM Emil Sutovsky tweeted that it can be problematic to demand full transparency with sponsor contracts and he has a point.
I know the numbers, being in charge for most of the agreements. However, it is not up to me to publish reports – each and every contract is shared with FIDE Council members (incl Magnus). I don’t think agreements can be made public, but I ll check if financial part can be shared.
— Emilchess (@EmilSutovsky) May 21, 2022
AB: The general idea is that many sponsorship contracts are not fully available and that’s normal. There can be clauses that are not publicly available, and I think that’s acceptable. But in general, we are talking about that we don’t see contracts at all and we have no idea what the money is paid for. Also, for the sponsors, as far as I know, it’s not a problem to have open contracts with international sports organizations, with public charities, and so on. We are not talking about making all the contracts public in its entirety. We are saying that definitely it should be more transparent to the extent possible. You can have a contract of 10 pages where nine are available and one isn’t for some reason. It also makes sense because there are legal procedures, rulings, and so on. But if you can understand the nature of the contract from those nine pages, then I think that’s the way to go. It’s also a question about the reputability of sponsors. There are definitely big brands that are interested in investing in FIDE and its activities, and it’s also beneficial in many ways for them to be publicly open in what way they finance. When Emil says it’s not possible, it’s partially true. The question is to what extent it’s acceptable by the current management.
PHN: The difference is that with us there is a general will to be transparent. Transparency is the default; that’s what we are aiming for. I think an important detail to mention is also that we very much intend to honor all existing contracts. For example, as I understand, there is a cooperation agreement between FIDE and the Grand Chess Tour going into the next election. Obviously, we are going to honor the contracts already agreed on from FIDE but with a different leadership. This is important for FIDE, as a credible institution, that sponsors can count on deals being honored despite the change. We are not planning to break agreements or things like that, absolutely not.
The difference is that with us there is a general will to be transparent. Transparency is the default; that’s what we are aiming for.
—Peter Heine Nielsen
Let’s move to the topic of Russian influence and financing, a key area of concern of your team. One might wonder if this isn’t mostly something of the past? All agreements with Russian sponsors have been terminated and on his campaign website, Dvorkovich notes that over 6 million euros in revenue have been raised from agreements with Chess.com, chess24, NRK, and NBC.
AB: First of all, it’s a big philosophical discussion regarding future and past because that’s a typical way of how we see both Kirsan Ilyumzhinov [the FIDE president between 1995 and 2018 – PD] and Dvorkovich and their scheme, in general: first you mess it up completely and then you portray yourself as a savior. That’s precisely what happened with Ilyumzhinov back in 1995. He came as a private investor, with money, to rescue FIDE from a disaster. But we all know what happened in those 23 years. These 23 years by themselves were a disaster, and this Ilyumzhinov era ended up in an even bigger crisis for FIDE. Then we had Dvorkovich as the savior. He brought a lot of Russian money, and now he saves FIDE from Russian money. It doesn’t make sense if you’ve traced back the record over the years.
First you mess it up completely and then you portray yourself as a savior.
So now if FIDE claims “we are cutting ties with Russian money,” excuse me guys, you have been doing it for four years. And now you cut it, not because you want to do it but just because you want to prepare yourself for the elections, and then when the war began, you absolutely had to withdraw the Olympiad from Moscow. That’s not how the things are done. When you say that you don’t have Russian influence, that’s also not true because in those four years how many big tournaments have we seen in Russia, like Olympiads, World Cups, Grand Prix, World Rapid and Blitz Championships? It’s easy to count that from the 20 major tournaments 11 were hosted by Russia. This way it’s difficult to say that we have a big achievement in cutting ties with Russia!
The way I see it, Dvorkovich is simply cutting the ties to make himself more popular for the world and pretend that he has no ties to the Kremlin, which obviously doesn’t make sense. It’s not what he tries to do. We all know what has been done already, and we also know his portfolio. He cannot erase this from his biography: a longtime Russian politician. The biggest problem for people who have no idea about chess, have no idea about FIDE, is that once they see this picture, it automatically distracts them from FIDE, from any ideas to sponsor FIDE, and so on. Also when they say, “We’ve done a great job,” we have to verify what exactly has been done. FIDE says they have the rights to broadcast events which has some intrinsic value and at the same time, instead of attracting new sponsors and attracting new companies, they are simply selling to what FIDE already has within the chess world. Instead of creating new tournaments, we are simply just giving up whatever we have.
But NRK and NBC are not part of the chess world? And FIDE has also been selling to a Chinese TV channel.
AB: Definitely that’s great, but on a bigger scale for many years, we’ve been having this portfolio of sponsors which has been associated with Dvorkovich. He brought them and we’ve seen them for four years. It’s difficult to attract other sponsors and say: Hey, we have a really good product. Chess is a really excellent game which is extremely popular these days around the world due to the pandemic, due to The Queen’s Gambit and other wonderful things. But at the same time we’re just failing to commercialize, failing to present a good product in itself to FIDE, and then we portray it as a success if we have several contracts outside the chess world. In fact, we need to discuss numerous contracts, tens of contracts, hundreds of contracts, and so on.
A key point of your program is that by having a former Russian top politician as its president, FIDE continues to have the reputational damage that was also there during the Ilyumzhinov reign. But can you support your claim that chess is missing out on sponsors because it has Dvorkovich as a leader?
PHN: I would think so. I mean, we generally think a sponsor should be someone that does it on a commercial basis, to sell products, and we have very few of such sponsors in the chess world. By far the biggest number of sponsors that came via Dvorkovich work with donations. For instance, the Russian Railways have probably been our biggest sponsor, and they’re not really selling any products based on what I can see. So that’s what we hope to change.
We generally think a sponsor should be someone that does it on a commercial basis, to sell products, and we have very few of such sponsors in the chess world.
—Peter Heine Nielsen
Also over the last four years, we’ve hardly seen any big, western brands starting a sponsorship agreement with FIDE. Why is that?
PHN: Their worldview is different. I mean, they have the contacts for Russian sponsorship. Dvorkovich has all the connections in what can be called the “agro lobby” of Russia, like PhosAgro and things like this. He was organizing the FIFA World Cup where the Russian Railways were the big sponsor, and as far as I understand, earlier he was on the board of Rosatom. If there is easy access to hanging fruits of Russian state money, then you take them and you don’t look into other directions, I would say. That is a key reason.
I would like to make one point, though. It’s true that FIDE has made deals with Chess.com and chess24 and parties outside of the chess world, but these deals are there whoever wins the elections. As long as they are secure under Dvorkovich, they will also be secure under Baryshpolets. The question is not who made these deals, the question is who can add to these deals. Dvorkovich’s track record has been Russian state money donations which A, we don’t want, and B, we can’t get now because of sanctions. The relevant comparison is not that they have brought in these deals. The real question is who is capable of bringing in new money that is not Russian, and we think Andrii has a much better chance due to his CV and more global perspective.
The real question is who is capable of bringing in new money that is not Russian, and we think Andrii has a much better chance.
—Peter Heine Nielsen
Why will you be more successful in finding sponsors?
AB: For this one also we need to have a discussion, not about how I will be more successful, but how we as a chess world will be more successful. I think it’s a collective effort. We simply don’t realize it, and we are afraid of this idea. Again, if you go back to Kirsan, there was this idea of “OK, we have Kirsan, and we just don’t think that anything can be better. He saved FIDE, so let’s reelect him again. It’s not so terrible so let’s keep things as they are, of course, because we are afraid to make any changes.” Of course, I don’t have any direct calls to companies or to governments as Dvorkovich does, but at the same time that’s not something that we need.
We need to show that we can produce the value ourselves, and then it’s pretty easy to knock on the doors of a sponsor and say: “Hey, we have a product; we have something very different; we are apolitical; we have value.” We show that we are really committed to the global promotion of chess. We’re not trying to hide anything. We’re not trying to make some backstage deals for corruption, or we have completely closed sponsorship agreements and we have no idea what is written there. No, we are fully transparent; we are ready to talk; we’re ready to discuss. This is the idea. This is the logic how we should proceed. It’s not like we have some money and we will bring it to FIDE. No, we need to create this value inside FIDE, and then money will be coming from all directions. Of course, people don’t believe it because they have never seen it, simply because FIDE is failing to create this value.
It’s not like we have some money and we will bring it to FIDE. No, we need to create this value inside FIDE, and then money will be coming from all directions.
PHN: You’re saying that the president brings the money, but Sutovsky is the one actually responsible for it. It’s him doing the deals. We think bringing in money with the image of Andrii as president has a better chance than bringing in money with Dvorkovich as president. But this idea that the president does it personally, I think is wrong. This has been the case in the past, with Kirsan bringing in money or Dvorkovich bringing in money from Russian sponsors. We are not pretending that we have millions ready somewhere in the world, but we think we have a much better possibility of bringing in sponsorship on top of what already exists, which is enough according to what they claim, and then having a reputed president will be much better to those who actually have to make the sponsor deals. So, as much as FIDE says this is a team effort, we think it will be easier with a more reputed president.
Coming back to the question of things that happened in the past four years, to what extent can we expect Russian influence or Russian sponsorship to continue in the next four years under Dvorkovich?
AB: I think it’s clear that all this Russian money is tied to Dvorkovich, meaning that we have had those Russian sponsors since 2018 and the question is: what is their motivation? Do they really love chess and want chess to be promoted? It’s quite unclear.
But do you expect Russian sponsors to return at some point?
PHN I think so. There is no doubt that Dvorkovich is Russian. He is that by birth, that is understandable, but if we want to actually turn the chess world away from that, it makes sense to have a president who has as his natural inclination to be elected by choice. Dvorkovich was not hiding that he was elected on Russian state support; he admitted it in a BBC interview. That Russian embassies were involved is also obvious, and it’s also something he has admitted, so it was the Russian state who put him there to quite some extent.
Today, there is a complete cut, but we argue that 90 percent of the time it was heavily focused on Russia. The circumstances meant that this had to stop, but there will probably be a gradual slip back. I mean, Russia will probably hope that the sanctions will be dropped and things like that. Chess might actually be one of the first to go back in that direction and we say, well, this will be the case under Dvorkovich, under the present leadership, because that has been their natural inclination. That’s how they actually got into power, while with Andrii it will be different. He has a different worldview. If people don’t want this gradual slip back, it makes sense to change things now.
With Andrii it will be different. He has a different worldview. If people don’t want this gradual slip back, it makes sense to change things now.
—Peter Heine Nielsen
AB: It’s not about how we see FIDE in one year, but how we see it in five or 10 years. Are we still going to have these conversations about whether we have Russian influence or not? Do we have a president who is politically tied to one of the countries? In general, we need to completely change the tires and move into a different direction.
FIDE should not be used for sports-washing for any country; that’s the idea. Hopefully the war will soon be over, but that doesn’t change anything. We just cannot afford as a chess world to again be under this influence. If you ask the question, is Dvorkovich a good president? the answer by default is no. It’s still unimaginable that he is still in this position, and actually it’s a violation of the FIDE Charter with his political dependency on Russia and his long-time ties to the Kremlin. He says he doesn’t have those anymore, but that’s not how it works. If you have a track record of what you have committed, what you have done, you cannot revert it back. For people who are outside of this system, they see this track record and, of course, they judge what has been done in FIDE for many years. You cannot just cut the ties and say everything is good now.
There always has been strong Russian government interference in FIDE elections, and in past decades we’ve seen landslide victories for Ilyumzhinov and Dvorkovich. What are you hoping to be different this time to have a chance?
PHN: I think Russian control in the chess world has generally been tolerated, partly because they actually have brought money and events, and partly because it’s understood that Russia or the Soviet Union is a traditional chess entity in the chess world, so this has been accepted. Also, Dvorkovich has been reasonably popular, I think. Before February 24, everyone expected the Olympiad would be in Moscow and in the elections there would be no opponent for Dvorkovich.
I think in the chess world we can all argue that we should have changed it earlier like, for instance, people in the West are talking about gas, that they have become too dependent on Russia, or too tolerant. But now we see the situation is different, both from a moral and practical perspective. I mean, Russian sponsors are gone. You can also see that Dvorkovich is doing his absolute best to distance himself from being Russian. The Russian Chess Federation is not even endorsing him despite the fact that they have publicly stated that he has done well and they support him. But they are not listed as endorsing him. They are clearly aware that the more they can distance themselves from being part of the Kremlin regime, the better. So state interference we shouldn’t expect, at least not directly.
AB: It’s also clear to me that smaller federations are more dependent on FIDE and they are also more dependent on the influence that the current management puts on them. That’s why we saw this reelection of Kirsan for 23 years. Obviously it’s not adequate, and the system definitely has to be changed. We see that there are changes in the electoral rules which is a good thing, and we need to continue into this direction, but at the same time, we see that the electoral campaign of Dvorkovich is far from being honest. We see that many people who are in FIDE management are used for campaigning, and obviously that should not be the case. The FIDE management should be distanced from the choice of the FIDE president and we don’t see this happening.
An example from today.
On the FIDE twitter account.
Bologan, an FIDE employee, travelled and campaigned with Dvorkovich in 2018.
He just was with Dvorkovich in Latin America a month ago on a similar trip, he refers to “we”
If this is not campaigning, what is? https://t.co/nG5jhKhXCv pic.twitter.com/syXjYE7m4z
— Peter Heine Nielsen (@PHChess) July 13, 2022
At the same time, I see that smaller federations have to be protected in what they do and what decisions they make, and I see it’s not happening. Many federations are scared to raise their voice, to say anything that goes against the direction of the current FIDE administration. Simply they are afraid of retaliation. That’s definitely an awful practice. How do we see this for the future? Federations should not be dependent on FIDE as they are now. Only with this system we can make sure that the FIDE Council and the continental presidents are elected on the basis of their merits and what they can offer in terms of vision for chess, not what they can offer directly to delegates. Then we’re going to be discussing our vision on the future and plans for chess, not how we can approach delegates directly.
Many federations are scared to raise their voice, to say anything that goes against the direction of the current FIDE administration. Simply they are afraid of retaliation.
PHN: I will add to that that we understand that up to 150 federations actually depend on FIDE and we are not intending to cut their lifeline. If anything, we want to make it more transparent. We want to have clearer criteria, so that it will be based on merit and not on, let’s say, agreements. Countries that vote for us or vote against us, they should all feel secure that it will be done in a transparent way and no retaliations. We want to make it more clear.
Also, many federations have asked us if we are going to change the one-country, one-vote system. Our answer is no. We’re going to stick to that and, in fact, we don’t want the presidency if you have the power to change that. It’s something for the General Assembly, and a recommendation should come from the Council, not from the presidency.
AB Yes, it’s up to the General Assembly on how the voting works. Also, the idea is that we need to do our best to protect federations in their voting rights, not to say it’s a tit-for-tat game: “If you vote for me, then I am going to do something good for you, and if you don’t vote for me, then you will be having all the troubles in the coming years.” In this sense, federations have to be fully independent from whatever management we have. If it’s good management or bad management, still federations should know that their rights are still the same regardless of the administration for the coming year.
Dvorkovich has appeared on a preliminary Ukrainian sanctions list. How significant is that?
AB: All I can say is that the whole idea that Dvorkovich runs and he knows that he is under a threat of sanctions. That’s by default a huge risk and damage for FIDE. Why would we elect a president who has a chance to be sanctioned? If he will be sanctioned, it won’t be because of chess politics; it will be his track record. He has been the chairman of the Skolkovo Foundation until recently, and so on and so forth. It’s not clear whether he will be sanctioned or not, but it’s not adequate for the chess world to have these discussions in the first place. In such circumstances, it’s better to step down and not jeopardize FIDE any further.
PHN You are calling it Ukrainian sections, but it’s the Yermak-McFaul group. As far as I understand it’s a Ukrainian-American organization that makes recommendations. I also want to make a point about what is actually in their files. They have a rather exact list, for instance, on Dvorkovich. They have him speaking on behalf of Russia, saying that the shelling from July to September 2014 from the Russian ground was fake. He was saying that the U.S. satellite photos and the Bellingcat report were wrong. But there is no doubt that these things are correct. We actually have a president who on behalf of Russia has been giving wrong information on serious matters of war. I think that in itself should be disqualifying him. In a recent debate with us, Dvorkovich has claimed that he is on this initial sanctions list because of just politics, but I think this is very wrong, and it is very well documented in the Yermak-McFaul paper. Saying this was because of chess politics is not fair.
We actually have a president who on behalf of Russia has been giving wrong information on serious matters of war. I think that in itself should be disqualifying him.
—Peter Heine Nielsen
A completely different topic that always interests the chess fans is the world championship cycle. Do you intend to make changes? And what is your opinion of the recent change in the women’s cycle with the introduction of a knockout?
AB: Also this to me is a matter of values and principles. The regulations should not be changed in the middle of the cycle. That’s not adequate. If we look back in history, we see that FIDE has constantly been changing the rules, with the format, with the time control, with many other things, changing the venue, and so on. That should not be the case. It’s also a part of sportsmanship; we have clearly defined rules, and people participate based on those rules. Then they move up on the ladder, and the rules change all of a sudden. That should not be the case.
Also, my personal view is that we also need to stick to certain adequate strategic goals. We need to decide what would be the best way to conduct a world championship cycle for the years to come and commit to it. Of course, a pandemic is a force majeure. This sometimes happens, but many things happen voluntarily by the FIDE management just based on the current situation and not taking into account the idea of sportsmanship. We need to stick to the rules that we agreed upon some time ago.
PHN: I think for the women there is an obvious political element. The two groups are almost of equal strength but not completely, and I think it’s to split up the Ukrainian and Russian players. But I agree that you just don’t start changing the rules in the middle of a cycle. This is a very basic principle. I would also add that I think changing rules of a world championship cycle so shortly before a political mandate expires is wrong. There is no reason these changes could not have been made by the newly elected administration. This would be democratic. There is maybe some urgency but not so much that you cannot wait for a few weeks.
AB: There should be transparent discussions about these things. Now suddenly there are changes, and we don’t know why these changes happened and who was in charge of those changes.
PHN: That’s an important point. This goes both for the changes in the women’s cycle and in the open also. For instance, it’s great to see the Grand Chess Tour being involved but again, it is announced when the deal is done rather than to have any kind of open bidding procedure or a discussion with the players’ council or something like this. Things are being announced and then they are irreversible; that’s not the leadership we want to have.
[At this point, Baryshpolets had to leave the call. Two more questions were asked to Nielsen.] Peter Heine, how is it for you to be fighting a fight with Anand, your former boss, on the opposite side?
PHN: Sometimes you’re part of different teams. I have been a part of a different team than Vishy before. That doesn’t change that we have worked together for more than 10 years, and it was an incredible experience, and it’s something I will always cherish. Of course, you can argue that I am moderately disappointed, and maybe he is the same with me. I think we see it as two different ways of looking at Russian influence in the chess world. I think Vishy has quite suffered from it during his career. I remember that to dethrone [Vladimir] Kramnik, not only did Vishy have to win his tournament in 2007, he also in reality had to beat him in a match afterwards. Russia definitely had a grip and never sort of lowered the equity of Russian players, I would say.
But I think Vishy made the agreement already before February 24 to be part of the team at least in some capacity. Also, I think the difference is that he sees Russian influence in the chess world as a fact, and then maybe I would say that if I would tease him a bit, his attitude is, “If you can’t beat them, join them,” while my attitude is like, no, after February 24 it’s time to make a decision in terms of a moral stand but also a practical stand. Connecting ourselves so closely with Russia will hurt the chess world from now on. While you can argue that it didn’t hurt up till now, it is going to be the case.
After February 24 it’s time to make a decision in terms of a moral stand but also a practical stand.
—Peter Heine Nielsen
You’ve been tweeting a lot with Sutovsky, and the debate has been quite sharp at times. Do you think this could help or possibly hurt your campaign?
PHN: I generally say what I feel and what is right and the direction I want to turn FIDE in. I haven’t thought a lot about it from a campaign perspective.
It’s a very different style than, for example, that of Arkady who isn’t tweeting at all.
Arkady was tweeting a lot in the previous election, and he was very tough. He had a very different style that time. Go back and check Arkady’s things there, and maybe I start looking rather soft!
But I understand it. Of course, every campaign has positive and negative aspects. You want to build the chess world yourself, but you also want to problematize the opponents, or rather in this case I think it’s important to talk about Dvorkovich and Russia. That is unavoidable, and it’s obvious that it’s part of why we are running. But of course, while we were in the process of building this website and our team, and I am very proud of both, of course, before we made these things public, the positive things were hidden while some of the negative work on my Twitter were public so it perhaps appeared out of balance.
But we are also suffering from the fact that it is an asymmetric election campaign. Dvorkovich has, let’s say, ways into media and Twitter and social media while we only have my Twitter account that has a large audience so that is why it’s very logical to use that.
I am generally not very happy with my debate with Sutovsky, but it is talking about some core things, and I think it also gives away the differences we’re having to quite an extent. I think that while I might be harsh, I am also honest. I say things because I mean them. I think that the way this campaign is done by the present leadership is wrong in many ways.