19 November 2008

Interview with Makropoulos

In September, Chessdom.com ran a two part 'Interview with FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos': part 1 (Women's World Championship in Nalchik and Grand Prix) and part 2 (Global Chess and Topalov - Kamsky match). Google fixes the date of publication for the two parts on 17 & 18 September 2008.

According to the register of FIDE Officials on the 'Presidential Board', Makropoulos is the second highest FIDE officer after Ilyumzhinov. As an insider, he is in a position to offer valuable insight into FIDE projects. Here's what he had to say about three aspects of the World Championship.

Women's Grand Prix

The women's Grand Prix will be similar to the men's...

Our idea with this Grand Prix is to create a series of six tournaments, where every player can participate in four events, and provide women an opportunity to play in more good tournaments. At the same time, we will include the Grand Prix into the World Championship cycle. One year, we will have a Champion after the knockout competition, and the next year this Champion will play a match with the winner of Grand Prix. Thus, Women's World Championship will be held every year.

...although the World Champion is not determined the same way. The plan for the men's World Championship is that the winner of the knockout event will meet the winner of the Grand Prix to determine the challenger for the reigning World Champion.

Global Chess

An important leadership change earlier this year at the helm of Global Chess was not announced by FIDE, and received little attention elsewhere. Chessdom reported it in conjunction with an announcement on the Kamsky - Topalov match: Fresh, fresh information about the Kamsky - Topalov match!, 'Kok is not anymore shareholder of Global Chess.' (Google: 31 May 2008)

Bessel Kok is not anymore shareholder of Global Chess. Mr. Kaplan, is the new shareholder at the company. Global Chess is responsible for FIDE Grand Prix, FIDE website, and other marketing activities. Geoffrey Borg, CEO of Global Chess, shared with Chessdom, "The transfer of shares of Global Chess BV from Mr Bessel Kok to Mr Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was finalised last month. Mr Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is currently finalising the transfer of these shares to Chess Lane SA, a company which will be equally owned by Mr Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Mr David Kaplan."

In his interview, Makropoulos added this

At some point, Mr. David Kaplan, friend of FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, entered the world of chess and as a rich man he was interested to invest money in chess. We met him several times, he also attended FIDE Presidential Board and Executive Board, and it appears that he was seriously interested to invest. Next, there were meetings with Bessel Kok, Geoffrey Borg and Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, and the agreement was reached - Mr. Kaplan and Mr. Ilyumzhinov are now shareholders in Global Chess.

followed by this

I have to say that it is unpleasant situation to start a co-operation with Global Chess, when we knew that Bessel Kok is Chairman and Geoffrey Borg is Executive Director, and then suddenly some changes are being made. But if this means that more money will be invested in different chess projects, then perhaps it all turns out well. So the question is if really Mr. Kaplan is ready to invest serious money.

The FIDE page on Global Chess still says,

Global Chess BV is a Company incorporated in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. It was set up by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, President of Kalmykia and FIDE and Bessel Kok with the main objective of promoting and marketing chess worldwide. Global Chess is currently finalising negotiations with FIDE for a commercial licence. The Company will work actively on attracting sponsorship and support from investors and global companies, by working on marketing campaigns, public relations in chess and non-chess media and by ensuring that a proper interface is maintained with FIDE to ensure that events are organised to the highest standards possible.

From all of this we can infer that one of the means of 'attracting sponsorship and support from investors' is to offer prospective sponsors an equity stake in Global Chess. So who's running the search for sponsors? The agenda for FIDE's 2008 General Assembly at the 79th FIDE Congress 23-25 November 2008 Dresden, Germany mentions

  • 3.3. GlobalChess: CEO Geoffrey Borg to report.
  • 3.4. Development Department: CEO Development David Kaplan to report.

That's who.

Topalov - Kamsky

That last Chessdom post titled 'Fresh, fresh information...' also reported that the Topalov - Kamsky 'sponsor is Ukrainian businessman Sobancheyev', rather than Alexander Chernenko, whose name has been bandied about in recent news about the ill-starred match. Makropoulos added,

[The sponsor] was supposed to send the money to FIDE many months ago. For the last few weeks we are hearing "tomorrow, tomorrow, the money is going to be transfered". FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who knows the sponsor, they are friends, is aware of the serious situation and that is why he personally guaranteed the prize fund.


Our problem, at the moment, is that as long as money is not on the FIDE bank account, we cannot even go to Ukraine and speak with the potential organizer. [...] The time is running out. I think in the next few days, one or two weeks the most, we should know what is going on. I have time, by the end of September, to visit Ukraine and discuss the preparation, if we really have an organizer there.

Why wasn't the whistle blown at the end of September, rather than at the beginning of November? Ask FIDE's no.2, Makropoulos.

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