10 May 2017

FIDE's Consummate Diplomat

The last two posts -- An Organization of Amateurs and Notes on C06 and C07 -- have featured Bent Larsen giving his opinion on Candidate matches of the 1960s. In 'Organization of Amateurs', he was particularly critical of FIDE's Folke Rogard.
Q: To what do you attribute your loss to Spassky? A: The main reason would be the way FIDE President Rogard organized this match. He did this in a way which I can only describe as scandalous. Both players and the organizations were very dissatisfied. He did not even do it through the Swedish Chess Federation or the local chess club -- it was just a private arrangement.

Sour grapes? (Larsen lost the match.) Scandinavian rivalry? (A Dane and a Swede.) Something else? In the interest of fairness, let's move forward a few years to Chess Life, February 1971 (p.64), and examine a long excerpt from 'Folke Rogard of FIDE : The World Chess Federation Comes of Age' by Fred Cramer, 'Vice-President of FIDE, Zone 5'.

[Rogard] was a very promising young player, finishing ahead of Spielmann, but behind Rubinstein, Reti and Bogolyubov (with whom he drew) in a 50-player event at Stockholm in 1920, though aided by a pairing novelty (the IGM's played four games simultaneously!)

But he was an even more promising lawyer, beginning practice in London in 1922, setting up for himself in Stockholm in 1925, and building a prosperous organization with major clients, seven attorneys, and numerous clerks and chauffeurs, which still continues, but smaller now. (No one can ever know how much clerical time, materials, rent, cables, postage, translating expense, and the like this firm gave FIDE at no cost. FIDE's administrative operations far exceed those of USCF, though its budget is about one-tenth!)

Twenty-five years of European legal activity developed his personal magnetism and assurance, gave him a corporation lawyer's bedrock logic and a judge's compassion and fairness, sharpened his command of five major languages, and left him a consummate diplomat. He, if anybody, was adequately equipped for the terrible task of picking up the wracked remains of FIDE in those desperate days of the late forties. He was FIDE Vice-President for the northern zone when Dr. Alexander Rueb of Holland, FIDE's first president, who "for a quarter of a century fulfilled this important office with great skill and diplomacy," (Foldeak), asked him to take the helm, pleading that at 66 he did not feel up to the terrific post-war problems of FIDE. Rogard became the second president of FIDE in 1949, serving through 1970, when he became Honorary President. (Dr. Max Euwe is now President.)

Terrific indeed those problems were. Limping back from the war, FIDE mustered only seven members at its 1946 Congress. It took four years more to restore the Olympiad which, with cutting irony, drew 16 teams (Dubrovnik 1950), just what it drew when it began (London 1927). These were surface symptoms. The real malady lay in the cold war, which permeated every nerve and sinew of FIDE -- political enmity preoccupied most members; chess problems were approached on a political basis; deadlock followed deadlock; confrontation followed confrontation. Many people told Rogard that cold war problems made FIDE'S existence impossible, but others -- with whom he agreed -- advised that world discord presented a great opportunity, one FIDE could use advantageously.

Resolution of the underlying malady is Rogard's monument. FIDE needed a Churchill, and got one. He spoke softly, and he talked tough; he recessed meetings, juggled agendas, ordered cooling-off periods, mediated, bargained, reconciled, pleaded. For much of this the setting was that very lobby-spot where I now sat.

Political problems remained his first concern for three or four years, but a slight easing of the cold war and his resoluteness of purpose began to pay off. The FIDE delegates moved toward our position of today: that chess problems are for us and political problems are for other functionaries, that political coloration of chess matters serves neither chess nor politics, and that while political objectives differ, chess objectives essentially don't, though it takes a lot of time to agree on what they are and how to approach them, within the framework of political conflicts.

As political objectives grudgingly yielded the stage to chess objectives, FIDE began to move. Not that politics has disappeared -- only last year Russia insisted that Israel was an "unsafe" place for student teams -- nor that there have been no other problems. The world championship, after Alekhine's death, is a whole story in itself. Or take that July day in 1954, six weeks before the start of the Olympiad, when the organizers called the whole thing off. (It was held anyway, in another country!)

Perhaps FIDE 1949 was stronger than FIDE 1924 -- personally I judge the opposite -- but unquestionably FIDE 1971 is a maturing and vigorous organization, membership (at 72) up tenfold, functions vastly multiplied and expanded into many new fields. Most significantly, thinks the man who presided over this, the authority of FIDE has come to be recognized.

As for Cramer, the most comprehensive biography I could find is now in Archive.org: The Chessmill -> Fred Cramer by Roman Levit.

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