By Stanislav Belkovsky
May 24, 2010
Translated from the Russian by The Other Russia
TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: While not commonly thought of as particularly controversial, the politics of world chess made international headlines late last month when a Kremlin aide hired a private security force to raid the offices of the Russian Chess Federation, evict its chairman, and seal off its accounting books. The move came a week after the Federation nominated chess grandmaster Anatoly Karpov, backed by opposition leader and longtime chess rival Garry Kasparov, as a candidate for the presidency of the World Chess Federation. The incumbent, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, is the multi-millionaire president of Russia’s autonomous Republic of Kalmykia. Among other things, Ilyumzhinov is famous for declaring an “economic dictatorship” and claiming to have been visited by aliens. What exactly the stakes are in this unlikely scandal is the topic explored in this column written for Grani.ru by Russian political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky.
Another striking move was made the other day in the battle for the presidency of the World Chess Federation [FIDE]. By order of Arkady Dvorkovich, an aide to the president of the Russian Federation and chairman of the Supervisory Council of the Russian Chess Federation (RCF), several men in black seized the legendary Central Chess Club on Gogolevsky Bulvar and sealed off the office of RCF Chairman Alexander Bakh and, of course, the accounting office. Such is the way that all professionals and fans that support the candidacy of 12th World Champion Anatoly Karpov for the post as the head of FIDE were given a clear signal: you can meddle about, bustle around, do whatever you want – but we (that is, Dvorkovich & Co.) will never, under any circumstances, ever give you FIDE.
The New York Times reports yet more bitterly humiliating news for Vladimir Putin’s Russia on the sports front:
The United States’ status in the global chess hierarchy is rising, while Russia’s once dominant position is waning. At the biennial Chess Olympiad, held in Dresden, Germany, this month, Americans took the bronze medals in the open and women’s sections. It was the first time that both teams had medaled at the same Olympiad, and it was only the second medal for the women, who took the silver in 2004. It was the second consecutive bronze for the open team. The last time that the United States captured medals at consecutive Olympiads was 1996 (bronze) and 1998 (silver).
Armenia took the gold in the open section, defending the title it won in 2006.
The Russian team — ranked No. 1, the winner of consecutive gold medals from 1992 through 2002, and the silver medalist in 2004 — did not finish among the top three for the second Olympiad in a row. Just as surprisingly, the Russian women, who had won three silvers and three bronzes at the last six Olympiads, also did not medal.
It was the first time that a Russian or Soviet team did not finish among the top three in either section since 1976, when the Soviets boycotted the Olympiad held in Haifa, Israel.
Irina Krushes Russia
What’s more humiliating for Russia than to lose to America in a sports competition?
How about losing to America in chess, which some might say is Russia’s national sport?
Could anything be worse than that?
Surprisingly, yes. Getting blown out by America 3-1.
What if the American team included Irina Krush, a former Ukrainian, and Anna Zatonskih, another Ukrainian.
Ouch. It doesn’t get much more brutal than that.
The week of October 20th, Russia hosted a million-dollar ATP tennis tour event in St. Petersburg.
Showing how attractive Russia is as a venue, not one of the top three players in the world attended the event, and only two of the top 10 did so.
This left Russia with four of the eight seeds in the tournament, including its highest-ranked player Nikolay Davydenko as well as Mikhail Youzhny, Marat Safin and Dimitry Tursunov. Not one of them made it to the third round of the tournament.
Tursunov, world #26, was crushed in straight sets by an unseeded Slovakian in his first-round match. The Russian won only two of 14 games played. The other three (higher-ranked) Russians won their opening-round matches against their unseeded opponents, then were blown off the court in their second matches in easy straight sets. Davydenko didn’t even step on the court and handed his match over by forfeit. Safin won six games and Youzhny took nine in humiliating losses against their unseeded opponents.
Ouch. Only one top-ten non-Russian appeared in Putinland, and that player easily won the event over a non-Russian opponent.
As if things weren’t already bad enough for Russian sportsmen, Indian Vishy Anand raced out to a 6-3 dominating lead in the world chess championship, being contested in Bonn, Germany, over Russian star Vladimir Kramnik. With only four games remaining, that meant Kramnik had to win them all in order to take the title. Think he was able to do so?
And for the icing on this putrid cake, out came the New York Times with a story exposing the Potemkin fraud that is Russian professional ice hockey.