Georgios Makropoulos: "Ilyumzhinov Is the Biggest Guarantee at This Moment In FIDE"

Время публикации: 27.10.2013 14:29 | Последнее обновление: 27.10.2013 14:44

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E.SUROV: We are in Rhodes, Greece. This is Evgeny Surov. Zurab Azmaiparashvili is also here with us and he will be translating this conversation. First of all I am happy that we eventually managed to talk because I think the time for it has already come.

So, my first question is about you being the first guy in FIDE. I don’t know if you are aware of it but the chess community considers that you are, so to say, heading FIDE, not Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. At the same time you are not a public person, you mostly stay in the shadow of all the big decisions made. Why is that?

G.MAKROPOULOS: I can say that I am one of those, probably few people, in FIDE who doesn’t like speeches, photos, lights… I am not the one who is looking for this. I don’t need it. I am one of those working very hard in FIDE, I am working very much on a daily basis. Probably this is the reason why people think that I am doing more than Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. That’s not the truth because without Kirsan this organization would be completely different. It is clear, we have seen this many times in our meetings, that if Kirsan has his own strong opinion, then this opinion passes among all others.

E.SUROV: Do you usually have different opinions with him?

G.MAKROPOULOS: Several times. Kirsan is thinking from his point of view. He is a politician, he is looking at chess from a higher political level. His dreams are very big, very wide. I am coming from the chess players, from the federations. My thinking, my ideas are closer to what we need every day for the chess players. So it’s obvious that several times we didn’t agree. I can give you an example. When we had the match Anand - Shirov in Teheran we had a meeting of the Board there. Kirsan and “FIDE Commerce” with its chairman Mr Tarasov introduced for the first time the idea to shorten time control in chess. The main idea was the time control to become one hour to each player for the whole game. I was against this, we argued and we had many discussions about the issue. The time control 90 minutes plus 30 seconds per move was a compromise. Kirsan was insisting hard to shorten the time control. Then we improved the situation by having 90 minutes plus 30 minutes plus 30 seconds. So, if you see what is going on today in the tournaments, how the organizers are organizing them and what time control they are using, you will see that Kirsan was right. So when I don’t agree with Kirsan that doesn’t obviously mean that I am always right and he is always wrong. What we know is that he was right many times. Of course there are still players who say that we should have the longer time control for the world championship. This mostly applies to the top players but not to a single woman player. The women prefer to have more free time out of the chessboard. Maybe they are more intelligent or more human.

E.SUROV: You just mentioned a very interesting thing, that you stand for the chess players’ rights in FIDE, so maybe then all the players should count on you and there’s no need for such organization as ACP?

G.MAKROPOULOS: You know, ACP today is the main organization supporting interests of the players. For me it is a great help in FIDE – we have similar ideas, similar understanding of the problems. Of course there are a lot of people who are presidents of the federations or members of the Boards of the federations, who had been chess players and they have different approaches to the problems, so I believe that we need ACP. I can say only positive things about the cooperation with ACP, and not only now with Mr Sutovsky as president, earlier as well with Mr Tregubov or Mr Macieja as general secretary, the impulse was always very positive.

E.SUROV: I would like to ask you about the recent thing that happened at the latest FIDE Board meeting. That was a scandal when the right of hosting the Youth Chess Championship 2015 was given to Porto Carras. Well, I don’t know if this was really a scandal as I was attending the Board meeting for the first time and maybe that’s a usual thing for such meetings.

G.MAKROPOULOS: What was a scandal? Could you explain what you think was a scandal?

E.SUROV: I mean things happening behind the scenes several minutes after approval of that decision.

G.MAKROPOULOS: Was there a scandal in the room where the decision was made?

E.SUROV: Not really, not in the room.

G.MAKROPOULOS: So, what you are describing as a scandal is a reaction of Danailov which happened outside the meeting room.

E.SUROV: The inside reaction by Danailov could only be voting, I guess that was the only thing he could do.

G.MAKROPOULOS: There was a discussion and voting. You are right on this - when we went out, Danailov tried to create a scandal. There was no scandal inside the FIDE Board meeting. I will explain why. We had a committee to make an inspection. Mr. Danailov proposed for the committee the ex-president of the Swedish chess federation. There were also David Jarrett and Geoffrey Borg. When the inspection was scheduled I said that better if we had 1+1 –one proposed by Danailov and one from FIDE, that was David Jarrett. He is neutral for me, he is an English gentleman. Everybody knows him. So, Geoffrey wasn’t involved in this. They made the inspection. Based on the evaluation system they used, practically similar system with the one in ECU, they found the best proposal. Porto Carras got 149 points and first place, Turkey got 133 points and the second place. Bulgaria gathered 115 points even though to get these points they promised to build a playing hall which was not existing.

E.SUROV: How were those points counted? Do the inspectors do that?

Z.AZMAIPARASHVILI: There’s a scale in which the inspectors count those points. There are different criteria.

G.MAKROPOULOS: The system that we are using in ECU – when such votings are done in the General Assembly - if there are three proposals, the third one is eliminated automatically if there is a significant difference with the first one. That’s all. I didn’t want to be involved in this discussion in the Executive baord. That’s why Nigel Freeman was the chairman of the meeting at that moment. He made a simple proposal – he asked: Are we going to accept this report? The report in which Greece has the best offer, so we give the event to Greece or not.

E.SUROV: As I know there is also voting procedure, which should have been done.

G.MAKROPOULOS: There never was any different procedure before. We never had a voting for the World Youth Championship in the Executive board. In the past, the Presidential Board was making such decisions.

E.SUROV: So you mean that the decisions were made like this earlier too?

Z.AZMAIPARASHVILI: Earlier the decisions were made by the voting in the Presidential Board. This was the first time when the decision was made by the Executive Board at the General Assembly.

E.SUROV: So, it was really for the first time?

Z.AZMAIPARASHVILI: Yes, it was for the very first time.

G.MAKROPOULOS: There is no rule or procedure telling us that we should do like this or like that. The situation is interesting though. There were over 40 people with the right of voting in the room.  Everybody understands what was going on. We had all the presentations from the candidates. Concerning the presentation of Albena, you can go to Chessvibes to see it. In my mind if you are organizing an event for kids, you can’t have an advertisement like that inside the presentation. You will understand if you watch it. So, everybody understands there that we have the best offer from Greece and we understand that Danailov was trying to get some votes for the worst offer for a simple reason - because the guy is saying to everybody that he is against FIDE. This is his hope by playing a political game. All the people in the room, including his friends, understood this.  I am sure they felt ashamed to support the worst proposal. So, all the people there, including Turkey, decided not to go into political games and to give the event to the best offer. Everybody agreed: if we have to give it to the best, ok – we give it to the best. Only Danailov voted against. So we had a voting, which we never had earlier. Everybody understands that by the voting we opt to give the event to the best offer or we go to another procedure. The Board decided not to go into cheap political games. Well, all except Danailov.

E.SUROV: To be true this is the first time I hear something about the points. I had the full program of the Congress…

G.MAKROPOULOS: The inspection committee gave the points.

E.SUROV: What I saw were only three reports by the inspectors and no information on which offer was the best.

G.MAKROPOULOS: No, there also was the annex with the points. This is the system we are using for years in ECU. If you remember Thomasz Selecki from Poland was trying to go to another solution, not to this voting. When I asked him if it was truth or not that in ECU, the Bulgarian offer would be disqualified, he said yes. When we voted he didn’t support Danailov. For me this is a very interesting point. People in FIDE decided not to go for a political game in order to give the event to the best organizer. For me a new era has started for Europe and Mr. Danailov. Danailov was elected because he appeared that he was against Kirsan. He had an agreement to support Anatoly Karpov. We know this. So, he got all the support from Karpov and Kasparov for those elections. I personally had not any problem if Danailov would be the President of Europe. Before the elections, when one of the members of his ticket asked me, because he is my friend, if he had to join Danailov’s ticket to which he was invited, I said – go, no problem. Danailov, in his campaign, used the motto - “I know.” One or two months later he said “I am learning.” Three years after, we know that he cannot learn. He gave so many promises, he has done absolutely nothing.

E.SUROV: The same is said about Ilyumzhinov sometimes, I mean the promises he gave.

 G.MAKROPOULOS: We will speak about Kirsan, now we speak about Danailov. What he is doing during all these years, I mean Danailov, you surely know how many complaints we have from the events organized by Danailov and his people in Europe – how many complaints from the players, because the prizes are going down for the European Championship, how many problems with the arbiters of those events and their decisions. To cover all this that he is doing, Danailov is just against FIDE. His flag is “I am against FIDE”. He’s trying to secure his position because he is against FIDE. The lesson from the executive board meeting in Tallinn is that the people won’t buy it anymore. I believe that he will not survive the next elections just because he is against FIDE. Nobody is happy that some people are involved in this business of organizing events in Europe with not really good conditions. So, if he believes that Garry Kasparov will force people to vote for him, I believe he is wrong, because Garry is losing a lot by associating his name with Danailov. Garry has to give a very difficult fight. He is making a big effort to present a good team. He is trying to climb up and Danailov is pulling him down. I am sure that Garry can understand this. Of course Garry is trapped in this situation because Danailov can contribute 4-5-6 votes to his ticket, but if he continues like this, then he will lose more. So, I really hope that in one moment Garry will understand that he shouldn’t mix those two elections – in Europe and in FIDE. This is going to damage his ticket. I believe that Garry can really get between 60-70 votes but not more. I know that Garry is very optimistic, thinking about big numbers, but if he continues this kind of strategy, at the end he will get less than Karpov.

E.SUROV: Well, I know what you will say, but is there a situation in which he could get enough votes for a win?

G.MAKROPOULOS: You can’t win the elections with 70 votes.

E.SUROV: Why are you so sure that he won’t get more?

G.MAKROPOULOS: Garry is a very charismatic person but he has several negative points. You know, people in FIDE are intelligent people. I am sure Danailov sometimes thinks that he is dealing with very low level minded people in FIDE. If Garry is thinking the same, then he will of course make many mistakes. What I think are his negative points? Garry has done a lot over the chess board – unbelievable things. He is the greatest world champion in the chess history. The question is what he has done for the federations, what he has done for his own federation. Recently he remembered that there are federations in Africa. In the last elections, he was accusing Kirsan that he doesn’t care about the top players but cares only about developing countries and that is why he is winning the elections. This time he is accusing Kirsan that he cares only about the top players and he doesn’t care about the small developing federations. But our people have memory. They remember what they said last time and what he is saying now. The second problem that Garry has, is that whenever he tries to create something, except on the chess board while playing, he never succeeds. He created GMA with big promises and he killed GMA. He created PCA, he killed PCA. He tried to create a cycle for the world championship, GM Shirov was supposed to play a match with him, he forgot Shirov. Shirov is still expecting money from him. Then he picked up Kramnik to play that match. In organizations that he created, it was obvious that at some point he didn’t like the democratic procedure and he killed these organizations. I don’t believe that Garry likes making decisions by democratic procedures. When there is a decision that he doesn’t like, he just turns against this organization. The third problem Garry has is…

E.SUROV: I think Garry will be the person who will read this interview with the most interest.

G.MAKROPOULOS: I promised to give a good interview. So, the third problem is that Garry has big dreams about politics. Whenever he has a chance to make a statement about Russian politics or international politics he is making it. We know that every time he is criticizing Putin, recently he was criticizing Obama because he didn’t attack Syria. It is obvious that Garry cannot go out of this. What I am afraid of, and what a lot of other people are afraid of, is that Garry would like to use FIDE as a step for his political dreams. So, he will bring very ugly politics in FIDE. Nobody wants politics in FIDE. Garry can really damage FIDE by bringing politics in it and continuing making political statements. Even if he promises that he won’t do it, I personally believe that this is impossible for him.

E.SUROV: What about you and FIDE – could you tell us what is the ticket Kirsan will have for this elections and also if you could tell us the main points of your election program.

G.MAKROPOULOS: I think it is a bit early to speak about the program one, year prior to elections, but we can speak of what Kirsan has done until now, because Kirsan is not the one who is jumping with a parachute in FIDE, he has a history and results. Everybody knows that Kirsan has spent over 50-60 million dollars for chess. A big part of this went directly to the pockets of the top players, another part to all these federations which Garry is trying to convince now to vote for him. If we remember everything, FIDE was in a war when Kirsan appeared, an inside war and an outside war. Kirsan succeeded to unite the chess world with a lot of financial sacrifices from his side. I can say that we were somehow lucky that Kramnik won the match against Kasparov, because it was easier for Kirsan to reach the agreement and unify the cycles. If Garry was still the unofficial champion, I am not sure that Kirsan would manage to unify the cycles.

E.SUROV: I feel like you don’t like Garry, is that just a political attitude or there’s something personal too?

G.MAKROPOULOS: No, I personally like him very much. Maybe I am one of those few people in FIDE who can really work with him. As I said, Garry is not only intelligent but he is also a very charismatic person. Garry could otherwise really be a very good President, but based on his history and based on what I said about his political dreams and his ambitions, I don’t believe that he will be a good president.

E.SUROV: Does that mean that if or when Kirsan wins the elections you will try to find ways to cooperate with Garry?

G.MAKROPOULOS: I am personally ready to do so any time, Kirsan is doing so in every elections – every time, even today. You remember last elections when he called Anatoly, while after Torino he called Bessel…

E.SUROV: Actually Karpov then said none of those promises Kirsan gave him were fulfilled.

G.MAKROPOULOS: Kirsan invited him to be the Vice-President of FIDE and he refused. He was given the title of a lifetime Ambassador. You think that if Anatoly decided to be active in FIDE, Kirsan will tell him no? On the contrary, not only the position, but Kirsan would even support with the money the project Anatoly would have.

E.SUROV: I guess not a lot of time is left for our conversation. Actually I have a lot of counter-questions on what you have said. For example when you say that Kirsan brought a lot of money to chess, the question arises is – where is that money? The Grand Prix Series for instance, it’s known that financial support for every stage was hardly found. It was unknown if the Series would be accomplished till the very end, so conducting one Grand Prix Series is hardly the best result.

G.MAKROPOULOS: As I said, the big part of the money is already in the pocket of the top players. They ate, they dressed and they enjoyed having it. Other money is in the federations for different projects. Tournaments in central Latin America, Asia, supporting the projects of the federations. Kirsan was even giving money as pension to famous players who had some problems. Kirsan never put money to stay in FIDE accounts. He gave money for the people. And people got that money and we know all that. As we talk about the Grand Prix Series, let me remind you that several years ago FIDE was not able to announce exact dates. It is right that a lot of private tournaments were suffering because we were moving the dates. Now we have announced the four years cycle, we kept the dates of all events. Thanks to Kirsan, in cases when Agon didn’t find money to organize an event, Kirsan either found it or paid from his own pocket. So, maybe we changed the venues, instead of Madrid there was Thessaloniki, but we never changed the dates. I guess you know that the organization in Thessaloniki was one of the best. So, we increased the level and upgraded the tournaments. Kirsan didn’t say something like “ok, there’s no money, I don’t really care, we can’t organize it and we just postpone it”.

E.SUROV: So, how good is then the system in which you sign the contract with the company which takes the right to organize the tournaments, then it fails to fulfill the promises, so the president has to pay from his own pocket, while nothing happens to the company. 

G.MAKROPOULOS: It’s not that simple. For me AGON took its own risk. They have developed several things that are very good for our events. We know it is very difficult to get some real money in the market. Even Garry tried it many times with the GMA – they managed to organize one cycle and nothing else. So, we all know how difficult it is. At least we have Kirsan as our guarantee. Kirsan is the biggest guarantee at this moment in FIDE, if something is wrong. He is always there asking if we have some problems. I am not saying that this is a healthy situation. All of us want to go out of this. I suppose Kirsan is the first one who wants to go out of this, but the truth is that the time has changed from those years when the companies were giving money to support events.  Today common is that they pay directly TV, newspapers, magazines for the advertisements.  This is a big problem for all sports. All sports are suffering today, of course mostly are suffering those that don’t have TV. What AGON was trying to do here, it was to create such conditions that those sponsors would be interested to invest in chess.

E.SUROV: When you talk of AGON, do you mention it as the company which is within FIDE or as the one being outside FIDE?

G.MAKROPOULOS: It is outside FIDE. I am very practical in these things. For me, if either Kirsan pays or AGON pays, first of all I will be happy that we are having the event and the players will be happy too. Other organizers are also happy because we are not disturbing them in the calendar. Of course, I agree that it’s not the best situation when the president pays for an event. 

E.SUROV: You say that Kirsan is kind of a guarantee in cases of problems, but actually his opponents claim that the sponsors are not investing mostly because FIDE is headed by the person who meets different dictators and so on and so forth. I understand that this might not be a question for you, but mostly for him, but still.

G.MAKROPOULOS: I don’t have any problem to answer any question. To my knowledge there isn’t a single sponsor whom we lost because Kirsan met someone. I cannot really see the situation when we are losing sponsors because of this. What I believe is that if those meetings of Kirsan are really negative for FIDE, Kirsan would understand it while getting the sponsors. He met with two people and he had a mission there. If people cannot see this…He is a Russian politician. If somebody says he went to Syria to play chess or went to Libya to play chess, well that is a very innocent thinking. Of course I should say that, as I don’t like Garry mixing politics with chess, I also don’t like Kirsan doing it. Kirsan knows my opinion, so for us is a procedure to convince Kirsan that either he is a FIDE president or a politician.

E.SUROV: Then tell us about your vices, weaknesses which you can share with us.

G.MAKROPOULOS: For me FIDE’s main problem is that we cannot find corporate sponsors to support the events .Personally, I wasn’t fond of the idea of “FIDE Commerce” in the very beginning when Kirsan introduced it and I was also not in favor of “Global Chess”. And that was because of the people involved, not because of the idea. I had a lot of fights to reach the agreements with AGON… I wasn’t in favor of making the contract with AGON. In all these contracts I was involved to finalize them. For me, even if I don’t agree with something, when the decision has been made I have to work for the success of it. I cannot boycott this because I personally was against it. We have other people who try to boycott, Danailov is like that. My position is not like this. I have to work after a decision is made in order for it to be successful. So, I think we should give all possible time to AGON or to Andrew Paulson or to whoever to succeed.  It’s not possible that after we sign a contract, we try to boycott it. How are we going to succeed then?  Bessel Kok, before the elections in Turin, promised a lot of money and sponsors. But after he was appointed as the chairman of “Global Chess” and Kirsan put 2.2 million Euros, then where are the sponsors Bessel brought? Now Garry is promising money and sponsors to everybody, like he did with GMA. OK, so where is the money he brought to the federations by now? Three years ago Garry was the head of the election campaign of Karpov. For me he had to do something in these three years. For me Garry is making a serious mistake here: Garry had to run for Europe. I am not joking, I am serious about this. In Europe he could have a great support, even I would vote for him. Being the president of Europe he could show everybody that he is not only talks. He would show that he really respects all federations, not only strong federations, that he respects all players, not only the strongest ones, that he respects democracy and that he can bring money to chess. Afterwards he would have very good chances for FIDE. Now everybody has serious doubts about what he says because we know that every candidate when running for president starts from giving promises. It is different with Kirsan who has delivered results. Kirsan is giving money from his pocket. I would be happy to hear that Garry gave money from his pocket to support something.

E.SUROV: Whatever question we discuss, we still go back to Garry…

G.MAKROPOULOS: That’s because Garry and Kirsan are very much involved in this situation, we cannot speak without talking about elections and everything about it. And sometimes we also mention Danailov not to forget him (laughs).

Are you also asking about my personal weaknesses? That’s an interesting question… I am very loyal to my friends and I think that is not always very good for FIDE. So, sometimes there are situations when some people should leave the organization, but they are still in because it is very hard for me to tell them “Go out.” Generally, I believe that is not good. On the one hand I have to work twice much. On the other hand some other people would be more useful at those positions. What I can say surely is that nobody can accuse me by saying that Makro had been involved in any financial wrongdoings, any things that should do with money. I am one of those always pushing for the treasurer to be someone not from our group. The verification committee should consist of people from the opposition. If you see who is in that committee you will understand that I am right. I believe there should be people who will check our financial situation, our accounts very carefully. For me we have nothing to hide. It is very bad when some people, because of the elections, try to accuse FIDE for corruption. For me these are very dirty methods. I really hope that these elections won’t go to that level.

E.SUROV: How long have you been an official in FIDE?

G.MAKROPOULOS: Which position do you mean?

E.SUROV: I mean those in which you had power to influence the process of approving the decisions.

G.MAKROPOULOS: I am in the Board since 1986 and when you are in the Board you are already involved in making the decisions.

E.SUROV: And how long have you been Kirsan’s right-hand man?

G.MAKROPOULOS: Since 1996.

E.SUROV: That’s a lot of time. A lot of people have this question - isn’t that time for you to leave?

G.MAKROPOULOS: I believe that the main accusation for Kirsan and our group is this: we have been in all this for too long. I believe that if people think that we cannot contribute anymore, if people think that we are not better than other the other ticket, then they won’t vote for us. We have democracy in this organization. We should respect this. So, if people think that we are better than the others why not to vote for us? Everybody knows what I am doing in FIDE, we know what Garry has announced, so people can judge if I can be a better Deputy President or someone else from the other ticket. It is easy to judge.

E.SUROV: We can’t speak of everything in one interview. A lot of questions from the chess players are still untouched, so what I would like to ask you is that if there will be a discussion on our web page involving as usually famous players, if they will ask something, would you answer it?

G.MAKROPOULOS: That is a problem, but only for me, because I have a difficult schedule. If I receive a question, I can send the answer, but I just need time. I am very bad in writing answers and you know this (laughs). Everybody complains because I am not answering to emails; but I will try my best, I promise.


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