The international chess world descended into chaos and bitter accusations of cheating yesterday with the controversial re-election of the president of the World Chess Federation, who defeated the former world chess champion Anatoly Karpov. Amid tumultuous scenes that saw delegates shout abuse at each other in an overcrowded hall, the incumbent Russian candidate, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, won the clear backing of a majority of the world's 160 chess federations. He defeated Karpov, his fellow-Russian, by 95 votes to 65. The ballot reconfirms Ilyumzhinov as the head of FIDE, the world chess body. But speaking from the scene of the vote, Karpov's supporters described the ballot as a "farce", and said Ilyumzhinov had used "intimidation, bully-boy tactics" and even "blatant corruption" to steamroll his way to victory.
Karpov's wife, Natalia, speaking from Moscow, described the result as "awful". "I haven't managed to get through to Anatoly. But his aides told me it was like fighting in enemy territory. It was very difficult to monitor the vote. The whole thing was a mess," she said.
Speaking from the Siberian city of Khanty-Mansiysk, where the ballot was held, CJ de Mooi, the president of the English Chess Federation, said: "It was unbelievable. This was a farce of a vote. "You wouldn't believe the blatant breaking of rules and FIDE's written statutes. It's amazing. There wasn't even a pretence of fairness and free speech." De Mooi said Ilyumzhinov, FIDE's president for 15 years, had refused to allow Karpov's supporters to address the general assembly meeting. Instead, he turned off their microphones and carried on speaking himself. He also ignored legal points raised from the floor, eventually storming off stage with FIDE's ruling board, de Mooi said.
The result is a bitter reversal for Karpov, who had pledged to clean up world chess amid long-standing accusations of corruption and malpractice under Ilyumzhinov's eccentric leadership. The English, French, German, Swiss, and US chess federations all backed Karpov–as did his one-time bitter chess rival, the world champion-turned-opposition politician Garry Kasparov. Karpov's supporters point to widespread irregularities in the vote, which saw up to 56 countries vote by proxy, with Zambia voting for Kenya, China for Burma, the UAE for Kuwait, and so on. They also allege that several delegates may have been improperly influenced. The vote took place alongside FIDE's annual chess Olympiad. With world chess currently lacking a backer, he also wanted to attract corporate sponsorship. Karpov also intended to open FIDE offices in Moscow, New York and Paris, thus bringing chess back to a bigger audience. Ilyumzhinov denied there had been any impropriety on his watch, and said he had offered Karpov a role as his deputy–an offer the former champion is likely to refuse.