CHENNAI: Thirty-one-year-old Ukrainian chess Grandmaster Andrii Baryshpolets is hoping to give a winning performance on Indian soil again. Baryshpolets, a doctorate in agricultural and applied economics, had won the 13th Parsvanth Delhi International Grandmasters in 2015.
This time around, Baryshpolets is not competing in the ongoing 44th Chess Olympiad but fighting a bigger game -- contesting in the international chess federation (FIDE) presidential elections to be held here next month.
Baryshpolets is up against the incumbent FIDE president and former Russian Deputy PM Arkady Dvorkovich and three others.
"It's a tough fight. But I am hopeful of victory. I am not a chess politician nor are my team members. We want to make FIDE more democratic which is now run by a Russian politician and non-chess players," Baryshpolets told IANS.
Though it is a four-cornered contest, Baryshpolets' campaigning seems low-key and he agrees.
"We are campaigning in a hybrid mode. We reach the voters in person and through social media. Our strategy is simple. We are showing the delegates that our team is much better in every domain. We are young, competent, and transparent. Unfortunately, the current FIDE governance lacks all of those things," he said.
He was also not sure whether the various national chess federations in Europe and the US -- that imposed sanctions on Russia == would vote in his favour.
"This election is not about the war, it's not about Ukraine vs. Russia. It's about ending the inherent corruption and ties to political powers. FIDE should serve chess lovers, not politicians. I believe in the integrity of the delegates and hope that they will make the right choice."
Baryshpolets electoral team consists of noted chess players/coach (Grandmaster Peter Heine Nielsen -- the coach of world champion Magnus Carlsen and former world champion Viswanathan Anand -- former world junior champion GM Evgeny Shtembuliak and Ron Fridman with 2,100 ELO rating), an MIT lecturer, private equity founder, entrepreneurs, investment banker, finance professional, chess administrators and others.
Asked about the economic situation in Ukraine, Baryshpolets, an economist, said, "It is very difficult and needs huge investments for rebuilding. But the potential is huge."
He spoke to IANS on his election strategy, Anand in the rival camp, promises and other aspects.
Q: What prompted you to run for FIDE presidentship? Russian invasion of Ukraine and Dvorkovich, the FIDE president who is a Russian. Would you have contested had Russia not invaded Ukraine?
A: I was shocked to see that Arkady was running for re-election, despite being a Russian/Kremlin politician. It is unlikely I would have contested had Russia not invaded Ukraine and had Arkady not run for re-election.
Q: When did you decide to contest and what gives you the confidence of winning?
A: I decided three months ago when I realised that we did not have strong candidates. I am a Grandmaster, a young and energetic professional, not a politician like the FIDE president. Besides, my team is one of the best.
Q: Looking back at the four years of FIDE under Dvorkovich, what were the hits and misses?
A: The biggest miss is the strong ties with the Russian government. FIDE still functions as a private club. Dvorkovich has never fulfilled his promise of making FIDE dealings/contacts public.
Q: Has Dvorkovich fulfilled the promises he had made prior to his election, like increasing the FIDE budget, bringing in corporate sponsorship, restructuring the body?
A: Dvorkovich is a Russian agent that protects the Kremlin's interests. It is naive to think that the former Deputy PM has no ties to the Kremlin. All the sponsors that he brought in were Russian state-owned and private companies that are directly tied to the Kremlin and the war in Ukraine. Do we want to be associated with that? It's disappointing that we are even discussing this.
Talking about the budget, I think we need to change the paradigm. The budget is embarrassingly small. We should compare our budget with similar organisations governing other sports like FIFA.
Q: What are your poll promises? What will you do to popularise the game, increase FIDE revenue and bring in more corporate sponsorship?
A: There are no polls (poll promises) here. I believe in the integrity of the delegates. I think that they will make the right decision and end all FIDE ties with the Kremlin regime. We have an amazing team of extremely successful entrepreneurs and chess professionals who will help make it come true.
Q: With multiple contestants in the field, a split vote might help Dvorkovich...
A: I am honestly not concerned about that. I am only focusing on what I can control, which is getting as many votes as possible.
Q: In the last elections, UK GM Nigel Short contested for the president's post but extended support to Dvorkovich at the last moment. Will any such thing happen this time around? Will you be getting any new support, or are you supporting any other candidate?
A: I can surely say that this will not happen on my part. However, I would be grateful for any support from other candidates if they decide to withdraw and declare their support of my team.
Q: How do you look at former world champion Anand in Dvorkovich's camp? Can the presence of Anand in the rival camp sway votes against you?
A: Vishy (Anand) is a highly-respected player, and I appreciate all he does to promote chess. It is very disappointing to see him in Arkady Dvorkovich's camp. It would be wonderful to see Vishy as the FIDE president and global ambassador of chess, not Arkady.
Q: What are the issues that are dominating the elections this time?
A: The same issues as they always were before: high dependency of the FIDE management on the incumbent president.