Short summary: NCFP President Pichay backs Kasparov while NCFP Secretary General Tolentino backs Ilyumzhinov!
MANILA, Philippines – The battle lines have been drawn between incumbent World Chess Federation (FIDE) president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and challenger, former world champion Garry Kasparov, with the Philippines caught in the crossfire.
Both Ilyumzhinov, who is seeking his sixth straight term since being elected in 1995, and Kasparov formally announced their candidacies on Sunday, May 11. Their respective tickets were posted on the FIDE website on Monday, May 12.
Under FIDE rules, both candidates had to announce their respective bids three months before the FIDE elections scheduled in Tromso, Norway in August, coinciding with the Aug. 8-14 World Chess Olympiad
In Ilyumzhinov’s ticket is National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) secretary general and lawmaker Abraham Tolentino, who was tapped for the same post in the world chess body.
Tolentino is pitted against Singaporean FIDE secretary general Ignatius Leong, who has defected to Kasparov’s camp.
The FIDE president made an early show of strength, securing nominations from 56 national federations -22, 18, 9 and 7 from Africa, America, Asia and Europe, respectively .
Kasparov, however, could only muster 20 nominations from Africa (5), Europe (5), Americas (2) and Asia (8 )including that of NCFP president Prospero Pichay Jr.
The former Surigao congressman, who is a known friend and close associate of Leong, had committed the NCFP vote to Kasparov when he was in Manila last November as part of his worldwide swing to solicit support for his candidacy.
In return for the NCFP’s backing, Kasparov vowed support in Pichay’s bid for the presidency of the Asian Chess Federation against its current head, Sheikh Sultan bing Khalifa Al Nahayan of the United Arab Emirates.
Pichay and Al Nahayan’s slates were posted in the ACF website on Sunday.
What is ironic about this development is that one of the present ACF officials is Filipino ACF deputy president Casto “Toti” Abundo, who was not on Al Nahayan’s reelection ticket.
Both FIDE and continental federation elections will be held simultaneously during the FIDE general assembly in the Norwegian city just north of the Arctic circle.
In an earlier interview, Abundo explained that under FIDE’s amended constitution and by-laws, the nominations of five federations are needed to become eligible candidates. Thus, the NCFP endorsement was no longer needed for Tolentino joining Ilyumzhinov’s ticket.
What Abundo wanted to avoid, however, was the embarrassing and divisive situation that the NCFP has found itself where Tolentino is running under one slate while Pichay is backing another bet.
In his second visit to Manila in late April, the FIDE president invited Tolentino to be part of his team in a dinner at the Manila Peninsula Hotel with the NCFP board led by Pichay, who was overseas when Ilyumzhinov first came just before the Holy Week.
Seizing the opportunity, Ilyumzhinov formalized his offer in a letter dated April 26 where he told Tolentino “I am confident that our joint efforts and commitment will provide further development of this noble game.”
It was a smart gambit by him since Tolentino is also the also the Southeast Asian Zone president of FIDE, who could blunt Leong’s influence in the region.
Before departing, Ilyumzhinov said he had made the offer in memory of his late mentor and friend, former FIDE president Florencio Campomanes.
Campomanes had “anointed” the former president of the republic of Kalmykia, who was merely 33 years old then, as his successor during the FIDE general assembly in Paris, France 19 years ago.
While aware of the gap it would cause between him and Pichay, Tolentino said that he had accepted the nomination for the good of Philippine chess.
“It was given to the Philippines as (Ilyumzhinov’s) moral obligation to the late Campomanes, whether not endorsed by the federation of the Philippines….it is a golden opportunity, more than a silver platter,” said Tolentino in a text message to Rappler. “It’s not for me but for the country.”
Efforts to reach Pichay through his cell phone proved in vain.
A reliable source said that Pichay talked to majority of the NCFP board members during a luncheon meeting on May 5 where he stood pat on his decision in voting for Kasparov.
Witnesses at the closed-door meeting where Grandmaster Eugene Torre and NCFP executive director and GM Jayson Gonzales, the source said.
A separate source, an NCFP board member who was present at the occasion but declined to be identified, said Pichay also told his audience about Kasparov’s help with the ACF presidency.
During the same meeting. the NCFP head secured a board resolution endorsing him as the NCFP voting delegate during the FIDE polls, he said.
The NCFP insider could not help but be cheeky about the situation, saying: “You can say that with this development, the NCFP is a house divided. In a positive light, you can also say that both camps want us to be on their side.” –
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