NEW YORK, NY and MOSCOW — 07/28/10 — With Facebook membership recently topping 500 million users, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov admits he is what one might call a late adopter. “I am excited to join Facebook and overwhelmed with support from the online community,” said the World Chess Federation leader, who opened Facebook and Flickr accounts this week.
But unlike most new users, Ilyumzhinov has a bold vision for how he and his organization will use social networking sites to take the popularity of chess to a new level. “We want to give fans of the game new and interesting ways to learn chess on the Internet — and, most importantly, to play in tournaments with the world’s greatest players. The Internet can make this opportunity possible for anyone, regardless of where they live,” Ilyumzhinov wrote on his new page.
It seems apt, then, that the number of people in the world who play or follow chess is currently estimated at over 500 million — the same number as use Facebook. And FIDE believes it can double that number with the help of its ambitious social networking initiative.
Several new chess-related Facebook apps are already on their way thanks to CNC, a firm that is partnering with FIDE in the effort. “We are creating a series of chess training programs for Facebook users,” said CNC CEO George Taylor, “but our larger goal is to facilitate the world’s first official, FIDE-certified online chess tournament. We are excited to offer chess fans a vibrant community where they can compete for prizes, earn special online FIDE rankings, and challenge their peers more easily than ever.” The most talented online players, Taylor added, will be invited to compete in official world tournaments.
Collaboration with social network platforms to increase the popularity of chess is also a key plank in Ilyumzhinov’s platform as he campaigns for re-election as FIDE president. The FIDE presidential election will be held in September in the central Russian city of Khanty-Mansiysk. Each of the 168 member countries gets one vote in the election, and 75 have already announced that they will support the incumbent president.
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– GM Susan Polgar