"Selection. New president of tresses governing body fee day was the Bishop in the organization's history with accusations flung from all sides of bribery, electoral fraud, embezzlement and a vast diplomatic influence campaign waged by the Russian state. Some Jane's has been investigating. What's happened? And he space John Thornhill about what he discovered. Sam you've written a wonderful Osco for the F T magazine about the geopolitics of chess and the fist fight to run its governing body feed given that a computer or a ten million dollar alarm clock has Gary Kasparov called it beat the best human player back in one thousand nine hundred seven why does chess matter anymore. I suppose you could ask a similar question about any kind of game playing in a way that obviously from sort of human point of view, something attracts us to the competition. The display of skilled because I suppose we could have designed perfect football playing machine. Had we have wanted to or a perfect bridge playing sheen, but it would be no fun to watch two machines play against each other would it. So we don't do that. And the only reason we're interested in watching deep blue play Kasporov is because Kasporov is there. We want to see him pit his human wits against machine. So I think regardless of the abilities of computers to handle chess. And by the way, they still on not perfect chess players. There will always be a space and a need for people to watch that kind of competition. And I think the interesting thing insofar as this article goes is that that's the heart of the issue. Really? It's about what games humanity plays with each other and the significance those games have. And chess is one of the oldest, isn't it? It goes back hundreds thousands even of years if you want to go deeper into history right back to India was of significance to rulers. It was a political significance hugely throughout history. Right back to the sort of wig chessmen on Lewis. You know, they were symbols of something that politically culturally connected a world, and for many, it still has that cultural and political relevance is still enormously popular as a game, isn't it? Yeah. Absolutely. It's something perhaps that in the UK, and certainly in some parts of Europe and the US as well, it might not immediately obvious because it's not a sort of mainstream sport. You don't see it on TV for various reasons that can't be much more boring than watching chess on TV, but it is hugely popular. And there was a yougov survey. I think in twenty twelve so even that a little bit out of date now, which suggested that there's more than six hundred million regular chess players in the world. And the interesting thing about it as well is that even if you're not a regular player. It's a sport or skill game. That has touched a lot of people. And a lot of people have played it on certainly know how to play I think in some places seventy percent. The statistics said from that you surveyed in Europe of people have played it at some point, and therefore know the rules of it. So it's got this sort of huge cultural resonance, even if we don't see it all the time on our screens for a supposedly cerebral game. The fight to win control of feeder his involved in extraordinary amount of low down politics involving as you put it small-time oligarchs and corrupt officials broking deals in Siberian mining towns and Islam theocracies. Why has this battle become quite so heated? I don't know. It's sort of an interesting one to explore. I'm not sure there's a clear on, sir. There's a degree to which it's that sort of old adage, which is often attributed to Kissinger, but is actually Wallis sad about student politics that the processes so vicious precisely because the stakes oh small, and you could probably say something of that about fee day because the amounts of money to run feeder on not huge by any means. Although the we're talk millions, but we. Sort of in fever levels of wealth. But at the same time, it's a universe of people who are competing with each other. You have a very particular kind of people that end up in chess obsessional, very intelligent people that quite literally spend their lives playing games. So why don't they do that politically as well? But also, you know, since the end of the Cold War chess has been in search of a meaning really because it had such relevance political relevance during the Cold War missile post, Cold War, period. It's still got a lot of cultural cachet and people obviously trying to latch onto that. And to use that for various purposes, but at the same time it's been a little bit rudderless until recently and a little bit forgotten. No, it hasn't had the direct attention of the Kremlin. Or certainly not in Washington. Anyone in power there? You know, we're not the sort of Fischer Spassky kind of matching Reckitt level of international awareness. Now, you say that there has been a revival of interest in chess, and blah, Dima Putin. Russia's president is clearly someone who is taking an increasing interest in chess. And he said once. Chess makes men Ysern clear-sighted. Does he see chess as a means of reasserting? Russia's soft power. I think increasingly yes, I mean feta is been run for the past twenty years by very colorful Russian national cooled kiss on allusion of. And he hasn't exactly been the best Representative of Russian influence around the world euphemism. Yes. Well, quite he's sort of said that he was met by alliens on his balcony at one stage. He's said that chess was gifted to the world by aliens. But he's also had some sort of quite shady dealings with unsavory characters like the Assad family in Syria for which he was recently sanctioned by the US treasury, but the new head of feet are Cardi volka vich is much higher caliber Russian recently deputy prime minister and the organizer of the World Cup in Russia last summer and clearly whilst restoring fee day to some degree of kind of international prominence and credibility will also be doing a lot to champion Russian soft. Power interests by saying here is an organization a sporting organization that Russia is not only in charge of cleaning up which obviously is going to have a particular importance in the wake of the doping scandal, which continues to dog Russian athletics. I think the other point to make is that Putin and his method of power his conception of power draws so very heavily on the Soviet passed in the Soviet experience of Russian greatness. And so the significance of chess is that it was such an important part of the Soviet conception of soft power and Soviet influence that even if ideologically Russia is moved on by years. It still has this important culturally that Putin wants to tap into. Now there were three contenders to succeed Ilyumzhinov for newest pushed out why did Volkova twin? Well, I mean, I don't think there was a clear choice. So it wasn't a simple case of the Russian candidate versus the reform candidate versus fee day has had these issues under Yoshino for longtime around mismanage. -ment around corruption allegations of bribery in the organization, and the problem was that you previously had a Russian Illumjinov who was very fake in his financial affairs running it. And then in the elections, you had three candidates as you say, you had a Russian who was promising reform, and it obviously delivered a very successful World Cup and had credentials for that. And then you had an insider Kyo Macropoulos who is also a longtime Lieutenant of Ilyumzhinov and therefore tainted by that. But similar Tena sleep. Also, promising reform rather unconvincingly, but similar tenuously also saying that he's not the Russian and he's not bribing anyone in the elections. And then you had a third candidate the Briton Nigel short who I think was always a very much an outside candidate and divided people on a personal level in feed because of his quite spiky comments previously and his long history of antagonizing people in your organization, he fell behind four kovic even though he'd been quite critical of him at the start ends. Then he did. So I mean. Nigel's point was very much that it was better to have a competent pair of hands running fee day, regardless of whether they were rushing or not than it was somebody who he felt was incompetent. And it'd been running it for the past twenty years in the form of Macropoulos, and there's definitely a personal animus between Macropoulos and Nigel Short as well that sort of flavored their relationship and at the last minute, he declared his votes Ford. Walk vich, and rather stinging Lii in very characteristic fashion posted on Twitter a picture of himself shaking hands with dwarf Vichit Simpson's in the strand in London, which is this story chess restaurant, and he captured it underneath how'd you say check Maton Greek clearly aimed at his opposition. How does Volkova which intend to promote chess? Well, I mean, if his last few months of being anything to go by then money is going to be a key element of it. So he's delivered on the promises. He made in the election by putting three million euro into fee day to fund development. He's also promised a much more rigorous oversight regime of. Chess. So he's mentioned that you know, every penny spent will be judged by performance indicators is no longer going to be sort of pushing money into regional federations with no sense of what it's being spent on. And he's definitely I think hoping to build on the relationships he has in the football world and elsewhere in the sporting and political world to sort of revive the prominence of feed in Europe, and the US the west in particular because I think they're really has fallen into disrepute, and there was a real danger for quite a long time in the US in particular federation, their supporters people at Kasporov in fact would split away from fee day altogether. So when I met tool kovic, he'd come straight from Davos, where he was sort of pressing the flesh with CEOs and politicians many of whom he knows, and I think one of the other things he's done is already tried to build relationships with fee for directly. He's actually friends with Infantino at fee for an invited Infantino to give a little sort of a speech for him at his election at feed, and they have already I think. Announced some sort of chess football events that are going to be held together in the future. So more of that kind of thing think to imagine"