I have just come across a hilarious interview with the chess world’s favourite space traveller, Kirsan Nikolaevich Illyumzhinov. The interview, translated into English, can be found on the Chessbase site, here.

Ill-Lunatic is trumpeting the new agreement with Agon, under which the latter will run the next two world championship cycles, including the alleged London Candidates, later this year. The Spaceman declares that  “For the coming cycles, FIDE should receive around ten to twelve million Euros”, and this is in addition to its customary 20% cut of the prize funds! Riches beyond the dreams of avarice! Sadly, he does not explain exactly where Agon is going to get all this money. If past practice in the chess world is anything to go by, the players in the world championship cycle will all be required to stay in an “official” hotel, at a “special”  rate of $20,000 per night.

Thus far is funny enough, but I burst out laughing at the next bit. Agon are going to raise chess to new levels, by bringing it to prestigious Western European cities. According to Ill-Lunatic, ” This year it will start in Chelyabinsk and Tashkent, and in the next year Agon is planning to hold these prestigious events in major world capitals: Paris, Madrid, Vienna and Lisbon.” I think that’s what they call “jam tomorrow” – spend a few more weeks of your life in some run-down, ex-Soviet toilet this year, and you’ll get to see Madrid and Paris next year. The trouble is, we have heard all of this before. The last FIDE Grand Prix (once referred to in an initial Press Release as the “Big Helmet” events, thanks to an unfortunate translation mix-up!) were due to be held in such places as Montreux, Doha and Karlovy Vary; they ended up being switched to Nalchik, Elista and Astrakhan respectively.  It is the same old story – you announce events in nice, civilised Western locations, wait until everyone has bought their Apex tickets, and then, at the last moment, you switch it to Shit-holegrad, somewhere in Siberia.

“Once upon a time, many, many years ago, there was a very wise man from Kalmykia. But it wasn’t me”.

We would all love to believe that it will really happen, just as Ill-Lunatic says. But he has said these things even more times than he has sold the rights for the world championship. And the latter have been sold more times than London Bridge, as Malcolm Pein pointed out on Twitter recently.

I have a small piece of advice for our space-travelling President: next time you make such an announcement, preface it with the following words:

“Are you sitting comfortably, children? Then I’ll begin…”

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