World chess moves to end scandal era with new Russian head

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The World Chess Federation elected its first new president in more than two decades on Wednesday, choosing former Russian politician Arkady Dvorkovich who has pledged to draw a line under years of scandal and internal feuding.

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In a vote that keeps the top job at the governing body for world chess in Russian hands, 103 delegates voted to make Dvorkovich FIDE’s first new president since 1995.

Dvorkovich’s path to victory was smoothed after British grandmaster Nigel Short withdrew his own candidacy and endorsed the former Russian deputy prime minister whose rival, Georgios Makropoulos, FIDE’s deputy president, got 78 votes.

“I’d like to reassure you that FIDE is now my permanent job,” Dvorkovich, 46, said after his election in the coastal resort of Batumi in Georgia. “We will be accountable. We will start working immediately.”

Dvorkovich takes over from Russian businessman Kirsan Ilyumzhinov who was suspended in July for allegedly violating FIDE’s code of ethics, something he denied.

Ilyumzhinov -- a millionaire businessman and ex-politician who once said he had been abducted by aliens -- has flown around the world promoting chess for the last 23 years, but what critics called his opaque leadership style had made him unpopular with some senior FIDE figures.

Britain’s Short had earlier said FIDE was “on the brink of oblivion” and Dvorkovich has said he will build a professional and transparent institution.

Some FIDE members were unhappy about Ilyumzhinov being added to a U.S. sanctions list in November 2015 for allegedly “materially assisting and acting for or on behalf of” the Syrian government, as well as the country’s central bank and its governor, according to the sanctions designation.

Ilyumzhinov, who has met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, denies the U.S. accusations.

Last year he said an attempted “revolution” to oust him by falsely announcing his resignation had failed, and that he would serve out his full term and might even stand for re-election.

Editing by Toby Chopra and Alexander Smith