Chess tsar unrepentant over 'game with Kadhafi'

13th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

The controversial head of world chess said Monday he had no regrets about playing a game with Moamer Kadhafi in Tripoli, boasting that he outclassed the Libyan leader but in the end offered a draw.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) and former head of the Russian desert region of Kalmykia, met Kadhafi on Sunday despite the conflict with rebels and claims of mass rights abuses by the regime.

"I would happily meet with anyone," Ilyumzhinov told Moscow Echo radio by telephone from Libya. "I am not a politician, I went there as a sportsman," he said.

Ilyumzhinov said that he found Kadhafi to be "calm ... normal and adequate. We played chess and we talked."

The surprise meeting with Kadhafi is not the first time Ilyumzhinov has sparked controversy with his eccentric antics. He has repeatedly claimed to have met aliens and even on one occasion to have been shown round their spaceship.

Seemingly untroubled by the conflict in Libya, Ilyumzhinov noted that explosions had been heard while he was in Tripoli but seemed more interested in thanking Kadhafi for his help in "developing chess in the country."

As a player, Ilyumzhinov said that Kadhafi is "of course weaker, much weaker than me ... just an enthusiast who knows where to put the pieces and play a Scholar's Mate (a rudimentary checkmate)."

Kadhafi's eldest son Muhammad, with whom he also played, is however a "serious player, who knows the theory of chess".

But despite his superiority over the Libyan leader, Ilyumzhinov "diplomatically" decided not to press ahead for a victory and instead offered a draw, which Kadhafi accepted.

Ilyumzhinov described his trip as a "working visit" and noted that he had recently been in Afghanistan and would soon visit Iraq.

He said no one tried to stop him visiting Libya, although one FIDE vice president, whom he did not name, pulled out of the trip "because his wife did not let him go."

Russian television showed Ilyumzhinov meeting Kadhafi, who was wearing dark glasses, and later presenting him with a chess set made in Kalmykia, the Buddhist region he headed from 1993 to 2010.

Ilyumzhinov had told the Interfax news agency late Sunday that Kadhafi had made clear he was not going to leave Libya despite the international pressure to quit.

Mikhail Margelov, of President Dmitry Medvedev's special envoy for Libya who held talks with the opposition last week, told the RIA Novosti news agency that Ilyumzhinov had told him about the trip and the game in advance.

Margelov, who like Medvedev has said that Kadhafi should quit, appeared to suggest that Ilyumzhinov should have used the game to send a message to a Libyan leader.

"I advised him to play white, go E-2 to E-4 (a classic offensive opening move) and make Kadhafi understand that his game is coming to an end," he said.

Russia is positioning itself as a possible mediator in the Libya conflict and Margelov said he is planning to travel to Tripoli next week once security arrangements have been made.

He is, however, not expected to meet with Kadhafi.

© 2011 AFP

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