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Russian chess chief bids for Ground Zero mosque site

The eccentric Russian head of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) on Thursday announced a 10-million-dollar bid to buy the site of a controversial mosque project near Ground Zero in New York.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov said he had sent a letter on FIDE’s behalf to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg “with an offer to buy this land for 10 million dollars,” the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

The land near the site of the September 11, 2001, attacks, would be used for an international chess centre and academy, Ilyumzhinov said.

“We named the sum of 10 million dollars because last week billionaire Donald Trump gave an offer of 7.5 million dollars and we decided to outdo him,” RIA Novosti quoted him as saying.

Property developer Trump last week offered to buy the site two blocks from Ground Zero where a Muslim group wants to build a mosque and Islamic cultural centre, but the offer was turned down.

Ilyumzhinov last week stood down as president of Russia’s Buddhist region of Kalmykia, where he built an ambitious complex devoted to chess called “Chess City” in the capital Elista.

He is standing for another term as president of FIDE in a fierce battle with former world champion and Soviet chess legend Anatoly Karpov. Ilyumzhinov has headed the organisation since 1995.

He is famous for claiming in interviews that he has met aliens on several occasions.