Garry Kasparov Battling Post-Soviet Alien Abductee For Chess Presidency

Garry Kasparov, the former World Chess Champion, Pussy Riot supporter, and probably the most famous living chess player, is running for the presidency of the World Chess Federation. His opponent—the incumbent—is a guy who believes in aliens.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has been the FIDE President since 1995. He worked as a mechanic, a salesman, and as the president of a corporation during and after the Soviet Union's collapse. He is now a multi-millionaire, though no one is quite sure how much he's worth or how, exactly, he came to his fortune. He visited with Bashar al-Assad and Muammar el-Qaddafi at the heights of their respective civil conflicts. Somehow, Kasparov doesn't think this is the best face for international chess.

From The New York Times:

By contrast, Mr. Ilyumzhinov, 51, is a businessman who was born in Kalmykia, an impoverished Russian republic on the Caspian Sea, and amassed a fortune after the fall of the Soviet Union, though exactly how, and how much, is something of a mystery. He was the president of Kalmykia from 1993 to 2010, serving partly at Mr. Putin's discretion.

Though he never won fame as a player, Mr. Ilyumzhinov's devotion to chess seems genuine — but so are his eccentricities. He has said that he believes the game was invented by extraterrestrials, and he claims to have been abducted by aliens in yellow spacesuits on the night of Sept. 17, 1997. He built Chess City, a huge glass dome surrounded by a housing development, in Kalmykia's obscure and inaccessible capital, Elista, and had the federation hold championship tournaments there.

For as crazy as all that is, though, Kasparov thinks the biggest failing of Ilyumzhinov has been the inability to draw in big corporate sponsorship. But Ilyumzhinov has proven difficult to unseat:

Mr. Kasparov said that while past elections were dogged by rumors of fraud and bribery and "were not transparent," this time around "those issues have been resolved." He added obliquely, "I have resources that can help me to run a global campaign."

[New York Times]