After enormous effort by the Australian organisers, the World Chess
Federation FIDE will today host their much-hyped chess exhibition at the
The invitation-only display will be held at the Sydney Olympic Athletes'
Village and will involve Grandmasters Viswanathan Anand and Alexey Shirov
playing an exhibition rapid game while Zhao Zong Yuan from Coffs Harbour
plays a simultaneous exhibition against any Olympic athletes brave enough
to take on the 14-year-old International Master.
The displays are designed not only to provide diversion for the Olympic
athletes but also to present chess to International Olympic Committee
members and show its credentials to be regarded as an Olympic sport.
To support their argument in favour of including chess in the Olympics, the
World Chess Federation FIDE is sending an army of officials to watch the
display. In order to be as close as possible to International Olympic
Committee President Samaranch, FIDE President Iljumzhinov and immediate
past President Campomanes will stay at the IOC's preferred hotel in Sydney,
Samaranch is known to be sympathetic to chess, having hosted Garry Kasparov
at an athletes' simultaneous exhibition at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona,
but chess' biggest fan on the IOC has been unable to attend the Sydney
Despite pleas by Samaranch, Bob Hasan, former Indonesian President
Suharto's golfing partner and a sponsor of the 1993 FIDE World Championship
match, has not been permitted to travel to Australia as he is facing
charges of defrauding the Indonesian government of $250m.
Fortunately chess has other supporters on the IOC who have been able to
attend Sydney 2000, including former Russian Sports Minister Shamil
Tarpishchev, a former tennis partner of Boris Yeltsin and Russian Davis Cup
captain, caused a stir in 1996 when he tried to have the 1998 Chess
Olympiad moved from Kalmykia to his home town of Saint Petersburg and said
that he would attempt to have FIDE "terminated" if the world chess body did
not recognise his preferred candidate for Russian Chess Federation
President. Tarpishchev was subsequently refused a visa to visit the USA for
alleged Russian mafia connections but such details have not prevented him
from coming to Sydney.
Another IOC member who might attend the Sydney Olympic chess exhibition is
Prince Willem Alexander of the Netherlands. When Prince Willem Alexander
attended the Wijk aan Zee Grandmaster tournament in 1998 he faced severe
criticism at home for accepting an invitation to join the IOC. The critics
argued that a member of the Dutch royal family should not join such a
disreputable organisation but the prince disagreed, although perhaps not
specifically for the reason of working for the entry of chess into the
It is uncertain whether chess will be able to count on the support of more
than these four members when the IOC meets in Russia next year to decide
which sports will be part of the 2004 Athens Olympics. However with
Samaranch due to retire soon, is chess does not make the breakthrough to
Olympic status soon, it may be in for a long wait.