The Fédération Internationale des Échecs, or the World Chess Federation, was founded in Paris, France on July 24, 1924. It is an international organization that exists to connect the various national chess federations around the world. It is usually referred to as FIDE, its French acronym. Its motto is Gens una sumus, meaning "We are one people". Its current president (as of 2003) is Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who also is president of Kalmykia, a small republic within Russia.
As well as organising the World Chess Championship, FIDE calculates the Elo rating of players, defines the rules of chess, periodically publishes albums of the best chess problems, and appoints International Masters, Grandmasters and Arbiters.
As well as the men's world championship, FIDE organises championships for women and juniors, regional championships, and the Chess Olympiad. They oversee few other tournaments, although other top-level events, almost without exception, respect FIDE rules and regulations.
In its early years, FIDE had little power. This was largely because the Soviet Union refused to join, as it saw chess and politics as being inextricably bound up, and FIDE was a non-political organisation. This changed, however, when incumbent world champion Alexander Alekhine died in 1946. FIDE stepped up to organise a tournament to find a replacement, and the Soviet Union, aware that this was a process it had to be involved with, joined.
From that initial 1948 tournament (won by Mikhail Botvinnik) to 1993, FIDE was the only body organising world chess championships. This changed, however, when reigning champion Garry Kasparov and challenger Nigel Short (who had qualified through the FIDE system) broke away to play their 1993 match under the auspices of the newly-formed Professional Chess Association. Since that time there have been two world championships - one held under FIDE's aegis, and the other under a variety of organisations'. Latterly, FIDE's championships have consisted of a single knock-out tournament, rather than the traditional series of long matches.
The so-called "Prague Agreement", masterminded by Yasser Seirawan, is intended to reunite the two world championships, but as of 2003, it is not clear whether this will happen.
As organisers of the world championship, FIDE has been involved in a number of controversies. In 1975, Bobby Fischer defaulted his title after FIDE refused to meet all his demands for his match with Anatoly Karpov. In 1984, FIDE president Florencio Campomanes called off the match between Karpov and Garry Kasparov without result. Controversies have continued under the presidency of Ilyumzhinov, who has been accused of not paying promised prize money among other things. The decision to switch to a knock-out format and quicker time controls in the World Championship has also been criticised.
In 1999, FIDE was recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Two years later, it introduced the IOC's anti-drugs rules to chess. FIDE has stated that it would like chess to become part of the Olympic Games.
1924 - 1949 Alexander Rueb
1949 - 1970 Folke Rogard
1970 - 1978 Max Euwe
1978 - 1982 Fridrik Olafsson
1982 - 1995 Florencio Campomanes
1995 - present (2003) Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
Ineke Bakker (died July 6, 2003) was secretary-general from 1972 until 1982, under Euwe and Olafsson. When Campomanes became president, she resigned. She was appointed Honorary Member of FIDE by its general assembly.