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22 April 2024

Chess star says Gaddafi is 'calm'

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, right, plays a game of chess with the visiting president of the World Chess Federation Kirsan Ilyumzhinov at an unknown location. According to Russia's Itar-Tass news agency, Ilyumzhinov, a former leader of a republic in the Russian Federation, said that the Libyan leader told him during the game that he does not have plans to leave Libya. (AP)

By Reuters

Muammar Gaddafi is calm and plays a decent game of chess, eccentric Russian chess supremo Kirsan Ilyumzhinov said on Monday, describing a weekend match with the embattled Libyan leader.

Ilyumzhinov -- the head of the World Chess Federation who says the game was handed down from outerspace and aliens once abducted him -- judged Gaddafi only an "amateur" player and boasted he easily got the best of him on Sunday.

The chess czar's visit to Tripoli -- which Moscow says was purely a private affair -- gave a rare, if offbeat glimpse of Gaddafi's surroundings four months into the rebellion against his rule.

"He is very calm. He plays chess normally, adequately," Ilyumzhinov told radio Ekho Moskvye. 

"Yesterday's match with Gaddafi ended in a draw. I offered the drawn game. After all it is impolite to win when you're a guest," Ilyumzhinov told the Interfax news agency after his return to Moscow.

Russia's Africa envoy said he advised Ilyumzhinov to tell Gaddafi his game was up, when the Chess Federation head called him to inform him of the trip. "I advised him to play white... and to give Gaddafi to understand that he was nearing an end game," Mikhail Margelov was quoted by agencies as saying.

On Libyan state television footage, Gaddafi looked relaxed and Ilyumzhinov beamed as they faced off over a crystal-studded chess board in an office decorated with a portrait of Gaddafi in military dress.

Ilyumzhinov said he took on Gaddafi in an "administrative building" in Tripoli. He added that he later played the leader's eldest son and visited the bomb-scarred family compound where Libyan officials said NATO air strikes had killed several of Gaddafi's relatives last month.

Chess-mad Ilyumzhinov claims aliens brought the game to Earth and has built a sprawling complex devoted to chess in Russia's southern Buddhist region of Kalmykia, where he ruled for 17 years. He also told Russian TV earlier last year that aliens took him for a spin in their spaceship in 1997.

Gaddafi, who has kept a low profile since NATO began bombing, was shown in broadcasts of Sunday's chess match wearing his characteristic dark sunglasses, black cap and brown robes.

Ilyumzhinov said the Libyan leader told him he had no intention of stepping down or leaving the country, despite being weakened by defections in his entourage, sanctions on supplies and the effects of NATO air strikes on his compound.

The chess tsar quoted Gaddafi as saying: "I am neither premier nor president nor king. I do not hold any post in Libya and therefore I have no position which I should give up."

At the G8 summit last month, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev joined Western partners in urging Gaddafi to step down.

Margelov is due to travel to Tripoli soon to meet members of Gaddafi's government after meeting with Libyan rebel leaders in Benghazi as part of a mediation effort by Russia, which has criticised Western air strikes and said they would not resolve the conflict.