By Chris Capps
When you look through the history of Chess, few countries take the game more seriously than Russia. And when you look at the Russian chess world, few players are quite as well known worldwide as Kirsan Nikolayevish Ilyumzhinov. Ilyumzhinov has been the president of the World Chess Federation since 1995. And like chess, Kirsan played the game of politics quite successfully as well, holding office as the president of Kalmykia from 1993 until he retired in 2010. But it's not until you hear his story of the time extraterrestrials took him aboard their vessel that Ilyumzhinov's story becomes truly remarkable.
There's little room to debate the man is as brilliant as he is eccentric. But just as it takes a superior ability to plot moves and process information when playing world class chess grand masters or while jumping fluently from Kalmyk to Russian, Chinese, English, Mongolian, and Korean, it takes a sharp mind to run the crucible of the volatile and unpredictable Russian political machine. So it's all the more incredible to skeptics who have listened with interest to his claims of an encounter he first talked about in 1997 during an official interview.
Kalmykia's president of over a quarter of a million people found himself in his apartment when suddenly a beam of light entered his window. Walking out onto his balcony, he found himself standing face to face with a trio of strange beings clad in yellow suits. As they took him aboard their vessel, he recalled how they looked and how they behaved. They were humanoid - looking almost exactly like us. Kirsan casually chitchatted with them and recounts how he was taken to a distant star where he became nervous and asked to be taken back to Earth. Then, casually, the creatures informed him that they had plenty of time and brought him back so he could continue business as usual back on Earth.
When he first revealed the story of this incident, not everyone was as thrilled as he had been. Some questioned whether he may have revealed important military and technological secrets with the mysterious beings that had taken him aboard. The idea of aliens casually strolling up to leaders taking them on voyages throughout the cosmos gives more than international chess societies reason for concern. Among the things Kirsan has lamented over the years since that time is not the fact that he was chosen for the trip, but that so many leaders around the world have found it impossible to share their own experiences for fear of criticism. And Ilyumzhinov did endure his own share of criticism.
Even in 2010 as he vied to maintain leadership of the FIDE World Chess Federation, he was still recalling the incident which he never later denied even when it would be politically advantageous for him to do so. He never doubted the veracity of his own memories.