Gaddafi plays chess as fighting rages in Zawiya

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi played chess with the controversial president of the World Chess Federation in Tripoli on Sunday as fighting between rebels and Gaddafi's forces raged in the western city of Zawiya.


AFP - The controversial head of world chess said on Monday he had no qualms about playing a game with Moamer Kadhafi in Tripoli while fighting between Kadhafi's forces and rebels raged across the country.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) and former head of the vast Russian desert region of Kalmykia, met with Kadhafi on Sunday and boasted he easily got the better of the Libyan leader on the board.

"I would happily meet with anyone," Ilyumzhinov told Moscow Echo radio by telephone from Libya. "I am not a politician, I went there as a sportsman," he said.

Ilyumzhinov said that he found Kadhafi to be "calm... normal and adequate. We played chess and we talked."

The surprise meeting with Kadhafi is not the first time Ilyumzhinov has sparked controversy with his eccentric antics. He has repeatedly claimed to have met aliens and even on one occasion to have been shown round their spaceship.

Seemingly untroubled by the conflict in Libya, Ilyumzhinov noted that explosions had been heard while he was in Tripoli but seemed more interested in thanking Kadhafi for his help in "developing chess in the country".

As a player, Ilyumzhinov said that Kadhafi is "of course weaker, much weaker than me... just an enthusiast who knows where to put the pieces and do a child's play checkmate."

Kadhafi's eldest son Muhammad, with whom he also played, is however a "serious player, who knows the theory of chess".

But despite his superiority over the Libyan leader, Ilyumzhinov "diplomatically" decided not to press ahead for a victory and instead offered a draw, which Kadhafi accepted.

Ilyumzhinov described his trip as a "working visit" and pointed out he had recently been in Afghanistan and would soon visit Iraq.

Russian television showed Ilyumzhinov meeting Kadhafi, who was wearing dark shades, and later presenting him with a chess set made in Kalmykia, the Buddhist region he headed from 1993 to 2010.

Ilyumzhinov had told the Interfax news agency late on Sunday that Kadhafi had made clear he was not going to leave Libya despite the international pressure to quit.

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