Russian head of world chess body says he's still king

Russian head of world chess body Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has held that elected position since 1995

International chess governing body FIDE was plunged into controversy Tuesday after announcing its long-time president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov had resigned in a statement he has dismissed as "fake".

Ilyumzhinov, a Russian businessman and former leader of Russia's Buddhist Kalmykia region, is no stranger to controversy, perhaps best known for claiming to have encountered aliens.

He was added to a US sanctions list in 2015 after Washington accused him of "materially assisting" the Syrian government.

The World Chess Federation (FIDE) on Monday published a statement on its website that was still posted on Tuesday saying Ilyumzhinov had announced his resignation.

But Ilyumzhinov described the statement to AFP as "fake" and denied that he had quit the elected position he has held since 1995.

In a letter published Tuesday on FIDE's website, FIDE executive director Nigel Freeman wrote that Ilyumzhinov had "several times threatened to resign" at a meeting on Sunday.

"At the end of the meeting, three times you repeated 'I resign' before leaving the room," Freeman wrote, adding that the board will hold an extraordinary meeting on April 10 to discuss the situation.

Ilyumzhinov meanwhile wrote in a separate letter published by FIDE on Tuesday that he had not formally submitted his resignation and had no intention of doing so.

On Tuesday, Ilyumzhinov acknowledged to AFP he offered to stand down during an "emotional, unofficial" conversation with board members on Sunday after the meeting.

"I said that I was ready to leave if everyone agrees and considers that I've done something bad to FIDE," he said.

He added that his presence on the US sanctions list was the "one grievance" raised by board members against him.

Ilyumzhinov hinted to AFP in an earlier comment on Monday that FIDE's announcement was an attempt to push him out.

"Somebody really wants me to resign," he said.

The chess chief in 2010 claimed that he had been abducted by aliens wearing yellow spacesuits who communicated telepathically and took him to another planet.

Ilyumzhinov has mixed with some of the world's most controversial leaders including Syria's Bashar al-Assad, as well as the late Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Moamer Kadhafi of Libya.

World chess champions Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov have harshly criticised Ilyumzhinov, who has never been a professional chess player, and ran unsuccessfully against him in FIDE elections.

Georgian grand master Zurab Azmaiparashvili, a member of FIDE's presidential board who attended Sunday's meeting, told AFP there was a "crisis" at the federation, but said its details were "confidential".

Azmaiparashvili said that Ilyumzhinov had in fact threatened to resign during the course of the meeting.