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June 24, 2017

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Kasparov up against Putin-allied 'alien abductee'

OSLO, Norway -- Legendary former chess champion Garry Kasparov will on Monday attempt to seize the sport's top job from a man who claims he was abducted by aliens and is accused of being a Kremlin puppet who built ties to the world's most brutal dictators.

For the past 19 years, the presidency of the World Chess Federation has been held by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, an eccentric former president of Russia's only Buddhist region — Kalmykia.

The 52-year-old claims he was once abducted by aliens who communicated telepathically and took him to another planet in a giant spaceship.

But his greatest challenge may come on Monday, when the most famous name in chess, former world champion Kasparov, tries to oust him from the federation presidency in a battle that carries echoes of Cold War chess confrontations.

The showdown will take place on the sidelines of the Chess Olympiad in the Norwegian city of Tromsoe, deep inside the Arctic Circle.

Kasparov, 51, is one of Russia's most vocal dissidents, labeling the government of President Vladimir Putin a "dictatorship" and decrying his country's slide toward "fascism."

He accuses Ilyumzhinov of being too close to Putin and that his leadership of the 181-country World Chess Federation has been marked by "abuse and favoritism."

"Every Russian embassy in the world has been mobilized to support Mr. Ilyumzhinov and to keep him in office," he told Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet this week. "It's not about chess. This is a pure political fight."

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