Gaddafi's close encounter with eccentric chess boss

Muammar al-Gaddafi is calm and plays a decent game of chess, according to an eccentric Russian who played the embattled Libyan leader during a weekend visit to Tripoli.

World Chess Federation president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov - who says the game was handed down from space and that aliens once abducted him - yesterday judged Gaddafi only an "amateur" player and boasted that he easily got the better of him on Sunday.

The chess tsar's visit to Tripoli, which Russian officials stressed was purely a private affair, gave a rare glimpse of Gaddafi's surroundings, four months into the rebellion against his rule.

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"He is very calm. He plays chess normally, adequately," Mr Ilyumzhinov said. "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."

Russia's African envoy, Mikhail Margelov, said he had advised Mr 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," Mr Margelov said.

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

Mr Ilyumzhinov said he had taken on the Libyan leader in an "administrative building" in Tripoli.

He added that he had later played Gaddafi'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.

Gaddafi was shown in broadcasts of Sunday's match wearing his characteristic dark sunglasses, black cap and brown robes.

Mr Ilyumzhinov said the Libyan leader had told him he had no intention of stepping down or leaving the country.

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

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