2 February 2018

Mark Glukhovsky: I Believe in the Common Sense of Delegates

The Executive Director of the Russian Chess Federation answers Vladimir Barsky’s questions. Part 2  

We promised to devote the second part of our conversation to plans for the future. However, first I would like to finish talking about a number of important topics and how they will develop if delegates at the congress vote for the current RCF President.

I apologize in advance for the fact that our conversation will be a lengthy one once again, but, on the other hand, quite a lot has been done. I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to give an interview, although perhaps I should have: it seemed to me that the work of the RCF was in the public eye as it was. That’s why I continue to report on all four years. I should clarify immediately that I refuse to lower myself to the level of discussion that my opponents are proposing. They are never prepared to engage in debates or talk about their own programmes, but they are very well-versed in denunciation and slander. And they even discuss… my jeans.        

Some final words for my competitors and we can get down to business. There are three days left until the congress. Where is Kirsan Ilyumzhinov? Where is Sergey Nesterov? Sergey has completely fallen off the radar, although usually you can’t drag him away from the media… Are you sure you’ll have time to lay out your programmes and perhaps even hold a debate or two – the very thing you called for so persistently?      

* * *

We’re expending great efforts on developing chess among people with disabilities. There are at least three groups of people with disabilities who play chess: the visually impaired, the hearing-impaired and people with musculoskeletal disorders. One of my first trips as Executive Director of the Russian Chess Federation was to the Russian Championship for the Visually Impaired, which impacted me greatly. It was a hard pill to swallow. The tournament had practically no funding behind it, and the playing conditions were terrible. Despite the fact that there are societies that promote and protect the interests of each of these groups, we nevertheless started to allocate money to them for prizes and equipment. Later on, Andrey Filatov found a sponsor for the visually impaired team, which paid for training camps and the team’s participation in the world and European championships. At the Chess Olympiad in Tromsø, we met some people with musculoskeletal disorders, who were having a difficult time in this very expensive country. The RCF President immediately allocated every single member of the team a decent amount of money…    

We’ve been supporting the Scarlet Flower tournament for people confined to wheelchairs or who cannot move at all for several years now. I don’t want to dwell on this for too long. All I will say is that we will continue to provide aid in various ways.   

We have even organized a special day for the visually impaired at the Central Chess Club, with tournaments being held every Wednesday. I call on everyone who truly wants to develop Russian chess to give these groups the attention they deserve. They have practically nothing, yet the opportunities to help them are vast. People just need to apply their many talents in this area!   

- What plans do you have for the development of the Central Chess Club at number 14, Gogolevsky Boulevard?

- The Chess Museum is more than just a collection of rare and occasionally unique exhibits. The awareness-raising work carried out by the museum’s scientific curator, the wonderful historian Dmitry Oleynikov (he and I played on the same university team back in the day), is extremely important for us. Dmitry and the museum’s curator, Tatyana Kolesnikovich, lead several excursions every week, which have proved to be very popular – the earliest dates with free places are in April. The museum was founded by Yury Averbakh, who is now the oldest living grandmaster in the world. I remember well how happy he was when the museum reopened after renovations.    

Yuri Averbakh and Tatyana Kolesnikovich

Oleynikov writes about the museum’s most interesting exhibits in the “Exhibit” column, which has become a permanent fixture in the 64 magazine. Quite a few foreign chess fans visit the museum, and the security guards have their hands full trying to explain things to them. The collection consists of almost 4000 items, and it is expanding all the time. As far as we are concerned, the museum deserves to be given official status and should start operating on a daily basis. We hope to achieve this in the nearest future. It’s not an easy task, and we need to hire several people in order to make it a reality – so that you can visit the museum any time you like, just like you can with the Pushkin Museum, for example.

It is already a vibrant museum. We’ve had exhibitions in honour of Tigran Petrosian and Vasily Smyslov, exhibits from the collection of Anatoly Karpov, a photo exhibition by Boris Dolmatovsky, the collection of Murad Amannazarov… At the museum’s opening, the FIDE President promised to give us 180 chess sets, one from each FIDE member country. We’re still waiting for those sets, but we have welcomed several chess stars to the museum, all of whom have donated new items – from Mikhail Tal’s dissertation (shout out to Ilya Smirin for that one!) to the first chess sets owned by Alexandra Kosteniuk. We’re planning to expand the museum space. There’s plenty to show and plenty to talk about.     

Andrey Filatov shows unique exhibits of the RCF Chess Museum to Edward Radzinsky

Travelling exhibits make up an important part of this work, helping to popularize the game of chess. Look at the “Chess During War” exhibition, for example, which was attended by the President of the Russian Federation when it was on display at the opening of Vladimir Kramnik’s chess school at the Sirius Educational Centre for Talented Children and broadcast to the whole country.

We organized the wonderful “Chess and Music” exhibition and prepared an exhibit in honour of the 60-year anniversary of the Central Chess House. Not long ago, we teamed up with the State Museum of Political History of Russia, which hosted the Russian Chess Championships Super Final, to put on the “Chess and Revolution” exhibition. We are also carrying out a permanent project with the All-Russian Decorative Art Museum in Moscow. 

Dmitry Oleynikov speaks about the exhibition "Chess and Music"

Our exhibitions have visited Chita, Sochi, Kazan, Kaliningrad, Novosibirsk and several other cities! Some of the exhibits have been on display at various museums around the world, again helping to popularize the game of chess. 

As for the club itself, following its restoration, it now holds weekly public tournaments in speed and blitz chess, as well as open tournaments in classical time control chess. Older chess players will recall that Andrey Selivanov had a restaurant on the first floor of the building. Well that space is now taken up by two children’s chess clubs. The youngest kids attend the Alexandra Studio, which is run by Natalya Kosteniuk, mother of the 12th Women’s World Chess Champion, while the Russian Chess School is for older pupils. Several so-called “inter-industry tournaments” are held at the Central Chess House, with nuclear scientists, energy sector workers, tax officers, academics, economists, police officers – you name it – all coming down to test their skills. Not to mention the Russia–China friendly and the annual Nutcracker Generation Tournament…         

The Central Chess Club has started to live the life of a true club. Our stated task for the upcoming period is to open or restore similar clubs in regions across Russia. After all, the club is not only for playing chess and teaching kids; you can also celebrate important dates, events and anniversaries here. We’ve celebrated the anniversaries of Boris Spassky and Boris Postovsky at the club, had a party in honour of Anatoly Karpov’s birthday, hosted a presentation of Boris Dolmatovsky’s album, organized a gala night and held a tournament in honour of Mark Dvoretsky. The club is a place where people who love chess can get together. And no, we don’t rent the place out for weddings. 

Mark Glukhovsky and Vladimir Barsky hosting the soiree in memory of Mark Dvoretsky

For the past two years, we have held an event at the club that is very dear to my heart – children’s tournament at the club in which pupils at Moscow’s music schools take part. It is very interesting, because chess and music have a lot in common. The large hall in the Central Chess Club was originally a music hall. Balls and concerts were held there – performances of Taneyev’s and Rachmaninov’s works, and Feodor Chaliapin sung there. In recent times, such greats as Nikolai Lugansky, Boris Andrianov, Dimitri Illarionov, Rem Urasin and other prominent musicians have all performed in the hall. An evening of poetry dedicated to chess has also been held there. Alexei Kudrin and Herman Gref have given public lectures in the hall, both of which were greeted with great excitement. The hall was so packed that there was no room to swing a cat. We have accomplished many interesting things, and we plan to continue this work moving forward.  

We managed to pull off another museum project last year in collaboration with the Russian State Library and with the support of Renault Russia. We have an excellent library with a number of unique publications, including manuscripts, so we designed a project that would make these books available to the general publication. To be honest, we were scared to even approach these books, fearing that these books published in the 17th century might fall apart in our hands… But the Russian State Library has got a wealth of experience working with books like that! We created a special section on our website for these publications, and we are in the process of uploading them all. And we’re not just talking about books in Russian here. We’ve also got books in English, German, Spanish and Italian.    

Seeing as though we’ve brought up the website, I may as well mention the fact that the English version of the site is now live. It’s not incredibly popular, as the content is geared mainly towards a Russian audience. However, whenever there’s a big international competition, we see a huge spike in visitors to the English site. 

- Another important project that we should tell our readers about is the publication of the books in the RCF Library series.  

- When we were thinking about how to get youngsters interested in chess and help them develop as players, Sergey Janovksy raised a very relevant point. The problem is that kids these days just don’t read books. They think that all you need to do to prepare for your next opponent is to watch a few games of chess on the internet. They are never exposed to the ideas contained in these books. By the way, it’s not just children who can benefit from reading these books. Recently, grandmaster Vladimir Malakhov revealed that he used Konstantin Sakaev’s book to prepare for his match with Vladimir Fedoseev at the Super Final, which he won.      

We pondered over the idea and realised that we had a wonderful asset left over from the previous RCF leadership – the manuscript for the book The Complete Manual of Positional Chess by Konstantin Sakaev and Konstantin Landa. We published the work in two volumes, and it became a bestseller – the English version too. An entire RCF Library series followed, which included Mark Dvoretsky’s final books (Mark Dvoretsky’s Collection of Texts, published after his untimely death), as well as textbooks written by Mihail Shereshevsky, Boris Gelfand and Aleksey Kuzmin. All these books are for sale, although a significant portion of the print run are presented as gifts to juniors who take part in the tournaments in Loo and Dagomys.      

Presentation of Boris Dolmatovsky's photo book. The author is signing the albums 

We publish books based on their practical value, and we believe that chess should bring people together. The RCF Library has released a book on the oldest Russian master Samuel Zhukhovitsky, written by Dmitry Kryakvin and Sergey Tkachenko. Apparently, it is the first book co-authored by Russian and Ukrainian chess players since the troubles broke out in 2014. Right now, we’re getting ready to print a book by the famous Ukrainian chess coach Vladimir Tukmakov, as well as a book by U.S. authors Lev Alburt and Jon Crumiller about the Carlsen – Karjakin match to which Vladimir Kramnik made a significant contribution.     

Alexander Tkachev’s brochure “Play by the Rules!” proved very popular. We’ve also released books dedicated to Yuri Razuvaev, Mark Dvoretsky and Igor Kursonov… This is part of an ongoing series.  

As for our plans for the future, we are actively working on developing the website. Life is becoming increasingly digital, and it is high time that a few important and useful e-services were added to the mix. We’ve managed to compile a rather large base in the electronic chess federation. We’ve developed a Russian rating, something that had never existed previously. Now tournament organizers can check out the rating completely free of charge. The number of people with a rating has increased markedly. Categories are assigned based on this all-Russian rating system.      

We are planning to add educational services. This includes filming a series of video lessons and uploading materials for chess tutors. We’ll be producing high-quality educational materials for teachers and students as part of the “Chess in Schools” project.  

Another related issue is the chess coach certification centre. The Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation should train chess coaches for schools, and we are more than prepared to help in this process. A direct task for the RCF is to set up certification centres for professional chess coaches. I just got back from the Sirius Educational Centre for Talented Children three days ago, where I gave a speech at a large conference. I had the opportunity to speak to representatives from other chess federations, as well as to the Rector of the Russian State University of Physical Education, Sport, Youth and Tourism Tamara Mikhailova. Everyone agrees – one of the major problems in sport today is the lack of qualified coaches. There are just so few of them. Departments have been shut down, and the majority of quality coaches are getting on in years. We need to help, first and foremost, to cultivate good coaches. Second, we need to separate the wheat from the chaff, because there are already more than enough slackers on the market as it is. We want to make it so that RCF certification is something that is valued by trainers.    

Conference in Sirius

Another important area is the creation of a public platform for discussing chess based on the 64 magazine. It seems to me that, despite the large number of chess websites, there is not really a decent service allowing people to exchange opinions on the sport. What we tend to see is a very small number of people (most of whom use nicknames) engaging in discussions on message boards that inevitably descend into insults. There is great potential for developing a service like this.

We will of course continue our work to develop chess among children. This work is overseen by Sergey Yanovsky, a wonderful chess player in his own right who really understands the problems that youth chess faces. Sergey is always on the move. I don’t want to spend too much time on this, as we talked about it in great detail in the first part of this interview, and Sergey’s has talked about it in much detail himself as well. It is clear that the main priority for any self-respecting chess federation should be the development of youth chess.  

- What will the regional policy be moving forward?

- Let’s start simple. Judging by the discussions taking place on Facebook, for example, many people have failed to grasp one simple concept. If a regional federation has failed to receive accreditation, then that is a very sad and troubling thing. Yet chess players who live in that particular territory continue to take part in chess life. They play in the national championships, enter the Belaya Ladya event, etc. Of course we want to have as many accredited federations as possible. And I’m curious to find out where this number of 30 or more unaccredited federations came from. There are precisely 17 unaccredited federations, yet the number 30 appears time and again. 

There are many examples of our working successfully with the regions. Take Novosibirsk Oblast, for example, which has managed to secure a serious sponsor and has a very professional president in Pavel Maletin. As a result of our joint work, were able to hold the Super Final, opening an RCF grandmaster centre, obtain stable financing and put together a strong team. The Zabaikalsky Krai, whose former governor was a chess fanatic, has progressed very quickly. We are working on several projects with Kemerovo Oblast, Altai Krai and the Altai Republic. The Chess Federation of the Chelyabinsk Oblast has been extremely active under the leadership of Maxim Shusharin, holding several international tournaments, including the Igor Kurnosov and Mikhail Lozovatsky memorials; and the Boris Spassky chess school has been operating successfully in the town of Satka for several years thanks to the efforts of Amir Gilyazov. The Chess Federation of the Central Federal District was headed by businessman Sergey Lazarev. It proved a difficult task to convince Mr. Lazarev to take the position, a decision that he pondered for a long time before agreeing. The situation in the Central Federal District improved immediately upon his appointment. The work of several of the chess federations in the Volga Region – Samara, Kostroma and Nizhny Novgorod in particular – is truly excellent. The same can be said of St. Petersburg in the Leningrad Oblast. And the list goes on. Please forgive me if I have forgotten to mention you.      

I’d like to add that one of the tasks of the chess museum and chess club on Gogolevsky Boulevard is to set up meetings between chess players and the business community, trustees and regional authorities. We need to bring people to a place where they want to stay in chess. Our club has hosted meetings with the presidents of Armenia and Moldova, as well as with the governor of Udmurtia and with the trustee and sponsor Eduard Taran. I would like to let our colleagues know that our club can be used as a platform for meetings, discussions and building relations with partners.  

One example of successful cooperation is the meeting held at the museum with recently elected State Duma Deputy for the Republic of Ingushetia and chess enthusiast Alikhan Kharsiev. We are helping him, as well as the President of the Chess Federation of the Republic of Ingushetia Ernesto Inarkiev, develop projects in the region. We also helped attract media coverage for the matches between Inarkiev and Boris Gelfand and the Concord Tower festival. We took a large amount of chess equipment and literature to the Republic of Ingushetia as part of the “Chess in Schools” project.

Alikhan Kharsiev, Ernesto Inarkiev and Boris Gelfand at the 60th Anniversary of the Central Chess Club

- What can you say about Crimea? Have there been any issues on that front?

- We have a good working relationship with chess players from Crimea. Questions about ratings should be addressed to FIDE; they are the ones who transfer players from one country’s rating to another. We approached Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in 2014 about the free transfer of Crimean players to the Russian rating list. Unfortunately, our request was denied.    

There is a conflict right now in Crimea between the two chess federations. There is nothing out of the ordinary here, as conflicts happen. The Chess and Checkers Club in Simferopol exists; Sergey Karjakin was a student there, as was Anatoly Karpov. There is a chess scene in Crimea. Just like with other regions, we delivered chess equipment and literature to Crimea and launched the “Chess in Orphanages” project there. The Simferopol Foster Home team won the “Ascension” chess tournament in 2016 and then took part in Belaya Ladya! Teams from Crimea regularly compete in Russian tournaments.    

Let me quote, mother of a talented young chess player from Crimea Alexandr Triapishko:

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the RCF is the best chess federation in the world. In Ukraine, even the parents of the winner had to pay for their child to take part in the World Championships. And when we were part of Ukraine, the government took the building on the Embankment in Simferopol away from the chess and checkers federation. Now the chess players have a place to practice. Several tournaments are held on the mainland, grandmasters hold training sessions, and kids are playing chess in schools. No one is imposing any restrictions on us – if you want to play, all you have to do is turn up and play. If you want to transfer from the Ukrainian federation to the Russian federation, then go ahead: just pay the Ukrainian federation and transfer, no problem. If the player doesn’t want to transfer, the RCF is not going to force them to do so. Everyone who wants to move over has already made the move. To be sure, not many all-Russia tournaments are held in Crimea, not ones that affect the international rating anyway …if I were to write to Mr. Putin, I would thank him for supporting our decision to become part of Russia once again, for not abandoning us to the vicissitudes of fate in 2014.       

“The RCF has introduced a national rating, primarily for players from Crimea. Incidentally, if there was a tournament that affected the international rating, then many players would have wanted to come here after the Suvorov Memorial that was held in Yevpatoria in 2015, the payments for which were drawn out over several years and have still not been fully settled? And the tournament was organized by Lyuba Gordyk. I’d like to point out that, as a member of the Russian national team, my son gets everything that the other members of the team get: tournaments, coaches, the Sirius Educational Centre for Talented Children, grandmaster sessions in Tolyatti, a uniform… which is more than the players for other national federations get.      

“To be sure, only one of the two Crimean federations received accreditation – the Chess and Checkers Federation of Crimea – which does a great deal of good for the Crimean people. The fact that we’ve got a room for chess players is worth it… It would be nice if the two federations in Crimea could find common ground (or, more precisely, if the leadership of these federations could do so). Then, maybe, the leaders of the RCF would better understand who to help and who to visit.”

I think this speaks volumes about the “Crimean issue,” and about much more besides. I don’t want to bore readers with superfluous information. Many questions are likely to be discussed at the congress. I’ll just say a few words about a separate but also very important part of our work, something that people often forget about – how chess is represented in the media.   

- How has the situation changed over the past four years?

- Like night and day! Here are a few figures from the latest report prepared by our PR Director, Kirill Zangalis. Those wishing to study the matter in greater detail can check out the “RCF in the Media” section on our website. So, over the past four years more than 100 reports about chess have appeared on federal TV channels; and we have been mentioned over 1000 by the leading Russian news agencies. 

 More than 500 reports have been printed leading sports (and other) publications. Grandmasters have appeared on numerous nationally televised television programmes. A separate shout out should go to Match TV, which covers chess tournaments in all possible formats: from results tickers during news reports to hours-long coverage of the World Championships online.    

Interviews with grandmasters have appeared in popular sports papers. In addition to Russian players, Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand, Boris Gelfand, Levon Aronian, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and several others have all been interviewed. Journalists are interested in chess players again! All this didn’t happen at once, but it did happen nonetheless. It is simply ridiculous against this background to accuse the chess community of being closed to the media, as some of the candidates for the RCF presidency have suggested. And, of course, all reputable publications have received or will receive accreditation for the RCF Congress.

And I’m sure we’ll bump into each other there, where we will be able to continue this conversation, which is now running the risk of going on forever. I believe in the common sense of delegates, who I am sure will ignore political intrigues and vote in the interests of the development of Russian chess.