Person of day   -  20 FEBRUARY 2022

SERGEY DOLMATOV

SERGEY DOLMATOV

A pupil of Mark Dvoretsky, Sergey Dolmatov was noted for his subtle technique and comprehensive understanding of the endspiel in junior competitions. In 1978, he became the junior world champion and, as a member of the Soviet team, Dolmatov won three junior world championships- in 1980, 1981 and 1983.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Dolmatov successfully competed in national and international tournaments. He played in six Soviet championships, splitting 2nd-5th places in 1989. At the inter-zonal tournament in 1990 in Manila, he qualified for the candidates’ matches. During an irony of fate, Sergey met his friend and sparring-partner Artur Jussupow in the quarter-final, which took place in 1991 in Wijk aan Zee. After winning the fifth round, Dolmatov surged ahead, but Yusupov equalised in the final eight round.

 “The score was equal- 4:4. In these instances, I think that we should throw a coin, immediately or after two additional matches. According to existing rules, we had to play a mini-match with shorter additional time- 45 minutes for 60 moves. This is purely a lottery and there is little to say about this. First of all, we exchanged victories and the next day I won with blacks and survived with whites. It could have easily been the other way around!” (A. Jussupow)

Sergey Dolmatov has won multiple team trophies- the European Club Cup in 1979, the USSR Cup in 1980 as a member of the team “Burevestnik”, the Soviet People’s Spartakiad in 1983 as a member of Moscow’s team and the USSR team championship in 1985 as a member of the 1st RSFSR. In 1992, he won the European championship and the Olympiad with the Russian national team.  

As a chess player of an active positioning style, Dolmatov performed superbly in aggressive settings and in combinational challenges, calculating the variants with precision. Experts also noted his mastery of the endgame. The fusion of these factors brought him success in multiple competitions; he won international tournaments in Amsterdam, Hradec Kralove, Bucharest, Frunze, Barcelona, Tallinn and other cities. 

Perhaps Sergey Dolmatov did not fulfil his true potential at the chess board because he devotes a lot of time and effort to his training role. Dolmatov served as second to world champions, for Garry Kasparov in Seville among others. Later, he assisted Vladimir Kramnik, he led several training sessions with Alisa Galliamova and Evgeny Alekseev and he was the principal trainer of the male Russian national team.

 “In my lifetime, I took part in two historical events. I wasn’t a player in either of them, but I played an active role. I was lucky! Fate decreed so…I was part of teams that performed miracles! The first time was Kasparov’s team in 1987, when he equalised the score in the decisive 24th match. I was Garry’s second and I remember vividly how he advanced to that match.

It was the World Championship in 2005. Before the final round, in a team meeting, I said the same words to the guys that I once said to Kasparov. I remember that Bach castigated me for it. But I saw that the team was seized by a desire to play and that the team was ready. It was important that it would not “overburn”. So, what did I say in Seville? “Garry, you must understand, never in the history of world championships did anyone win the final round as desired. And you won’t be able to do that today, but you must play to preserve your honour. You must throw such problems at him that he will tremble. It mustn’t be a short draw, but a full-blooded match. Yes, you probably won’t get lucky, but you must fight, you must struggle. You may not be able to take some extra pawn, but everyone must realise that you’re a true WORLD CHAMPION!” The guys at Beersheba in 2005 heard the same words: “You probably won’t be able to win 3,5 against 0,5, but you must show everyone that you’re the world’s strongest team. We probably won’t be lucky, but we will fight!”

Later on, it became very interesting, something mysterious began.  An odd number of teams was playing, and we were resting before the final tournament. We were taken to relax by the Dead Sea. And I saw some Russian newspaper there (was it “Arguments and Facts”?), someone else was reading it and I could only see the first headline upside down in large letters: “AND THEN YOU WILL BECOME CHAMPIONS.” I look below, there is another headline: “THE IMPOSSIBLE IS POSSIBLE.” I thought it was a sign of fate and I told everyone, but no one believed me.

Since the match took place in Israel, we had many supporters. People always want a miracle, and here it took place before their eyes. It was heart-wrenching, there were too many emotions…

Then it became very disappointing: we returned from the championship and no one met us. It was such an event…it wasn’t just anything, it was the world championship. One could shoot a film about it. What a story! Clearly, you can’t win a match with this score, but we did it! Clearly, this will NEVER happen again. Never! And we must speak and write about it, because it was very important to Russia. Pride in our country, after all...but it all passed unnoticed. But it remained in chess history." (S. Dolmatov)

During the last few years, Sergey Dolmatov has worked as a trainer in the Vladimir Dvorkovich Chess School, where he taught multiple talented juniors: Grigoriy Oparin, Mikhail Antipov, Alina Kashlinskaya, Saveliy Golubov and others.