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17 December 2017

Andrey Filatov: Fans Will Sing National Anthem at the Olympics!

Interview in Sport-Express.

Andrey Filatov: Fans Will Sing National Anthem at the Olympics!
Andrey Filatov: Fans Will Sing National Anthem at the Olympics!

According to the established tradition, the President of the Russian Chess Federation and senior coach of the men's national chess team Andrey Filatov answers questions of SE at the end of the year.

- The purpose of this interview is to summarize the year by discussing important and interesting developments in Russian and world chess in 2017. Let's start, perhaps, with the domestic competition calendar?

- I agree, especially since it remains extremely busy! The most important competitions will last till the end of December. In Khanty-Mansiysk, the Russian Cup final has just finished; in St. Petersburg, the super finals of the Russian Championship among men and women are ongoing and we will soon know the names of Russian champions. In men's chess, new bright names started to emerge for the first time this year - those of Vladimir Fedoseev and Daniil Dubov above all, but not only: Saint Petersburg players Maxim Matlakov (who won the title of European champion) and Nikita Vitiugov have been showing consistently strong results throughout the year. These GMs constituted the core of the national men's team in 2017 and now, along with Peter Svidler, they are fighting for the title of Russian champion. This tournament is taking place with great success in our cultural capital, in the former mansion of Kshesinskaya, now the Museum of Political History of Russia. This is how our chess players are celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the Revolution.

Overall, I'd say that all RCF scheduled competitions have been a success. The chess year will end with the traditional Nutcracker Tournament, in which the strongest veterans test Russia’s best young GMs. It is in these tournaments that the backbone of the future team is formed.

- I would like to talk about team tournaments separately. The women's team took gold twice, while men won two silver medals. How do you assess these results?

- Our women's team continues to dominate the world arena, but do not think that those were easy wins. Indeed, each of them was achieved by mobilizing all available forces. Especially valuable to me was the victory at the team world championship, following a tough confrontation with the Olympic champion of the Chinese team. Our female players have won this title for the first time in history, even though they are three-time Olympic champions.

The men's team is going through a difficult process of rejuvenation, the emergence of new names. And two silver medals is a decent result! Maxim Matlakov played very successfully for the team throughout the year, while Ian Nepomnyashchiy, Dubov and Fedoseyev all showed interesting game. Unfortunately, the guys didn't have enough experience for the decisive games, which was evident during the match with China at the team world championship and the match with Azerbaijan at the European Championships. In any case, our goal – winning the 2018 Olympics – remains unchanged. It is already obvious that competition for the right to join the national team will be strong, as a new, very interesting generation of players has emerged.

We support everyone in the reserve team! We have finalized the establishment of an IT center at the Central House of Chess, which will help GMs to prepare. And we have been drafting the training schedule to approach the Olympics in an optimal shape. Despite a large number of personal tournaments, the guys know that the Olympics are the most important competition of the year. Especially since we have the right to participate under the national flag and sing the national anthem!

– While we are at it, what would you advise Russian athletes affected by the recent IOC decision?

It seems rather obvious to me personally that it’s necessary to go to the Winter Olympics, participate and win! The rest will follow: we know perfectly well who represents our country, and we will support our athletes regardless of form. As for the national anthem, our fans can sing it beautifully, given an occasion!

– Let's get back to chess. Looking ahead, and not just a year or two but, say, 5-10 years, what can you say about future professionals who are now 10-15 years old?

– In 2016, our junior chess players set a record, took 25 medals at the world and European championships. And even though they were unable to repeat this achievement in 2017, they still showed excellent results, taking 22 medals. At the heart of these successes are grandmaster centers, which RCF funds throughout the country. Plus, individual work with the most promising players and, of course, the chess training program at the President's Sirius Center, under the leadership of Vladimir Kramnik. This year we held 16 coaching sessions at Sirius, during which Russia's leading coaches worked with juniors. And the 14th World Champion did not just manage the program from a distance, but was personally involved. Three highly experienced coaches work in Sochi permanently, and we regularly invite an outstanding chess player of the national team level to join them. As a result, a unique school has been created that will provide opportunities for the development of new talents for years and, perhaps, decades ahead...

Another factor that allows us to look optimistically into the future is a growing popularity of chess, both in Russia and globally. This finds its reflection in the number of media publications, the demand for junior chess coaches and the abundance and diversity of competitions. New generations of talented juniors will join our sport!

– What specific steps did the RCF take in 2017 to promote chess?

– First of all, an update on Chess at Schools, the joint project of the Russian Chess Federation and the Timchenko Foundation. We are now present in as many as ten regions of Russia! In just four years we managed to cover more than 500 schools. The project has published a manual by Vladimir Barsky, designed for the first two years of study. White Rook is becoming an increasingly popular tournament: even prestigious Moscow schools consider it a must to send a team!

We are seeing a certain revival of chess life in the regions, and not only in the traditionally strong Khanty-Mansiysk! The Novosibirsk and Samara regions, Kemerovo, Krasnodar and Altai have all shown noticeable progress. We look forward to breakthroughs from Yekaterinburg and Izhevsk. We are open to cooperation with all regions. For governors, the topic of chess became particularly relevant following the emergence of interest at the level of the Ministry of Education.

I am very grateful to the Minister of Education Olga Vasilyeva, who made a historic decision to include chess lessons in the school curriculum. The entire world recognizes the importance of our sport for intellectual development of children. However, few countries take practical steps in this direction! Russia has done it. When teaching of chess will launch in schools all over the country, we will spend more time and effort on professional chess education and organization of the competitive process. In the meantime, we are helping to train teachers; we have won a Presidential grant for organizing a competition among chess teachers and a pedagogical conference. It will be held in Sochi during the White Rook Tournament.

Another joint project was completed this year thanks to the support of Renault. The most rare and valuable books on chess from the Russian State Library and our chess museum have been digitized and will soon be available on the RSL and RCF websites. They include some truly unique books dating back as early as the 15th century! The historical and cultural significance of chess is hard to overestimate; I hope chess fans all over the world will appreciate this project.

– What awaits Russian chess players in 2018?

– We have already discussed the Olympics. In 2018, three of our GMs will take part in the world championships cycle: 2016 challenger Sergey Karyakin, three-time blitz champion Alexander Grischuk, who was selected based on the Grand Prix series, and the 14th world champion Vladimir Kramnik, nominated by the organizers of the Candidates Tournament. There is a good chance that a Russian GM will again be able to compete for the world crown. The Candidates Tournament, which will be held in March in Berlin, will bring together exceptionally strong teams. I will closely watch the tournament and root for our players! Unfortunately, Ian Nepomnyashchiy did not pass the selection for the tournament. But even though 2017 did not bring him success, he recently made us happy by sharing the victory at a very strong tournament in London. By the way, the world championships in rapid chess and blitz will still be held before the end of the year, and I hope that one of our GMs will bring Russia one more title, like Sergey Karyakin did in December last year.

– And the last question: what are your personal plans for 2018? Do you intend to run for the RCF President? Or, perhaps, you contemplate running for the FIDE President, whose elections will also be held next year?

– I intend to run for President of the RCF. I believe we managed to achieve good results with the team. But we have many other plans for the future. If Russian chess players support my candidacy in February 2018, I will be grateful and will continue my work. As for the election of the FIDE President, I will quote the 12th World Champion Anatoly Karpov. Many years ago, he answered the following to the same question from a journalist: «This is not my cycle!»

Dmitry Somov/Sport-Express

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