31 July 2015

Alexander Motylev: Even making it as far as China is a challenge in itself

The head coach of the Russian men's team talks with Vladimir Barsky about the overall results of the match in Ningbo.

"First of all, our aim was to assess our young reserves. As of now we have four promising players: Vladimir Fedoseev, Daniil Dubov, Ivan Bukavshin, and Vladislav Artemiev. Bukavshin played some great games in the Higher League, and had we had more time at our disposal in between the two events, we would have probably prevailed in it too. However, the lineup had been determined in advance. As Artemiev had been already invited to the tournament in Sevan, only Fedoseev and Dubov ended up going over to China. Unfortunately, their performance was mediocre, which came as an unpleasant surprise for everybody."

"Even making it as far as China is a challenge in itself, no doubt. This is no coincidence that the host team would usually take the upper hand in our matches."

"Were the Chinese also testing their newly recruited team members in action?"

"Yes, they feature a much stronger first team lineup. It should be noted, however, that at the last World Cup, which they managed to take, the Chinese team also included their junior Wang Chen. And to think that they could have put up for fight both Wang Yue and Wang Hao. We were faced off against nearly the same lineup as during the World Cup, only Ding Liren, who was playing his match against Gelfand at the time, was replaced by Lu Shanglei. He is U-20 World Champion and displayed very decent performance during the latest Aeroflot Open."

"Although the Chinese national team was far behind ours in terms of the Elo ranking because Wang Chen and Lu Shanglei have not reached the level of 2600-players yet, the thing is that in reality they play a lot stronger chess. They just need more time to gain more rating points."

"However, before the match start it turned out that we were favorites. We have not expected our young players to deliver such poor performance. However, it was Dubov’s first visit to China, whereas Fedoseev had already played in the Chinese league sometime in the past, but not very successfully either. It is not an easy thing to make your debut for the national team of China! Well, what are you supposed to do? Both players and coaches need to learn their lessons from this experience."

"Wasn’t it Maxim Matlakov’s debut for the team also? He is no longer considered to be a young player, is he?"

"I do believe Maxim to be a team player by his nature. We assumed that in Ningbo he could achieve good results despite the fact that in the Higher League he failed to come up with too much of a play, for that matter. As Maxim was born in 1991, he is nearly five years older than Fedoseev and Dubov. Matlakov has demonstrated a great level of performance, and from now on we can consider him to be among candidates for the European Team Championship."

"Was the idea of offering Svidler a team membership such as to have at least one seasoned player on its list?"

"Yes, and great thanks to Peter that he accepted the offer. Well, we realize that he is not in any particular need of having to play yet another match, but it does mean that he is willing to play for the team. As for us, we sort of needed an "old wolf" for the young players to look up to!"

"Well, here comes Peter to join the ranks of “old wolves”! Why were Nikita Vitiugov’s achievements so modest, in your opinion?"

"I have no explanation to offer for that. It so happened that three of our players have failed to rise to the occasion. Before the match it looked as though the young generation was really up to it and some of them could even advance as far as the European Championship. So far the issue has remained in a state of suspension, and the final lineup will be defined upon completion of the Superfinal and the World Cup."

"So, there are no sureproof candidates, are there?"

"No, there aren’t. We have about 10-12 people claiming their membership in the team at this moment, as was rightfully noted by Ian Nepomniachtchi in one of his interviews. Once the World Cup is finished we are going to define the final team lineup as after that there will be almost no time left."

"Did you like the way the match was organized in Ningbo?"

"I guess I liked it. Well, it is clear that the Chinese cuisine may not be to everybody’s liking, but the organizers have put in great efforts to make sure that we had everything we needed. There was plenty of food to choose from. We were assisted by some volunteer girls who knew English. There was, however, the jet lag problem and it remains unclear until now how one is supposed to overcome it. So, this is not the ideal scenario to make your debut for the national team. However, nowadays that the chess has moved into the category of combative sports, it is necessary to demonstrate good results even if you are woken up at midnight and being told that it was time to play some chess! A modern chess player must anticipate anything."

"Who will define the final team lineup for the European Championship?"

"Vladimir Potkin and I remain coaches until the end of the year. We will definitely work together with Mark Glukhovsky. I would very much like to put together a team that would feature a fusion of youth and experience, to involve some of the younger players."