27 September 2015

Vasily Filipenko: Our Hotels are Never Empty

President of the Chess Federation of Ugra, Head of Khanty-Mansiysk city answered the questions posed by Vladimir Barsky.

"Vasily Aleksandrovich, the Chess Federation of Ugra celebrates its 10th anniversary this December. How has it all begun and what has been achieved throughout these years?"

"We have not of course started from scratch as people were studying chess in a number of towns and settlements of the autonomous okrug. Chess enthusiasts gathered together to establish the Ugra Chess Federation in order to step up the local chess to a new level. Back in 2005 we had something from one and a half to two thousand chess fans, whereas nowadays only the number of children involved is about twenty thousand. All in all, chess is played by seniors, juniors, and middle-aged people. 

"Having agreed with the information resource of the regional government and having secured the support of the Governor, we got down to a systematic work. We launched an online scholastic chess center (now known as the Ugra Chess Academy) and opted for two directions to go along as we began developing the large-scale involvement in chess and carrying out major national and international competitions at the same time so as to attract the public attention and make this sport popular.

"I am happy about the fact that we succeeded in carrying out so many major chess events: four World Cups, an Olympiad, a Candidates’Tournament, a Women’s World Championship, several Russian Cups, etc. We have come to bring up our own European Champion among school children – Irina Drogovoz. Two of our representatives, Dmitry Jakovenko and Ilia Iljiushenok, participated in the World Cup that is taking place in Baku these days and, of all things, the lot of the first round had them facing each other! You see, the Federation has already coached some of the strong players, although not as many as we would like to. 

"The Women’s team of Ugra successfully performed in a number of Russian Championships as well as in a European Chess Club Cup. The men’s results are worse to a certain degree, although they managed to gain “silver” in one of the European Cups."

"What can you say about the development of chess at schools?"

"Almost every municipal educational institution has come to feature its own chess club and we go on equipping them with IT rooms connected to the world-wide web. The basic chess knowledge is supplied by the local coaches, whereas the lectures for the “advanced” pupils are read either by the specialists of the Ugra Chess Academy, or by those from Moscow or any other city of our country. Our chess players, including those residing in remote settlements, can get access to these lectures. Such form of training is practiced widely nowadays. We even organize the qualification tournaments over the Internet. The players of Ugra used to play friendly internet games versus Dresden, Elista and other cities. 

"When we started introducing optional chess courses at schools, we wanted to get the kids become more familiar with this sport, to kindle their interest. Now there are as many as about 17 thousand children in the region who enjoy visiting chess classes not only in schools but also in the kinder gardens, many of them registering themselves with dedicated study groups and sections.

"Jointly with the Academy and the Department of Education of the region the Federation conducts training courses for teachers and kindergarten teachers on a regular basis and awards them with chess trainer certificates. It is clear that they do not feature an extremely high level of chess, but in this case the services of super professional coaches are not required as yet. The knowledge that the teachers come to obtain is enough to teach kids the basics of chess. In addition, we present schools with chess equipment, chess literature and organize chess classes."

"What was the initial location of the internet center?"

"It was accommodated at a track-and-field stadium. Although it was a well-furnished facility, it can by no means be compared with the Academy that we have nowadays!"

"Well, there probably is no similar chess club in the entire world! How come you managed to construct such a unique building?"

"We have been supported greatly by the regional government as well as by our old partner and friend “Gazpromneft”, which funded the construction of the Academy within the framework of the program “Gazprom for children”.   In the initial design the project was titled “The Chess Club”, while it soon became obvious that it has come to be more than just an ordinary chess club. The Governor commissioned me to be in charge of the construction process and we invited the famous Dutch architect Erick van Egeraat for the development of the design. Our Khanty-Mansiysk Design Institute took his sketches as a basis for further elaboration of the drawings. It seems that the final product has come to take a pretty attractive shape! In 2011, the Academy received an international award “Best Building” (The Building of the Year)."

Vasily Filipenko gives a speech at the opening ceremony of the Junior World Chess Championship. To his right are Vice-Governor of Ugra Alexey Putin and Adviser to FIDE President Berik Balgabaev

"As a Head of the City, could you please tell me if the major chess events contribute into development of Khanty-Mansiysk, attracting tourists and capital investments, and so on?"

"Indeed! Besides chess we also run a great deal of other major events such as biathlon, water polo, hockey, and boxing. As a matter-of-fact, they tend to draw public attention to the city. As the tourists keep pouring in, a number of visitors to the competition websites continues increasing as well, whereas all websites invariably feature a big section devoted to Khanty-Mansiysk and its sightseeing attractions. 

"There is one minor detail to be added here: thanks to the chess Olympiad the city was supported by the government in terms of construction of new road junctions and of the hotel "Olympic", which is now in great demand."

"It looks like there is no shortage of guests in the “Olympic”, is it?"

"Well, after the Olympiad was finished we discussed with the regional Department of Sports that the hotel needed to be kept busy at all times. Thanks to this a number of other events, especially those of the regional level, has increased significantly. The place is comfortable and convenient to stay at and there is a variety of athletic facilities such as hockey and track-and-field stadiums, biathlon and skiing pistes, as well as a superb tennis center. For that reason we are able to host multiple sports competitions."

"Is it true that when Khanty-Mansiysk is busy hosting the World Cups in biathlon there is just no finding hotel accommodations at all?"

"Well, such situations are not uncommon after all (smiling). Although a city that features a population of less than 100 thousand inhabitants has quite a capacity of hotel accommodations - about three thousand hotel rooms for that matter, finding an accommodation may become a real challenge from time to time. The same was equally true for the stages of the World Cups in biathlon and for the recent Deaf Olympic Games. As for the empty hotels, such an occasion is a very rare event to be seen nowadays."

"The World Junior Championship has recently finished in the capital of Ugra. What other events are taking place at the moment?"

"The winners of the regional team competition, the results of which count for the purposes of qualification into the Spartakiada Games among cities and districts of Ugra, dedicated to the 85th anniversary of the Autonomous Okrug, have been awarded recently. The Governor's Cup in the classical chess and the Ugra Cup in the rapid chess will be held in December together with the finals of the Russian Cups in the rapid and classical chess.

"For several years now we have held such an interesting event as the championship of Ugra among employees of the law enforcement authorities. Among the participants are the employees of the District Prosecutor's Office, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the police, the investigative committee - almost all force authorities are represented. In addition to that, the amateur tournaments are held on a regular basis. 

"Thus, during the Junior World Championship a blitz tournament, dedicated to the fifth anniversary of the Academy, was organized. Some sort of an event is run by us almost every week, not to mention the children's events as the kids do have a possibility to compete on a daily basis!"

"Do you happen to participate in any tournaments yourself? I was told that you had been involved in giving simuls to children at a certain moment in the past?"

"Nowadays the children perform on such a level that one might feel scared playing against them! (laughing). The general level of play is fairly good as the coaches quickly train the children up to the first category. Giving a simul to such kids might be a somewhat challenging task. We have a traditional New Year tournament organized by the Presidium of the Federation, and it is in this tournament that I keep participating every year with varying degrees of success."

"What are the goals that you set for the upcoming 10 years?"

"As Ostap Ibrahimovic once stated: "To hold an interplanetary Chess Congress!" (laughing). Of course, I would like to see our young boys and girls performing better and better at international competitions. We also feature a program titled "less unexplored spots on the chess map of Ugra". We used to furnish chess rooms in the district hospital, in the Bank of Khanty-Mansiysk and in various other institutions that have come to support our initiative. We will continue moving in this direction in order to cooperate with adults who are fond of playing chess.

"As for the international competitions, the World Chess Championships for boys and girls under 14, 16 and 18 are scheduled for the next year, whereas the year 2017 is going to see the Men’s and Women’s Team World Chess Championships. We are close to starting discussions with FIDE about the types of tournaments that we are going to host after 2017."