Person of day   -  31 MAY 2020

BORIS POSTOVSKY

BORIS POSTOVSKY

Boris Naumovich Postovsky was born on 31stMay 1937 in Moscow. His parents wanted Boris to study music, so Postovsky’s childhood passed in competition between the violin and the chess board. The decisive move came when he enrolled in the Bauman’s Institute, which had strong chess traditions. Boris became a candidate for sports master and headed his university team. Three years later, he transferred to Moscow’s Aviation Institute, where he also played chess. 

In the 1970s, Boris Postovsky devoted himself to chess wholeheartedly. He headed Burevestnik’s chess department, he was director of Vasily Smyslov’s chess school, he won the Soviet championship in correspondence chess in 1979-1980 and he mentored Sergei Tiviakov and Alexander Chernin. He became a master of sport of the USSR in 1981, a recognised trainer of the RSFSR in 1986 and FIDE in 2005 and a recognised worker of sports culture in Russia in 1997.

In the early 1990s, Postovsky headed the Russian men’s national team. 

“My appointment as the Russian national coach was largely an accident, but it became possible thanks to Yuri Razuvaev. Here’showithappened. 

In 1994, RCF was subsumed to power struggles. I did not like this, so I moved aside. But Yuri called me one early morning and said: “Boris Naumovich, the elections for chairman of RCF are today. Let’sgo!” Ididnotwanttogo, buthepersuadedme. 

It turned out that the election of the Russian national coach was also on the agenda. They suggested Evgeny Sveshnikov, but he said: “I don’t want to be in the team as a coach, I want to be in it as a player!” So Kasparov suggested Rashkovsky, but he declined for some reason. And at that moment, Panchenko rose and asked: “Here sits Boris Naumovoch- will you find a better trainer?” I hadn’t even thought of running for the position. But since they could not find anyone else, I received 30 votes out of 32, with 2 abstaining. So if Yuri Razuvaev had not called me and dragged me to the conference, I would not have had a career as a coach, during which I won a world championship and four Olympiads. SoIamverygratefultoYuri!” (B. Postovsky)

Under Postovsky’s guidance, the Russian national team won four Olympiads (1994-2000) and the 1997 world championship. But at the turn of the millennium, Boris Naumovich fell out of RCF’s favour after he demanded that his players would be paid their bonuses on time. 

“I was outplayed like in a game of cards! In Perm, there was supposed to be a meeting of the RCF’s Executive Board, of which I was a member. My wife proved to be wiser than I- she told me not to go, but I thought that I had to talk about the national team’s plans. I had a paid ticket, I’d never been to Perm, so I decided to go…

To clarify, there are 15 people in the Executive Board. It turned out, that five were sufficient to enact any decision. The combination was as follows: 8 members gathered in Perm, so that was more than a half. And five is more than a half of that, so they could make decisions! 

And they decided to sack me from my position of national team coach. This was done with a qualifier: “Boris Naumovich, we value you immensely, but…” I was astounded, depressed- call it what you wish…” (B. Postovsky)

In 2001, shortly after winning the 2000 Olympiad in Istanbul with the Russian team, Boris Postovsky decided to emigrate to the US.

“I could have stayed. Why did Selivanov decide to remove me, even though I used to have decent relations with him? Our conflict arose because I put the team’s interests above the Federation’s, whereas he did vice versa. People like Bareev, Svidler, Kramnik- there are only a handful of them! And we are here for them, not the other way around.

I was always saddened when I saw professionals being lectured by people who went into chess recently. Some of today’s functionaries were not even born when I was a captain of large teams. So, at the time of departure, I decided that if I was in demand, I would return. If not…there is nothing worse than being nearby and realising one’s uselessness.” (B. Postovsky)

Boris Postovsky has been an international arbiter since 1987. He was the chief arbiter of the Z. Polgar vs N. Ioseliani match in 1993, the Russian team championship in 2011, the Alekhine Memorial in 2013, the Petrosian Memorial in 2014 and a leg of the FIDE’s Grand Prix in Khanty-Mansiysk in 2014. 

After his emigration, he trained the American national team, but he often came to Russia to give lectures and seminars. 

“I was captain of the US national team twice, in 2004 and 2005, at the Olympiad and world championship. By the way, I consider winning the fourth place with America at the 2004 Olympiad my highest achievement as trainer, far more than the gold I won with Russia. Why? Because that team, to put this politely, did not compete for so high a place. It had no Kamsky or Nakamura-it was a team without stars.

We started to play and no one in the American team could “hit the ball”; I put my hopes on Gulko, but he was completely out of form. Well, I thought that prospects were dim. After the third or fourth round, I gathered the team and said: “Guys, you are playing badly and you are not swimming in the sea. Why did you even come here?” They looked at me blankly, trying to guess what I was heading at. Swimming in the sea was not recommended before a game, since it took away physical strength, so the chess players that do swim do so in the early morning or late in the evening, when their coaches wouldn’t notice. Isaid: “Let’schangesomething”. Everyone asked “What?” «When the round is over, we will go swimming in the sea, with no excuses, to strengthen our health.”

So, after each round we began to swim in the sea with the whole team. We began to play better. Gulko turned to religion at that time, so I told him: “Boris, since you are playing badly, we will leave you as a substitute to pray for us!” 

We were playing better and better and, and after a decisive victory against a Spanish team headed by Shirov, we were on the third place with three rounds to go. This was a sensation! In the end, we came fourth, but I still think that something was up- in the last round, our competitors won a match that gave rise to a few doubts about possible collusion…” (B. Postovsky)

Postovsky’s name is in the FIDE’s Golden Book and he was a FIDE laureate for special achievements for the 2014 Tigran Petrosian Medal.