Our main goal is the maximum number of medals
— Andrey Vasilyevich, how is the team preparing for the World Chess Olympiad 2020? What are the program, tactic and, strategy?
— The World Chess Olympiad is the main team competition in the chess calendar. In 2020 it will be held in Russia. Certainly, we want to do our best “on the home field”. In some sense team championships held on European and international levels in odd-numbered years before the Olympiad, are also a part of preparation for the main tournament. At these competitions we do not only try to win medals, but also observe young players in order to decide on the list of the team that will take part in the Olympiad.
For example, young players Vladimir Fedoseev and Daniil Dubov played at the previous international and European team championships. This year another young chess player Vladislav Artemyev will participate in the World Championship that is to start in a few days. We decided to invite him to the national team even before he brilliantly won the tournament in Gibraltar, and I reckon on his successful debut in the national team. At the next European championship we will surely see another young player who can be relied on at the Olympiad.
The second important point is that the country organising the Olympiad has a right to nominate three teams. At a recent meeting of the Council of Coaches of RCF (Russian Chess Federation – TASS) this unique situation was discussed. Usually there are more candidates than places at the team, and now there are 15 places in three teams representing our country. I do not want to say that all three teams will be equal in strength, but the fact that Russia can set forth two roughly equal teams is definite. Our reserve is quite large.
Our main goal is the maximum number of medals for all teams. It will not be the way that we have one team we rely on and all the rest will play hit-and-miss. No. And, by the way, collusion between the Russian teams is impossible. Everyone will fight fair, and the ones who fight the best at the board, will get more chances for medals.
— Can we already say who exactly is playing for Russia 1-2-3?
— All three teams are equally interesting to us. We have already nominated heads of each team, but at the moment it is impossible to nominate their members. There is a list of candidates for national teams, and in the next year and a half we will monitor the dynamics of their growth and quality development.
Some young chess players will get a chance to show themselves, but they need to be well prepared. The coaches have already turned their attention to these young players, and they will be provided with some additional training, taking into account their individual peculiarities. The amount of training camps and practice will be increased. The more opportunities, the more chances. And how they take advantages of these chances will be apparent closer to the Olympiad.
In general, if we speak about potential participants, we should understand that we have three generations of players. The “seniors” include Vladimir Kramnik (who, as it is known, recently retired from his professional career, but who knows: his mood can change and he may play for the national team), Peter Svidler, Aleksander Grishchuk and Dmitry Jakovenko, who can be treated as a part of this group due to their experience but not age. These are the grandmasters who have been the core of the Russian national team for many years, and each of them has Olympic medals.
The second generation of players includes those players who will be 30 in the year of the Olympiad. Firstly these are it includes Sergey Karjakin, Yan Nepomnyashchy and the reigning champion of Russia Dmitry Andreikin who will also play for the national team at the World Team Championship. There are also Nikita Vitiugov and Evgeny Tomashevsky who are a bit older. These players are at the peak of their potential now. Generally speaking, the national team of Russia consisted of these two generations over the last years.
Also, there are young chess players – those who are now slightly over 20 year old. The main three players are Daniil Dubov, Vladislav Artemiev and Vladimir Fedoseev. (Maxim Matlakov is in the intermediate group between the second and third generations).
Lets not forget about a certain number of players who are 16-17 year old now. We hope and rely on them. I will not list them now for pedagogical reasons, but their names are already well-known. We pay close attention to their progress and it is quite likely that they will find their place in one of three national teams.
— When exactly will the participants of the Olympiad 2020 be known?
— According to the rules the final lists of the teams are announced two months before the start. I do not think that there are any reasons to change this tradition.
— Taking into account experience of previous Olympiads, which participating countries are our main opponents?
— First of all, it should be noted that competitiveness in world chess has seriously increased in recent years. For example, at the last Olympiad (Batumi, 2018) Russian team did not outrank the field for the first time in its history, losing the first line to the US team.
Therefore, the US team is the opponent number one for us. The Chinese team is the following opponent in terms of the rating and significance in chess. In general, these two national teams are the teams whom Russia always competes with and who have won gold medals in the men's competitions recently.
After China and the United States there are teams representing the countries of the former Soviet Union – the teams of Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Ukraine who have excellent winning traditions. These three teams are in different situations. For example, the team of Azerbaijan moves upwards according to the dynamics of its players, as a whole, and first of all, due to the fantastic gain of Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. And the teams of Armenia and the Ukraine go down according to the dynamics of the players. In the Ukrainian team there are currently no chess players with a rating higher than 2,700, that, however, does not absolutely mean that they cannot win medals at this Olympiad. As for the national team of Armenia we can say that they have an outstanding first number Levon Aronian, and a new generation of players who can replace the main core of the team has not appeared yet. But in a year and a half these teams may grow stronger due to appearance of new players.
«The International Chess Federation chose Khanty-Mansiysk by vote and I want to believe that the town will surprise that great number of people who would attend the Olympiad»
Recently a very interesting and strong opponent causing great inconvenience to other teams has appeared. This is the team from India. There is a real chess boom in the country now. I don’t think that the composition of the Indian national team will be changed completely by the Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk, but in five or six years India might begin to dominate in the chess world due to very strong young players who are between 12 and 16 year old now. Players of the national team of Iran also improve very quickly.
As for Europe, French team is traditionally strong, but they have a certain shortage of young players like Armenia and the Ukraine. Although the basis is very strong. The same can be said about Poland, England and some other European teams.
— Where and when will the preparation training camps be organised?
— Certainly, the training camps will be organised before such important competitions. In general, the training program for chess players is usually individual due to the specifics of this sport. The task of the coach is not only to “pump up” his trainee with debut knowledge or to monitor his physical shape, but also to put together bright individuals to comprise a team, because they need to unite for successful performance of the national team. This is an important part of coaching, which takes place at the training camps.
Between competitions players follow their individual programs with their own coaches, but they always gather for team training before a big team tournament when they live together for a while and develop good chemistry with each other.
— What are advantages of the Russian team?
— An extensive reserve, a very high individual level of chess players, good training opportunities, a large number of coaches and opening specialists that other national teams cannot boast with and a rather high focus on winning are among the advantages. Roughly speaking, we are tired of waiting for the Olympic “gold”.
For example, Vladimir Kramnik, a man who has won almost all the possible chess competitions, said many times that he had a goal to win gold medals again at the Olympiad, although he had already managed to do this many times with the Russian team at the beginning of his career.
I also want to note that our partners, who help our grandmasters in organization of training camps (both team and individual ones), support us and provide assistance with computer equipment. This is important for achieving high goals, and using the opportunity I would like to express my gratitude to the sponsors.
— Khanty-Mansiysk will host the Olympiad for the second time. What can you say about the past World Chess Olympiad 2010? What do you remember about it?
— I remember the Olympiad 2010 for the high level of organization. Khanty-Mansiysk set a standard how to hold this important competition, and after that, the National Tournaments were treated with more responsibility. For example, in 2016 Baku hosted an exceptionally well organized Olympiad.
Also, the highlight of the Olympiad 2010 was an exciting furious struggle for medals between the teams of Russia and the Ukraine. The Olympiad became a bit of disappointment for Russian fans because our men's team was very close to victory, but the Ukraine turned out to be stronger. That tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk showed that in spite of large number of strong teams everything is decided in two or three games.
— What do you feel waiting for the Olympiad 2020?
— On the one hand, we really want to please and surprise the chess world with new high standards of tournament organization. Khanty-Mansiysk is known as a venue for a large number of sport competitions. The International Chess Federation chose Khanty-Mansiysk by vote and I want to believe that the town will surprise that great number of people who would attend the Olympiad. I want everything to go perfectly. The high level of the World Cup demonstrated by our country allows us to hope that the Olympiad 2020 will be very successful.
I talked to the head of the region, Natalia Vladimirovna Komarova, many times and I know how seriously Ugra treats the Olympiad. New facilities for both sport and accommodation are being constructed. And certainly, this is a concern not of Khanty-Mansiysk alone, but it is an important national task.
On the other hand, we hope that one of our teams will be able to play honourably and to fight for gold medals. However, I am not ready to give a forecast which team will fight for the top places. We wish good luck to all three teams and will watch them, cheer for them and prepare them equally and with great interest.