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Khanty-Mansiysk is preparing for the fight for the chess crown

The Chess World Cup will be held in Khanty-Mansiysk from September 9 to October 4, 2019. The agreement on the competition was signed in February by the President of the International Chess Federation (FIDE) Arkady Dvorkovich and the head of the Chess Federation of Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous District – Ugra Vasily Filipenko. It is expected that the tournament will gather more than 120 strongest players from 50 countries from all over the world.
Khanty-Mansiysk is preparing for the fight for the chess crown

The Chess World Cup will be held in Khanty-Mansiysk from September 9 to October 4, 2019. The agreement on the competition was signed in February by the President of the International Chess Federation (FIDE) Arkady Dvorkovich and the head of the Chess Federation of Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous District – Ugra Vasily Filipenko. It is expected that the tournament will gather more than 120 strongest players from 50 countries from all over the world.

Vasily Filipenko tells how Khanty-Mansiysk is preparing for this event, what the prospects for victory are and how popular chess is in the main oil region of the country.


The FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich and the President of the Ugra Chess Academy Vasily Filipenko/ © FIDE

– Vasily Aleksandrovich, what is the significance of the Chess World Cup – for chess sport, grandmasters, for the region in which the competitions will take place?

– The history of the Chess World Cup began in 2000, when the International Chess Federation (FIDE) held the first tournament with this name. Five years later it took place in the format which is known now: 128 strongest chess players of the world compete in a knockout system.

For a chess player who aspires to reach new heights in sport, every tournament is significant, especially when we are talking about world chess where with the best players of the planet meet at the chessboard . But the World Cup provides additional motivation, and a very serious one: the winner and the finalist of the competition will take part in the Candidates Tournament 2020. This tournament is the main and final stage of the series of tournaments to determine a challenger for the chess crown. It can be said that the Chess World Cup is a rehearsal before the World Chess Olympiad 2020, in which about three thousand participants will compete. It allows you to conduct systematic analysis of organizational readiness for the upcoming international competitions and assessment of the level of sports mastery of the players.

Ugra has already proven itself as a chess region. We hold annual national and international tournaments in this sport. We have the World Cup and the World Chess Olympiad ahead. We are faced with the task of making these competitions attractive not only in sports component, but also in cultural and leisure programme, so that every citizen of Ugra can feel the atmosphere of sports festival and intercultural unity.

– Khanty-Mansiysk will not host the Chess World Cup for the first time. The experience of holding such events has been accumulated; the feedback from the participants has been received. How is it used in the preparation?

– Indeed, Khanty-Mansiysk will host the World Cup for the fifth time. In the tournaments in the capital of Ugra Levon Aronian won in 2005, Gata Kamsky – in 2007, Boris Gelfand – in 2009, Petr Svidler – in 2011, Aronian is the current winner.

During this time considerable experience has been gained in organising competitions of this scale. Many participants left positive feedback and gratitude for hospitality and attentive attitude to the city’s guests. Professionalism and experience of the organisers’ team allow us to say with confidence that we will meet and host the World Cup at an appropriate level. Infrastructural capabilities of the city, improving from year to year, contribute to this. For the record, new architecture and infrastructure facilities will appear in the capital of Ugra by the Chess Olympiad 2020.


«The organization of such large-scale events as the World Cup and the World Chess Olympiad is teamwork. It would be difficult to imagine hosting high-level world tournaments without extensive support of the Government of Ugra and personally Natalia Komarova, the head of the region»

– Signing the agreement on the World Cup with Arkady Dvorkovich, head of FIDE, you probably discussed how chess sport was developing in Russia and in Ugra, where competitions of the highest level were successfully hosted. The attention of the entire chess world is drawn to Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous District and Ugra Chess Federation. What does it feel like to be in the heart of the events? What helps to uphold the standards?

– Ugra is one of the main chess centres of Russia and it sets the direction of development, which is in demand in other regions of the country. The recognition at the world level is confirmed by the fact that Khanty-Mansiysk will become the capital of the World Chess Olympiad for the second time. In the 92-year history of the International Chess Federation such honour was awarded only to three cities – Moscow, Thessaloniki and Buenos Aires.

This means great responsibility. Khanty-Mansiysk set a certain standard for the most important chess competitions. It is necessary not only to live up to this standard, but also to raise the bar. The organization of such large-scale events as the World Cup and the World Chess Olympiad is teamwork. It would be difficult to imagine hosting high-level world tournaments without extensive support of the Government of Ugra and personally Natalia Komarova, the head of the region.

– You are not only the head of Ugra Chess Federation, but also a deputy of District Duma. Please, tell us how chess is developing in the District, whether children educational programmes are being implemented.

– The District leaders and Ugra Duma pay a lot of attention to chess sport development. Since 2010 – the year the first World Chess Olympiad was held in Khanty-Mansiysk – the Chess Academy, which is very popular among Khanty-Mansiysk citizens, has been working in District capital. The project called “Less white spots on the Ugra chess map” is being implemented with its participation. The purpose of this project is to attract wider population to sports.

Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous District is one of the first regions among other constituent entities of the Russian Federation where the subject of chess was included in the educational process. The conceptual framework of the introduction of chess education in the region is focused on “The Chess in Schools” project, which is being implemented by Russian Chess Federation with the support of Elena and Gennady Timchenko Charity Fund as well as with the support of FIDE and personal participation of its President Arkady Dvorkovich.

The system of continuous chess education is built in the Autonomous District. Children receive it in all general education schools of Ugra – and there are more than 320 of them. A few years ago this sport was fit firmly into the schedule of preschool and general education institutions as well as organizations of supplementary education for children. Numerous children tournaments appeared; totally more than 13 thousand kids in Ugra take part in them annually. Our region is leading in Russia in terms of the number of children involved in the chess classes.

Multifunctional sport complex. Credit: fondugra.ru

The Ugra Chess Academy/ Credit: the Ugra Chess Federation

– Perhaps, this contributes to hosting major international competitions.

– Major championships invariably heighten the interest of children and their parents to sports. International tournaments not only «light hearts» of future grandmasters, but also encourage others to be «the champions of their life», responsible for themselves and their academic achievements, in their professional career. Therefore, the World Chess Olympiad 2020 and the Chess World Cup 2019 are not only important benchmarks in the sports calendar, but also have important cultural, educational and formative value for Ugra citizens.

The mass sports and the sports of records cannot exist without each other. We are very proud that the region has representatives in Russian Olympic teams. This is Dmitry Yakovenko in the men's team, Olga Girya – in the women's team. Other “little stars” are also growing up: a young sportsman from Khanty-Mansiysk, Ilya Ilyushenok, received the title of international master not so long ago.

I am glad that every child in our Autonomous District can get acquainted with an exciting intellectual game – chess. It should be noted that this is largely the merit of the head of the region, Natalia Komarova. We do not have a goal to make grandmasters out of all kids, but we want to bring up independent, intelligent generation, and chess helps us with it.

– Let us talk about the upcoming tournaments again – namely, about the prospects of Russian sportsmen. In 2011 Petr Svidler won the “home” World Cup. Will the Russian players aspire to win now?

– We have a lot of strong and titled players, the reserve is good, and so we will definitely fight for the Cup. As for the upcoming World Chess Olympiad, certainly, we really want to perform as well as possible there, especially since this will be our “home” ground. We will have some advantage: according to the rules the country organising the Olympiad has the right to set forth three teams.

However, it should be noted that it is becoming more and more difficult to compete in world chess from year to year. The mastery of sportsmen is growing, the teams from the USA and China are our most serious competitors, and the “intellectual squads” of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine are strong opposition. So, we will not try on the “gold” in advance. Only the Olympiad itself will show whether Russia takes the first place in the world tournament. And we will try to show the best play.