ARKADIY DVORKOVICH: “Kazakhstan chess is at a high ebb”

President of the International Chess Federation Arkadiy Dvorkovich visited Almaty. This time the southern capital met Arkadiy Vladimirovich with rain turning into snow, but the weather conditions were compensated by a warm welcome and a pleasant friendly conversation. In an informal atmosphere, the head of FIDE spoke about the prospects for the development of intellectual sports, shared his impressions about the development of Kazakh chess, and remembered how the skills laid down in childhood helped him in his career.

“As a child in a chess family, it was impossible not to play chess, – admits Arkadiy Vladimirovich, – of course, I went through chess clubs, through the Palace of pioneers, and through various competitions, for example, the Moscow Championship and the Championship of Moscow State University. I can confidently say that chess helped me in my work. Strategic thinking, memory development, analysis of the situation, introspection, evaluation of the opponent or partner – all these skills acquired and developed during the game, they were obviously applicable in my life.”

Despite the background and heredity, Arkadiy did not follow in his father’s footsteps – having graduated from Moscow State University with a degree in economic cybernetics and taken a Master’s Degree at Duke University in the United States, the young economist made a brilliant career in government. At age twenty-nine, he has already become Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade of the Russian Federation, and after a few years he became Deputy Head of the Russian Government. However, he did not give up chess, continuing to help his father – preparing materials for articles, translating foreign sources, making calculations for chess statistics. When the legendary chess referee Vladimir Yakovlevich passed away, Arkadiy decided to organize a Chess living room named after his father, which became the center of attraction for young talented chess players preparing for a professional career. Later not only players, but also all who loved and played chess – businessmen, actors, politicians began to gather there.

“I was both Vice-President and President of the Russian Chess Federation, and after completing my work in the civil service, I managed to win the elections and become the head of FIDE. I think that we are becoming a big family again. (The motto of FIDE is the expression “Gens Una Sumus” – “We are one family”, – by author) Fully disunity has not yet been overcome, but, of course, a rapprochement has occurred during these months. There is an understanding that we have common goals, that we will support national federations in the development of chess from China to Peru. We managed to attract the world’s leading chess players with significant authority to the team, and this creates an atmosphere of trust and brings us together.”

As the Head of the International Federation Arkadiy Dvorkovich defines the main goal as the implementation of the election campaign, which is the basis of the program currently implemented by the Presidential Council and the Board of FIDE.

“First of all, it is the formation of chess as the most popular intellectual sport: mass introduction of the game into the education system, improvement of on-line platforms for training and practice, development of the Chess Federation as a powerful institution contributing to the promotion of the game around the world. The implementation of these tasks requires special approaches to management, marketing and financial management. Also, of course, we plan to invest in the development of human capital, professional development of employees, the search for talented chess players who could continue to develop chess in the world after the end of their careers. Of course, all indicators should be reflected in specific figures and statistics, and we have a clear schedule for the implementation of the goals, there is an understanding of what resources are needed to achieve results and, most importantly, there is a desire to work,” – says the politician.

The emergence of a large number of chess schools in different countries contributed to the rapid growth of competition in the world chess arena and, as a result, the emergence of a new generation of talented chess players around the world. It would probably not be an exaggeration to say that a country no longer has a guarantee for the possession of a chess crown. Competition has ceased to be bipolar. The fight for the championship is usually between 10-15 players, and according to Dvorkovich – this is a great indicator, because strong competition increases interest.

photo: Oleg Spivak

“Russia didn’t become weaker at the same time,” – notes the head of FIDE, – “On any list of the strongest chess players, Russians are about a quarter of the representatives. It is obvious that Kazakhstan’s chess is on the rise, and this is certainly the result of the work of the Kazakhstan Chess Federation, which carries out systematic work, developing both children’s chess and training professional players. We see constant interaction with the state, support for private chess schools and academies. To date, we can say that the Kazakhstan Federation is halfway to achieving its goals.  However, you should never rest on your laurels – there is always something to strive for and turn your ambitions into reality.”

One of the indicators of the national chess Federation was the fact that since 2019, for the first time in the history of Kazakhstan chess, the FIDE Commission included 6 representatives of Kazakhstan. This is the third place after the USA and Russia. According to Arkadiy Vladimirovich, this is an illustration of the quality of the organization of processes for the development of chess in Kazakhstan:

“It should be noted here the results of Kazakhstan chess players. Young stars began to appear, and I think that the team of Kazakhstan will move further. Although the progress is already quite good – in the final tables at the Olympics, the flag of Kazakhstan is increasingly visible. This is a serious progress for the strong competition that is now on the chess map. The fact that Kazakhstan is among the leaders in this competition is very cool.”

The Head of FIDE called the development of chess academies in the country one of the leading factors of chess success in Kazakhstan, noting that it is high-quality educational institutions that are the forges of the strongest chess players in the country:

“It is necessary to create a constant influx of new students to chess schools, to strengthen competition between them and, most importantly, to attract as many quality specialists as possible. Kazakhstan is now at the experimental stage, and not all schools and not all cities of the country have implemented this program. Nevertheless, the first successes are obvious. Of course, in Russia today there is no a hundred percent coverage, and everyone has something to strive for.”

Arkadiy Dvorkovich expressed confidence that soon Kazakhstan will be one of the examples for many countries that are just beginning to develop chess programs:

“I have no doubt about it, especially judging by what I saw at the Chess Academy after Zhansaya Abdumalik, where hundreds of children play chess in a constant mode. I am convinced that the Chess Federation of Kazakhstan will soon be able to provide specific proposals to the Ministry of Education, and I hope that the program “Chess in school” will be adopted at the state level as a system project.”

To date, there are already some countries in the world where chess education, as a school program, is implemented in all secondary educational institutions and supported at the state level. Armenia, for example, can boast of such results. The rapid development of chess at school also takes place in Hungary, in the Scandinavian Peninsula and in a number of other countries. In general, it is clear that the understanding of the importance of chess as an integral part of children’s education is becoming increasingly global.

“Maybe during the study of the basics and the theoretical basis it is not completely obvious, but chess is useful for any child, regardless of his future professional activity, and children will understand it in due course. Although even at a young age, many children call chess a favourite subject in school.”

The Head of FIDE is sure that when chess becomes a daily part of the educational process, the level of progress in schools will also increase: “It has been scientifically proven that chess has a direct impact on academic performance. It is necessary to introduce an understanding of the importance of this factor into the minds of teachers, to form an attitude to chess not just as a game, but as a tool to improve the quality of education. The speed of thinking, strategic vision and memory are the main skills trained in chess, and the results will soon become visible for both parents and teachers. For our part, this requires a serious training program, but now we are putting a lot of emphasis on it.”

In conclusion, the FIDE President spoke positively about the success of Dinara Saduakassova and Zhansaya Abdumalik, whom he had met during the World Championships in St. Petersburg.

“I am ready to play chess anytime, anywhere and with anyone. Another thing is that you need to objectively assess your capabilities and strength. Of course, I cannot play at the level of a grandmaster or even an international master, but sometimes I can hold out a significant part of the game against relatively strong players. I just love chess and would love to play with any chess player, especially from the national team of Kazakhstan.”

It was Arkadiy Dvorkovich’s first visit to Almaty as the President of the International Chess Federation. At the end of the conversation, he admitted that he was always happy to come to the southern capital, and expressed confidence that he would soon visit Kazakhstan again to discuss plans for the development of the Kazakhstan Chess Federation.