23.05.2005 "Master makers". Andrey Lukin

Could one restate for chess a well-known football maxim: 'If you win, you are a good player, if you lose, you have a bad coach'? To what extent is a trainer responsible for the result?


It depends on player. The higher is the level of a player, the more he wants to find other reasons of his defeat than his own performance, to lay the blame on his trainer. Though Peter (Svidler) is not that sort of man. Sometimes I also lay the blame on myself to calm the students. However, there are some defeats that happen because of me.

One could divide all chess trainers into 3 groups according to the different goals and methods of work. Firstly, there are trainers of 'amateurs' that are at the earliest stages of a mastery development, secondly, there are coaches of 'young professionals', and thirdly, there are trainers of strong grandmasters, up to the world championship level. What are the features of work in each of these groups?



I did not work with the first category, but it is clear that one need pedagogical skills to do it. Even a first-category player can teach the rules and basics of the game better than grandmaster. If you coach an outstanding player... Not many people can be named as trainers of prominent players – perhaps, Furman, Dvoretsky, Geller, Zaitsev, Nikitin...  Most of them actually are not trainers, but assistants, and they make what Kasparov or Karpov says. When a player becomes well-known, he is the one to command. Geller and Furman were the true trainers even for such players, but it is rather an exception.


What does the work with young players consist of? One has to teach chess and eliminate the weaknesses of a player. In principle, many people can carry out such work with the help of computer. A weak player that wields PC and works conscientiously, can easily find variations that only Zaitsev and Furman would have find before. Therefore, the level of trainer becomes less important. Though, of course, the stronger player plays, the better trainer he can be. But one has to work hard. If you do not work, you will have no result.    


How much is it important for a trainer to maintain the form playing in tournaments?


A chessplayer of my level surely has to do it. Therefore, I play sometimes (1 or 2 per year) though unwillingly. Of course, Boleslavsky or Bondarevsky could afford themselves not to take part in competitions. Present-day grandmasters rated around 2500 have to play, otherwise you calculate worse and can irritate your students with your slowness.

How should a trainer assist students with an opening repertoire? I know that some trainers just pass their own openings to the students, and it is the end of their work...



That is right – thereby they work on their own opening repertoire and therefore can play themselves. I try to find something suitable especially for a given player, I examine all the variations but I cannot remember everything at the board... So my own opening repertoire does not develop.


What is the role of an opening in the coaching work: when one has to begin, how to develop?


When a player reaches the level of 2600, the opening prevails. Fairly speaking, it is not so easy to teach middlegame, except Dvoretsky few trainers dealt with it. Therefore, Dvoretsky has achieved great results – he elaborated the middlegame better than others. This is a difficult job, one has to work a lot. However, now he reaps the benefits of his work, he has a huge database and may almost stop its development.


Furman and Geller taught the opening. However, now the opening grows into... the endgame. But anyway Dvoretsky has better elaborated  the typical methods of the middlegame.


How much distance there should be between a trainer and a pupil? Is it better to have close, friendly relations? 


It depends on the difference in age. I know that Dvoretsky maintains friendly relations with Jusupov, Dolmatov who were his first students. Now all my pupils, except Peter Svidler, could be my grandchildren, and they are hardly eager to be friends with me.


In press we can often find the phrases like 'having seen some games of this player, I understood that he was very talented'. What can cause such an acknowledgment of high potential of a player?


I do not know, perhaps someone can recognize a talent in the children’s games, I cannot do it.


When is it possible to recognize?


Of course, some talents show straight away – like the ones of Kasparov and Karpov... It was evident that these players would have pretensions of world championship. They could stand a long struggle time... When you deal with children, first of all you pay attention to the memory and mental stamina. However, Karpov has no robust health, his memory is weak for a chessplayer of such level, but his performance is so great! The disadvantages are compensated by a fantastic natural understanding of the game.


Is there a certain critical age, after which is impossible to make a significant progress in chess, no matter how hard you train?


I do not know, it is hard to say... Perhaps, if Kasparov had started in 35, he would become grandmaster, but others should have started earlier. 


You have mentioned outstanding trainers like Furman, Geller, Boleslavsky and Bondarevsky... Could you give a few names of our trainers you consider to be elite?


I do not know who out of our contemporaries is to be mentioned, leading players are mainly coached by active players, who compete with their students from time to time. Is it possible to call them trainers? In addition to Mark Dvoretsky I can name first of all Elizbar Ubilava, Yuri Dokhoian and Alexander Filipenko, because I am acquainted with them. Their longstanding successful work with Anand, Kasparov, Dreev and Galliamova respectively is well-known. Alexander Panchenko has perfectly worked with young players. These are only the names that I have remembered.


You have a lot of students now – how do you think, who of them is able to play on the high level? What does it depend on?


The point is that none of my present students wants to become a professional. Alekseev and Vitiugov are going to achieve something. Beforehand my student Anisimov played better than Vitiugov, but now he studies in a serious university, plays chess only once a week, therefore, Vitiugov surpasses him. Chess future of even the most talented children depends on their own wish and parents’ opinion. If the parents think that one does not have dedicate life to chess, a trainer will be powerless.


Why should someone dedicate his life to chess?


If there is a possibility to get to the world top ten – it is reasonable to play chess. If there are chances only to get to the top hundred – one has to think seriously. Of course, if one has other talents.

Questions were asked by Misha Savinov.

This article is published with permission of Association of Chess Professionals

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