"Master makers". Sergey Janovsky
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?
The trainer is always responsible for the result. It is the criterion of his work, all the rest is just poetry. There are quite a lot of other factors, but one cannot overlook the results of students.
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? Is it possible for one person to be successful in all of them?
In theory, a good trainer certainly can be successful in each of these groups, though they have some specific features. Chessplayers of the highest level are already mature personalities. They rather need a second that will help them to choose an optimal strategy for a given competition and will advise what kind of opening he should choose, etc. A second establishes an optimal psychological atmosphere in the team, takes care of a comfortable psychological state of the player, and assists in going through both defeats and victories. A successful performance can also take away a lot of emotions, and there arises a problem to keep one's strength for other encounters. A coach can also help chessplayers of the highest level in training some elements by selecting proper training positions. However, it already has an auxiliary role. In 90 % cases the specific of the highest category, where trainer has less practical strength than his student, confines within this, therefore, a coaching in a usual sense is carried out within the first 2 categories.
The psychological contact between the trainer and the student is of high importance. In the Oriental culture the whole process of studying arises from personal contact. Whether it is yoga, karate or philosophy – everything is based on the information transmission that is conveyed personally. If one is able to start such communication and is disposed to contact with people who are ready to perceive the subject, than one achieves success.
In press we can often find the utterances 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?
The talent shows differently. It is very difficult to formalize it, but I think that it displays first of all in non-standard reactions, in moves that are very hard to be taught. Talented chessplayers process a prominent array of information and come to conclusions that the trainer cannot give them just as it is. When one has a non-standard approach in position evaluating, then we can talk about a talent.
Is there a certain critical age, after which is impossible to make a significant progress in chess, no matter how hard you train?
Frankly speaking, I have some doubts about it. I think there are no such limits. Longevity of such sportsmen as Korchnoi shows that even in the mature age one can achieve outstanding results. I am inclined to believe that each person realizes only a small part of his or her potential; therefore, the ability to develop in chess depends mostly on one's motivation level and personal qualities. I would keep myself from setting any limits. In my opinion, there are no strict limits.
It is quite another matter that serious professional sport has become younger, one has to process great amount of information, and certainly child's brain is better adapted for it. Any child of 3-4 years old easily learns several languages that his parents use to speak with him at home. Moreover, it is easier to find a sponsorship for one who was successful in junior chess. It is easier to fulfill potential one's potential at an early age.
Could you tell about your work with Ian Nepomniachtchi?
I consider Ian as a very gifted sportsman. Each talented player has his own view on chess, and I try to help him to develop his specific gift. One has to be a strong personality to be a professional chessplayer, therefore, a lot of aspects are related to psychological and sport training. I try to organize the training routine in that way that he guides it himself, and I have only a secondary role. Ian has to have a clear understanding how this work should be carried out.
How much time do you devote to the openings?
The point is that the attention of professional players is mainly focused at openings, but a serious opening training extends to studying the typical endings. One should always keep abreast of the opening development, therefore, a work on tactics, strategy, attack and defense is usually based on the openings that are studied at the moment.
Is there a trainer's elite in chess?
Certainly there are some outstanding trainers, more serious and professional than others, as in any other domain. At the same time I met a lot of prominent coaches that completely did not admit the experience of others and considered their own system to be the only one correct. I am not categorical in my nature and I think that many systems may exist. For me the level of a trainer is determined mostly by the results, and I mean not only chess achievements of one's students, but also other things. One has to understand, how a coach influences his students. Sometimes quite good results are attended with enormous psychological pressure on children... I value highly a pedagogical role of the trainer. Chess is a tough sport, and it is sad to see that a growing child perceives not the best human qualities, because of a trainer that incites him to win at any rate. For me such prize is too high. Moral aspects in the trainer's work are also very important.
Photo from ChessBase archive.
Questions were asked by Misha Savinov.
This article is published with permission of Association of Chess Professionals