ALEXANDER KENTLER. CROSSROADS
AN INTERVIEW THAT MIGHT HAVE NOT BEEN GIVEN
Yesterday I came to the Chigorin chess club, and met President of St. Petersburg chess federation, grandmaster Alexey Lugovoi. Alexey Dmitrievich was surrounded by excited public, but agreed to answer a few questions of his old friend.
Alexey, you seem to be in excellent mood. Could you share the reason with us?
Well, haven’t you seen everything by yourself? The St. Petersburg championship has finished. Without false modesty I can say that this tournament has been the most important tournament of the city for the last 25 years. Look – two TV cameras, at least three dozens journalists... Some of them arrived from other countries – this tells a lot about growing interest to St. Petersburg chess all over the world. We had to put security guards at the entrance, because the crowds on the concluding days were too big. However, we found the solution – huge demonstration boards were placed in the Palace Square, near the Kazan Cathedral, and in the Yekaterininsky Garden. Hundreds of spectators gathered around them. I am very happy to see such interest to our ancient game!
How did the federation manage to achieve such impressive results in just two months?
It is all very simple. One has to be able to dream and know how to fulfill the dreams. It also helps knowing what others want. We sensed that people miss strong tournaments. People need chess! Take chess away from them, and people will get melancholic, alcoholic and neurotic.
A provocative question: who plays stronger, Alekseev or Vitiugov? It is not a secret that hopes of St. Petersburg chess supporters are pinned on these two young players.
We are proud of having such players! Both have an outstanding chess talent, and there is no doubt that very soon they’ll advance to the world top 10 level, from where there is a straight track to the world’s richest men list. However, it is also important that our youth find inspiration in their example. One could say, Vitiugov and Alekseev are Arshavins and Valuevs of chess squares!
Did the city Sports committee help you with organizing this wonderful event?
Thank God, our sports bosses are in love with chess. Our events are usually attended by the Sports committee chair and the vice-governor responsible for sport. I shall go farther: if the governor needed to talk to them, everybody knew that one should call to the chess club. The bosses not only signed the diplomas, but also promised to pay the arbiters’ honorarium in October!
Could you tell me, Alexey, the name of that boy in spectacles, who observes the analysis of Valery Popov – Alexey Ivanov game so seriously?
I will not tell you the name – I’m sure you’ll find it out soon. It’s a girl, and not a boy, by the way. She is just very serious about chess – like the administration of our chess federation.
What are you nearest plans?
We want to organize several significant memorials, and also think about showing gratitude to living legends of St. Petersburg chess. Our game gradually comes out of shadow and comes in fashion. Look around: the most advanced people choose checked dress, not mentioning the cabs. Before we had to beg for the money, and now investing in chess has become highly prestigious. So there are no problems with funding. And if we get some spare money, we’ll give it to beggars from other sports. Let’s work!
It would have been great if everything could be like in the interview above. However, apart from a possibility to cover the arbiters’ fees in October, everything else is just a dream. Alas, the Chigorin club gathered about 30 spectators on working days, and even less on weekends. St. Petersburg press were dumb as a fish. The new Board of the federation made a heroic effort to promote the event – the prize fund was increased, attracting all the leading players but grandees – Svidler, Khalifman, and Sakaev. The games were commented every day by IM Sergey Klimov, and relayed to the Internet by Shahcom company.
Alas, the years of transition distracted the chess supporter from visiting tournaments. The call to children’s trainers: bring your pupils to the club! – has not been heard, although not every kid interested in chess travels to summer tournaments. It is a pity! A few professionals (including the new champion-2006 Valery Popov – our congratulations!) are trying to get things moving in St. Petersburg chess. One only wants to wish them success.
Published in Russian on June, 14th