Interview with FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich
The opening day of the World Team Championships 2019 in Astana was intensive for Arkady Dvorkovich. FIDE Press Officer in Astana Yannick Pelletier was allotted a few minutes in the FIDE President’s tight schedule to ask him some questions.
Yannick Pelletier: The FIDE Presidential Board meeting is being held today in Astana. Can you reveal some of the main decisions taken here?
Arkady Dvorkovich: Many issues are being discussed of course, but I would like to highlight two major points. The first concerns FIDE’s contribution to the development of chess both on continental and on national level. Cooperation agreements are in the making with the presidents of the four Continental Federations (they were signed later in the evening – YP). The second point is no less important, since we are working on the World Championship Cycle. The Regulations of the Title Match and the Candidates Tournament will soon be ready for publication, which will naturally launch the bidding procedure for these events.
YP: You have also just met with Kazakhstan Prime Minister Askar Mamin. Bouncing back on your last answer, did you talk with him about the further development of chess in the country?
AD: Yes, Chess in Kazakhstan is becoming increasingly important and popular. One of the goals of the government in the short term consists in introducing chess in all schools. They also run chess academies, which contribute to improving the level of their top players. The women team is young and already very strong, they might soon become a fierce candidate for the podium in international competitions. The men’s team is not yet as good, but they have room and means to improve.
Moreover, this event shows the organizational capacities of Kazakhstan. Bear in mind that they only had one month to prepare this World Team Championship, and I can certify that everything has been done at the highest level. The AIFC offers ideal conditions to host this event. This is a clear sign that Kazakhstan is responsive to stage other competitions in the future.
YP: Could you please describe for us how you use your past experience in the Russian government as well as your knowledge of economy and management for the good of FIDE?
AD: To some extent, the idea to run for FIDE President was based on the understanding that I can use my skills and connections to improve the situation of FIDE. And it is exactly what our team is doing now, by exploring options which were not available before. I meet top business men, leaders of countries, and send them strong signals regarding our objectives to improve FIDE and the visibility of chess. Our duty is to explain to them how chess can be used as an educational tool to increase the intellectual capacity of their country. And so far that works, people are receptive. Step by step this brings more attention and resources to chess.
I also use my experience as a manager internally to build a new structure for FIDE and new relationships with national and continental federations. It is important to create teams with special skills that are crucial for improving FIDE as a driving institution for chess all around the world.
YP: You mention the receptiveness of the potential partners you are discussing with. Has there been any concrete result in terms of sponsors so far?
AD: Yes, actually we started with tournaments already. For instance the World Rapid and Blitz Championships in St Petersburg was organized under the umbrella of King Salman, but also with additional resources from other sponsors. This helps the financial position of FIDE too, as it indirectly lightens the budget. And now FIDE indeed has a direct income from its first sponsor Russian Railways.
YP: Can you tell us how these funds will be used within FIDE?
AD: Most of these funds will be reinvested for chess. A large portion of our 3-million-euro budget will be used for development purposes and directly injected into projects by Continental and National Federations, like chess in schools. We will also allocate part of it for the training of arbiters, organizers, and for chess academies. On the other hand, money that we receive from the tournaments will be used to finance current activities of FIDE.
YP: A few significant modifications have been brought to the formula of the World Championship cycle. What impact will they have in your opinion?
AD: First of all, we are improving the visibility of our tournaments. The new “Grand Swiss” will be spectacular and attractive. This event opens the door to the Candidates Tournament for all young and talented players who have not yet made it to the Top-10. And it also represents an opportunity for all participants to improve by being confronted directly with world-class players. Moreover, we have reformed the Grand Prix Series. For the first time, tournaments will be staged with the knockout system, as in tennis. We are expecting to arouse interest from sponsors and journalists through this new format. All participants will be motivated to fight until the end, both for the qualification spots and for prizes in each event and the overall rankings.
Another aspect I would like to broach is the importance of side events at such tournaments. Starting with the World Rapid and Blitz Championship in St Petersburg, and also here in Astana, we are making a point of cooperating with local organizers to have a program of parallel activities, like simultaneous, events for kids, blitz, etc. I consider it crucial to open the doors of a top tournament to all levels of chess players and fans, and thus to avoid seclusion. It improves the image of chess and attracts attention.
YP: A last question related to the World Championship cycle, which has been sent to me by Mr. Leonard Barden, emblematic figure for chess in The Guardian: What has been done to try and build a friendly relationship with Rex Sinquefield and Garry Kasparov, since it is clear that an agreement could bring major benefits to chess?
AD: I met Rex Sinquefield for the first time during the opening ceremony of the World Championship match in London and our short discussion was very friendly. Actually, my colleague of the management board Director General Emil Sutovsky has had intense consultations with Sinquefield’s team of the Grand Chess Tour, including Garry Kasparov, in order to adjust the tournament calendar. They have increased the number of events this year, so that coordination with the World Championship cycle was essential. All tournaments now have their place in the calendar 2019, and we basically avoided clashes of the main competitions, except for November which was completely unavoidable. But the smooth cooperation with the Grand Chess Tour allowed to minimize the damage for the players. Indeed, providing for the satisfactory distribution of all participants in the events of both cycles was fundamental. Both sides are happy and continue to work effectively. FIDE has big expectations for the upcoming World Championship and I hope that we will receive competing bids from many countries.
YP: Thank you very much for the interview.