Sports are gradually returning to stadiums after the coronavirus pandemic. However, the main chess competitions will be held online until autumn. In his interview to TASS news agency, Arkady Dvorkovich, President of the International Chess Federation (FIDE), spoke about the expectations of the upcoming online Olympiad, expressed hope that the Candidates Tournament would be finished in Yekaterinburg, and admitted that almost certainly the World Championship match would be postponed to 2021.
— Let's start with the current events: the first leg of the Grand Prix Women's Speed Chess Championship ended two days ago. What is so special about this event?
— The women's tournament consists of four legs plus a super-final. The twelve out of more than 200 players went through the qualification stage and joined 9 seeded participants. Now 21 players are competing in four legs of Grand Prix. Anna Ushenina from Ukraine won the first one, and the Russians Valentina Gunina and Alexandra Kosteniuk took second and third places. But there are still three legs to be played and everyone has a chance to compete for first place. We believe that there are not enough women’s chess competitions; commercial tournaments are held mainly among men. With this in mind, it is our duty to support women's chess in this way.
—Is there a big interest in women’s chess?
— The interest is considerable, and the audience is already larger than it was before. The games of the first leg of the WSCC Grand Prix with English commentary were followed by a greater number of people comparing to the last Women’s World Championship match. By the way, in terms of viewership, the last Women’s World Championship became the most popular of all such competitions. Thus, the audience of women's chess is constantly growing.
— The Candidates Tournament and the World Championship Match are scheduled for this year, but both got suspended due to the pandemic. Is there any certainty about them?
— Until September, most of our activities will be online. And the main event after the completion of the Women's Speed Chess Championship is the Chess Olympiad, which will also be online. This year's Olympiad was supposed to be held in Khanty-Mansiysk and Moscow, but we moved it to next year. And this year we will stage an online Olympiad, and in two or three days the registration of national teams for the tournament will begin. We want as many teams as possible to take part in the tournament — we have 195 FIDE members. I don't know if all 195 teams can be involved...
Photo: Alexander Scherbak (TASS)
— But you will try.
- Yes, we will do our best. About 70 percent of the countries will participate. The Olympiad will last almost a month. And then, indeed, we are determined to hold the second part of the Candidates Tournament in the autumn. As for location, the main option did not change — Yekaterinburg. But if the current restrictions and the epidemiological situation do not allow us to hold the second part of the Candidates in this city, we will consider other venues. Let me reiterate: it is very important for us to hold the second part this year, and if for objective reasons it is not possible to do in Yekaterinburg, we'll have to move it to another place. I would like to stress that we will do this together with our partners from the Ural region, SIMA-Land, and the city authorities. It will be carried out only with full consent. But I hope that we will finish the Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg.
The match for the World Championship will almost certainly be postponed to the next year due to the current situation. We have already discussed this informally, and I think a formal decision will be made shortly. We are discussing various options — both spring and autumn 2021, but we will announce everything later.
— You said that all chess would be online until September…
— I should clarify here - national tournaments are already held offline. In particular, there were tournaments in Iceland, Norway, and we will hold them as soon as the restrictions are lifted. I was referring to international competitions. We are not able to announce the start of tournaments as usual because of travel restrictions. But I am almost sure that if not in August, then in September-October international tournaments can take place. Not those under FIDE aegis, but commercial ones; still it will be an important step, as people will realize that it is already possible to fly abroad.
— A few days ago, the FIDE Council was held, also online. What important issues were discussed?
— We mainly discussed online activities, summed up the results of completed tournaments, and talked about upcoming ones. We also discussed the coaches and referees training system. We didn't make any revolutionary decisions, but we have once again confirmed that the Chess Olympiad will be held in Khanty-Mansiysk and Moscow next year. It is an important decision.
— There was also information that a FIDE office might be open in Moscow. Is that so?
— It is a long-lasting story. A few years ago, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov (former President of FIDE) asked the authorities of the country and the city of Moscow to provide FIDE with office space. It was about the second office since the main one is in Lausanne. Since there are a lot of chess activities in Russia, a few months ago the government of Moscow decided to accommodate our request. Now there is a good location for our second office. Some minor repairs are needed, but I hope that this will happen soon and we will make preparations for the Olympiad directly from our Moscow office.