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: The discussion covers many issues. I would, however, like to highlight two significant points. The first concerns FIDE’s contribution to the development of chess both on continental and on the national level. Cooperation agreements are in the making with the presidents of the four Continental Federations.
The second point is no less critical 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. These will naturally launch the bidding procedure for these events.
Kazakhstan a major force in chess
Yannick Pelletier: 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?
Arkady Dvorkovich: Yes, Chess in Kazakhstan is becoming increasingly important and popular. One of the goals of the government in the short term consists of 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. I expect that they might soon become a strong candidate for the podium in international competitions. The men’s team is not yet as good, but they have room and means to improve.
This event moreover shows the organisational capacities of Kazakhstan. Bear in mind that they only had just one month to prepare this World Team Championship.
I can confirm that everything has been done to the highest level. The AIFC offers ideal conditions to host this event. It is a clear sign that Kazakhstan is responsive to stage other competitions in the future.
New connections & ideas for FIDE
Yannick Pelletier: Could you please describe for us how you use your experience in the Russian government as well as your management knowledge for the good of FIDE?
Arkady Dvorkovich: The idea to run for FIDE President to some extent based on the understanding that I can use my skills and connections to improve the situation of FIDE. It is what our team is doing now, by exploring options which were not available before.
I meet top businesspeople, leaders of countries, and emphasise our objectives to improve FIDE and the visibility of chess. We have to explain to them how chess can be used as an educational tool in their schools. 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 vital that we create teams with specialised skills that are crucial for improving FIDE as a driving institution for chess all around the world.
Russian Railway as a sponsor
Yannick Pelletier: You mention that you were in discussion with potential partners. Has there been any concrete result in terms of sponsors so far?
Arkady Dvorkovich: Yes, actually we started with tournaments already. The World Rapid and Blitz Championships for instance in St Petersburg was organised under the umbrella of King Salman and with additional resources from other sponsors.
It helps the financial position of FIDE too, as it indirectly lightens the budget. FIDE now has a direct income from its first sponsor – Russian Railways.
Yannick Pelletier: Can you tell us how these funds will be used within FIDE?
Arkady Dvorkovich: Chess will get most of it. A large portion of our 3-million-Euro budget will go for development purposes and directly injected into projects by Continental and National Federations.
We will also allocate part of it for the training of arbiters, organisers, and chess academies. Money that we receive from the tournaments will be used to finance current activities of FIDE.
Changes to the World Championship cycle
Yannick Pelletier: The World Championship cycle now has a few significant modifications. What impact will they have in your opinion?
Arkady Dvorkovich: 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. It also represents an opportunity for all participants to improve by being confronted directly against world-class players. We have also reformed the Grand Prix Series.
The tournament for the first time will run as a knock out one. We are expecting to see increased 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.
Another aspect I would like to touch on is the importance of side events at such tournaments. It started with the World Rapid and Blitz Championship in St Petersburg, and at the World Teams Championship. Local organisers are being encouraged 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. It will avoid seclusion. It also improves the image of chess and attracts attention.
Yannick Pelletier: The last question related to the World Championship cycle, which has been sent to me by Mr Leonard Barden who is a well-known chess personality. 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 significant benefits to chess?
Arkady Dvorkovich: I met Rex Sinquefield for the first time during the opening ceremony of the World Championship match in London, and our short discussion was amicable. Emil Sutovsky who is on my management board as Director General has had intense consultations with Sinquefield’s team on the Grand Chess Tour 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 2019 calendar. We have avoided clashes of the main competitions, with the exception of November. The smooth cooperation with the Grand Chess Tour allowed minimising the clashing of events.
The new schedule provided a satisfactory distribution of all participants in the activities of both cycles which was essential. Both sides are happy and continue to work in harmony. FIDE has big expectations for the upcoming World Championship, and I hope that we will receive competing bids from many countries.
Yannick Pelletier: Thank you very much for the interview.