BORIS POSTOVSKY’S MONOLOGUE
When World Chess Olympiad in Turin came to the end, I wished to speak with honored trainer of Russia Boris Naumovich Postovsky about the results of Russian men and women teams in these competitions. Boris Naumovich agreed to answer our questions at once. He was the head coach of our national team for many years and it is clear that he takes hard every failure of Russian chessplayers.
When Postovsky sent his answers, it seemed appropriate to publish them as a monologue because Boris Naumovich was very emotional in his judgments.
I read both the material of Mark Dvoretsky on your website and Sergey Dolmatov’s article in “Sport-Express” attentively. The fact is that I have good relationships with both of them. We made friends more than thirty years ago. They played repeatedly for the teams in which I was the head coach. We spent much time together during the numerous trainings. It is hard to imagine indeed! To be honest, sometimes it doesn’t prevent us from arguing and upholding our positions. Well, now I can't agree with their conclusions. I would like you not to take my opinion as the only truth.
I wasn’t present in Turin but I followed the Olympiad every day. When I had some problems with the Internet in Moscow I called for Marina Dolmatova in order to get to know latest news. She told me everything in detail right up to the positions in the games.
The point is that I didn’t speak with anyone of players or trainers about the results of the Olympiad. To tell the truth, when I felicitated Petr Svidler on his thirtieth birthday I decided not to rub salt in the wound.
That was Russian Dream Team indeed! I talked to Sergey Dolmatov by telephone one and a half month before the tournament. Having got to know the players who will take part in the competition, I said him that I didn’t have any doubts in our victory because I knew all guys as experienced and brilliant sportsmen.
However, it is always difficult to take the first place. But in fact, I became even surer after the conversation with Kramnik who told that he had already undergone the course of medical treatment and he was prepared well at the moment.
But even the most wonderful team can’t guarantee total success.
To my mind, the poor preparation is the main reason of our failure. Grischuk and Morozevich didn’t take part in the trainings. It is possible that they had some good reasons but in this case they had not to play in Turin. When I was the head coach, everyone knew that it was necessary to choose the tournament that is more important for chessplayers themselves. There was one exception for Kasparov who prepared for the Olympiad in according with the special individual program. It seems to me that one shouldn’t include Svidler in the list of chessplayers who played for Russia at this Olympiad. He agreed to take part in the super tournament in Sofia. It is quite sensible because one doesn’t often invite Svidler to play in such tournaments. Petr also participated in the French League that was just before Sofia. Well, it is clear that he was rather tired at the end of the Olympiad.
Moreover, Dolmatov got a leg injury. I understand his wish to help the team. But Sergey understood that he wouldn’t be able to be nearby during the games and it is very important for the team’s captain. It was necessary to be a realist. In my opinion, he had to refuse from going in Turin. Unfortunately, nobody is safeguarded against the injuries.
As I understood from the photos of the Olympiad in Turin, Motylev became the captain of our team. I know him for many years. He is an excellent chessplayer and a good guy. I always support him. But he is not related to the trainer’s work. Motylev can help to prepare for the concrete game but it seems to be other kind of work. I am sure that only one person must be with the team at the Olympiad. Personal trainers and different sparring partners can help during the trainings but they disturb chessplayers during the competitions.
What qualities must have the captain of the national team (as this person is called on the Olympiad)?
It is necessary to be an experienced, energetic and cool-headed person. One should be able to resolve problems of organization and to be sure in team’s success. And of course, the sportsmen must respect the captain of the team. It is not random that the chessplayers often choose the captain themselves.
The team’s captain must be honest, respectable and responsible person. It is necessary to be able to choose the chessplayers that will play in the following match and to put a concrete purpose for every chessplayer and for the whole team.
It seems to be impossible without good knowledge of the opponents’ advantages and disadvantages and of the methods of reflexive analysis. The captain must be able to calm down the chessplayers after the game. There is no doubt that he must know about the psychology and pedagogics.
The main task is to create the team spirit and to help the chessplayers to concentrate in the nervous and tense struggle. It is very important to make special conditions so that the sportsmen’s strongest qualities would be incarnated.
The captain must know his chessplayers well and treat them kindly because there are no other sportsmen in the team. Of course, it is better to define the chessplayers of the main team and the reserve players beforehand. It is also necessary to design and to incarnate the plan of preparations. It is also one of the main functions of the team’s trainer.
One often asks about chess professional skill of the national team’s trainer. I think that in this case the chessplayer’s strength is out of discussion. I have never been a strong chessplayer. I won games against chess masters several times. I also received the title of chess master of USSR as the champion of Russia in the correspondence chess. It seems to me that I understand the chess and the tendencies of its development. For some reason many people consider that only a grandmaster should be the head coach of the national team. At the same time I think that the set of the qualities, which I have mentioned above, is more important indeed. To my mind, Victor Emmanuilovich Cart with whom I still have wonderful relationships (God grant him good health!) looks like to be a good example of such person.
I learnt trainer’s work and understanding of chess from Alexander Markovich Konstantinopolsky who was a great chessplayer, theorist, pedagogue and longstanding trainer of USSR women team. He was a brilliant person and he really made a lot for the development of chess in our country. I am sure that there are people in Russia and in Ukraine (Konstantinopolsky was born in Zhitomir in 1910) that will organize the tournament devoted to his 100th anniversary. I have communicated with him for many years and I adopted many things from him including the famous vacuum flask and tea-drinking.
I also learnt chess understanding from Leonid Shamkovich and from my friend Vladimir Liberzon.
It is interesting that I became the trainer of Russia national team by accident. My friend Yury Razuzvaev persuaded me to come to the election plenum of the Russian Chess Federation in 1994 (it seems to me that it was in April). At first I resisted but then I yielded to his persuasion.
Andrey Makarov was elected to be the president of Russian Chess Federation and then one began the election of the team’s head coach. Garry Kasparov was also active in this problem and he offered to nominate Sveshnikov for election. But Evgeny turned down. He wanted to play in the national team as a chessplayer and it was the truth reason of his rejection. He really played strong in the team competitions. For example, he managed to defeat Short and other strong grandmasters. Garry suggested Rashkovsky to be the trainer but he also refused for some reason. Then Alexander Panchenko offered my candidature unexpectedly. I remember that Kasparov didn’t like that. We had good relationships but probably he thought that the grandmaster would be more authoritative on this post. There were about thirty grandmasters and they elected me almost unanimously (some of them abstained from voting).
In my point of view, this form of election of the team’s head coach deserves attention indeed. It is possible that only the members of the team and the contenders should have a right to vote. This list of about twelve persons must be confirmed by the Council of Trainers beforehand.
For example, American chessplayers elect the team’s captain just before the competitions.
I have proposed my candidature for election to the post of the captain more than once. I think that there are a lot of factors in Russia which are necessary for the victory: the excellent grandmasters, conditions for the training, financing, state support and president of RCF Alexander Zhukov who understands everything indeed. I don’t share Dvoretsky’s pessimism at all. He thinks that now our national team can win only one or two of four tournaments. It’s quite another matter that it is necessary to incarnate regular and purposeful work with the reserve chessplayers (I fully agree with Mark in this point of issue). But nobody prevents from doing it, doesn’t he? Why Russian Chess Federation doesn’t invite Dvoretsky to work with the reserves of the national team? I would like to hear the answers…
Now let’s ask ourselves a question: could Russia take first place in Turin? I assert that it could!
That was a brilliant beginning: 8 points out of 8 games! I have never managed to achieve such result in my practice.
As a matter of fact, it is really splendid because the team gets stronger opponents at the beginning of the tournament. This condition provides the team with better coefficients and the leaders can eventually get into the struggle.
To tell the truth, we had some problems in the first round. At the same time the last round was played in Sofia and Petr Svidler, who had the Internet in his room, told me that Rublevsky had a drawn position and the position of Morozevich looks like to be dangerous. However, everything finished well.
Now it is sensible to speak about the third round. We played against the strong team of Germany. That match turned out successfully. Kramnik started perfect and then Bareev won his game. Yusupov agreed to the draw in his game against Grischuk. Rublevsky had the equal endgame against Graf. One view of the experienced captain was enough to fix the draw. Rublevsky felt the lack of time and black draw against the experienced grandmaster seemed to be good result. It annoyed but Sergey lost that game. He strived for the victory. There was nothing pleasant but it was the third round only. I remember how Rublevsky played against Vaganian at the Olympiad in Elista in 1998. The game was even but Rublevsky thought of the move for a long time. Then he made the second move of the variation and resigned immediately. He couldn’t get up for a long time. Well, it was really important to avoid the hypertensive blow. Then I embraced him. I remember well that I thought only about his health at that moment. It was a disappointing defeat and it seemed that there was a serious talk on the team’s evening meeting. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t fatal flaw. We won regular match and it was clear that the draw is always better than defeat. As a rule, one who lost his game doesn’t play in the next round because it is necessary for him to rest and to make up his mind to the further struggle. Russia defeated China in the fourth round. It was an excellent victory and a marvelous start of Petr Svidler. Our team had +11 after four rounds. Nobody could imagine that we would get only +1 (and even –2 without Kramnik) in nine rounds left. And of course, it was necessary to allow Rublevsky to play in the fifth round. Why not? He took part in the trainings; he prepared well and had time to rest. Dolmatov said that he didn’t want to let Sergey play in the next games. It was the same mistake as it was in Israel. Sergey fell into disgrace and was debarred after the draw in the first round.
None of us is insured against the mistakes but it is impossible to repeat one mistake twice. It is very easy to blame Rublevsky for three defeats. However, it seems to me that it is wrong.
Dolmatov frankly speaks about his mistake when he allows Rublevsky to play at Kramnik’s desire. He didn’t want Rublevsky to play in the sixth round. I agree with him. One shouldn’t change his decision. In other words, it is necessary to trust to yourself.
Once I made the same mistake when I was a head coach of Moscow team on the Spartakiada of USSR Nations (Moscow, 1979). After the failure on the previous Spartakiada in Riga (the 5th place) we decided to gain revenge. We had three training meetings: in winter, in spring and in summer. It was not easy to create the team because many chessplayers didn’t speak with each other and some of them were at enmity with each other indeed. But we managed to stabilize the situation owing to those three trainings. We were the leaders from the first to the last round. We took the lead over Ukraine on half of the point and we played with Leningrad team while Ukraine had Russia as the opponent. No doubt that Russia was stronger and more ambitious opponent. When we almost reached the first place I made a terrible mistake.
I told the list of chessplayers who would play in the last round even the day before. I decided that Bronshtein who was an extra player would play instead of Vasiukov against Tseitlin. I explained the team that Evgeny didn’t always play successfully against Mark. All chessplayers agreed.
Vasiukov came to my room on the day of the last round at 10 a.m. and said that he would like to play. I replied that it was impossible but at that moment David Ionovich also entered in my room and said that he didn’t want to play. I was confused. I knew at heart that I had not to do it. There was no time for the extra advice because I had to register the list of the chessplayers for the game. Well, I yielded to the pressure of grandmasters.
What was the end of this story? Vasiukov lost, Ukraine won 6-3 (it was unlikely but Tseshkovsky blundered a piece playing against Tukmakov). We shared the first place but Ukraine had better coefficients. I have been down and out for two weeks because of being depressed indeed. However, sport committee appreciated our result as a good one because we overcame Russia.
I was not experienced enough at that moment. But after this incident I decided to listen to my inner voice. Dolmatov made the same mistake.
It is quite strange that Dolmatov considers Grischuk’s result to be good. He played seven black games out of eleven but this fact can’t be regarded as an achievement. Alexander gathered only 5 points in last nine games. This is rather poor result for a top-level chessplayer.
Dolmatov traumatized Rublevsky because he didn’t allow him to play in the fifth round. Sergey is rather vulnerable person and it is necessary to be very tactful with such sportsmen.
Now let me speak about bad form of Alexander Morozevich. It is natural that it is quite difficult to reform after Australia. But the point is that one of the members of the team often plays badly. In this case it is necessary to give attention to this chessplayer and to help him. It is very important to save him, to keep him from thinking about poor game and to persuade him that the results will be better soon. Everyone understands that it is not necessary to play sharp variations if you don’t feel yourself well. It is clear that one should pose more serious problems: to make a draw at the expense of high class, to play more rapid in order to avoid the time trouble. In other words, it is necessary to wait.
I remember the Olympiad in Erevan very well. Kramnik felt bad, sometimes he had a splitting headache. I couldn’t keep him in reserve because some people had problems because of bad water.
I said him that every draw in such situation was an excellent result. He played as best as he could, having made nine draws (without victories and defeats). But all members of our team saw that he struggled indeed… Did it prevent us from winning gold medals?
I am sure that if the trainer said Morozevich to make a draw, he would have accomplished that task, having chosen another opening. It is very important to take account of the chessplayer’s condition. But actually, Rublevsky had to play against Armenia and then our team would have won that match.
It seemed that it was obligatory to win on the fourth board. But the fact is that we lost almost all games on this board…
Let me repeat that unfortunately, Dolmatov’s injury turned out to be one of the main reasons of our team’s failure in Turin. Russian chessplayers seemed to be too nervous. That’s why we lost so many games and broke all “records”. Well, our life is not that simple…
Now let me mention the influence of time control on the deletion of difference in the level of chessplayers.
To put it mildly, the time control of this Olympiad was really strange. It was a cross between classical time control and rapid chess. I remember well that one introduced it into practice in order to attract attention of TV channels to the chess.
This time control transforms chess Olympiad into a semi-professional competition. The point is that professional chessplayers play either classical chess or rapid one. A lot of chessplayers play on ICC but I am not an expert on it.
Of course, it is possible to play with such time control but it is necessary to prepare specially for it. Every chessplayer must fix the moment of remove to the rapid game. For example, you play 25-30 moves as with the classical time control and then you reform to the tempo of rapid chess. In this case, it is necessary to invent some kind of special preparation during the trainings. Professional chessplayers must give credence to their feelings.
Evidently Veselin Topalov refuses to play because this time control looks like to be amateur. However, many players decide to play and to reform themselves. Of course, it is easier to do for those who have a full training course with reserve chessplayers before the Olympiad. It is necessary to play training games with this time control and to use different exercises in order to take decisions quickly. As I understand, Russian Chess Federation has an opportunity of carrying out different trainings. But these opportunities were not used properly before the Olympiad in Turin.
I think that it is better to play with the time control of 100 minutes for the game (instead of 90 minutes) with the addition of thirty seconds for every move from the first. A new time control that was used in Phoros also deserves attention. In my point of view, the chessplayers must decide themselves. I am the follower of the compromise time control: 100 minutes for forty moves, then 20 minutes for next twenty moves and 30 seconds for every move from the first.
Let me say several words about the beginning of the last round. As a matter of fact, it is the final of the whole tournament!
Is it possible to carry out the last round in the morning? The round lasts only four hours instead of seven. If one begins the last round at 1 p.m., then it is easy to arrange the close of the tournament at about 7-8 p.m. I have read that FIDE considered the opinion of ACP… I think that everyone understands that this decision was absurd (I always have good relationships with Tregubov and I hope that ACP will not tolerate such disgrace anymore).
Who can become the trainer of our national team? I think that it is better for Sergey Dolmatov to retire. Probably, he has already done it. He is an extra-class specialist and he will not stay without any work. I know many chessplayers who wish to work with him. I am sure that he also knows his own value.
It is difficult to suggest somebody right now. It is very important to know the opinion of top-level grandmasters and of the Council of Trainers. It is necessary to consult with each other. I don’t think that it is sensible to appoint somebody right now.
To my mind, it is more important to approve general principles of the forming of the national team and its reserves. It is also necessary to develop the plans of their participation in the European and World Championships and at the Olympiads beforehand.
One must do it about a year before the competitions. We don’t have a problem of the absence of strong chessplayers. The fact is that there are a lot of them and it is necessary to use their opportunities correctly. For example, young Timofeev and Motylev were invited to play for the national team on the European Championship. An excellent decision! But they decided to take part in commercial tournaments instead of preparing for serious competitions. Is it right?
The chessplayers must strive for playing in the national team. It is really important to get different chessplayers to take part in competitions so that they do their best in order to achieve a success because it is impossible to win without the motivation and serious trainings. Kasparov and Kramnik didn’t play for our team in 1997, in 1998 and in 2000. It was difficult without them but we managed to take first places!
I would like to draw attention to the regular work with reserve chessplayers. To my mind, it is necessary to carry out three serious trainings a year (each of them must take twelve days). In this case, knowledge and experience of such specialists as Dvoretsky, Dolmatov, Zaitzev, Razuvaev, Balashov, Dokhoian, Tseshkovsky, Chekhov can be useful indeed. Then our grandmasters will feel their help and now it is very important.
The dates of the most important competitions are known beforehand. The organizers try not to delay the invitations. Well, everything depends on the head coach’s experience and energy and on the efficiency of the executive direction of Federation.
Now let me speak about women’s team and about work with it.
I am not very experienced in this question but I know well that it is harder to work with women than with men. There is no doubt that one must carry out as much training as with men. It is also necessary to get reserve chessplayers and experienced trainers to take part in the training process. Our national team has a great potential. We almost gained the first place, but Ukrainians turned out to be more concentrated in the key moments of struggle. It is important to analyze our mistakes in order not to repeat them in the future. I am absolutely sure in future progress of our team!
The retirement of Jakovich made a painful impressive on me because it seemed to be very untimely. Everything was done like in Soviet times. Jakovich put his whole soul into this work. He is really worthy of respect as a person and a coach. It is impossible to do everything in such a clumsy way. Probably, it was necessary to change the trainer but one had to do it correctly and at the proper time.
I would like to take occasion and to add that I am glad because of the success of my friends Arshak Petrosian and Viacheslav Eingorn!
Let me congratulate them and their excellent chessplayers with the brilliant victory in Turin!