FIDE president, who arrived to Ugra land to officially open the Women’s World Chess Championship, sat down with Vladimir Barsky and Anna Burtasova to discuss his future projects.

– As you know, since 2005 Khanty-Mansiysk developed into the world capital of chess. They organized many competitions of the highest level – four World Cups, Chess Olympiad… Khanty-Mansiysk already submitted a number of applications to the Presidential Board – they applied for the the World Blitz and Rapid Championships-2013, Women’s Grand Prix event in 2014, World Team Championship in 2015, World Junior Championships under 14, 16 and 18 in 2016. They want to have chess events every year!

Their applications have good chances for approval, because they already have everything needed to carry out any chess event – infrastructure, specialists, and, most importantly, the government support: Ugra Governor Natalia Vladimirovna Komarova is a big chess enthusiast. They teach chess at schools, team chess via internet. By the way, last year we had an internet match between school children of Kalmyk Republic and Ugra.

– Who won?

– Children from Ugra. So chess develops rapidly here thanks to serious effort of the Governor, the government and the Ugra Chess Federation.

– FIDE nominated Olga Girya for this championship. Why did you make this decision?

– The Ugra Chess Federation approached me and asked to include her as a local representative. I have the right to nominate two players, and I accepted the suggestion of hosts. Let’s hope she plays well.

– You’ve been to Khanty-Mansiysk many times. Which visit is the most memorable one?

– The first one. I came in winter, it was very cold, -40, and everybody was wearing valenki. The Governor presented me valenki too. They knew how to work with biathlon, which was the most popular local sports, but chess? It looked weird, but the Ugra government fell in love with the idea. Some places organize one event and back off, but in Khanty-Mansiysk chess already became a tradition. Chess players come here and feel like at home. I remember when I announced the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk in 2005, nobody knew this place. The Presidential Board members started to google it and looked shocked when they found its average winter temperatures!

– Yesterday you’ve mentioned in your twitter that it’s quite cold here

– Yes. Two days ago I was in Astrakhan at the opening of the Chess Academy. I invited two princes and an ambassador from Saudi Arabia to come there, and we discussed foundation of Saudi Arabia chess federation – did you know they still don’t have one? From Astrakhan I went to Kalmyk Repiblic, it was +15 there, and in a few hours I came to Khanty-Mansiysk. And its mayor Vassily Filipenko asked me with a surprised voice: “Why don’t you have a fur cap?”

– When did you decide to bring the Women’s Chess Championship here?

– In 2010 we talked with Natalia Vladimirovna Komarova, and she asked: “The Olympiad is over, can we organize something else?” And I said: “Okay, let’s have the Women’s Championship!” She jumped to the idea! Soon the Ugra Chess Federation sent us an application. They had no competitors, and the Presidential Board voted for Khanty-Mansiysk. Everybody was very impressed about the way they handled the Olympiad.

– Will you come to the Grand Prix tournament Tashkent from here?

– No, I will fly to Istanbul and then to Damascus for the junior chess festival. I visited Syria a couple of weeks ago, I feel really sad about their children. A real war on terror is underway, but people nevertheless want to play chess. They even wrote me a letter: we want peace, we want chess! So I will have five meetings before Tashkent. I visit two or three countries every week. Recently I met the President of Turkey and thanked him for the Istanbul Olympiad. A Turkish minister asked me to open a school there, so I’ll be there next week. When national leaders support chess, we immediately see some action, which is good.

– Are there any other chess palaces around the world similar to the Ugra Chess Academy?

– Six hectares of land in the center of Baku were recently allocated for the future Chess Palace. We hope they finish it by 2015, when Baku hosts the World Cup. The Presidential Board will gather in January 2013 in Yerevan, and we together with the Armenian President will lay the foundation for a new Chess Academy at the central street of Yerevan.

– What are the latest developments with Men’s and Women’s FIDE Grand Prix?

– The idea of Grand Prix was criticized initially, but now we have all men’s tournaments booked for the next two years. The next one takes place in Tashkent, then there will be Paris, Madrid, Berlin… The list is full until 2015. The only problem was to find the room for it.

I am happy to see that World Rapid and Blitz Championships are taking roots. The President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbaev supported this idea, and we organized the championships in Astana. It was very interesting, and all the national leadership was there. It seems they were quite impressed, as now Kazakhstan declares interest in the 2018 Chess Olympiad. The mayor of Alma-Ata allocated the area for a Chess Academy, Astana also wants to build a chess palace. If the Presidential Board approves, the next World Blitz and Rapid Championships will be held in Khanty-Mansiysk.

The Board has like 50 questions on its agenda. Sometimes these are hot issues, like Grand Prix. Last year the Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan signed an order to include chess in the school program as compulsory subject. Now children get grades for chess just like for math or physics. Grandmaster Smbat Lputian is working on a presentation of their chess-at-shools experience.

Two years ago in Khanty-Mansiysk I said that my goal is to see a billion people playing chess. Now this looks doable. Many countries join scholastic chess program, and the players’ base is growing rapidly. Recently I talked with the Indian minister of education, and he said they are planning to teach chess in municipal schools. This will instantly bring us 320 millions new players!

– What are other hot issues debated at the Board? Recently there were several cheating scandals, are you going to examine the issue?

– We discuss them at every Board meeting, and pay very close attention to the news. The Ethics Committee has all the power and makes its decisions independently.

My new idea is to organize matches between countries! For example, Ukraine against Russia, Armenia against Azerbaijan, Russia against USA… The real time games with the moves selected by sms voting. One could say such matches will determine the IQ of nations! This is another incentive for country presidents to introduce chess at schools.

However, when I begin discussing this project with national leaders, they sometimes back off. One president asked me: “So, if we lose this, we would be officially dumber than the other country?” We began the experiment in Ukraine, organized five matches between the regions. Next week I will visit Belarus, and perhaps we’ll work out something with President Lukashenko.

– Recently we saw the news that Magnus Carlsen will be tested for doping. Why?

– We are testing everybody. Do you remember how Vassily Ivanchuk barely avoided disqualification, when he refused the doping control after the Dresden Olympiad in 2008? WADA could ban him for a long time. But who can imagine chess without Ivanchuk? I am glad we solved that problem.

We are still trying to become an Olympic sport, and there is still a chance. National Olympic Committees of some countries such as Uzbekistan and Poland are sending mails to the IOC asking to include chess into the winter program. Next year a new IOC President is elected, hope we will start making progress.

- Kirsan Nikolaevich, thank you for the conversation!