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GM Vladislav Tkachiev – Chess Needs Rebranding

GM Vladislav Tkachiev has known chess from 9 years of age after being taught by his sister while living in Kazakstan and his journey has taken him to becoming European Champion in both Classical and Blitz formats in 2007 and made him well respected and highly regarded as a chessplayer internationally.

Tkachiev, who now represents France, does not fit the stereotype of a typical professional chessplayer. He also loves participating in other sports especially table tennis and football. He has a passion for writing and sees himself as journalist.

So what are his motivations in life and how does he see chess fitting in all of this? Read on for the opinions of this outspoken individual who was born in Moscow in the former USSR on 9 November 1973.

GM Vladislav Tkachiev

GM Vladislav Tkachiev

Q: How do you find the tournament so far?

I played a local player which I did not know. He played well but in the end I won. Usually I start well but playing in this tournament with success will certainly not be easy.

Q: You have a reputation as an eccentric chessplayer, sleeping in tournaments and doing many other controversial things like your website. What do you have to say?

A: Well, I would not say that I am eccentric simply because I enjoy many things besides chess. I cannot change my character for success in chess alone. Frankly I do not see myself as just a chessplayer, I am also a journalist and am even a commentator on Russian radio.

Actually I don’t believe I have eccentric traits, it is rather that I am an open person. When I was young there was enough secrecy with everything I had to do in chess and so I just simply had to do other things. Maybe that is why I do not have the results I could perhaps have gotten in chess. But that is what I am.

Q: What made you decide to switch to France?

A: No. The circumstances decided it for me. Two major things happened. First in 1998 the Kazakhstan Chess Federation did not pay their dues to FIDE and so we were suspended and I could not play for six months. Second is that at that time there were many attractive tournaments in France and these opportunities were simply not available to me in Kazakhstan or even Russia.

And thirdly I was very attracted to France and the way of life there. But today I live in Moscow.

Q: Since when do you become active as a journalist?

A: I studied at the University is Almaty and chose journalism as my major but I only finished two years as I decided on chess as a career. So I have always had an interest in becoming a journalist and it was my first choice of career!

Actually, it was only 7 or 8 years ago that I wrote two articles for the Russian chess magazine called The War Game. I made a comparison of chess with The Art of War and I liked it a lot.
Then two years ago I decided that I would end my chess playing and instead create a new website for chess that was different from anything else. I am not satisfied with the result today but in time I believe I will be able to come up with a something much better.

Q: You fell asleep while playing in a tournament in India in 2009. Was that the first time?

A: Not the first time I have fallen asleep while competing in a tournament. But it was in India that for the first time I received a penalty and forfeited the game. To be honest I had gone out late the night before and slept badly after and was tired and not well. I really should have known better when going to a new city but I think it was all blown out of proportion.

For example, a Rock Star performing in a stadium when he is too tired or exhausted might fall asleep there. For his fans and the spectators that would not be unusual, perhaps even normal. But the problem is that chessplayers are not considered normal but more like geeks. But I am not a geek and just a normal human being. And the media coverage resulting from the incident was very unusual and also unfortunately close to take full advantage of this stereotype of chessplayers.

On a personal note, I am in my 30s and so grew up in a time when living like Rock Star is one acceptable way to society. Also I am not a University Professor (laughs).

Q: Why do you like Blitz Chess?

A: Many reasons. First is that I believe that Blitz will bring many benefits to chess in the future. In 15-20 years chess will not get a place in the media. Chessplayers will not be known. Probably the number 1 or number 2 ranking will not really matter. Even today it is very different from the time of Anatoly Karpov.

For this reason, chess needs to work towards being integrated and also brought in sync with modernization and with the progress of our era because chess is getting stuck. The current media does not give coverage to chess as before. Before it was a headline, now it is more and more in the background, smaller, and often not covered at all.

Times change and chess also needs to. Other more successful sports have evolved and done things to be attractive and effectively engage the public and win its loyalty.

History has shown how easily brands, whole cultures, and even nations can vanish and chess is in the same danger. For example if you try and compare chess with say, classical music, then there is not a real comparison as classical music is seen to have so much more value. Chess is unique but it needs a new direction to be attractive to the spectators. That is why I support Blitz because it is accessible to all and also takes little time.

Q: Will Blitz really increase the popularity of Chess?

A: Of course. When discussing chess with young people they have the idea that chess is a sport that takes a long time and which takes two hours for a move. This is wrong. Because fantastic games can be created in two minutes of Blitz. Actually I have to say that Blitz is not really to my taste but it will preserve the existence of chess.

Q: Don’t you think an attractive website is one of the ways to popularize chess?

A: I do not have access to the broader public and the larger community. My target is the chessplayers. I want to change their perspective, their view of chess. The situation today is constantly changing. I studied chess in the 80s and it is very different then from the 2000s.

Today there is modern technology, the popularity of social media, Apps, iPad, etc., all bringing easy access to many other things of interest. Once I made an assessment. From the number of applications being downloaded to mobile devices, chess is only in the 25,000 range. It is instead other Apps like Angry Birds that dominate in the many of 10s, even 100s of millions.

Q: Chess fans are getting less?

A: I will give you a relevant example. The Russian women team won first place while the Russian men finished second in the World Chess Olympiad 2012, by any standard an excellent result. But when I returned to Moscow after the event in Istanbul, I found that no one had received the teams on arrival and there was little if any publicity.

Yet Russia is considered the country of chess and yet this is the situation we see even there. When I grew up as a young chessplayer, the exploits of Karpov and Kasparov were constantly in the news and they were famous and well known to all. But this is all gone. For some chessplayers this may be normal for me it is not.

Q: Have you brought this to the attention of FIDE?

A: Of course. FIDE’s biggest problem is that has simply been unable to sufficiently restructure itself lets alone the game to be able to attract sponsorship. But it is chess itself that needs a complete rebranding.

Q: You were born in Moscow, grew up in Kazakhstan and now represent France, so how many languages do you speak?

A: Russian, English, French, Serbo-Croat, and a little Kazakhstan.

Q: How do you find Indonesia?

A: This is my fifth trip to Indonesia. I very much like being in Indonesia. I have also been to Bali for a day but I especially enjoy Jakarta. I have been to many places and Indonesia is one of my favourites together with France and Argentina.

One reason why I like to come here is because I love Indonesia. It is exotic and offers so much variety to me and my senses. For example, on my arrival in the city I could immediately feel and even taste the city. I really like it. Indonesia is most certainly my favourite Asian destination.

Q: You like Jakarta?

A: I have already confessed that I really like Jakarta, its being crowded. After all I live in Moscow so I am used to crowded conditions and Jakarta is the same with the masses of people.

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