Alexander Morozevich Suggests How to Improve the Russian Team's Results

Время публикации: 14.05.2015 15:25 | Последнее обновление: 16.05.2015 21:46

On the Chesspro website, part of an article by Alexander Morozevich has appeared, which is from the May issue of the German magazine Schach. In it, the grandmaster discusses the recent failures of the Russian team and suggests ways to improve its results.

"The failures of the Russian national team in various team competitions in recent years have resulted in a lot being said and written. When our enemies or competitors speak or write, it is quite normal, but when people directly or indirectly related to the team or the RCF are beginning to publicly talk about "global bad luck " or worse, and to look for the guilty among the players, it is, in my opinion, unprofessional and unacceptable. Pseudo-frank admissions, sprinkling ashes on their heads, like "we do not know what to do and what is the reason for the failure" are rather infantile and irrelevant. On the issue of how to improve the results of the team and to eliminate certain problems, I have always advocated that all discussions should be held behind closed doors, in the circle of all stakeholders, in an open and tough debate. Modern realities like that, alas, are impossible, and I will explain my position openly here. I hope that the course of my discussion will assist any captains who are not indifferent to the fate of their team, at all levels, from the national side downwards. I divide the factors into Objective and Subjective ones.


1. There has been a notable increase in the the level of all the teams in general. Whereas earlier there were many "walkover" matches, now every year they are fewer and fewer. The number of main competitors has also increased – instead of two, there are now six teams, made up of 3-4 2700+ players, each of which, if weaker than the Russian team at all, is not so by very much.

2. Cutting the number of players from 6 to 5, and reducing the distance at the Olympics  to 11 instead of 14 rounds, etc. The cost of each loss becomes higher. For example, at the European Championships in 2013 in Warsaw, after losing to Turkey in the 2nd round and a draw with England in the 3rd, with only 9 rounds in total, the fight for gold was practically over already.

3. Venues and facilities are not always acceptable and are sometimes totally unacceptable - in a stifling atmosphere everyone struggles to stay awake, and, again, this is not good for the favorites. This is a serious and not always "avoidable" factor that should definitely be taken into account in the preparation.

4. Cheating. Apparently, with the blessing of Caissa, FIDE, the organizers and players themselves have persistently turned a blind eye to the problem, the size of which can already be compared to an epidemic. In one of the tournaments, where I played, meeting with the "crooks brigade" cost us our chances for 1st place. The cheats do it against others too, but in this case, we were the ones who suffered.

Subjective. The causes can be divided, in my opinion, into those that can be solved (if you wish, of course) and those which are not soluble. Let's start with the first:

1. Soluble:

a) Players that get in the national team via a specific tournament, need to arrange their individual schedule so that they approach the start rested and prepared, not worn out by more important events they have played in on the eve of the tournament, etc.

b) Do not arrange tournaments such as the championship of Russia, and other events under the full control of the Russian Chess Federation, so that they finish just days before the team event starts, as was the case in 2012, when the Russian championship ended just 2 weeks before the Olympiad. The tiredness of our players at the finish in Istanbul was largely the result of such planning. Or am I just being naïve?

c) Do not combine business with stuff that is unnecessary. In 2011, on the eve of departure for the World Cup in China, the players were sent to medical examinations in Moscow: this meant getting up at 5 am, leaving at 6.00, two hours travelling and then a visit to the doctor before lunch. And this all so the RCF officials can "tick" the box to say the players have been examined. Isn't a sleepless night just before departure to China, where acclimatization is already a very complicated process, rather too high a price for the convenience of the officials?

d) The elementary educational work. For all the stratospheric level of mastery of Russian players, no one is immune from small acts of personal cretinism. For example, at one training camp, one of our "giants", at intervals of five minutes, drank 250 ml of Coca-Cola, then fresh apple juice, and then rounded it all off with a milkshake.  The consequences of such "nourishment" can hardly be overestimated.

To help players adjust to the climate, jet lag, cuisine and sleep, is a serious job! 

e) The ratio of youth to experience. This is largely the result of my own experience, successfully applied in the presentation of the team "Tomsk-400" in 2003-2008. If a team consists of 5 players, as is the case with the national team, you need two players with experience, 30+ years of it, and two players of 18-25 years. The fifth player is selected taking into account the specifics of the particular tournament – whether it is a Swiss or round-robin, in Europe or in China and other factors. Thus, sometimes you want a slightly younger team, sometimes a more heavyweight one. Players between 25 and 30 years old are cut out for round-robin tournaments and are preparing to become world champions.

2. Insoluble problems.

a) The so-called team spirit. In itself, this concept is quite ephemeral, difficult and variously formulated, but as I understand it, and those who talk about it understand it, it has never been and will never be. It comes from childhood, culture, and does not come from the orders of superiors. We have five players in the team, each of which is the pride of Russia. And that is enough about spirit.

b) Guessing, like a lottery, the optimal composition. Today we have about 10 candidates for 5 places, and soon guys that were born in 1995-98 will start to grow up to the level of the team. How to choose from the 12-14 people the right five? We are not mind readers, we are just learning. My point "e" above can partly help, but such a relation is not a guarantee of victory. There will always be kind critics, who the moment a player loses, start this crap like "it was necessary to take Mr X and not Y, I told you so!" These cry-babies are of no use.

There is no obvious rational solution of this problem, so I myself offer the original idea to turn to the other plane, and pick the team using "signs of the Zodiac"! Though the interpretation of the Zodiac or horoscope in modern society has moved away from its true meaning, we can use the common position of the sun as an additional unifying factor. The following were all born under the sign of Cancer: Kramnik, Jakovenko, Tomashevsky, Nepomnyashchii, Morozevich. Coaches - Potkin, Naer and a couple more. Why not follow that line? And what should we demand of them? They are all excellent players. What is especially important in the Age of Aquarius, which we have either entered, or will enter, is not results, but the Aquarian spirit. The approximate composition of such a team: Vitiugov, Andreikin, Fedoseev, Dreev. We don't need a reserve, still less a trainer. Or, if you must, then Khalifman."


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