Fast and furious: Chess regains popularity with intense, quicker games
Published time: 21 Aug, 2017 17:48
Riazantsev became Russian chess champion in 2016 as well as European champion in rapid chess. He also coaches the Russian women’s team.
RT: We have witnessed in the last decade that the popularity of chess has been on the decline. Has the situation changed in recent years?
Alexander Riazantsev: I believe that today the situation has changed, ever since the young Norwegian super-grandmaster Magnus Carlsen became World Chess Champion. When he became number one by defeating Anand [in 2013], interest for chess grew globally. It became absolutely obvious after the match in New York between Carlsen and Karjakin. It was a real thriller, where we had to be on our toes until the very last minute, until the tie-break. All the world media was following the match. Norwegian and Russian TV had live broadcasts. That is why I believe that chess is on the rise today. We have passed the period of decline that we experienced 10 years ago. Chess has been developing very fast, including in the United States. Such grandmasters as Webster University’s Wesley So, who is No. 2 in the world, and Fabiano Caruana [another super-Grandmaster], both are now playing for Team USA. I believe chess are booming after the Carlsen-Karjakin match, both in the US and in Russia. Chess schools are being opened all over the country, in some secondary schools chess has even become part of the curriculum. I am sure that in the near future it will produce a tremendous effect, because out of the hundreds of thousands of kids who are studying chess today, many will become professionals. I hope, we’ll see them soon winning junior and then adult competitions.
RT: The latest chess event, St. Louis Rapid and Blitz Championship, attracted much attention due to the return of Garry Kasparov to the board. How did you like the tournament?
AR: Levon Aronian has lately demonstrated very exciting and energetic chess. In classic chess, he is back again in the “2800 club” [the players with the very highest ratings]. In rapid chess, he was better than the others, that is why his victory seems logical. Kasparov’s name is known all over in the chess world, and it will always be like that. Of course, the eyes of professionals and amateur chess players were fixed on him. It was very interesting to see how he will perform after such a long break. Although it is not classic chess, but rapid chess, it’s a rather serious competition. I expected that he would perform a little better. I watched the games, he played fairly well, but apparently the lack of practice and in some instances lack of time affected the result.
RT: Speaking of St. Louis, how has a Midwestern American city become a center for chess and a training ground for professionals?
AR: Today the US team are the Olympic Champions, they really improved their game. Two of its members are from Webster University in St. Louis: Wesley So and Ray Robson. I had a chance to see them in action. Webster University has a unique team, it is a five-time all-American champion among students. I had a chance to talk to the players, and I was impressed by the team. Of course, here at Webster they have all the conditions they need for training and growth. I was here five years ago and I can see the difference and how much effort was put into development. All this is thanks to the enthusiasm and effort of the University Provost, Dr. Julian Schuster. He managed to attract some of the best players from all over the world, and this is the result. Today, chess is booming in America, many universities have teams, they try to compete but Webster is far ahead.