Istanbul: Press conference with Andrew Paulson

9/7/2012 – "The energy that we see here is just incredible, very positive," said the American born London based entrepreneur, visiting his first Chess Olympiad. Andrew Paulson is the founder and director of Agon, the company which is going to organize World Chess Championship cycle for the next years. He told spectators how he intends to tap into the natural force of 600 million chess players worldwide.

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The 40th Chess Olympiad is taking place in the Turkish metropole of Istanbul, from August 27 to September 10th, 2012. A record of 158 national chess federations have brought teams to Istanbul to participate in this prestigious event, which is being staged in the WOW Hotel and Convention Center, just minutes away from the airport.

Press conference with Andrew Paulson

Anastasiya Karlovich: Andrew Paulson, we are very glad to see you as our guest, our first question is about the Olympiad: how do you find the Olympiad in general, how do you like the playing venue, if you were the organizer of the Olympiad, what would you improve here?

Andrew Paulsen: Well, it’s very exciting to be here, I have visited Istanbul many times before, but the energy that we see here is just incredible, very positive. It’s interesting to see that highest level professionals are doing their job and people from countries all over the world are participating in such an amazing chess event. I don’t think I can do anything to improve it, it’s nearly perfect.

My next question is about the Grand Prixevent which is going to start soon in London. Did you have any special preparations for such and event. Will you impress chess world with something special?

I think that the first two events, which we are going to do this year (the Grand Prix in London later this month, and another Grand Prix in Tashkent in November) will give us the opportunity to begin working with the players and with media, and to begin to develop our relationship with the audience. I think that there will be a very high level of play – everyone is very motivated. Here I had a great honor to get to know the players who will be meeting later in September in London, actually in some two weeks.

What about the FIDE Congress, which is going to start in two days? What are your expectations, what would you like to present during this congress?

Actually, I have never been at a FIDE Congress before, so I can only guess what it would be like.

I’ve just learned that you were a general producer of very popular Russian movie “Generation P”. Would you like to make a movie about chess or anything connected with chess world one day?

Absolutely, it’s a great dream. Although I don’t think that I myself would make a movie, I certainly know that we’ll do everything we can to suggest interactive, complicated and magnificent chess ideas for the next “James Bond”, “The Bourne Ultimatum” – all of these films, that go into sequels and sequels. There are some great opportunities to use chess as a basis for the plot line.

My last question: you do so much for chess, you spend a lot of energy and money as well. What are your benefits from it, what are your goals?

First of all, the initial and most significant thing that was always important for me as for the businessman is creating and building things. So I hope that over the course of the next few years (5, 10 or 15) I would achieve something like that – I would create some structure in chess that would allow chess to work as a sustainable business, and not to rely on individual philanthropy or sporadic interest from one companyor another. My aim is to create a proper financial footing for chess, so that more and more chess players would be able to earn a living and more and more chess enthusiasts would have an opportunity to come and participate in events like this. I think that’s a decent challenge for a next couple of years.

Journalist: You hired an agency which conducted a survey about chess players. The results, revealed by the survey, displayed that around 600 million people are playing chess. How are you going to convert this number into something meaningful?

In fact, if you read the press release carefully you’ll see that 605 million number is actually the number that FIDE gave to the International Olympic Committee several years ago in a petition to have chess considered as an Olympic sport. The reason that I hired special agencies (one of them "Havas Media Group", which use a special methodology), was because I didn’t particularly believe this number – nobody would tell where did it come from. It was just like choosing the number, which would be high enough, so that people would buy it. In fact, what was strange, that based on all of the information that we assembled from the abovementioned sources (and we assembled information from the UK, the USA, Germany, Russia, India) – it actually seems that 600 million is entirely credible, maybe even low.

Instead of looking at the whole number, it’s more interesting to take a look at the way the chess behavior divides itself up in different countries around the world. Some of the conclusions are rather astonishing: in Western Europe and Northern and South America 70% of the adult population are playing chess, and only 30% never play chess in their life. In America: more people play chess regularly, than tennis and golf together. The raw data from the polls is available to any of you without any question.

The second part of your question was: what advantages could I take from such a huge number of people playing chess? It’s funny, actually, for me the number of 600 million sounds like a such huge number of people, I imagine, that even if I was doing absolutely everything totally wrong, it would still make a very profitable business.

Karlovich: We wish you good luck in all your projects and thank you for coming to our press conference.


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