A talk with Anastasiya Karlovich

1/16/2014 – Rádio Xadrez, a Brazilian chess site, recently interviewed Anastasiya Karlovich, best known to chess fans as the person presiding the press conferences at FIDE events including the recent Anand-Carlsen world championship match, but also the FIDE press officer at many events over the last years. Here she shares her experiences and impressions on what it is like working behind the scenes.

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Anastasiya Karlovich has been a Women Grandmaster since 2003. She earned a gold medal playing first board with the Ukrainian team in the European Youth Team Championship; and has won several Ukrainian and international chess tournaments. She started her journalist career as freelance journalist in 2006 by publishing reports on ChessBase.com and since then worked as a press officer for a variety of FIDE events.

She graduated from the National Law Academy of Ukraine named after Yaroslav the Wise, where she teaches Constitutional Law of Foreign Countries while she finishes her PhD;

A tête-à-tête with Judit Polgar

Rádio Xadrez - How many countries have you been to?

Anastasiya Karlovich - I've never really counted, but it seems to be more than 30 countries.

What do you know about Brazil? Would you like to come here?

When I think about Brazil I imagine Carnaval, the blue ocean and the statue of Jesus Christ on the peak of mountain in Rio de Janeiro. I've also read the constitution of Brazil, so have an idea about its political and constitutional systems. When I was very young I read the novel The Twelve Chairs written by Soviet authors Ilf  and  Petrov. The main character Ostap Bender dreams of travelling to Rio de Janeiro, "the city of his dreams". I think his dream to get to Rio was a common dream for the whole generation of Soviet people and it is still quite attractive one.

How is your job at FIDE?

During FIDE events I work as the FIDE Press Officer. The role is very diverse and my responsibilities depend on the format of the event. In general I try to establish and maintain good publicity during chess events, represent FIDE, and manage communication between all parties involved.

Tell us a little about your daily routine in the 2013 World Championship.

There is no daily routine during such events! So many interesting things were happening and each day they didn't look the same. I can give you an example… I was taking photos before the games day after day but, and even if there were the same two players, at the same place, each time was different. I could feel a different energy on the stage and I was trying to catch new features in their emotions and behavior.

What do you think when a journalist asks a stupid question at a press conference? Is it common?

It's always hard to judge when the question is stupid or not. It's very subjective.  Sometimes we can hear the most interesting answers for the so-called "stupid" questions. Same question can sound stupid for 2700+ players and can be very interesting for chess fans and those who don't have so much chess knowledge.  I loved when Vishwanathan Anand, faced with the most popular question by journalists who don't know much about chess: "What is your favorite piece", replied "I have lost so many of them, that I have taught myself not to get attached to any of them."

As the one who moderates the press conference, it's important for me to run them as efficiently and smoothly as possible. At the same time there were situations when some journalists tried to destroy the mood of the players by asking provocative questions. I believe it's important to "protect" players and avoid questions which are completely outside the scope of the press conferences.

The World Championship was a grueling process for all involved

You didn't graduate in journalism, but in law. How did you begin work in the news? Have you studied to improve your abilities in this area or did you learn everything just through practice?

My law education is actually very useful in my work. There are many regulations in chess, every tournament has its own regulations and it's one of my duties to know them and be aware of changes. My education has also helped in work of the Journalist Commission.

I studied the basic things of journalism by reading specialized books, studying different chess articles, reports, photos and interviews. I'm lucky to have friends who helped me to learn and improve.  And of course lots of practice and learning from my mistakes.

You are an attractive woman. Obviously, many people appreciate it more than your talent and only see your beauty, not your skills. How do you deal with it in your work?

Beauty will save the world.

How do you arrange your personal life with your work, trips and championships?

My cat misses me but also understands I like this job.

Do you enjoy any other hobby besides chess?

It's already difficult to say where the border between my work and my hobbies is. I like to take photos but it's also part of my job. I like to travel, so I visit new countries every year because of my job and chess too.

When work is pleasure

Which chess player was easier to interview and which was hardest? Why?

It's always hard to interview a player who just lost his/her game. I always feel sorry but I still have to keep on asking questions.

Which chess player would you like to interview that you didn't (of any epoch)? Why?

I would like to interview Vassily Ivanchuk but I'm still working on my questions…

How can we improve chess coverage in the general media? What do you think players and organizers should do to attract the media?

I don't know if we can say it was there was "inadequate coverage" for such events like the 2013 World Championship, but it looked very impressive. It's hard to compare coverage in news during the world championship match in Chennai or Moscow with a regular chess championship in a school. I can only speak about FIDE events and the numbers say the interest and attention of media and people are only growing. I believe we can still improve this and there are many directions to work on. It was one of the reasons FIDE created the Journalist Commission. Everyone is welcome to help, to share his/her ideas, so we will find new ways to attract more media. 

GM Boris Gelfand once said that TV broadcast is not the most important media for the chess, but rather modern technologies such as the internet, are most suited for chess. Do you agree with this? In your point of view, what's the future of chess coverage news?

Chess is not an easy topic for an unprepared audience. People who come to watch the games and live commentary on the Internet are likely have chess knowledge compared to those who watch TV.  It's also easier to find everything in the Internet no matter in which part of the world you are in.  At the same time during the Anand-Carlsen match we had quite new experience. Doordarshan, India's largest television network, and NRK TV channel in Norway had inclusive rights for live broadcasting of all games and press conferences of the Match. Official numbers reported by the Doordarshan TV station ranged between 75 million and 105 million viewers per day following the coverage, depending on the length of the game. The full version of the article with statistics is here

It's also known that TV in Armenia follows every step of the Armenian national chess team. So we can say that in some countries, due to the popularity of their players, TV channels are ready to broadcast the games and people are ready to watch them! It's important for the growth of popularity of chess in those countries and it could be a huge market as we saw in India.

Pictures by Evgeniy Atarov, Mahesh JM., and Arman Karakhanyan


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