Interview with Wadim Rosenstein, Organiser of the WR Chess Masters

by André Schulz
2/21/2023 – When Wadim Rosenstein realised a childhood dream and put together a world-class field for his WR Chess Masters in his home town, he hadn't even thought about the political overtones. He simply wanted to bring top chess to the banks of the Rhine in Düsseldorf and for Rosenstein Ian Nepomniachtchi and Andrey Esipenko were world-class grandmasters. After all, Russian chess players are not sanctioned by the World Chess Federation. Nevertheless, there were critical questions. Wadim Rosenstein answers these and other questions in an interview. | Photo: Wadim Rosenstein follows the games in the lounge, Jan Gustafsson is in the back (Photos: André Schulz)

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Wadim Rosenstein is the organiser of the new WR Chess Masters in Düsseldorf. Almost out of nowhere, he has put together a world-class tournament and hosted it in his hometown of Düsseldorf, at the stylish Hyatt Regency Hotel, in an equally first-class setting.

Rhine promenade in Düsseldorf

The Hyatt Regency Hotel in the "Media Harbour" on the banks of the Rhine in Düsseldorf

The lobby in front of the tournament area

Among the participants is Vincent Keymer, who will get the opportunity to take part in another world class tournament here right after the tournament in Wijk aan Zee. The other players come from the Netherlands, the USA, India, Poland, Uzbekistan and Russia.

The playing hall. No room for spectators.

There is an open discussion in the international sports federations about whether to exclude Russian athletes even if they do not compete for their country but as individual athletes for themselves. In chess, players from Russia are not sanctioned if they do not compete under the flag of their country but the flag of the World Chess Federation. In team sports, Russian and Belarusian teams are generally not allowed to participate. In private tournaments, the organisers can decide for themselves how to deal with Russian and Belarusian players with regard to individual athletes. Some avoid any discussions and public attacks and do not invite Russian and Belarusian players. Others also see the Russian and Belarusian players as victims of politics, invite the players and accept public attacks.

Quite a number of Russian and Belarusian players have spoken out against the war, which led to hostile reactions at home. Some players have left their country. Moreover, the connections in the chess family are very close, across all borders and nationalities.

This is also shown by the following episode: on the Sunday morning before the round, a blitz tournament was organised with Ukrainian children who had to flee their homeland with their families.

The participants of the charity blitz tournament for Ukrainian children, with Nastja Karlovich, Sebastian Siebrecht and Wadim Rosenstein.

The winner received a plaque, a ChessBase package and was also allowed to make the symbolic first move in the following round of the Masters tournament. When asked on which board he would like to make the first move, the 14-year-old Ukrainian replied: "On the board of Ian Nepomniachtchi."

First move

In the past, politics hardly ever played a role in chess. People got along across all borders and enjoyed their common love of chess. Now, however, Ukrainian players are no longer allowed to compete against Russian and Belarusian players.

When the Düsseldorf entrepreneur Wadim Rosenstein realised a childhood dream and put together a world-class field for his WR Chess Masters in his home town, he didn't even think about the political overtones. He simply wanted to bring top chess to the banks of the Rhine in Düsseldorf and Ian Nepomniachtchi and Andrey Esipenko, as world-class grandmasters, were part of that for Rosenstein.

In the following interview, Rosenstein reveals how the WR Chess Masters in Düsseldorf came about and how it could be realised. He comments on the critical questions about the participation of the two Russian top players and talks about the future of the tournament.

Interview with Wadim Rosenstein

André Schulz: What is your personal relation to chess?

Wadim Rosenstein: I love chess. I enjoy playing chess. I enjoy being together in chess. Chess is the most beautiful hobby for me.

But you were also selected for squad training once in your youth...?

That's right, we managed to win the Bundesliga West with the junior team back then...

For which club?

With Köln-Mülheim. But I soon realised that I couldn't get any further in chess. But I'm very ambitious and always want to be at the top with what I do, so I concentrated on other things and only cultivated chess as a hobby.

How did the decision mature to organise such a super grandmaster tournament as the WR Chess Masters here at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Düsseldorf?

This goes back to a promise I once made when I was 13 years old. It was a childhood dream of mine to organise such a tournament here in Düsseldorf. Now I have fulfilled that promise with the WR Chess Masters.

When did you start the preparations for the tournament?

That was in December last year. It went relatively quickly. But I have a very good team, with Anastasia Sorokina, Nastja Karlovich, Sebastian Siebrecht, they are fantastic, they are professionals and they managed it.

Despite the short organisation time, everything looks very perfect here. That is rather unusual for first-time tournaments. You can see that a lot of money was invested in the tournament. May I ask what the tournament cost in total?

A bit. I don't want to go into details, but it cost a lot in terms of organisation. Of course, it helps if you have a certain amount of experience in organising complex things. With my company, we organise the logistics of large plants and solve complex logistical tasks internationally. Compared to that organising a chess tournament is a rather easy task.

You are the owner of a logistics company, WR Logistik...

I have several companies, including WR Logistics GmbH and WR Certification GmbH. The companies specialise in exporting goods. We work with over 40 countries, from Africa to Australia.

Also with Russia...?

Sure, before February 2022 we also carried out transports in connection with Russia. But I don't understand why this is always highlighted in the reporting. There were over 10,000 companies working in Russia. My company was one of them.

After that, business with Russia presumably ended?

We had a lot of projects in the gas and oil industry. But they were all sanctioned and then we didn't pursue them any more.

Are you satisfied with how the tournament is going and the response to it?

I am very satisfied with the tournament. Everyone is enjoying it, without exception. There is nothing to complain about except that there are no spectators, no audience. We would have liked to have spectators here on site. But that could not be realised here in the rooms. We could only have allowed a small number of spectators. But then the chess fans would have complained, and we would have had to exclude some of them: "Why are they allowed in, but we're not!" So we decided to do without spectators on site here and instead focused on the side events, of which there are a lot. To allow chess fans to follow the tournament, we stream the games on the internet and have them commented live. We have engaged a first-class commentator in the person of Yasser Seirawan. In my opinion, he is one of the best chess commentators in the world. I wanted chess fans all over the world to enjoy watching.

I have mixed feelings about the response. Unfortunately, the focus in the reporting is sometimes very much on the political situation. I organised the tournament for the joy and fun of chess. It was simply meant to be a peaceful gathering of world-class grandmasters, without political overtones.

With Ian Nepomniachtchi and Andrey Esipenko, two Russians are playing. There were critical questions about this at the opening press conference. In chess, Russian players can play everywhere in individual tournaments, but they have to play under the FIDE flag. What role did the nationality of the participants play for you?

When selecting the field, the only thing that mattered to me was chess. Nationality didn't play a role at all. I wanted to have a top tournament with world-class players. The two are world-class grandmasters. I have no influence on sporting decisions. It is allowed to invite Russian chess players - they play elsewhere, Esipenko in the Bundesliga, for example. Nepomniachtchi will play the World Championship match. I invited them because they are fantastic chess players, not because they are Russian. The idea was to show chess fans and spectators first-class chess. And the two of them have played their part. Some put their finger on this point just to find something negative. I guess you have to live with that as an organiser. But I simply wanted to organise a chess tournament that is as strong as possible.

And the financing of the tournament is done entirely by their company?


You also play yourself, there is to be a bughouse tournament, you will also play in that.

I only know bughouse. I'm so-so at chess. I'm better at bughouse, I can play there, I hope.

Wadim Rosenstein and André Schulz. First chess, then interview.

The Bughouse Tournament is also a real tournament here as a side event...?

Yes, a real tournament, with the top players who play in the Masters, and we will broadcast it. As far as I know, this is the first bughouse tournament to be broadcast live on the internet.

The last exciting question is: Will there be a new edition of the WR Chess Masters?

I think so.

Next year already, are there already concrete plans?

The tournament should first be brought to a close here. Then we'll all sit down together again and see what can be improved. How is the general response? How many spectators did we get? Then we will decide. But I am very confident that we will organise another tournament.

Thank you very much for the interview.


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.