Morokhovsky: 'We will surprise the world of chess'

by ChessBase
2/10/2007 – Vadim Morokhovsky is the Chairman of a large Ukrainian bank. He is also the man of the recent ACP World Rapid Cup in Odessa. And possibly one of the hottest chess sponsors around. Looking into the future Morokhovsky will be supporting the professional player's organisation ACP, big time. Interview with Misha Savinov.

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Vadim Morokhovsky: "We will surprise the world of chess"

Interview by Misha Savinov

The following talk with Mr. Vadim Morokhovsky, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the PIVDENNY Bank, was conducted after the First ACP World Rapid Cup came to the end. The bank was the principal sponsor of this event, but there is much more in its plans. Partly they are associated with the ACP – it was announced that the ACP office will be moved to Odessa. However, one of the biggest banks of Odessa is also actively involved in organizing strong tournaments, developing junior chess and promoting chess in general in Ukraine.

Misha Savinov: Could you say a few words about the negotiations that preceded the announcement of the World Rapid Cup in Odessa?

Vadim Morokhovsky: The idea came up during the Second Pivdenny Chess Memorial. It was suggested by Joel Lautier, who participated in the tournament, and was resigning from the presidential position in the Association at that moment. He eventually left the organization, but his contribution cannot be underestimated. We liked the idea. On the one hand, there was clear understanding that we could attract a similar if not stronger grandmaster lineup with this kind of prize money, even without the ACP aegis. On the other hand we find it more attractive to carry out a series of competitions within the framework of a certain system. And the system suggested by the ACP (i.e., the ACP Tour) looked promising. Later, when it transpired that Paris was unable to offer an adequate prize fund, and the tournament was once again under threat, we decided to support it and carry it out in Odessa. Another failure of the ACP Masters would create serious problems for the ACP...

Savinov: Why did PIVDENNY Bank decide to support the ACP and finance a long-awaited ACP Masters tournament?

Morokhovsky: First of all, we see a kind of prototype of a chess trade union in the ACP, which will support professional chess. And, secondly, Pavel Tregubov, the president of the ACP, is a very honest and reliable partner to work with, which also attracts us to the cooperation.

The world of chess is in quite a difficult situation, both financially and politically. Basically it is funded by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov alone. This is patently unfair to Mr. Ilyumzhinov – one person must not be held responsible for everything. His visit to Odessa made us happy, and I think our contacts with FIDE will lead to future cooperation, but still our main efforts will be focused on developing the ACP. There is no doubt that this organization has big potential, especially if it is backed not only by us, but also by world’s strongest players, including World champion Vladimir Kramnik.

With Peter Leko (left) and Boris Gelfand

You know, right now professional chess survives, so to speak, due to the efforts of candidate masters. I think that chess professionals have to realize that they are also responsible for their sport. It is not just playing and conducting themselves properly during tournaments. For example, football players and boxers are always ready to talk to the media, participate in charities and other public events, etc. They do it without charging any money, of course – it helps their sport, improves their image, and generally leads to mutual benefit. Understanding such duties is highly important.

We are now involved in talks concerning the future of the ACP. We presented our view, and, if accepted, this will result in certain structural changes within the ACP.

Are the co-sponsors and bank shareholders satsified about the way the tournament was carried out?

Talking about business, we do not have clear data on the efficiency of our advertising campaign yet. We are, of course, very grateful to our partners and the team that organized the tournament, the Londonskaya hotel, the grandmasters who played, arbiters, and, of course, the public. This tournament set a local attendance record – according to independent sources there were around 6,000 visitors (not visits!). We are also aware about a high number of visitors on our website. The whole world is aware about Odessa and its chess activities now.

Undoubtedly, the final match, Leko-Ivanchuk, became the gem of the tournament. The FIDE President’s visit was pleasant and useful for us. The charity fund "Victor" came up with a brilliant idea of grandmaster press conference and blindfold play with children. This was suggested already during the tournament, so maybe we did not avoid some organizational flaws... I have a feeling that we did not use the spare time of the grandmasters who were knocked out early to the full extent. We will learn from this experience and do better for the Second World Rapid Cup...

Whose idea was to name this tournament the World Rapid Cup?

This was our idea, and I think we were right insisting on it – this attracted extra attention to the event. We approached FIDE, and I am glad to tell that FIDE approved this title. FIDE’s attitude towards our tournament has been very positive.

How did you like the atmosphere at the tournament?

The atmosphere was wonderful! Even those players who lost their games sat at the same dinner tables with their winners and discussed beautiful weather in our city. The response was very positive too, and this motivates us to continue our efforts. Generally, I think we gave quite a boost to the development of chess in Odessa. Tournament guests told me that the results of earlier games were announced on FM radio, and they were listening to them on the way to the venue...

Vadim Morokhovsky and FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in a press conference

When did you start advertising the tournament?

The campaign started a month before the start of the event – there were TV and radio ads, and billboards. We are grateful to our media sponsors from Russia, Israel, and Ukraine. This was significant support. I hope it will demonstrate the companies that declined our offers that sponsoring chess has its fruits... Doing everything alone is very difficult.

What is your brightest impression as a spectator and chess fan?

I think the most emotionally strong situation was the mating accident in the last game Morozevich-Harikrishna. This is the essence of Armageddon, not always fair but so dramatic, tense and spectacular! I also was impressed that in every match the strongest player advanced to the next round. There were no meaningless or dull games, the struggle was always exciting!

I think we chose the right time control. The players were able to produce spectacular and high quality games, and the results were almost always fair. Also the rapid time control rules out any cheating issues. Of course, we have to shape up the formula. In my opinion, the conditions for the two finalists were not entirely equal, considering that one of them had a very short break after his semifinal match.

On the other hand, Leko played an Armageddon...

Yes, so this was roughly balanced, but we should avoid such situations in future. I talked to Vassily [Ivanchuk] – it probably makes sense to reserve a separate day for the final match. It is more complicated in terms of budget, but this inconvenience can probably be balanced by other things. We don’t need any psychological breakdowns.

Are the grandmasters happy?

Well, I think it is better to ask them about it. Everybody seems happy. I cannot say that I am as happy as they seem to be, because I always want making everything better. At least there were no serious incidents, and the number of spectators grew day by day, which was, of course, very pleasant. Hope the Internet spectators were also satisfied – our website is informative, there are links to the video recordings of some games, etc.

Could you say something about your future plans linked with chess?

It has been decided that we will organize the Ukrainian U-14 final in Odessa. In late June early July there will be the Pivdenny Rapid Chess tournament. The dates are not determined yet, but it may start almost immediately after the Foros tournament. We are planning to expand this competition and bring it to a new level. The number of people willing to play there already exceeds the number of participants. We will invite Victor Korchnoi, who supported this undertaking right from the start. We will invite Yury Drozdovskij, the strongest player of Odessa. Joel Lautier, last year’s winner, will also be invited. And then we’ll have to think. So far we would like to see players rated above 2700; our idea is creating a rapid chess supertournament.

With Viktor Korchnoi

As usual, there will be an open tournament confined to the City’s Day. It will probably be called the Mayor’s Cup. And we are working on organizing the Odessa city championship. We would like to attract all the grandmasters living in Odessa. However, it [is] also their responsibility...

I guess you could attract the strongest lineup by offering the winner a ticket to the rapid supertournament?

Maybe so – such an opportunity would mean a lot to our grandmasters, many of them young and ambitious. But I am not sure if we decide doing this. The situation is complex; it has to do not only with money, but also with love for our city. I would like them to understand it very much. Again, chess players have to understand that there are things more important than money – prestige of the city, prestige of the sport...

So, this leaves autumn and winter generally vacant. Our plans are still in the making. We are negotiating about the Second World Rapid Cup. There is an offer from FIDE, which we are looking into. And there are also our own ideas – they may be completely unexpected, but if we sign the contracts with players, we will surprise the world of chess. Actually, the schedule this year is very tight – apart from traditional tournaments, there are candidates matches and the World Championship in Mexico...

And we are going to found our own chess school. I discussed it with Evgeny Bareev (who is in charge of junior chess in Russia), and I am very thankful to him for offering help, including study literature. There will also be a congress of Ukrainian trainers, organized together with the Ukrainian Chess Federation.

How will you name the school?

The school will probably be called Pivdenny Chess School. It could be named after Geller, Eingorn or Ivanchuk, but we don’t want to offend any of our excellent grandmasters. Pivdenny Chess School is a neutral name, so we’ll stick to it.

During the World Cup it was announced that you will also initiate a Chess in Schools project in Odessa and the Odessa Region. Could you tell more about that?

We are going to support chess as optional subject in schools and boarding schools. Especially the latter, as those children who have no parents are in especially hard situation.

Could you sum up why PIVDENNY Bank decided to come to chess?

Our goal is promoting and developing chess, and creating one of the world chess centers in Odessa. We will be bringing up smart people, and smart people will finally select the smart bank and become our reliable customers!

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