Mahir Mammadov: "Armenian chess players don’t have and they won’t have any problems in Baku"
The World Chess Cup in Baku has entered its final stage. The second finalist of the tournament became known recently. It is Russian chess player Sergey Karyakin, who defeated Ukrainian Pavel Eljanov in the semifinal tiebreaker. Now the chess world is expecting a Russian duel. Karyakin is to play in the final match of the World Cup with another Russian grandmaster, Peter Svidler. However, some results of the tournament in Baku, the prize fund of which is 1.6 million dollars, can be assessed today. The World Cup in Baku will be remembered as a tournament with a large number of world-renowned players, sensational results and perfect organization. The Vice President of the Chess Federation of Azerbaijan, Director of the Operations Committee of the World Cup and the World Chess Olympiad Mahir Mammadov, said in an interview to Vestnik Kavkaza how it become possible to hold the tournament at such a high level, organize security for Armenian players, as well as the extent of the Chess Olympiad 2016, which FIDE decided to hold in Baku.
- All participants of FIDE are delighted with the organization of the tournament. How did you manage to organize the event?
- We have extensive experience in chess tournaments of different levels, although we have never organized the World Cup. We received the right to hold the World Cup together with the World Chess Olympiad. We received the right to host the Olympiad and then we were given an additional event – the World Cup. Its organizational part and budget were determined by decree of the head of state. The organizing committee was created and First Deputy Prime Minister Yagub Eyyubov became its head. I am also a member of the organizing committee. It involves many departments and many officials.
The tournament is very interesting. 128 participants play knock-out games. The tournament is exciting in terms of sporting principles, the dramatic way of competing, and the dramatic course of the struggle in different games, winning back, tie-breaks, drop flags, various emotional behavior of players, and the large influx of journalists and onlookers.
But it wasn’t difficult for us to organize the tournament (maybe that sounds presumptuous). Previous experience helped us to organize it easily. The Fairmont Hotel Baku helped us very much. The Minister of Sports provided full support and assistance. The President of the Federation was with us all the time. We constantly feel this support. I think that everyone could hold these events at this level with such support.
- What about the results? Did you expect Gata Kamsky and Boris Gelfand to leave the tournament in the first round?
Certainly, I expected that someone would leave. I have watched the World Cups as an onlooker starting from that famous World Cup held in the Kremlin. Teymour Radzhabov lost a game against Jaan Ehlvest in the first round and left the tournament. It was a dramatic duel with a controversial referee's decision. Since that game I have visited almost every World Cup. Sensations always happen. There were a lot of sensations during this tournament. Our tournament is significant in that it is the strongest in comparison with all previous World Cups in terms of statuses, ratings and so on.
So, Gelfand and Kamsky lost their games in the first round. Then someone else in the second round, and then Kramnik, Grischuk, Topalov. Certainly, it is the highest intensity of the struggle. Despite excellent conditions, a spa, swimming pool, and walks through Baku. We cannot help taking into account such factors as fatigue accumulation, the exhaustion of nervous forces. Many chess players cannot overcome these factors.
It was interesting that Armenian chess players with their leader Levon Aronian arrived in Baku.
- I hope you had no problems with the organization of the security for the Armenian chess players?
No. We have a lot of experience, including the triumphant First European Games in Baku. We knew that they were planning to participate in the competition, and we did everything to support them. We persuaded FIDE that we had no reason to reject their participation. Their entire team participated in the tournament, including ethnic Armenians from other countries. According to the agreement with FIDE, security officers ensured the safety of their movement. This was done on their own initiative. But if such an action hadn’t been taken, the result would have been exactly the same.
There were no incidents during the tournament, and the Armenian chess players left the country in a good mood. Some of them walked through the city and liked it.
- Levon Aronian can walk in the center of the city, the Old City...
- Certainly! I assure you, he is a very recognizable man. He is a media figure. Everybody knows him, he is a good player. Nobody would be surprised if they saw him in the city. The attitude was friendly.
- Won’t Armenian chess players have any problems if they decide to take part in the Chess Olympiad next year?
Definitely not. This competition differs a little: only national teams, including men and women. We are expecting about 325 players from 175 countries.
Is it the biggest sporting event in the history of Azerbaijan?
- It will be the most large-scale tournament in the history of Azerbaijan. There will be two thousand participants, no less than one thousand attendees, more than three thousand people directly involved (without journalists, fans and so on). The Baku Crystal Hall will fully support the holding of this event. People will stay in hotels along the boulevard line. The arrival of the Armenian chess players will be slightly different, because there will be two delegations, each has at least six people. They may have accompanying coaches. Accompanying persons will be allowed to be there for 13-14 days. A little more attention will be given to them, because FIDE and Armenia want this.
- How did the Azerbaijani chess players perform at the tournament?
Eltaj Safarli performed unsuccessfully and left the tournament after the first round. Vasif Durarbeyli played as well as he could. Rauf Mammadov and Gadir Huseynov surprised us, in the good sense of this word. Rauf Mammadov won a game against strong European champion Yevgeny Nayer. But on the second round he lost a game against Fabiano Caruana. He is a very strong player, who is among the five best world chess players. He is one of the strongest chess players of our time. Therefore, Rauf couldn’t win that game, although the second game was normal, but he lost the first match. I felt that Rauf has to struggle and try to impose the struggle.
Ghadir played in the second round, where he knocked out David Navarro. He is not only a strong player, but also one of the most recognizable and beloved players, with a large army of fans.
The tournament went easily for Teymour Radjabov. In the first round he played against Samuel Sevyanom, the rising star of American chess. In the tiebreaker Teymur Radjabov won the game. The second round was also very hard. Teymur Radjabov played against high-level chess player Ilya Smirin, but the Azerbaijani chess player also won the game. In the third round his opponent was Peter Svidler. Teymur Radjabov had a tie-break, where he could have won and continue to play in the tournament. But now we can see that his opponent will play in the final game. Svidler was the winner of the last World Cup. He is traditionally one of the strongest players in the world.
Shahriyar Mammadyarov made us happy. Thanks to him, there was a chess rush. He has a huge army of fans. He plays brightly and originally. This style provokes great sympathy. All people love to watch matches featuring him. He beat three-time world champion among women, the Chinese player Hou Yifan, and then played against Indian grandmaster Seturamana. In the fourth round he played brilliantly against Fabiano Caruana. It was a surprise when he won the first set in his brilliant style, as if it was easy for him. But the second set determined the match against Karyakin. He also could have won the first set, as he had advantage for a long period of time. If Shahriyar had participated in the semi-finals, we would have regretted that we had chosen the Fairmont Hotel, because it didn't cope with the influx of people. People are interested in Shahriyar. He is just an idol of the public.
- Will the team become stronger if Arkady Naiditsch joins it?
- Arkady Naidich is a very strong chess player, we were holding negotiations on his initiative, and our desires and opportunities coincided. The German Chess Federation allowed us to invite him. It was a constructive dialogue. Certainly, we followed all the instructions and guidelines of FIDE. Firstly, he has a positive score with Magnus Carlsen. Secondly, his rating is traditionally 2700 points, but now it is a little lower, but traditionally he has 2700 points.
Our players of the third and fourth boards are unstable. I think now the situation will be better. Naidich will become the leader of the ‘tail.’ The 'tail' is very conditional. Shahriyar also liked to be at the end of the ‘tail.’ Naiditsch has very good relations with the team. There is a good atmosphere in this strong team. Naidich speaks Russian. He moved to Baku with his wife, and he intends to live there. I think he will significantly improve our team.
- Do the national team and the club SOCAR Azerbaijan have the highest aims at the European Championships and the European Club Cup?
- Yes, we intend to come back in the rank of the winners and stay in this rank. The main team in the club championship will be Siberia, which performed brilliantly at the open championship of Russia. They have the very best players: Kramnik, Aronian, Grischuk, Wang Yu. SOCAR also has stars: Veselin Topalov, Fabiano Caruana, Teymur Rajabov, Shahriyar Mammadyarov, Anish Giri, Rauf Mammadov, Eltaj Safarli and Michael Adams. We have a brilliant team! We’ll see, it will be interesting.
As for the national team, it will be stronger with Arkady Naiditsch, Radjabov, Mamedyarov, and Rauf Mammadov.
- You said in one of your most recent interviews that Azerbaijan is at the center of the world chess. Will it be hard to maintain this level?
I see no reasons we should not be one of the centers of world chess. We see a chess boom today in the country. Television programs discuss this game, inform about it all the time, a lot of onlookers visit games, and newspapers report about chess on their front pages. President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree regarding the state program on development of chess in the country. I think we will always have new young chess players. A new generation is growing, especially young gifted girls. Soon our women's national team will also become as well-balanced as our men's team. The state helps the Ministry of Sport to finance all official competitions and trips. The federation holds master competitions, training sessions, traditional international tournaments such as the Shamkir Shess Tournament, the Baku Open. Every year we receive some large-scale world-class competitions. The Chess Olympiad is to be held in 2016. We organize more and more events each year.
- The Azerbaijani women chess players performed in the Candidates Tournament three years running, but this year couldn’t get there. Is it possible that Azerbaijan will organize the tournament. Which of the Azerbaijani chess players may play there as a host?
Maybe. It is a pity that we cannot play there directly. Certainly, we cannot sent two players to the tournament, but if you have an opportunity to participate, you will have to make a choice between Teymour Radjabov and Shahryairom Mammadyarov by means of a micro match, or with the help of a drawing, or just send the chess player whose rating is higher. They are both outstanding for us. A micro match between them would be a great show in the history of Azerbaijani chess.