Ivan Mandekic: You have worked as a trainer in many countries, most recently in Slovenia. What can you say about the talents and the training work outside Russia?
Adrian Mikhalchishin: In Russia and the former Soviet Union there were even trainers’ faculties. I know a few people from this region who studied in Moscow, Zsuzsa Polgar in Minsk, and at these institutions an enviable level of trainers was created, but now the number of these institutions is getting smaller. In the West there is a big problem with the basic level of education. In this sense Yugoslavia was always better because there was a tradition and people who have passed on the knowledge from generation to generation, but these trainers were not appreciated enough. I, as president of the FIDE Trainer’s Commission, think that the trainers do not work enough on bettering themselves. They should pay more attention to learning psychology, pedagogy and work methodology.
I.M.: There are a lot of trainers is the world who work with young people and who have very significant results. These trainers do not have the title of International Master or Grandmaster and it would be interesting to hear your opinion on the necessity of having the highest chess titles to be a good trainer? In fact it often happens that the trainers who don’t have the highest titles bring their students to a very high level of chess, but then the children and the parents start looking for new trainers with Grandmaster titles, because they believe it is a guarantee for their further progress?
A.M.: Yes this is a big problem, and it often occurs. For example, a Grandmaster with a rating of 2600 Elo rating appears in the chess club one day and says ‘I’d like to train your students’ and everyone is happy that such a top player came. But unfortunately they often do not have the work methodology, have no experience in the transfer of knowledge and mainly teach the children only their own openings, and so the question is whether it’s beneficial for these young players. Most good trainers in the former Soviet Union weren’t the players with the highest titles, for example Romanishin, Beliavsky and I were trained by a Candidate Master, Tal was trained by Koblenz and Candidate Master Zak. They even wrote many books from which a lot of top players and trainers learned. These trainers may be at a somewhat “weaker” chess level, but they possess other qualities that are perhaps even more important, because they can see what the young players are missing and then work on themselves intensively to improve these parts of their knowledge so that they can transfer that knowledge to their students. The Grandmasters sometimes think that they know everything, but unfortunately they only know for themselves and don’t know how to transfer that knowledge to their students.
I.M.: I, for example, as a trainer, want to know everything, read everything and learn?
A.M.: Grandmaster has a psychological problem because he thinks he knows too much, when in fact he knows only for himself. In the Trainer’s Commission we say that the trainer is not his title, the trainer is his students. When, for example, he creates five Masters, that is the trainer, that is his title. When you haven’t created anything, you are not a trainer and you don’t have any title.
I.M.: Plenty of time has passed since the FIDE Trainer’s Commission has been founded. I think it’s a big success because now trainers have diplomas and certificates that are important for proving that they can perform professional work, so the chess club can get funding for this work. Are you satisfied with what is accomplished?
A.M.: I am satisfied because in the world, to date, we have about 4,000 trainers with degrees and licenses. Many years ago, when we contacted and asked for cooperation from the International Olympic Committee, they had a condition that we need to have trainers who are trained through professional seminars and are licensed. We modified it a bit, because in chess, unlike other sports, we have titles. The title of Trainer is obtained through seminars and work results and is valid for life. Licenses are important for the trainers if they want to work in other countries. So we started organizing more and more seminars every year, in various countries, and now we are organizing about 40 seminars a year. We are very satisfied with our results and it is particularly important that the trainers in FIDE are currently doing a lot of work in the interest of chess and chess players, and that World Champions Polgar, Stefanova and Zhu Chen have also gotten involved and are holding seminars and promoting women’s chess. We are very satisfied with the direction we are taking, but our goal, that we have yet to reach, is three levels of trainers, the first up to the rating of 1300 Elo rating, the second up to 1700 Elo rating, and the third up to 2000 Elo rating. These trainers would hold about 50 lectures with exercises, they would receive the complete program, so that they would not have a lot of dilemmas, but would only have to carry out the program over the period of 1-2 years. Through this way of working, the number of young chess players would greatly expand.
I.M.: In my long-standing career as a trainer I noticed that it is sometimes very difficult to implement a specific program because, while teaching, we sometimes notice that the students did not adopt some of the topics that we thought they already mastered. In this case we have to react immediately and fill the gaps in knowledge?
A.M.: What you’re talking about are the qualities of a good trainer. A good trainer reacts immediately, but we have a lot of trainers who consider just completing the program a great success. A good trainer has to be prepared to modify the program and adapt it to current needs at all times.
I.M.: Tell us your impression of Croatian chess, especially of our championship in Porec?
A.M.: The championship is phenomenal. Our intention and opinion is that the championships for young people should, if it is possible, be held by the sea, so that they can be a combination of chess and vacation. Usually in each group, 20 to 30 competitors fight for a better result, and others participate more casually, but at the championship they gain a lot of experience after which their love of chess becomes greater and their dedication more serious. Anyway, I also privately come to Porec for vacation and I always love it here.
I.M.: Adrian, I noticed that somehow, since the arrival of Beliawsky and you in Slovenia, Slovenian chess began to rise and now they have very respectable, mostly young grandmasters, and very successful young chess players. Are there any promising players in Croatia?
A.M.: I noticed a lot of young people with potential, but for now I would highlight Ivan Saric, who is still young enough to become even better. Considering his rating is nearly 2700 at the moment, he certainly has room for improvement. I don’t know who his trainer is and whether he has an exclusive trainer, but with special care, with a good trainer, he can certainly still make a lot of progress.
I.M.: To joke a little, can I ask you if his trainer has to have a rating of 2800 Elo rating?
A.M.: Absolutely not, but if I can also joke a little, if he wants to have a trainer like that, let him use and play with the computer, because very strong chess programs have that kind of power, and after that let’s see how much progress he has made.
I.M.: Thank you for your time. I wish you a pleasant stay in Porec.
A.M.: Thank you.