Ivan and Smbat

Interview with the President of the Appeal Committee Armenian Grandmaster Smbat Lputian

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Ivan Mandekic: Mr. Lputian you are here in the role of President of the Appeal Committee, but I also highly appreciate you as a chess player and Grandmaster, and I’m very much looking forward to talking with you. After analyzing the results in the first five rounds, your players are dominating the men’s competition, so this fact is an additional motive. Just before this interview, we attended your presentation of the methods of working in schools with beginner chess players, where you presented an interesting computer program for beginners. It is now clear that Armenia is placing a great importance on the youngest and thus you are creating a large number of players from which, of course, quality is born. Let’s start with what happens when a young talented player is discovered in a school?

Smbat Lputian: Most young talents are noticed already at an early age of 6-7 years old, when they win the first category and they immediately come to the chess clubs where they start to seriously work on chess. Currently, we have a lot of chess schools and all of this leads to quality. Finally, Armenia is a triple Olympic champion, which so far no one else was able to accomplish in the 21st century.

I.M.: Here in Croatia, and I believe also in the West, the former Soviet Union has generally remained an epitome of a chess school, so it is often said that the Russian School of Chess is of the highest quality.

S.L.: You are right to some extent, but that is not the most accurate term. In the area of the former Soviet Union there are many different schools of chess, depending on the country where the teaching is taking place and thus Armenia also has a school of chess. Chess players in the former Soviet Union had a centralized chess school, so that created an impression that it was all the same school of chess.

IM: Does the Armenian school of chess possess some uniqueness?

S.L.: It’s hard to say and I could not explain. (Our translator Adrian Mikhalchishin jokingly interjected: “What do you mean it’s hard to say? You don’t want to say it!”) Armenia is a small country, we are very committed to chess. As I explained earlier, we have a very well-organized system for working with young people, they are all unique. With love, togetherness and a lot of willpower we are able to achieve these great results.

I.M .: Who taught you to play chess? Which trainer helped you become such a strong chess player?

S.L.: We played chess literally on the street and I loved it. Then I went to “Pioneer Castle” in Yerevan. Back then the school was not as strong as it is now, we were taught first category players and in the eighth grade I already overcame my teachers and began to work independently.

I.M.: Which books did you study in the course of your independent work?

S.L.: I had grown up with three chess books, one was from Capablanca, one from Rubinstein and of course the inevitable Tigran Petrossian. The first time I saw the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings and the Chess Informant was when I went to serve in the army. There I served in the sports squad and was given the opportunity to continue to play chess.

I.M.: To jokingly comment, this means you didn’t have problems like me, my library counts hundreds of books, but you had only three, which you thoroughly studied and which were enough for you to embark on your path to becoming a top chess player. Your countryman World Champion Tigran Petrosian certainly left a big mark in Armenian chess?

S.L.: To metaphorically express myself, any chess tree that grew in Armenia is rooted in Tigran Petrosian.

I.M.: So this result here at the European Championship is not accidental?

S.L.: No, we are opening a lot of schools, the competition is becoming greater and thus also the desire of chess players to become better is increasing. The important thing is that our famous grandmasters became trainers of our talented young chess player.

I.M.: It is interesting that you trained by yourself, did you have first category trainers?

Adrian Mikhalchishin: I know Smbat well, and I know what was most important in his work and progress. He had his notebooks and in them he fantastically analyzed every one of his games in great detail. When he was preparing for his opponents and decided on the opening, he’d reach out for his notebooks, where he had detailed analysis of the games with this particular opening, and would study them. This was his preparation.

I.M.: What is the role of the Armenian Chess Federation in Armenian chess?

S.L.: The Chess Federation has organized a Chess Academy with 51 branches all over the country and, together with the Central Academy, it takes care of all these public schools.

I.M.: If a special talent emerges, what is the role of the Federation?

S.L.: Of course, we immediately help with everything they need: top trainers, tournaments etc. We specify our trainers, grandmasters Minasjan, Anastasjan, V. Akopjan, and many more. Grandmasters are the directors of the subsidiaries of chess schools. In Yerevan we have special chess schools and one academy. Just in Yerevan alone we have 9 schools that we opened within 2 years. We have highly qualified chess professionals among the trainers in the schools.

I.M.: Let’s talk about computers in chess, how often do you use a computer?

S.L.: I do not like computers and I think I’m too old for them. I think the main advantage of the computer is the speed of getting information. I would not recommend work with a computer to young people. It breeds superficiality because kids want quick access to information, they receive it, but they didn’t arrive to it alone, so they are unable to truly understand it and explain it. This way of working does not develop patience, which is necessary in chess.

Adrian Mikhalchishin: I have a firm opinion that children should not use the computer until they reach the level of Candidate Master.
S.L.: Our trainers in schools should not use a computer in their work, until the children reach the first category.

I.M.: Are you satisfied with your stay in Porec and the organization of the championship?

S.L.: The championship is very well organized, the place we are staying in is great, the playing conditions are fantastic, the hotel and food is fantastic. Croatia is a beautiful country and has ideal conditions for the organization of these kinds of competitions.

I.M.: I thank grandmaster Lputjan for this interview and the kind words about our country and the organization of the tournament, as well as grandmaster Adrian Mikhalchishin on his assistance with the translation and his participation in the conversation.

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