Geoffrey Borg: Chess is one of the few sports that is all-inclusive
The Chief Executive Officer of FIDE and of Global Chess Geoffrey Borg visited Khanty-Mansiysk to attend the Opening Ceremony and Round 1 of the FIDE World Youth U14, U16, U18 Championships 2016 as well as to discuss the future chess tournaments that will be held in Ugra in the coming years. The FIDE Official gave an interview to the media team of the Championships.
– Geoffrey, do you remember your first visit to Khanty-Mansiysk? What were your impressions about the city and the organization of chess events here?
– I have been here so many times. First time I came to Khanty-Mansiysk in 2007 or 2008 and my impressions at that time were very good already. It was before the Olympiad 2010. I think it was the other Biathlon World Cup at the same time. Mr. Bondarev was in charge of organizing big sport events here at that time. Since then we’ve seen a number of changes but it is always getting better and better.
-What can you say about the people who are working on organizing chess tournaments in Khanty-Maniysk?
– The team of organizers here is very experienced in organizing multisport events, not just chess. The fact is that there is a structured approach to organizing such events. This is very important. It is much easier once you have a team which is more or less the same. People are used to us. So when we are coming here we don’t have to re-explain certain concepts which are already well-known. Whereas each time we go to a new organization we have to go through some basics all over again. Here we don’t have to do this cause this is not the first event, so we save a lot of time in Khanty-Mansiysk. All the nuances like lighting, temperature, players habits – all this we don’t have to explain again because it is already well-known. But we can continue to improve how to find innovative ways. This is the challenge. The challenge is not to do what we can always do comfortably, it is what we can do to make the experience for people really excellent.
– It seems like you are travelling from one chess venue to another almost all the time. How many countries have you visited?
– I do around 150-160 flights per year. So far I visited maybe 130 countries in my life. FIDE has 186 members, compared to other organizations like FIFA where they have 210. Some countries in Africa, some in the Caribbean, some in the Pacific. Maybe within a period of 3 -4 years FIDE will have around 200 members, which is one of the largest sports organizations in the world. Of course, our task is to visit all of them. When you visit countries like Palestine you find specific problems on the ground that you can’t even understand. If we think about Iraq and Syria which are at war or Iran which was sanctioned and cannot export money, all of them have individual problems in organizing, but still there is very good chess activity in all these countries. So our job is to try to help when there are problems of political or other natures. We are trying still to help the development of chess in these countries. When the country is very developed we try to work with the organizers in developing even further. Chess in schools, chess for women because the participation of women in chess is actually quite low comparatively speaking. So we are trying to encourage even more and more girls to participate. Chess is one of the few sports that is all-inclusive. No matter what sex you are, no matter what job you do. Everyone can play chess. It doesn’t cost you any money to participate. A young girl of 9 can beat a university professor. It has nothing to do with how intelligent you may be in your profession. Chess is a sport which acquires its own level of intelligence, rational thinking, objective thinking, preparation, stress management, self-confidence.
– You are a good chess-player. How often do you play chess these days?
– I do about 1 hour a day. I play online today. I try to play one hour just before I go to sleep. When I am playing chess I am only focused on that for one hour or so. Your brain is relaxing. Some people find it strange, thinking chess is stressful to play. Well, when you’re playing, it’s stressful, but at least your brain is focused only on that particular instance. For me it’s just re-focusing. For that one hour I am forgetting anything else and then, when you come back to the problem, it seems easier to solve. Russians have a saying – “the problem seems better after you’ve slept on it”. It’s the same with the chess. This one hour allows me to put the problem into the background and then, when I come back, I am much more rational and less emotional about the particular problem and I can think better about it. Also it is very easy for me when I am in flight or I am in other places and I want to kill time I can be thinking about some particular variation in my head or about the game I’ve seen. This is very useful because you can be always productive with your mind. But it’s a passion as well.
– Will we see you back in Khanty-Mansiysk in November for Women’s FIDE Grand Prix Series?
– Yes, I will be here in the beginning as usual, 3 or 4 days. The players always find comfort when I am around because then they know that the conditions are all being controlled. If there are any problems they could speak to me about them. So there’s a very good communication with all players, organizers, officials. I am trying to keep in touch with everybody irrespective of whether they are professional or non-professional. Every person have his own level of needs. Some are more fundamental; professionals, of course, want to make money, they are interested in tournaments, series, events, invitations. Other federations are interested in getting support, chess seminars and so on. So we’re there to help everybody