Aleksandr Georgiev: ‘Maybe I’m not so bad at chess’

Draughts World Champion Aleksandr Georgiev has finished on 5½ out of 7 in the Amateur II group. ‘It was very interesting,’ said the amiable Russian (44), ‘and I have seen here that maybe I’m not so bad at chess.’ Yesterday a few friends from the draughts scene came to visit Georgiev here in Hoogeveen, and they concluded the same as Aleksandr did: ‘A chess tournament is very similar to a draughts tournament. The main difference is that much more people are playing chess. I think this is not so much due to the character of the games, but more to the way the sports are organized.’

After the first game Georgiev won at the Hoogeveen city hall, he wanted to put 2-0 on the score sheet, but he managed to correct himself in time. Although he may be the most successful draughts player of all time, he has always been quite familiar with chess. ‘In my home town St Petersburg we played draughts and chess in the same building. So I knew chess players early on. But I was lucky to get a very good draughts coach, Sergey Manchin, who had coached other world champions before. He also played chess. He told me he once was quite good as a draughts player himself, but then he saw Ton Sijbrands play, and decided to become a coach...’

Georgiev has taken part in several mind sports events in China, where both chess and draughts are on the programme. ‘There I met Vasily Ivanchuk, who has been coaching me in chess. I had already seen him before, because Dutch draughts player Harm Wiersma knew him.’ Ivanchuk, a good draughts player who played a chess match with Wei Yi here two years ago, thinks quite highly of Georgiev as a chess player.

The games itself have their differences, of course. Chess may be easier to visualize because there are so many different pieces. ‘Yes, but also the boards are different,’ Georgiev said. ‘The draughts board is bigger, but only half of the squares are used. Still, I think that if I could have found a good coach in St Petersburg, which is much more difficult there than with draughts because there is a lot of competition, I might have become a better chess player. I am planning to play more chess in the future – if I have the time. Also it depends if I get any invitations!’