Dubov faces criticism in Russia after working for Carlsen


Few countries are as proud of the achievements of their athletes as Russia. Following a practice of the Soviet era, when the royal game was used as a symbol of intellectual superiority, the Russian government often gets involved (at least symbolically) when a representative of the country or the national team participates in competitions. international.

Although the days of Soviet chess supremacy are over, Russia continues to be a force to be reckoned with in the sport’s elite. Currently, 11 of the 39 players rated 2,700 or higher are from Russia, with China and the United States ranking second (in terms of number of players) with 5 reps each. In addition, in the last edition of the Candidates Tournament, 3 out of 8 players were Russian, including the nominee of the organizer, Kirill Alekseenko.

However, what the Russians lack is the title of world champion. Ever since Garry Kasparov – a vehement opponent of Putin’s regime – dominated the chess world and was later replaced by compatriot Vladimir Kramnik, Russia have failed to produce a player capable of snatching the crown from Vishy Anand or Magnus Carlsen. However, they had two challengers: Sergey Karjakin in 2016 and Ian Nepomniachtchi in 2021.

Vladimir Poutine

Vladimir Putin at the training camp of the Russian Olympiad teams in Sochi (2018)

While Nepo isn’t one to express his political views often – or talk a lot about his private life in general – Karjakin openly showed his nationalist pride in his preparations to face Carlsen five years ago. So, it wasn’t too surprising to see him being the first to question on social media that a member of the Russian team had worked for Carlsen’s team as a runner-up.

Karjakin was referring to Daniil Dubov. Right after the match, Peter Heine Nielsen, the best assistant to the world champion, shared on twitter the names of the players who had helped Carlsen prepare for the match in Dubai. None of the names were particularly surprising – not even Dubov’s, as it is a well-known fact that he had worked with the Norwegian in the past.

Daniil Dubov, Magnus Carlsen

Daniil Dubov right after winning the 2018 Fast World Championship – the Russian finished ahead of Magnus Carlsen, shortly after helping the Norwegian to defend his classic title against Fabiano Caruana in London | Photo: Maria Emelianova

The controversy was not obvious to non-Russians, although after seeing Karjakin’s tweet and considering the factors mentioned above, it was not difficult to put two and two together, and note that Dubov has most likely had to take this aspect into account when deciding to work for Carlsen. this time. The 25-year-old clarified to Grigory Telingater for championat.ru (see an English translation of Colin McGourty’s interview here):

GT: And when did you start [working for the match in Dubai]?

DD: Before the departure of the Candidates. I was asked what I thought of the idea of ​​helping. I replied that it would be normal. This is perhaps the first thing I would like to point out about the rather odd review. In normal teams, all agreements are formulated in advance.

You don’t have to wait for who wins the candidates to start preparing.

However, the still confident Dubov was aware of the potential reaction once his compatriot became the challenger. His position on the subject is however clear and is based on the fact that the match for the title of world champion is an individual competition and not a competition between national teams:

GT: When Ian won the Candidates Tournament, did you think that hatred would come to you because of your cooperation with Magnus?

DD: That someone might not like him is nothing new. This is not the first time that I have encountered this and I am relatively calm about it. For me there is no problem. I think it’s the same for Ian. When people talk about the Russian state or the Russian team, it is precisely the Russian team. Here, after all, it’s not Russia versus Norway.

Daniel Dubov

At Magnus Carlsen training camp

In the same store, championat.ru, Vishy Anand was asked about the whole controversy, with the Indian making a useful analogy:

We live in a globalized world, where people calmly work for foreign companies, move to other countries, welcome foreign players to their football teams and even support football clubs from other countries.

Dubov shared a similar sentiment, and even went so far as to note that his involvement in Carlsen’s squad could be presented as a feat worthy of a member of the Russian national team:

In general, you could logically see it all differently. From the point of view of the Russian team: one of the best Russian chess players, relatively young, worked with the best chess player in history – he gained experience that will help him in his career .

Magnus Carlsen presents his team

Dubov: I think it’s pretty important for him to like guys. For example, the Russian team is the exact opposite – they would normally bring all the bigger guns, it’s basically you use all the power. Here it’s a European approach – most of the time you care about the atmosphere and so on, and only then do you need people to work well.

There is talk of the exclusion of Dubov from the Russian team after this “incident”. Not to see such a creative player in team events will surely be a huge loss to the chess community around the world. So hopefully this problem is solved by different means, or it is just left out.


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