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Worldly Grandmasters Criss-Cross Continents for their Craft

Dresden, 16/11/2008

A trio of GMs never leaves home without their passports as they hopscotch over international borders


GMs Stefan Kindermann, Alejandro Ramirez and Vladislav Tkachiev might have trouble answering the question, "Where are you from?" Consider: Tkachiev was born in Russia, grew up in Kazakhstan, plays for France, but spends most of his time in Moscow. Ramirez is no less peripatetic, leaving his Costa Rican home to attend university in Texas and playing tournaments all over the United States. Kindermann remains mostly in central Europe, but he bounced back and forth between his native Austria and his longtime home Germany.

Of course all three are in Dresden, Germany now and they each have their own interests. Kindermann has begun an elite chess academy in Berlin. "We wanted to do some high-level stuff," he said of the training regimen that has reached more than 1,000 juniors over the last three years. He linked chess skills to business acumen and has been involved with research along the same lines.

Kindermann's decision to represent Austria for the first time was based on his native loyalty but also practical concerns. He said chess recently came under the auspices of the national sports federation, elevating its status, but he also was no longer strong enough to make the German Olympiad team. Kindermann said his goal is for the Austrian squad to climb into the top 30 at Olympiad's end.

Ramirez, Latin America's first-ever GM, remarkably earned the title at age 15. "When I think of Costa Rica, chess was not the first thing out of my mind," Susan Polgar said.

"I was kind of a special case," Ramirez said, explaining that the support of his parents was vital, and despite his geographic isolated to top-flight events, "I became a GM against the odds. I am part of the ICC generation. I didn't see it as an impediment."

Ramirez is currently enrolled at the University of Texas at Dallas, a school that recruits chess players and has other titled players on its roster. He plans to graduate next year and plans will pursue a higher-level degree and other avenues outside of chess. "I am passionate about my career," Ramirez said. "I have a career in video game programming."

Tkachiev has been involved in the past few years mostly as a chess organizer, where he is "still quite motivated to continue." He said he believes the future of chess promotion centers on bullet chess. For Tkachiev, five-minute chess is like taking the slow train. He said the possibility of a ten-minute game is "much too much for a TV game show…the best format for TV is two minutes (per player)." He cited several hugely popular events in Kazakhstan, including the recent record prize fund at World Blitz Chess Championship. "It was just great," Tkachiev said, "It is the most spectacular form of chess."

Text: FM Mike Klein
Photos: Georgios Souleidis