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Fontaine: "Players have to get used to it."


Europe Echecs is a monthly chess magazine covering the chess events at national and international level founded back in 1959 by Raoul Bertolo. The second chairman of the magazine was Jean-Claude Fasquelle, the chairman and magazine editor of Editions Grasset. Chess Europe after Fasquelle extended its coverage beyond the national level and it became one of the most famous chess periodical in the world. This is the summary of the history of the magazine that is presented in French.

The publishing director of Europe Echecs is grandmaster Bachar Kouatly and the magazine has a very good web site with a good video coverage at various strong tournaments. MCA and TCF Press Officer and chess columnist of Sabah newspaper  Özgür Akman made an interview with the new journalist of Europe Echecs GM Robert Fontaine on the Aeroflot event, future of world chess and the relationship between chess, chess players and the media.

Would you briefly introduce yourself to us?


International Grandmaster Robert Fontaine from France  My current FIDE rating is 2572. I am currently number ten in French list. I started playing at the age of four. I was six times Franch Champion in different categories, Under 16, Under 18 and Junior. So far my best result is the third place in French Championship after Tkachiev and Fressinet and I was also part of the olympic team in Calvia Chess Olympiad. I had a good result there with plus three.

Why are you in Moscow?

I have not been playing for more than one year now and I am now making reports Europe Echecs which now exists for 49 years which is a very long time. We decided to make video reports of different international tournaments. We did in Mexico for the World Championship, also in Memorial Tal in Moscow back during November so we are trying to follow big events to make video reports in the Internet. Because I think video reporting is the future which cannot be avoided.

So, you think that this is the was chess journalism is heading to?

Yeah, definitely.  There were not many video journalists before. Now, I see cameramans, tv or video reporters everywhere I go as I also saw one guy working with the camera from your federation in European Club Cup. So, it is good when you are at home sitting in front of your computer and watching the ambience of the tournament.

What are your impressions about Aeroflot open up to now, particularly A1 group?

I can say that there is a very big fight and there is a small number of short draws. It is very plaeasing to see every player fighting till the end. I am very impressed by Nepomniachtchi's play. He has not lost a single game and he has a very attractive style. I am closely interested in the way he plays right now.


During Aeroflot 2008, Chess TV team conducted interviews, produced daily reports and prepared videos that reflected the atmosphere of the event.

Who do you think will be the future star in the world?

Of course the leader of the young generation is definitely Carlsen right now. He is 17 and playing at the highest level. He has a rare talent I think we will see him as a world champion. Of course, Radjabov, Karjakin maybe Jakovenko is a level under but he can also be counted. However, Carlsen, Radjabov and Karjakin are the leaders. I hope we will see Vachier-Lagrave, the young French star to pass 2700 rating.

Isn't it difficult not to play but making journalism?

When I see this tournament I wish that I could play. I already played here in 2004. I was playing quite well. When I see the environment I feel that I would like to play here. However, at some point you have to make a choice in your life. The question is whether you want to be a champion in chess or make money. In order to earn a good living....(laughing) I guess you have to make money. I like what I am doing right now. So, I do not regret.

Do you think your strength of playing chess helps you in your new job. There are not many active journalists who are also having the grandmaster title? Do you think does that make a different?

Some journalists have graduated from the school and they know how to make an interview, how to do a report. My strength is that I can understand the games because I reached the level. For this open tournament, I know more than half of the players since I have already played against them. I have easy contact with the players. To be a GM helps in these respects.

What would you like to say about the relationship between the media and the players? I know an incident in Sofia that the media interest sometimes distrubs the players ...We also had a similar experience in some other places...

Chess players are not used to get along with the media attention as in the stars of the other sports are, maybe you have already experienced it. They have to learn how to speak with journalists, giving interviews,  to be taken photos, cooperating with them. This should be part of the show. We know that in football for example the way things work are quite different, of course as far as I watch it. At the half time, the player is taking his time to stop while he is totally sweating to answer the questions. This should be the same way for the chess players, too. Even after one player loses the game, that player has to show what he thinks and what he feels. They are not used to it but the players have to learn it. I think there is no other way to promote the game, get more media attention especially in television. If a chess players runs to the analysis right after the game and then right afterwards the analysis runs to his hotel room without saying a word, nobody would like to be a sponsor for the game. There is a lot of room to improve these stuff.

Isn't it about the dignity of the masters and respecting the effort, their moves and understanding they show during the game? Wouldn't this contribute to the promotion of the game?

Chess players are not doing much about it and they have to learn how to do it. I do not think it is a matter of dignity but it is just that they are not used to it. It is very new. In 1-2 years the mentality will change. When I was in Mexico, the press conferences were not very easy during the first days but after the first week, the players started talking about their games, even making jokes.

A general question again. What should be a master plan to promote chess and make it more popular in widestream media?

A very big question indeed...I don't have a clue! When I see poker, it is everywhere on TV. Chess can take lessons from poker. About promoting chess in general, I was talking with Vlad Tkachiev, French champion...

You think all the games should be played in blitz tempo as he thinks...

No, this is very extreme. However, the coverages should start with blitz  in the very beginning. In Moscow, World Blitz Championship, after Tal Memorial Tournament, we had a great number of hits on our web site because of our video coverage. For chess, you have to start with quick tempo. You can easily comment on a blitz but it is more difficult to do it when it is a slow game. For a slow game, you have to understand chess. For quick tempo, showing blitz could be useful to show people what is going on easily. I agree with Tkachiev about promoting blitz.


Elmira Mirzoeva reported in Russian, Robert Fontaine reported in French. WGM Mirzoeva and GM Fontaine reported in English together. Gerard Demuydt took the video shots and prepared the Internet news for Europe Echecs web site.

Do you think is there any positive influence of situation of world championship right now and the media coverage?

Well, to be honest I don't understand the current sitation in world championship since it is very complicated even if I am reporting and I am in it. It is more clear now actually, Anand is the world champion, Anand will play Kramnik this year. The winner of the match will face Topalov-Kamsky match winner and we will finally have single champion. But it is very complicated, even I am a grandmaster, a professional player. I hope this system complexity ends in the end, maybe a simple system like  the matches they did many years ago would be achieved.

So you prefer the matches?

I do not know if it is the best one but it is very easy to do it. It is very simple with one champion and one challenger with a system producing the challenger. It has been the way world champions have been determined so why not now?

Have you ever been to Turkey?

Yes, I have been to Turkey three times. I came to Turkey in October for European Club Cup to play. I played in 2003 European Individual Championship. I liked the country very much. The tournaments were very well organized. It was nice to be there and I had very good results there so I have good memories from there.

What are your opinions about Turkish chess? How much do you know about Turkish chess?

Actually, Misha Gurevich and Atalık are example for the younger ones in Turkey and I know them but as far as I know the country is not very strong right now. I know one player from your country. His name is Atakişi and I know him from age competitons. He is a pretty good player, well, I do not know very much about it. As far as I know, chess was not very popular in Turkey as in Russia for example years ago. I heard that chess is now in schools, and I spoke with Ali Nihat Yazıcı in Mexico about the recent improvement. However, for having new champions like Carlsen, Karjakin, Vachier-Lagrave, you need time, luck and strong players to train them.

Thanks for the interview.
Thank you.

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