At the FIDE World Team Championship 2022, in 43 one- or two-minute-long videos, I interviewed players, captains, organizers, and FIDE officials. Two of the most famous players I interviewed were Grandmasters Hans Niemann and Vasyl Ivanchuk. The winning team was China, followed by Uzbekistan, Spain, and India.
Because I didn’t have a chess board in the interview area, I was advised not to ask about chess variations. Without a board, a player’s comment like “a3 might be a good move, White might get the pawn back and then bishop c3” would be incomprehensible for most viewers.
Before I left for Jerusalem, I decided that my first two questions would be “Tell us your name and what team you are playing for.” I knew the answers to these questions as I had the team rosters. But some names, like Vasyl Ivanchuk, are tricky. “Vasyl” is a recent version of Ivanchuk’s first name. In years past, I had seen “Vassily.” Ivanchuk’s last name is a challenge, as I don’t speak Ukrainian. Does it begin with “eye-vann” or “even” for the first two syllables? Is it “chook” or “chuck” for the third syllable?
Asking each player to state his country also had a rationale. Perhaps saying his team’s name would evoke national pride, as it did for Grandmaster Kirill Shevchenko who said, “Ukraine, the most bravest country.”
To get interviews, I caught players as they were leaving the playing hall. Only men played in this year’s championship, though women could have been selected to represent their countries. I waited by the elevators, asking players who won or drew for interviews. Many declined, as with two rounds a day they wanted to retreat to their hotel rooms to prepare or to rest.
Once a player said yes, I texted the cameraman. The player and I chatted while we waited for Sergey Medvedev to arrive and set up. Many thanks to Sergey and to the entire broadcast group for their support of me as a first-time video interviewer and for their excellent production values.
While Ivanchuk and I waited for Sergey, I reminded Ivanchuk that he visited the 1990 Women’s Interzonal in Genting Highlands, Malaysia. Ivanchuk and I also discussed the 1990 Olympiad, in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, where each of us participated.
Once Sergey began filming, I asked Ivanchuk my usual first questions. The entire interview is here:
Ivanchuk’s reaction to my initial questions became a meme, for example see one hour and 15 minutes into this broadcast.
After the Ivanchuk interview and subsequent criticism of my opening questions, I switched to either saying the player’s name myself or asking them, before the filming started, to say their own name after I prompted with “I’m here with…”
I was worried that Grandmaster Hans Niemann would run away from chess-related questions, as he infamously did here after stating “Chess speaks for itself.”
So, after I said Niemann’s name, I asked him about swimming rather than chess. The full interview is here:
One question that I wish I had asked Niemann was how he felt about playing first board, a high-pressure position on any team. Niemann scored three draws and two losses before the U.S. team was eliminated. I think I was right to avoid questions about cheating and lawsuits, as surely Niemann would not have answered those.
Videos and Reports
The FIDE World Team Championship 2022 was my first time as a video interviewer. The comments on my interviews ranged from, on the negative side, “On which planet does this interviewer live?” and “the interviewer should be fired immediately” to the somewhat positive, “WIM Alexey Root having the toughest job in chess.” Use this “recently uploaded FIDE videos link” and look for videos dated between November 20 and November 25, 2022, for my 43 interviews
As far as I know, no one complained about my written daily reports. Thanks to FIDE for editing those reports and for adding chess positions, analysis, and photos:
Day 1: https://fide.com/news/2095
Day 2: https://fide.com/news/2097
Day 3: https://fide.com/news/2100
Day 4: https://fide.com/news/2101
Day 5: https://fide.com/news/2103
Day 6: https://fide.com/news/2105
FIDE Press Officer
Many thanks to FIDE for the opportunity to be a FIDE Press Officer. It was one of the best experiences of my chess career. Interviewing top players, assisting journalists and photographers, and writing about chess were highlights of my week’s work.
And then there was the opportunity to travel, much appreciated as I had not left the United States since 1990. Seeing Jerusalem for the first time was memorable. This end-of-tournament video captures one Old City tour I went on as well as the opening ceremony, rounds, and closing ceremony. In the video, you can spot me pointing to a glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly. Chihuly was born in Tacoma, Washington, a city I lived in when I was a teenager.
I could travel for pleasure but combining travel with chess journalism is a dream come true. Thanks to the Israel Chess Federation, who did an excellent job hosting the FIDE World Team Championship 2022 and who also welcomed me. At the next championship where a FIDE Press Officer is needed, I hope to be considered for the job!