Chess player (extended world top), coach, book author, person

Draw discussion Wijk aan Zee 2016

“Schachticker” has a section “Kalenderblätter” about anniversaries in the chess scene; one name mentioned in the preview 2016 (published 23 December 2015) was particularly appealing to me – I can do research and write something. The reason is for example the title photo (Alina l’Ami, Wijk aan Zee backstage 2016): Vladimir (according to some sources Wolodymir) Tukmakov is in the center, but – like two other persons, to his right Gert Ligterink and at the very left barely visible yours truly Thomas Richter – was mainly listening: Loek Van Wely and Anish Giri discuss, whether it was OK to agree a draw after 20 moves (as Loek, not Anish, had done against Karjakin).

I “know” Tukmakov primarily as coach of (currently) Anish Giri, this was his role 2015 und 2016 in Wijk aan Zee, a bit “indirectly” as book author, hardly as active player (but Wikipedia and other sources can help), and most recently in an interview I got to know him a bit as a person. The article starts with another anecdote, then it becomes historical with photo documentation, and at the end I will introduce and present the already mentioned interview.

I first “met” the book author Tukmakov in October 2014, or rather he had a “side role” in Romanishin’s Masterclass in Amsterdam. Romanishin’s answer to the question whether he – like his compatriot Tukmakov – will write a book: “I don’t have time for it, I am still an active tournament player, Tukmakov is nowadays only a coach.” Again I mentioned Tukmakov’s current-permanent role, now just a few bits and pieces – compiled from Wikipedia and other sources – about the chess player Tukmakov:

He became grandmaster in 1972, at the age of 25 or 26 (currently already quite ‘old’, not necessarily at the time). His biggest international tournament successes were apparently second places in Buenos Aires 1970 (before becoming GM, well behind Bobby Fischer, ahead of among others Najdorf, Reshevsky and Smyslov) and Madrid 1973 – behind Karpov, ahead of e.g. Hort, Uhlmann, Andersson, Portisch and Ljubojevic. Such details are available via And victories in other, less strong events. He played 14 Soviet championships, finishing second three times – 1970 behind Korchnoi, 1972 behind Tal, 1983 behind Karpov. International team events are relatively rare: the 1984 Olympiad in Thessaloniki for the Soviet Union (board 4 behind Beliavsky, Polugajewski und Vaganian, ahead of Jussupow and Sokolov), the 1993 World Team Championship in Luzern (for Ukraine board 4 behind Ivanchuk, Malaniuk and the already mentioned Romanishin). 1984 he was also reserve player in the match UDSSR – Rest of the World Welt and played three games (draw against Korchnoi, 1.5/2 against Ljubojevic). And three times successful reserve player for the Soviet Union at European Team Championships (1973, 1983, 1989). In his autobiography he apparently mentions that it was hard to even be nominated for the national team [No, I didn’t read his books – I have some other chess books but often no time to actually read them.] As best game he mentioned his win against Korchnoi at the Soviet championship 1970 (annotated by Mikhail Golubev for Chess Today, picked up by Chessbase at the occasion of his 60th birthday).

Later he had different roles at Olympiads – coach/team captain for Ukraine und Azerbaijan. Then he became coach of Giri (Chuchelov coaching both Giri and Caruana was far from ideal in the long term?) and captain of the Dutch national team. First Azerbaijan, then Netherlands, how come? According to Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam for the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad there was a direct link: “Giri got to know Tukmakov at the European Club Cup in Rhodos, where both – as player and coach – were part of the SOCAR star team. They went on several long joint walks and the conversations impressed (Giri or Tukmakov or both?).”

Before I focus on Tukmakov’s current roles, a few timeline pictures:

Vladimir_Tukmakov_Amsterdam_1974 (Dutch National Archive)

Tukmakov 1974 in Amsterdam (Source Dutch National Archive)

Tukmakov Wijk aan Zee 1984 (Dutch National Archive)

1984 in Wijk aan Zee (also Dutch National Archive).

Vladimir_Tukmakov_2009 (Golubev)

2009 in Odessa (Lena Ivanova via Wikipedia) – already visually close to the current Tukmakov.

Analyse WaZ2015

2015 Analysis Wijk aan Zee (Foto Alina l’Ami). Also on the photo with cameras Evgeny Surov ( and Joachim Schulze (Chessbase), seated Erwin l’Ami, Anish Giri and Loek van Wely, standing with leather jackett Ivan Sokolov, with plentiful dark hair Salem Saleh und Thomas Richter (who had a haircut the next day), NN behind both of us, hidden to the right of Tukmakov IM Robert Ris. Did my hair color change a lot within just one year (compare title photo), or is it a matter of light conditions? Which photo series will accompany an article for Giri’s 50th anniversary in 2044 [that I might still be able to write]?

Now Giri, from his press conference 2015 in Wijk aan Zee. Early on he said “I am not a fitness monster, I have trouble keeping up with my coach Tukmakov during walks”, later – answering my question on how they work together in practice: “We usually meet in the [Dutch Olympic] sport center Papendal, which gives me the opportunity to work also on my fitness.” After the last round 2015 I also talked to Tukmakov – first I couldn’t get hold of Giri himself, his coach, why not? He was friendly and talkative but at the same time a bit reserved, and didn’t really appreciate or understand my suggestion that Giri’s endgame technique had room for improvement (an opinion shared by some titled players at the time, so not just my patzer assessment). John Van der Wiel August 2014 on Tukmakov, new coach of the Dutch national team: “Tukmakov was a strong grandmaster, he is distanced-scary, a bit like Putain [Putin?]. And to my knowledge he is an army person, having played for the military club CSKA Moscow.”

Columnnists (this was part of the series “Spinning Wiel”) like to exaggerate, but my first interview with Tukmakov was a bit similar. The second interview became a pleasant surprise. Utrecht, Tata Steel Chess on Tour, before the round journalists waited for something to happen, then I got the chance for the interview I wanted (but not necessarily on this particular day):

TR to Tukmakov: I have a few questions, not directly linked to this event but a chess player/reporter thinks a few moves ahead – I will write about your 70th birthday. Currently you are more a coach than a player?

Tukmakov: Only a coach … .

TR: How did this happen, spontaneously or gradually?

Tukmakov: I quit playing too late rather than too early, around the age of 60. [According to FIDE Elo statistics he played regularly until April 2004, then more and more sporadically – finally two small events in 2013 after a break of several years. He became FIDE Senior Trainer in 2004.]

TR: Giri praised your fitness, saying that he can’t keep up with you.

Tukmakov: His fitness has improved – maybe my influence, maybe not … .

TR: Is there any secret to your fitness, do you practice other sports?

Tukmakov: Nothing special – I like fast walks, I do exercises, I live a normal life.

TR: More healthy than some other Soviet GMs!?

Tukmakov: I don’t compare myself with others …. .

TR: You also wrote books – your compatriot Romanishin said he doesn’t have time for it as he is still an active player “while Tukmakov is now only a coach”.

Tukmakov: I wrote three books [an autobiography as chess player, Modern GM Preparation and Risk & Bluff in Chess]. Each time I thought it would be my last book, so now I wrote three last books. There may be a fourth one about my career as a coach, but that’s an ongoing story. [He didn’t pick up the question about player vs. coach – I can imagine that a coach can do long-term planning more easily.]

TR: Maybe when Giri becomes world champion?

Tukmakov: That would be a good moment …. .

TR: Did you discuss the content of your latest book Risk & Bluff in Chess. The Art of Taking Calculated Risks with Giri? Some say he needs to take more risks … .

Tukmakov: Of course we discuss things such as his playing style. He might need to take a bit more risks, maybe not bluff but risks. But I didn’t write the book for or about him, rather because I find the subject interesting.

TR: I did some research, but it’s still hard for me to assess. How good were you as a player – top10, top30, …?

Tukmakov: Top20.

TR: That’s it – unless you want to mention something else.

Tukmakov: 70 is a milestone, but I hope that I can keep doing what I like to do for many more years. [In his candidates preview for NewinChess Sergey Shipov – subsection on Giri – writes: “It is unlikely that he (Tukmakov) is intending to await success for many years; he does not have them.” My impression: 2016 ist not just for Giri, but also for Tukmakov in any case not the last chance. But predictions over several years – on chess, health or anything else – are always tricky.]

TR: Thanks, and good luck to Giri to make the tournament interesting again! [“Of course” Giri-Carlsen then was a rather uneventful draw …]

The candidates tournament is on the near horizon. I don’t know if/where/how Tukmakov celebrates his 70th birthday. Giri last tweeted (3 March in the afternoon) from the Papendal countryside. Before he had interrupted his training camp for a talk show appearance.  Most readers won’t understand Dutch – among other things he said “if I spent the whole day at the computer, I need Twitter to relax in between!”. That’s the current young generation, computers/social media as distraction from computers … .

Happy birthday!

Gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag!

От всего сердца поздравляю с Днем рождения!

Вітаємо Вас з днем народження! [Russian and Ukrainian thanks to Google Translate]


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