Most of those following the Kolkata Open chess competition will inevitably remember Vladislav Tkachiev for the ‘doze-after-overdose’ act.
Even otherwise, the Russian settled in France after a stopover in Kazakhstan doesn’t conform to the average Indian’s idea of the staid world of chess.
His love for alcohol is as well known as his profound talent, he is hardly seen without a cigarette when he is not playing, his fascination for the blitz form —what T20 is to cricket —once led him to say “blitz changes reality…the light seems brighter and beer tastes sweeter” and he had initiated a ‘chess beauty contest’ with brother Evgeny. Lack of funds shut down the venture within a year after inception, in 2006.
Tkachiev is turning up in dark glasses after the drunken third-round forfeiture on Thursday. As he spoke about the aborted beauty contest, the stubble on his face turned golden in the fading light giving him the look of a true maverick.
“The idea was to show that women who play chess are not just intelligent. They are sexy, beautiful and why not have a contest to find out the best. Another important reason was to make the game popular by bringing it out of its boring confines,” Tkachiev told HT.
According to their plans, women chess players would send ‘offbeat’ photographs of themselves to be posted on the contest’s website.
They received about 400 entries with WGMs Natalija Pogonina, Maria Manakova and Almira Skripchenko amomg them. Tkachiev said there were a few Indians too, but couldn’t recall the names.
“We had planned an awards gala with $10,000 for the winner… There were no sponsors, we couldn’t sustain it.”
The contest drew criticism but WGM Anna Zuzulia, representing Belgium in the Kolkata Open, said she was okay with the idea.
“Most people think women chess players wear glasses and are abnormal. That’s not the case.”
Tkachiev has moved on in life. He seems to know that not everyone appreciates everything he does and accepts it with a witty smile. “What happened that day?” someone asked. “I lost,” came the amused answer after a pause.