President of the Estonian Draughts Union and founder of the Tabasalu Draughts Club Tarmo Tulva comments on the development of Russian draughts in Estonia.
“Estonia has roughly 30-40 official Russian draughts tournaments per year. This includes competitions for children of all ages as well as adults. In addition, unofficial tournaments are held in different parts of the country. They are organised by private clubs. I would say such tournaments take place every weekend. There are definitely 50-60 private tournaments per year”, Tulva says.
Q: How many private clubs are there in Estonia?
Q: Do these clubs specialise in Russian draughts or international draughts?
A: It varies. Clubs that have the most active adult players specialise in Russian draughts. Kids and young people in Estonia tend to play international draughts.
Q: Why is that?
A: That’s just the way it is. International draughts are more popular among young people. I think this is due to the presence in Tallinn of a European Draughts Union office, which works to actively develop international draughts and advertises them well. They hold numerous tournaments in Europe which young people like to visit.
Q: How do they advertise international draughts?
A: For instance, they organise training camps for children prior to a major international tournament. It’s all arranged very nicely and children enjoy it. They start wanting to participate in the actual international tournaments and begin training.
Q: Do young Estonians really not participate in international Russian draughts tournaments at all?
A: They do, of course. Last year a few Estonian kids travelled to the World Championship in Bulgaria held by the IDF. But there were only 3-4 of them, no more. At last year’s European Championship in international draughts around twenty kids from Estonia competed, while there were fewer at the World Championship since after all it is quite expensive.
Q: Perhaps it’s related to politics, Russian-Estonian relations or some sort of wariness towards anything connected with Russia?
A: I don’t think so. It’s more likely a fad, which in turn depends on those who shape it. In general, each draughts club has its own training system. For instance, I also have a small draughts club where my partner and I teach kids how to play draughts. We usually start with a 64-square board and after a few years the kids who do well switch to a 100-square board. This typically takes place around age 16 when the kids are able to travel to tournaments in European countries on their own. Most of these tournaments are for international draughts, which is one of the reasons why young people in Estonia switch to international draughts.
Q: How do you personally feel about this issue?
A: I like it when people show an interest in draughts – both Russian draughts and international draughts. In my view, it doesn’t really matter what kind of board they choose.
Q: Incidentally, as regards tournaments: you recently held the Estonian Championship in Russian Draughts. Did you use the old or new table of openings at the tournament?
A: The old one.
Q: Could it be that the IDF does not recognise the Estonian Championship due to the use of the old table of openings? After all, the IDF officially recommended using the new table at the start of this year.
A: I hope that won’t happen. At any rate, there is no question about the legitimacy of our championship in Estonia. In addition, in terms of participation in international Russian draughts tournaments held by the IDF, we only have two competitors who can challenge for anything – the grandmasters Arno Uutma and Kaari Vainonen. Even if the IDF did have problems concerning the use of the old table of openings at the Estonian Championship, I have a difficult time believing that this would prevent Uutma or Vainonen from participating in the World Championship. I think everything will be fine.
Text and photos: Lev Godovannik
Tallinn, Estonia, February 2017