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The Saint Petersburg-based Russian Draughts Foundation for the Advancement of Draughts has launched its own online project. The organisers hope the website will help to attract the attention of a vast audience from around the world to the most widespread version of draughts on a 64-square board. For this reason, the online project is somewhat atypical compared to its other ‘sports’ counterparts as it contains numerous feature articles that introduce readers to the world’s leading grandmasters as people and not just as athletes.
The main objective of the new website is to make draughts more interesting in the eyes of the media community and more appealing in the eyes of potential sponsors. Draughts-64 is currently one of the lowest income sports, while there is no comparison whatsoever between the living standards of current world champions and their colleagues from other sports disciplines. At the same time, draughts intrinsically require minimal investments. There is no need for stadiums with expensive surfaces, complex training simulators, or pricey sports equipment.
‘The problem is that everyone except fans has forgotten about draughts. It is no longer regarded as a sport in the collective conscious – television has supplanted everything with football, boxing, and figure skating’, Russian Draughts Foundation Executive Board Chairman Alexander Gaydukov says. ‘We want to remind everyone who only played draughts at home in their kitchens as kids that it is a sport! It’s a real sport with exciting competitions and some of the most interesting – oftentimes – brilliant people who win gold medals at these competitions’.
The Russian Draughts website does not feature the standings that are typical for online sports projects since the Foundation’s employees want to present ‘draughts with a human face’ to a wide audience. This is why the new website contains numerous journalistic articles that cover a vast geographical area due to the origin of the 2015 world champions (the championship was held in Saint Petersburg using the Foundation’s funds). The five champions included two Russians and three citizens of Moldova, Lithuania, and Belarus. However, one of the two Russians, Sergey Belosheyev, the world champion in the highly prestigious classic draughts, turned out to be among the Russians solely on account of a conflux of circumstances: he was ‘annexed’ by Russia along with Crimea. The most unique character on the new website is Moldovan citizen Yelena Skovitina, who at the last world championship managed to win gold in two disciplines: classic and blitz draughts.
The organisers believe the biggest key to the project’s success is promoting the ‘face of draughts’. The website will devote considerable attention to news related to preparations for and the hosting of tournaments supported by the Russian Draughts Foundation. The desired result is to attract money from sponsors for draughts tournaments and to expose the younger generation to draughts.
The Russian Draughts Foundation for the Advancement of Draughts was founded in May 2013 in Saint Petersburg. Its sole founder is the Saint Petersburg Draughts Federation, which is headed by Vladimir Langin, an international grandmaster, three-time world champion, and president of the International Draughts Federation (IDF). The latter is a member of the Foundation’s Executive Board, which is chaired by Saint Petersburg businessman Alexander Gaydukov.
In the less than three years that the Russian Draughts Foundation has existed, the IDF has transformed Saint Petersburg into the draughts capital of Russia using money raised by the Foundation and held four international tournaments in the city:
– the men’s and women’s world championship in August 2013
– the men’s and women’s European championship in October 2014
– an international tournament dedicated to the 70th anniversary of victory in World War II in May 2015
– the men’s and women’s world championship in October 2015.
The 2015 world championship was a landmark event as it demonstrated the enormous demand for draughts-64. It was attended by athletes from 44 countries, an all-time record for an international draughts tournament.