“I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do. I liked scoring goals, I liked defending the net and I wasn’t bad at taking penalties. In addition, I liked being a defender. As a goalkeeper, I could see that if a defender played a different way, then a player on the rival team would not come at me one-on-one. At such times, I really wanted to be a defender”.
Winner of the 2016 World Cup in classic and blitz draughts
Our interview with Dmitry Tsinman took place on 12 December in St. Petersburg. The grandmaster was preparing for another round of the final stage of the 2016 World Cup. He turned 36 years-old that day, so prior to the start of the match International Draughts Federation (IDF) President Vladimir Langin congratulated him and presented him with a souvenir. But how does the grandmaster usually celebrate his birthday when he’s not on the road?
“In recent years, this kind of birthday celebration has become the norm”, Dmitry said. “The World Cup final always falls in the middle of December”.
Celebrating his birthday in St. Petersburg has already become a tradition for the Kazan-based grandmaster. But he still plans to have a proper celebration at home when he returns. What will that entail?
“I’m afraid the readers won’t find it interesting. Getting away for a while with my wife to a restaurant, for instance, is problematic because we have a small child. Staying at home with loved ones and a couple of nice words is more than enough for me”.
Dmitry says that his birthday celebrations were always pretty low-key before he got married. He was never a big partier and did not enjoy going to night clubs or other similar establishments. He would usually have a family feast or dinner at a café with friends. Perhaps they would go to a movie or the theatre together.
“I have a pretty quiet hobby – draughts”, the grandmaster laughs. “So even when I get together with students such as Andrey Gnelitsky or Denis Shogin, everything is quite modest and calm”.
Dmitry says that his wife decorates the apartment on his birthday and even makes posters with his pictures – old and new ones – to show how the birthday boy has changed over the years.
“I quite enjoy that. My birthday never goes unnoticed”, Dmitry says.
The grandmaster’s son, little Yegor Tsinman, who is currently a year and eight months, has just learned how to walk. Dmitry says that he loves spending his free time with the little guy, going for walks near their house, taking trips to parks and trying to make sure that his boy is socialised and interacts with his peers. At home he has toys and books, which prompts Dmitry to recall memories from his own childhood.
“When I was little, there wasn’t such a wide variety of children’s things, of course. So I’m also trying to give my child what I was once deprived of”.
For now, little Yegor loves running around more than anything else. He’s a very mobile child.
Dmitry Tsinman has a very busy schedule. He is the deputy director of a school’s educational sports department with three divisions: chess, draughts and the Asian game Go. Chess takes up the bulk of his time with some 70 competitions a year, and almost all of them involve a lot of people and a barrage of parents. The school where the grandmaster works holds competitions not only for children, but for students, pensioners, the disabled, government and municipal employees as well as various departments, agencies and services.
Dmitry oversees almost 40 coaches and 1,000 students and covers the entire Republic of Tatarstan. He also handles staffing, the schedule and hosting competitions, registering licences, extending the status of the Olympic Reserve and submitting documents for the school to take part in different competitions (not always sport-related), among other things. In addition, he leads a sports advancement group in draughts as well as two non-publicly funded groups in chess at the school on top of teaching chess at another two places.
A logical question arises: when does the 2016 World Cup winner in draughts-64 find time to work on draughts?
“This usually takes place after 10:00 p.m. when Yegor goes to bed. I have time for draughts until midnight with adjustments for other things and how tired I might be. There’s one saying that I really love in this regard: ‘Someone who doesn’t have the desire looks for excuses, while someone who has the desire finds opportunities”.
Draughts lessons for grandmaster Tsinman mean studying games from previous tournaments with the help of his computer, reading reviews and sometimes writing about what he needs to do to prepare for tournaments.
And what does his wife do during his ‘draughts time’?
The grandmaster’s wife Marina does not play draughts and is not an athlete in any way. She is currently on maternity leave, but she usually works at the Nezhmetdinov Draughts School in Kazan like her husband as the head of a sports department that organises and hosts competitions.
Draughts appeared in the grandmaster’s life at a very young age when he five years-old. Dmitry’s father, a mathematician, played draughts with him.
“In the beginning my dad won all the time, then not all the time, and then he took me to see coach Farid Shaydullov at the Central Olympic Reserve School in Kazan. I liked it”, the grandmaster recalls.
Dmitry believes that he got his logical mindset and excellent memory from his father. For instance, when he sees some sort of familiar opening during a tournament, he can immediately recall: so and so used this opening in such and such a year, and during that game they found a certain variant, and then a few years later this same opening was used by other grandmasters and things turned out differently that time, and so on.
In order to remember something, though, Dmitry needs to see it visually and even utilise his motor skills. For example, to remember a telephone number, he needs to call the number a few times by manually dialling the number.
Dmitry loves football. He remembers who became the world or European champion and when, who played with whom and what the score was – even matches from the 1990s! He’s not only a fan, but also played football himself for four years at school. By that time, Dmitry was already playing draughts, but he was seriously infatuated with and drawn to football.
“I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do. I liked scoring goals, I liked defending the net, and I wasn’t bad at taking penalties. In addition, I liked being a defender. As a goalkeeper, I could see that if a defender played a different way, then a player on the rival team would not come at me one-on-one. At such times, I really wanted to be a defender”.
The grandmaster also tried his hand at chess and even Go as a kid. He liked both of them quite a bit. In chess, he easily passed through the second junior category standard. In Go, he jumped from 30th to 8th kyu in one year (1st is the highest kyu level in the Japanese game, then a player’s skill is determined by dans).
But Dmitry stuck with draughts because, as he says, he started playing them before everything else. He can’t explain how it happened exactly, but doesn’t rule out the traditional factor: you’re better at what you chose earlier and you usually go with what you’re better at.
Dmitry’s favourite joke is:
“You can give up drinking, you can give up smoking and if you really try, you can give up the needle. But how can you give up draughts? It’s impossible!
Grandmaster Tsinman is not just a competitor. He’s a fighter for the idea of draughts. Draughts are important to him not only because it’s a means of his own self-expression or a platform for his personal successes even though he doesn’t reject the former or the latter; otherwise he wouldn’t be a competitor.
“It really upsets me when promising competitors leave the sport of draughts. I’m not referring to the ones who played for two or three years and reached the first category or even the level of candidate of master of sports. I am referring to masters and grandmasters. Sure, it’s tough to make a living in draughts, but you can’t simply become either a master of sport, let alone a grandmaster. It takes years to achieve this, and then you just pick up and leave because draughts don’t generate any money. That just boggles my mind. I couldn’t do that. But don’t think that I am judging such people – I perfectly understand that everyone has their own way of life. But it makes me very sad when draughts suffer such losses”.
Not everyone can become a draughts grandmaster and draughts are not for everyone, he says.
“We’re not even talking about talent”, Dmitry says. “Indeed, only two percent are talented at best. But you must have some sort of special inclination, predisposition or convolution that is conducive to our sport. If not, you won’t be able to achieve anything! I have seen many children who have everything: a desire to play draughts, parents who are willing to drive them to as many lessons as necessary, but it didn’t work out. Sure, the kid will become a candidate of master of sport, but will never become a champion. People like this need to understand that draughts are not their sport and do something else before it’s too late. But it’s really said when the ones who have such a spark leave”.
The draughts grandmaster takes a very serious and creative approach to his non-draughts related work. When training chess players, he sees his main task as awakening an interest in children. Chess is extremely popular in Kazan, particularly now after the ‘Carlsen-Karjakin’ match, which was widely covered by the media.
“I recently received a call from a young mother. Her kid was 28 months-old, and she asked whether it was time to start playing draughts”, the grandmaster laughs.
Dmitry doesn’t view his coaching work simply as additional income. He doesn’t count the hours, but rather gladly spends time with young chess players and enjoys finding the ones who show a spark of talent and developing this talent.
He didn’t initially work as a chess coach at the Nezhmetdinov School where tournaments are held, but at a different place. Nobody demanded anything from the coach there: children would attend and everything was fine. But Dmitry said this wasn’t enough for him – he lured children to tournaments at the Nezhmetdinov School, which resulted in ten kids passing the junior class standards in less than a year.
“In draughts I already have an image. Now I’m trying to create one in chess”, Dmitry says. “At lessons, I am always cleanly shaven, always in a jacket, am never late and I try to work in such a way that the kids enjoy it and that parents enjoy bringing them to me”.
Dmitry always gives his students a chance. When kids miss lessons, he emails them homework so that they can come to a lesson after a long break and catch up with the group if they wish.
Coach Tsinman has one rare trait for coaches – he doesn’t view successful pupils as his “property” and gladly refers them to colleagues when they demonstrate positive results.
“Budding competitors get lost in sports only because their coaches can’t part with them, but also can’t contribute to their further growth”, he says.
Draughts only make up a tiny part of Dmitry Tsinman’s professional activities. He leads a sports advancement group and does so quite successfully: his students Andrey Gnelitsky and Denis Shogin have successfully made themselves known in the adult draughts community.
Text: Lev Godovannik
St. Petersburg, December 2016
Winner of the 2016 World Cup in classic and blitz draughts, three-time champion of Russia in blitz draughts (2003, 2008, 2010), champion of Europe in rapid draughts (2012) and an international grandmaster
Dmitry Tsinman was born on 12 December 1980 in Kazan to a family of teachers: his father Lev was a mathematician and his mother Galina was a Russian language and literature teacher.
In 1998, he graduated from English-focused Secondary School 122 with a silver medal.
In 2003, he graduated from Kazan State Institute of Finance and Economics with a degree in personnel management.
He then served in Military Unit 77210 in Ufa, where he met his future wife Marina.
Dmitry has been Deputy Director of the Educational Sports Department at Nezhmetdinov Central Specialized Children and Youth Sports School of the Olympic Reserve since 18 October.
He has played draughts since he was five and a half years-old. His first success came at age six when he won the Kazan championship among pre-schoolers. At age eight, he finished third in the Kazan Men’s Championship and fulfilled the requirement for candidate of a master of sports.
Tsinman was awarded the title of Master of Sport of Russia in 1996, grandmaster of Russia in 2004 and international grandmaster in 2005.
Dmitry Tsinman’s other accomplishments include:
Two-time winner of the world championship among cadets
Two-time winner of the world championship among juniors (1997, 1999)
Three-time Russian men’s champion in blitz draughts (2003, 2008, 2010)
Multiple silver and bronze prize winner at the Russian men’s championship in classic and rapid draughts
Champion of Europe in rapid draughts (2012)
Silver prize winner at the European championship in rapid draughts (2014)
Bronze prize winner at the European championship in classic draughts (2014)
Champion of Europe in team classification (2009)
Vice world champion in classic draughts (2005)
Bronze prize winner at the world championship in rapid and blitz draughts (2009)
World champion in team classification (2012)
Winner of the World Cup in classic draughts (2011)
Winner of the World Cup in blitz draughts (2016)
Silver prize winner at the World Cup in classic draughts (2013, 2014, 2015)
Bronze prize winner at the World Cup (2012)
Winner of the 2016 World Cup in classic and blitz draughts (2016)