Michal Konopka: “Czech Republic produces a new chess genius every 20 years”

The players from Czech Republic prepared for the Olympiad quite seriously. Women had a 3-day training session, men participated in individual training. This information was revealed by the captain of the Czech team Michal Konopka and his reserve player Vlastimil Babula.

 – How does your team perform at the Olympiad?

Michal Konopka: We won 6 matches, lost 3 and drew one. And there is one match left to play...

 – Are you achieving your goals?

M. K.: Discussing our goals is rather difficult... Our team has a very stable lineup for many years – only Viktor Laznicka joined it more or less recently, in Turin. Before Dresden our results were okay, but the 2008 was a year of shame – we finished just 38th. In addition, we almost repeated this result at the European team championship last year. So now our main goal is to make progress and “rehabilitate” Czech chess players.

 – There are many talented players in your team. Is it difficult to work with them?

M. K.: No, I have excellent relations with the players. Our leader David Navara is a good and honest man, although sometimes he gets distracted by the game too much. In one of the games, for example, he got so interested in the position that lost on time. However, usually he plays very well. Viktor Laznicka (board 2) is a very good sportsman, and his rating is already 2690. Zbignev Hracek, our former leader, plays on the 3rd board. Jan Wotava, who plays on the 4th board, is the only player who is having a really bad Olympiad. However, you can find people who perform below their rating in every team. Four of our players do well, and Wotava is just out of form.

 – Vlastimil, could you comment on your individual performance at the Olympiad?

Vlastimil Babula: Recently I was told that I have the best score on my board. However, I value the team results more, because the Olympiad is a team event. I just try to play good chess, and it seems to work.

 – Everybody knows the Pardubice festival, which is the biggest in the world. What are other things about chess in Czech Republic we should know?

M. K.: Our country is a chess country! We have great tradition. Maybe outstanding grandmasters come from Czech Republic – Richard Reti, Salo Flohr, Vlastimil Hort... Unfortunately, funds for chess development are very limited at the moment. However, there are private sponsors who help a great deal. They sponsor David Navara’s matches against strong grandmasters for many years. David already tested himself against Vladimir Kramnik, Anatoly Karpov, Alexey Shirov, Boris Gelfand, Vassily Ivanchuk, Judit Polgar... We also organized two matches between veterans and strong women team.

 – How do you look for talents in your country?

M. K.: We carry out regional and national competitions on regular basis, so we quickly find out those who should be able to compete at the professional level. According to the statistics, Czech Republic produces a new chess genius every 20 years. David Navara definitely belongs to this category.

 – What are your impressions about Khanty-Mansiysk and the Olympiad?

M. K. This Olympiad is organized perfectly. There are no problems with catering, accommodation, transportation, and the playing hall is excellent. I am here for the second time – I was in Khanty at the 2007 World Cup with David Navara. I like this city a lot – it is a small, cozy and beautiful place.