Reports | February 08, 2013 18:24

Kosintseva sisters: "We won't play under Sergey Rublevsky"

The Russian women's team in Istanbul: L-R Kosteniuk, N.Kosintseva, Gunina, T.Kosintseva

Nadezhda and Tatiana Kosintseva have decided not to continue playing for the Russian women's team as long as Sergey Rublevsky is the captain. "Unfortunately, the Olympiad in Istanbul went for us in the atmosphere of a permanent psychological discomfort and all that in addition to the usual tournament pressure," said Nadezhda Kosintseva in an interview.

The Russian women's team in Istanbul: L-R Alexandra Kosteniuk, Nadezhda Kosintseva, Valentina Gunina, Tatiana Kosintseva | Photo courtesy of FIDE

The next Women's World Team Championship will be held 2-13 March in Astana, Kazakhstan. The Russian team will consist of Alexandra Kosteniuk, Valentina Gunina, Natalija Pogonina, Olga Girya, Anastasia Bodnaruk and Alexandra Goryachkina. This was revealed on January 30th by Evgeny Bareev, head coach of the national teams, in an interview with Vladimir Barsky for the website of the Russia Chess Federation. It was a huge surprise, because two big names were missing: Nadezhda and Tatiana Kosintseva.

The two sisters, number 1 and 2 on the Russian women rating list, had been invited by team captain Sergey Rublevsky in December, but in January they sent a letter back declining their participation because of "the psychological incompatibility". The set an ultimatum for the Russian Chess Federation: "either Rublevsky leaves, or we do."

Chairman of the Russian Chess Federation Ilya Levitov then tried to organize a meeting during a planned coaching session on January 28th to discuss the problems, but the Kosintseva's refused to come to Moscow.

Bareev explained the matter as follows:

According to Rublevsky, after the match with Ukraine at the Olympiad he and the team had a serious talk, during which the coach tried to shake up the team emotionally.

In an interview with Chess-News on the 3rd of February, Nadezhda Kosintseva elaborated a bit on her and her sister's point of view, but what exactly happened in Istanbul was not revealed.

Unfortunately, the Olympiad in Istanbul went for us in an atmosphere of permanent psychological discomfort and all that in addition to the usual tournament pressure. I can't give you any specific examples of Sergey Rublevsky's methods, and which turned out to be intolerable for us. (...) Some of Sergey's deeds were taken by us as unacceptable. We are not going to give you any concrete examples.

The Russian team in Istanbul, with Rublevsky holding the cup | Photo

On the same website an article signed by both Nadezhda and Tatiana reveals a bit more.

It is unacceptable when you feel constantly disrespectful, arrogant, dismissive, sometimes boorish attitude towards yourself and other team members. (...) The captain is responsible not only for the chess component, but also for the atmosphere in the team. And if someone is not comfortable, then there is a problem which must be addressed, and not neglected. Eventually, by the end of the tournament we even stopped talking. So we parted silently - and went home.

The Kosintseva's also explain why they refused to come to Moscow on January 28th: they prefer to solve the issue with Rublevsky privately, "not at a public event" like the planned coaching session.

So far the RCF officials don't seem inclined to take the side of the Kosintseva's. On, again, Chess-News Ilya Levitov said that a different coach won't be discussed for the moment. 

How can you remove a respected man who has just won a gold medal? I mean, the team wins, of course, but he led the team. For me it is, frankly, amazing. I always thought that the big sports result covers everything.

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Niima's picture

Very interesting. Gold or not, when a coach's # 1 & 2 no longer want to work with him, he is doing something wrong.

Patrick's picture

Dear Kosintseva sisters, Please come to the USA and join our great team of former Russians. The coach for USA is very pleasant and friendly, and our national pride will not depend on your performance. That means less pressure on you. We will see to it that the coach brings you tea and biscuits each morning. You can live in sunny Florida just like your old teammate Alexandra Kosteniuk, maybe even convert her over to the stars and stripes herself! See you soon!

sab's picture

"I always thought that the big sports result covers everything." - Ilya Levitov

So he doesn't matter if the captain has "constantly disrespectful, arrogant, dismissive, sometimes boorish attitude towards (...) team members"; as long as the team wins, he can do "everything"!? Interesting insight on the RCF officials mentality.

Wonder what will happen if the team is composed of mens. Will Rublevsky try to shake them up emotionally?

noyb's picture

Hard to determine much with the lack of specific information, but it's nice to see that the sisters wish to resolve things privately. This seems respectful.

Anon's picture

I thought Russia's Women GM team would still win without a coach anyway

Theo's picture

Good point!
Indeed: Pogonina, Gunina, Kosintseva sisters, Kosteniuk,.... should be enough for a killer team already :) who needs Rublevsky anyway ,-)

PircAlert's picture

For lifting the trophy for photo! ;)

sab's picture


Anonymous's picture

And taking credit :)

PircAlert's picture

Do specifics matter at this point? Certain inferences we can make from chessvibes, chessbase reports, however.

1. After all this, the sisters are very polite in expressing, therefore they seem genuine as their concerns are.
2. Even the silver medalistists are looking happy in the picture but not the gold winning sisters.
3. One can make out that the coach Rublevsky is unaware of something seriously wrong with the sisters. This is one of pretense or insensitivity or downplaying or admittance from Rublevsky, neither one is good.
4. Apparently no effort was taken to address a very obvious issue in all this time before the sisters go public.
5. The sisters are very reluctant to come out in the open. If you needed to find another federation before you can express yourselves means, something is seriously wrong. Rublevsky has some clout or enjoys some influence and support.

Unless he patches up or apologizes with the sisters instead of resorting to cover up, I think Rublevsky should be sacked immediately.

valg321's picture

i believe all this has to do with the Istanbul chess olympiad round 8 incident.
If i remember correctly, in a crucial phase of the olympiad, russia & china were going cheek by jowl and at rd8 russia was facing Ukraine. Tatia playing on board 1 slowly outplayed Lahno but after a childish blunder the game transitioned from a sure win (of the game AND round against Ukraine) to a dead draw. Tatia obviously refusing to accept that, continued playing aimlessly for about another 2-3 hrs, in a now empty venue, enraging Rublevsky.

Niima's picture

Wow! That is a story wrapped in an assumption.

Thomas Oliver's picture

The story is itself true and may be part of the Kosintsevas' reasons, see (video and text, pointed out by hylen at Dennis Monokroussos' site). The whole (mini-)story goes like this: The arbiter Zsusza Veroci and Rublevsky were watching the game, Veroci whispered something to Rublevsky, Rublevsky whispered something the T. Kosintseva, she (visibly reluctantly) gave up her winning attempts with rook against bishop.

One fragment of the other Chess News report - not mentioned/translated here but at Chessbase - might be worthwhile pointing out:
"[N. Kosintseva] I'm completely aware of the fact that all of the team members have very complicated characters. It would be hard for us to find a coach which would suit everyone."
So it's at least somewhat simplistic to put all the blame on one side, Rublevsky and the Russian federation?

Septimus's picture

Why would a coach be enraged if his player is fighting to redeem herself??? I'm very skeptical of this story.

Mike's picture

USA would be a very good alternative to Russia? I mean if Rublevsky is the wrong person than fire him and hire a more friendly GM and that`s it. Russia is still chess-country number 1

Anonymous's picture

With the best players in the world on its team, anyone's grandmother could coach the Russian women's team to Gold.

Lee's picture

Both my Grandmothers are dead and yet I still cannot dispute your claim.

Bonnerjee's picture

The photo said it all: It looks like Rublevsky had won Gold and the Kosintsevas were only bystanders.

Every federation on earth would be proud of Nadezhda and Tatiana. They did a brilliant job!

Please play for Germany !!! /// - just a feeling by my heart, not any advice at all ;)

AAR's picture

Typical bitchy women. Either be specific or keep your mouth shut.
Play the emotional blackmail cards with your boy friends.

Lee's picture

Yep, this is singularlay a female related issue.

Since there's never been any male chess players who have clashed with their national coach...

Come on now, lets be at least a little serious.

AAR's picture

Men atleast give reasons.

Women on the other hand.
"its your mom or me".
"its your beer buddies or me".
"its your saturday football or me".

Lee's picture

Sounds like you've been deeply hurt bro.

Time to let the healing begin.

Septimus's picture

I don't necessarily agree with all your points but it gave me a good!

AAR's picture

Don't underestimate the mind games women play - in home and in work places.

SirSchratz's picture

well, is mr rublevsky, by any chance, a bit of a bully-boy? or is this a rare case of deceiving outer appearance .... ?

in any case they are so very much on the opposite side of things that either the sisters' or rublevsky's behaviour is bound to be huge problem ....

"shaking people up" - it needs more from a coach than to just be a good player - shaking too much like a bully can easily lead to breaking, can't it?

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