It's not often that a sportsman stops playing to take up coaching at the peak of his career. But that's what Alexander Goloshchapov – one of the most renowned chess Grand Masters (GM) from Ukraine – chose to do.
Goloshchapov ended his playing career in 2007, when he all of 29, and decided to travel world over as a full-time professional coach. And the country that seems to have benefited most from it is India. The likes of Parimarjan Negi, who became India's youngest and the world's second-youngest GM in 2006, and Shiven Khosla, who is one of the youngest International Masters in the country, and GM Vaibhav Suri are some who have trained with the Ukranian.
"It was quite a successful experience. My very first coaching stint was with Negi, who was at that time 12 years old, I think. And he became the second-youngest GM in the history of chess. So my name became quite known in India and I got some more students," laughs Goloshchapov, now 36.
He was back in India recently for a short trip, this time to conduct a coaching session with kids in Mumbai. Considering that he has quite an eye for chess talent, where does he rate the Indian kids in comparison to the other countries?
"It's no secret that India is the one of the most strongest and leading countries in children chess. You have very talented children, for whom chess is not just a hobby but more. So you're on the right way. I believe you have everything that the new generation needs to become very strong, but it is also important for the kids to receive maximum support from the state level and academies," he says.
Unlike most kids of the present day, Goloshchapov started the sport at nine, which, by his own admission, is very late for modern chess. But like many of his compatriots, he went on to become a world renowned player. So what's the reason for the constant influx of chess prodigies from his part of the world?
"The Soviet Union has some great chess schools and a very strong chess tradition," he says. "The sport is a very significant part of our growing up and is supported very well. In my childhood, for instance, children had great conditions to grow. They had great support at the state level and we played a lot of tournaments for free. Everything was paid by the state. Everyone could play chess – whether you're rich or poor or from any family — the sport was very easily available to everyone."
In stark contrast to how he played the sport as a child, Goloshchapov doesn't approve of kids learning chess in computers, a trend followed presently.
"The older generation did not learn the game through computers. So they were stronger in their basics. I tell the kids to try all their innovations at home. They can refer to computers if needed to see if they are right, but you should not be dependent on a machine," he says.
And yes, the Ukranian feels the era of Magnus Carlsen's domination has begun, after he defeated Viswanathan Anand in last year's World Chess Championship.
"I think it's a normal process. It was going to happen one day. The young generation was going to rule, and guys like Carlsen will rule for the next 20 years or so. But if Anand still has the motivation and hunger to defend the title, he should play on," he signs off.
Full name: Alexander Goloshchapov
Born: January 25, 1978; Ukraine
Became GM in 2001; IM in 1996
Ended his playing career in 2007, with a FIDE rating of 2568