Interview with Sergey Romanchuk and Dmitri Salov on 3rd IYPT, 4th IYPT, 4th all-Soviet YPT

Sergey Romanchuk and Dmitri Salov speak on results, highlights, and organization of 3rd IYPT, 4th IYPT, 4th all-Soviet YPT in Odessa, and on their experience in 1990-1991.

Sergey Romanchuk graduated ca. 1997 from Moscow State University. He is now deputy head of Treasury and head of FX&MM at Metallinvestbank, Moscow, and the President of ACI Russia, a financial markets association.

Dmitri Salov graduated in 1997 from Moscow State University. He is now deputy head of Investment and Brokerage at Metallinvestbank, Moscow.

Download: five-page Russian text of the problems for IYPT 1991, from a printed booklet prepared by the Soviet organizing committee in 1991, preserved by Sergey Romanchuk (pdf, also as separate images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.)

S. R. There are indeed many photographs and diplomas remaining from these Tournaments, including all-Soviet and International ones.

In 1990, our team with Eldar Sadykhov (Physico-Mathematical School 18, Eldar Sadykhov as team captain) participated in both all-Soviet Tournament (I guess, in Protvino) and in the International Tournament.

At the all-Soviet stages, PMS 18 ranked 2nd, while PMS 542 ranked 1st, and both could join the International competition because according to the regulations of those days, the USSR was represented with two teams. It was held in the Youth Center Olympiets near Moscow.

In 1991, there were also two teams from USSR, the ours (PMS 18-SUNC MGU), which ended 1st at the all-Soviet Tournament in Odessa, and the Combined team of USSR which included the strongest students from other teams.

I can give you contacts of two more participants of International YPT of 1991, Alexei Echkalo from Zaporozhye and Combined Soviet team and Dmitri Salov (PMS 18-SUNC MGU), who both work now at our bank. They can possibly offer you some additional materials.

I. M. Do you have information on any other Soviet participants at the IYPT 1990? There have been reliable information on a team from Riga, and also reports of a Soviet Combined team. Do you possibly remember what were the results of your team, and what team ended as a winner?

S. R. I do not remember anything about Riga.

The winner at the International Tournament of 1990 was Physico-Mathematical School 542, while we ended 3rd or 4th, I do not remember exactly. But I will have a look at the diplomas.

D. S. I can add that Sergey himself was the team captain of PMS 18 (SUNC MGU) at all Tournaments of 1991 (he did not mention that.) The International Tournament was also held in Olympiets. That year, besides our team and the Combined team, I certainly remember Poles (because we drank Porto together), Czechs (we had a Fight where I opposed them.)

All the rest is obscure, including our final results in the ranking table.

I positively have some photographs, and possibly lomography pictures from that Tournament and possibly more, as I need to look for it.

Yes, Sergei Dmitrievich Varlamov was our teamleader. Those years, the entire Tournament was maintained by the efforts of Evgeny Nikolaevich Yunosov and Varlamov. In fact, they were initiators of the game and, I think, they must have kept materials from that time, and they are, above all, the first-hand factual sources of information. From my point of view, Yunosov (and probably Varlamov) are the authors of the idea behind the Tournament. If you dig into the history of the Tournament, I advise to contact them directly. Sergei Nikolaevich Sergeev should also be able to help you, as he was also much involved into the Tournament (starting from maybe 1991.)

I. M. Participant Boris Baryshnikov, from the Soviet combined team in 1991,  commented “I have also an arbitrary amount of information in my head about the YPT problems, with no structured memories of when they have been discussed. These include estimation of brightnesses for illuminated and non-illuminated sides of the Moon, edges of clouds,  estimates for a best possible record in 100-meter-sprint, something on television scan technology, and “bonfire theories.”

D. S. These are all problems from 1991.

The “bonfire theory” is however already an anecdote. During the Finals of the Union-wide tournament, held in Odessa, we were provided with access to the library of Odessa University, a very beautiful building, by the way. In our team (Physico-Mathematical School 18) there was a Physics Figher, Ilya Romanov.

We achieved Finals and were provided with new problems and a couple of days to work on them, kind of impromptu work. Ilya got a problem, if I remember that correctly, about the dependence of flame height on width and height of firewoods placed into a bonfire.

So we, altogether as a team of PMS 18 (also very proud of ourselves), come to the library of Odessa University, a University that was deeply provincial for our taste. We were keeping in mind that only 150 years ago there were special people in Odessa who made money on carrying pedestrians between two sides of a street through otherwise impassable mud.

So we come at a Reading Room. Serega Sharakin orders a book on Navier-Stokes equations (he got a problem about a suspended plate with water, to estimate damping of oscillations etc.) I take a textbook on surface tension of water (I got a problem on evaporation of a condensate spot “breathed” on a cold glass.) I am not sure what Serega took, but in fact were all are so smart, as smart as Harry Pottter, and then Ilya in all his seriousness (because he had to work on the bonfire problem) asks the librarian: “Do you have anything on the “bonfire theory?” :-) ) It was just the time to hire a special person and carry us to the other side.

S. R. It was my problem about a plate! I reported it in the Finals as well. This can be seen on the photos from Odessa. Laughing out loud about the “bonfire theory”! I almost forgot about it.

I. M. Do you recognize someone on the photo from Belarusian participant Sergei Katsev, taken in Odessa at the 4th all-Soviet YPT?

S. R. I do not recognize anyone from our group, but I have also preserved some photos from Odessa, as well as the problems. In the Finals, the participants were SUNC MGU (1st place), Novgorod (with Boris Baryshnikov as captain) and Zaporozhye (Alexei Echkalo.)

[At the IYPT 1991], the second place was taken by Hungrary, however Wiki says they were at first place. I hope that Alexei kept his winner’s diploma, as he was in the combined USSR team.

D. S. I would like to recommend you to contact a priceless eyewitness of past times, Boris Baryshnikov, captain of combined USSR team in 1991. If I am not mistaken, he also took part in the Tounaments of 1990. I need to report with much regret that my archive of photographs is inferior to the Sergey’s and I simply do not remember other photos beyond those that Sergey has sent.

Sergey Romanchuk’s collection of photos and documents

4th all-Soviet YPT

Odessa, April 1991

4th IYPT

Olympiets, Moscow, June 1991

S. R. The event was held in Olympiets International Center, however the finals were at the Department of Physics, Moscow State University.

Officially, everyone of us represented a combined USSR team (see the document), but in reality there were two teams: SUNC MGU (Kolmogorov Physico-Mathematical School 18), which ended first at the all-Soviet YPT in Odessa in 1991, and the actual combined team, including the best boys from other teams,

The SUNC MGU team (with me as the captain) got the 3rd position in the finals (see the diploma), and the combined USSR team, the first. I do not remember, who ended second.

The SUNC MGU team:

  • Pavel Enin (graduated from Physics Department, Moscow State University, works in Moscow)
  • Dmitri Salov (graduated from Physics Department, Moscow State University, works at Metallinvestbank in Moscow)
  • Vladimir Onishchuk (graduated from Physics Department, Moscow State University, works in Moscow)
  • Ilya Romanov (graduated from Physics Department, Moscow State University)
  • Sergey Romanchuk (graduated from Physics Department, Moscow State University, works at Metallinvestbank in Moscow)
  • Sergey Sharakin (graduated from Physics Department, Moscow State University.)

The combined USSR team:

  • Boris Baryshnikov (graduated from Physics Department, Moscow State University, works at Microsoft in the US)
  • Dmitry Butrin (graduated from Physics Department, Moscow State University, works as head of economical politics section at Kommersant, a Russian business newspaper)
  • Alexey Echkalo (graduated from Physics Department, Moscow State University, works at Metallinvestbank in Moscow)
  • Alexander Osyka,
  • Irina Shcherbachenko..

S. R. Romanchuk at Moscow State University.

S. R. Team of SUNC MGU in the Central Physical Lecture Hall of Physics Department, Moscow State University: Varlamov (team leader), Salov, Onishchuk, Sharakin, Romanov, Enin.

S. R. Team of SUNC MGU near the entrance to Olympiets.

S. R. Participants of the YPT on the staircase of Physics Department, after the Finals.

S. R. Participants of the YPT on the staircase of Physics Department, after the Finals.

S. R. Romanchuk, Enin, French team captain, Sharakin.

I. M. I have forwarded the photo to the French team leader, Jeanne Stoliaroff, who wrote a detailed account on the event.

S. R. Nikolai Koblyakov (captain of the YPT team from Physico-Mathematical School 18 in 1989) with girls from the English team, on the staircase of the Physics Department.

S. R. I do not remember what is this team :) .

S. R. Teams from SUNC MGU and England near Olympiets before departing to attend the Finals: Romanchuk, Onishchuk, an English boy, an English girl, Koblyakov, Salov.

I. M. Many thanks for this very important information.

S. R. Thanks should go to you for such a painstaking work.

The interview was primarily taken on March 22, 2010. Further discussions and fact checking spanned between October 8 and October 29, 2010, with documents and photos traced and scanned by Sergey Romanchuk on October 12 and on October 14, 2010.

Sergei Katsev speaks on 5th IYPT, 4th all-Soviet YPT, and shares original photos and printed documents

Sergei Katsev, now a researcher at the University of Minessota-Duluth, was a team member in gold co-winning Belarusian team at the 5th IYPT (1992) and an early Belarusian participant at the 4th all-Soviet YPT (1991). He corroborates  important information on the 5th IYPT, and unveils untraceable earlier documents and details, including the Russian problem set for 1992.

Sergei Katsev (b. 1975) graduated in 1998 from Belarusian State University and earned his PhD in 2002 from the University of Ottawa. He is now assistant professor at Large Lakes Observatory at the University of Minessota-Duluth, focusing on sediment-water interfaces in natural and anthropogenic aquatic environments, and writing about his daily experiences in an LJ blog.

Download: two-page Russian text of the problems, without title, printed with a dot matrix printer, provided by Russian organizing committee in 1992 (pdf.)

Download: three-page brochure with the schedule of the 4th all-Soviet Young Physicists’ Tournament (Odessa, April 11-18, 1991), in Russian, photocopied from typewriter printed pages (pdf.)

I. M. Can you suggest if the problem set included into the 1992 paper by Leonid Markovich was indeed discussed during the 5th IYPT, or some problems were at a certain moment replaced? The tricky point is that problems are different among different sources (one version has a problem about lifting ping-pong ball instead of “Dam” (No. 3) and an additional 18th problem about “Superpreserves”; one version has 24 problems overall; and one more version replaces No. 6 “Matches” with a problem about height of a flame.)

S. K. I am pleased to hear that someone is still interested by those Physics Fights.

Seemingly, the problems are perfectly correct. There was certainly “Dam”, and no balls for ping-pong. Matches were there as well.

Concerning the 18th problem, to invite us for a Napoleon cognac, Markovich has never ended up with clearly formulating the issue :-)

I. M. Did you possibly preserve photos, leaflets or notes from 1992? What problem did you report in the Finals?

S. K. I certainly have something at my home. I can scan it for history :-)

Maxim Zaitsev and I reported “Fountain” at the Finals. The most work was performed by Maxim, and I only assisted him.

I dug into my archives and found the tasks in Russian. There are no pictures from the Tournament itself, but there is a picture of the entire team taken at the graduation party (from the Lyceum of Belarusian State University), including persons who worked on the problems, but could not go to the competition, because only 6 persons in a team were permitted.

Left to right are (with participants marked with *): Misha Khusid (*), Dima Chigrin (*), Sergei Lyapko, Leonid Markovich (team leader), Maxim Zaitsev (*, captain), Sergei Katsev (*), Alexander Klimovich (*), Dima Bogomolov, Maxim Chechetkin, Shura Bernstein (*).

The only one missing is Roma Loznikov, who constructed a train on magnetic suspension for the first problem.

I have also copies of a report for “Boiling”, schedule for the all-Soviet Tournament in Odessa in 1991, and a group photo from Odessa with three or four teams altogether.

Here is the Minsk team, several people from Odessa, and members of several more teams, but I do not already remember who is from where. I remember only the name, Irina, of a team leader from one of these two teams. Next to her is Leonid Markovich, our team leader.

It would be interesting to trace how many participants of the Tournaments of those days continued to work in physics. Out of six players in our team, three are directly connected to physics (besides me, Dima Chigrin and Max Zaitsev work at German universities), and one resides in Belarus (Klimovich.) Misha Khusid and Shurik Bernstein graduated from MIT, but Misha works now as an engineering manager, and Shurik decided to devote his life to travels worldwide.

I. M. Many thanks.

The interview was primarily taken on September 28-29, 2009 and on October 8, 2010.

Interview with Eldar Sadykhov on YPTs of 1989-1991

1989, 1990, 1991, Historical IYPT interviews — ilyamartch @ 1:53 pm

>Details on YPT activities of one of the enthusiastic Soviet teams in 1989-1991, are shared by Eldar Sadykhov, team captain from Moscow School 18 in 1990.

E.S. I am very pleased to receive from you such a message from the past! Yes, I indeed was a participant at the all-Soviet, and then at the International Tournaments. Sergei Dmitrievich Varlamov was indeed the team leader. Our team in 1989-1990 included:

  • Sergei Dmitrievich Varlamov, leader
  • Myself, captain
  • Sergei Romanchuk (after graduating from university he worked, and possibly still works in Metallinvestbank, as one of the top executives there)
  • Anatoly Savchenkov (he studied at the Department of Physics, MSU, then worked in Braginsky’s group on resonators for a large Americal interferometer, left for America, works in science)
  • Pavel Mikheev (I lost the contact with him, I know he was from Stary Oskol, Belgorodskaya Oblast)

I remember a few details on the team from Physico-Mathematical School 18 of previous season, 1988-1989:

  • Andrei Vladimirovich Belov, leader
  • Nikolai Koblyakov (he later was an owner of a large company that was either record label, either CD producer)

The other year, the team of School 18 (possibly renamed into SUNC MGU then) included

  • Sergei Romanchuk, captain
  • Sergei Dmitrievich Varlamov as the team leader again

I don’t remember further details, as 20 years passed by. I suddenly found contacts of Sergei Romanchuk, who was the captain of the team that followed the mine in the next year (I think it was already called SUNC MGU.) He has seemingly even preserved some photographs from that time.

You certainly know that the Tournament was led by Evgeny Nikolaevich Yunosov. I am always pleased to recall my early years!

Eldar Sadykhov was born on September 14, 1973 in Fryazino. He entered the Physico-Mathematical School 18 in Moscow in 1988, developing a keen interest in astronomy. He works now at Art-Navigator, a web studio in Moscow.

Eldar summed up his YPT experience in an autobiography published in March 2006, “I got fascinated by an interesting game, Young Physicists’ Tournament. Something in between of Physics Olympiads and a team game in defending diploma on a given theme. My interest meant that I become the captain of the boarding school’s team. And we won at the all-Soviet competition. In both personal and team score. This helped me a lot, because as winners, we were awarded with papers that allowed going with no examinations to any physical or mathematical university in the country. Without that we would never be capable of writing essays at entry examinations – Oblomov, Goncharov, Pushkin – impossible… And like that I – immediately – appeared at the… Department of Physics, Moscow State University.”

The interview was primarily taken on October 16 and November 26, 2009.

Reports on 4th IYPT in Bull. Union Phys. (1991)

1991, Historical IYPT documents — ilyamartch @ 12:00 pm

>Jeanne Stoliaroff brought the first French team to 4th IYPT in 1991 and published a detailed report in Bulletin de l’Union des Physiciens in November 1991 and problems in French translation in June 1991. The report contains many informative first-party accounts and detailed analysis of the event, and was re-printed as abstracts in Soviet Referativny Zhurnal in 1992. The French and Italian teams in 1991 acted as observers only.

Download: original report, in French (pdf.)

Download: commented problems for 4th IYPT, in French (pdf.)

Download: abstracts in Referativny Zhurnal, in Russian (pdf.)

Translated Referativny Zhurnal abstracts (Ref. Zhurnal, 8A, 10, 1992):

8 A88. Report on the International Young Physicists’ Tournament. Compte-rendu du tournoi international des jeunes physiciens à Moscou / Stoliaroff Jeanne // Bull. Union Phys. – 1991. – 85, No. 738. – P. 1493-1497. – Fr.

The Fourth International Young Physicists’ Tournament was held in Moscow on the base of Lomonosov Moscow State University on June 23-28, 1991. Secondary school students of 14 to 17 years were the participants. 7 teams were announced in total: England, Hungary, Holland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, USSR (two teams.) French and Italian teams participated as observers. The Hungarian team of young physicists ended up as the winner. A Russian-language report is published in the September issue of Kvant.

Interview with Peter Fedorcsak and Peter Falus on 4th IYPT

>Details and recollections on the 4th IYPT (1991) are shared by the members of gold-winning Hungarian team in 1991, Peter Falus and Peter Fedorcsak.

Peter Falus is the instrument responsible for Neutron Spin-Echo spectrometer at the Time of Flight and High Resolution Spectrometers unity of Institut Laue Langevin in Grenoble, France.

Peter Fedorcsak is the laboratory chief at the Rikshospitalet University Hospital in Oslo, Norway.

P.Fed. I have quite a vivid, but rather fragmented memory of Moscow ´91. I was like 18, it was quite a chaos all around, so it must have been difficult to focus. We’ve stayed at a large youth compound (hotel?) near Sheremetjevo airfield and were bused around the city for sightseeing. One trip went to the physics department of Lomonosov university, located in a hilltop in one of those skyscapers of Stalin era (seven sisters?), where we were given a physics show with fountain of liquid nitrogen, and all that infotainment stuff that you get 20 years later in science museums. We were impressed.

Since that time I have given up physics, graduated in medicine, and now live in Norway. I have still my old records back in my parents’ house in Hungary, so I shall send you all the photos and other stuff I may have kept.

Some time ago I found a webpage on Hungarian YPT participants, probably not any more available, which I attach.

P.Fal. I was indeed at the tournament. It was held in Olympiets for sure.

I.M. How exactly did your team organize preparation? Did you have joint meetings, collaborative experiments or everyone worked on their own research projects?

P.Fed. I am quite uncertain with the details, but it is how I recollect. We were a small band (n ~ 10) of high school pupils from around the country who attended a seminar at the Eötvös University. It was an invitation-only event, and I guess performance on various national tournaments was a selection criterium.

The seminar was held once a week (or bi-weekly?) by folk from the physics department, and had a more general purpose of motivating for higher level physics than just preparation for competitions. Something similar was also in place for maths, and some guys went also there. Skarpits & Rajkovits selected the team from this band.

I.M. Was Lajos Skrapits your only team leader during the IYPT, or Zsuszanna Rajkovits went to Moscow in 1991 as well?

P.Fed. I think Rajkovits was also there.

I.M. There are questionable accounts of a separate “Russian” and a separate “Soviet” teams at the 4th IYPT.

P.Fal. I cannot remember from where the Soviet teams were.

I.M. Was it a common practice of making reports with paper posters, or with transparencies and overhead projectors?

P.Fal. It was all oral with classic transparencies ( transparent foil+permanent pen, no inkjet printers yet ;) )

P.Fed. Transparencies were used.

I.M. Did the Russian remain the most used working language at the 4th IYPT? Was your team accompained with interpreters, or you were sufficiently fluent in Russian?

P.Fal. I think most of us spoke Russian in the team but the official language was already English (to make sure the Dutch visitors understood everything, so the tournaments after could be international) I do remember receiving questions both in Russian and English, though.

P.Fed. We used Russian. That time I was quite fluent, as was Peter Falus, so we were the interpreters. As far as I remember, my contribution in physics was more limited.

I.M. Did you have an impression that the Tournament was already influenced by political instabilities in the Soviet Union (such as formally independent teams from former national republics, changes in travel documents etc.)?

P.Fed. No, it didn’t. I was some years before in the Soviet Union on a Komsomol tour, and this one was just as efficient, if you like.

P.Fal. Well I just started to travel those days I had really no comparison how it was before. I found Russian burocracy difficult (invitation letter, visa whatever), but I heard it was already a simpler procedure than before. I vaguely remember market places where you could buy anything if you had dollars, and shops where you could buy nothing for rubels. At the competition though none of it was felt, it was strictly scientific.

I.M. According to your impressions, most reports at the YPT were theoretical or there were many teams performing good experiments?

P.Fal. There were definitely good experimenatal works. At that time I was already quite experimental oriented, would not have been interested in the tournament if it was otherwise.

P.Fed. It was more experimental than we anticipated. I cannot recollect ever doing experiments on preparatory courses, but the other guys had quite a practical knack (especially, Peter and Istvan), so it went fine.

I.M. Do you now have an impression that the IYPT was much more “research oriented” than “problem solving” competition?

P.Fal. Definitely yes as I already told you. We just came that time from the Physics olympiade (in Cuba) which was strictly problem solving. I did feel the difference.

I.M. I am checking when the IYPT was re-drawn into the version that it commonly used today. The earliest known appearance was in 1982 for a local Moscow event, but then the logo was slightly re-designed into it’s current form around 1990-1992 or even earlier.

P.Fal. I did not really recognize this logo, I think in 1991 the two knights were on one blue shield, and I think h\nu was not written on the knights rather betwen them? But not exactly sure about this.

P.Fed. I cannot say for sure, but I think it was there.

I.M. Can you recall what problem did your team report at the selective Fights and in the Finals?

P.Fed. I can hardly recollect anything of the contest, apart from a single problem I was given to deal with: determining the in situ oritentation of a 3×3x3 cm large wooden cube.

P.Fal. I do remember presenting the “geyser” problem which I modeled by immersing a wire wound power resistor in water and observing the eruption period versus water temperature and heating power.

After looking at the problems, I think we definitely presented : 3,4,8,9 ( geyser, self excitation, tv screen photo, propeller) I am sure 3,4,8 were my projects. I probably presented self excitation in the final ???

One another note, I found it interesting the many interviewees do not live in their home country. Did you find it like that too?

I.M. Yes, that might be true about people living abroad, but it is difficult to generalize, because it might have been easier to trace them and to find out they were IYPT participants.

Could you detect any notable differences between the English problem set prepared by the Soviet Organizing Committee and the Hungarian translation for 1991? (some problems are found to be about entirely different topics in parallel language versions for some early IYPTs.)

P.Fal. For starters, the Hungarian and English translations do correspond (except that there are more typos in the English version.)

I.M. Andras Czirok vaguely recalled Peter Falus to be with him in the 3rd IYPT’s Hungarian team.

P.Fal. We never went to IYPT together, Andras went to the 3rd and I did go to the 4th.

I.M. Thank you.

Interview with Alexander Morozov on 6th IYPT, 5th IYPT, Soviet and Ukrainian YPTs, educational influence of IYPT

1991, 1992, 1993, Historical IYPT interviews — ilyamartch @ 7:10 pm

Alexander Morozov, now a researcher at the University of Edinburgh, has been a participant of the 5th IYPT (1992), 6th IYPT (1993), and several national and regional tournaments in 1991, 1992, and 1993 on behalf of Odessa and Ukraine. In 1993, his team was a silver winner at the 6th IYPT, held in Protvino, Russia. Alexander analyzes the long-term educational influence of the Tournament and clarifies many organizational details of early IYPTs.


I.M. When did you first take part in a Young Physicists’ Tournament?

A.M. It was in 1991, if I am not mistaken, when Evgeny Yunosov held an important large nationwide Young Physicists’ Tournament in Odessa. I am not absolutely sure, but seemingly it was the Soviet YPT. For the first time, I became a YPT player at this 1991 competition. The team of my school, the Richelieu Lyceum, took part in the Soviet Tournament in Moscow a year before, in 1990, but I did not play at that time.

I.M. Where exactly this assumingly ‘All-Soviet’ YPT was held?

A.M.It was held in the Pioneers’ Camp ‘Molodaya Gvardiya’ (Young Guard) just at the coast of Black Sea.

I.M. What were the achievements of your team at the ‘Soviet’ Tournament of 1991?

A.M.We reached the Finals, but ended at the third position in the Final Fight. Besides me, the team included Valentin Topelkin and Igor Zozulya.

There were teams of Zaporozhye and, probably, SUNC MGU at these Finals.

The decision to launch the All-Ukrainian Young Physicists’ Tournament was taken after this Soviet-wide competition. In 1992-1993, the Ukrainian YPT was held in Odessa.

I.M. Did your team take part in the 4th International Young Physicists’ Tournament in 1991?

A.M. No, we did not go there.


I.M. In what Tournaments of 1992 did you participate?

A.M. Well, at least in the large All-Soviet Young Physicists’ Tounament and in the International Tournament in Protvino.

I.M. The Soviet Union was no longer existent in 1992. It seems strange that such a competition was called a ‘Soviet’ Young Physicists’ Tournament.

A.M. I am not certain, but it seems to be that it bore that name :-) .

I.M. Where did the 1992 ‘Soviet’ Tournament take place?

A.M. After a certain amount of efforts, I recall that this place was called Lesnaya Polyana. It was quite a lonely place outside Moscow.

I.M. After searching for a while, I may assume that this place was the Lesnye Polyany resort facility (les-polyani.ru). Does it seem correct?

A.M. Seemingly, yes.

I.M. What were your achievements at this competition?

A.M. We reached finals and approached the absolute winners with a very narrow margin. There were discussions if to grant us with a shared first place, or with a second place.

We were awarded with the shared first position, in the end.

I.M. What problem did your team report at the Finals of the ‘Soviet’ Tournament of 1992?

A.M. It was a problem about the water flowing through a dam. Igor Zozulya was the reporter. By the way, exactly as it was in 1991, our team included me, Igor Zozulya and Valentin Topelkin.

I.M. You were a participant at the 5th IYPT, where the teams of Belarus and Czechoslovakia were reported to be gold winners. Who were members of the Ukrainian national team at the 5th IYPT?

A.M. There was a strange decision. The national Ukrainian team would consist of three persons from my team (namely, me, Igor Zozulya and Valentin Topelkin), and two persons from Zaporozhye (I cannot be quite sure that this is precisely correct.) It was due to the fact that my team represented Odessa, not the entire Ukraine. I cannot be sure if this decision was taken by Ukrainian authorities or by the organizers of the 5th IYPT. If I am not mistaken, Yunosov himself took part in the discussions.

When we arrived to Protvino, it turned out that the second half of the team was not able to come. Therefore, only three of us played at the competition.

Our team could not report several problems, because they were expected to be developed by the second half of our team. That is why we reached Semi-Finals, but did not pass farther. We were not among finalists, but I cannot remember our exact position.

I.M. When did the 5th IYPT take place? There have been references that it took place on April 25-30, 1992.

A.M. It was held in Summer 1992. It is absolutely impossible that it took place in April.


I.M. Am I right that in 1993 you took part in a Ukrainian national competition before joining the Ukraine’s IYPT team?

A.M. The team that I was tightly affiliated with ceased to exist in 1992, when everyone graduated from secondary school and entered university. I was a year younger than my team mates and could play in 1993. Therefore, I was a member of the team of Richelieu Lyceum (Odessa) that consisted of very young inexperienced students. We ended third at the All-Ukrainian Tournament, held in Odessa.

The winners, another Odessa team, gained the right to participate at IYPT and invited me to join them. In result, I may say that the Ukraine was represented in Protvino with a team that won a selective tournament, plus me, who joined the national team without technically deserving that.

I.M. How much time did your team spend in preparation to the 6th IYPT?

A.M. We didn’t have much time for preparation. We worked for a month, or so.

I.M. Who was the chief organizer of the IYPT in 1993?

A.M. Evgeny Nikolayevich Yunosov was the principal organizer of the Tournament. I also recall a surname Varlamov. Seemingly, he was a Moscow team leader, but he was associated with the Organizing Committee.

I.M. I may say that Sergei Varlamov was a prominent YPT activist in early 1990s. He brought the Russian team to the gold medals at the 7th IYPT in Groningen, Netherlands. After retiring from training Russian IYPT teams, he focused on the Physics Olympiad and, also, the Physicists’ Tournament for University Students which he now supports and promotes.

Could you clarify where exactly the 6th IYPT was held? Where did the participants live?

A.M. The Tournament was held in Protvino. The teams lived in a hotel, which was a rather high 10- or 12-storey building located on the main street. In 1992, everyone lived in exactly the same hotel.

Photo courtesy of A.M. Stepanets

I.M. After some searches, I may say that it must have been Protva Hotel (protva-hotel.podmoskovie.info). It is a 12-storey building, located on 4, Ulitsa Pobedy in Protvino, Moskovskaya Oblast. Ulitsa Pobedy (Victory Street) is the central street in Protvino.

Where did the Opening and Closing ceremonies and also the Physics Fights take place? Did they take place at the Protvino-based Institute for High Energy Physics?

A.M. The Physics Fights were held at a Conference Center, on the same street, in some 500…700 meters from the hotel. An observation station for the accelerator was located just there, near the center of Protvino.

I.M. After further searches, I may assume that this Conference Hall was inside the ‘Proton House of Culture’, located just there, on Ulitsa Pobedy.

Photo courtesy of A.M. Stepanets

It might possibly have been the House of Scientists, located near Moskovskaya Ulitsa.

Photo courtesy of A.M. Stepanets

I.M. What teams took part at the 6th International Young Physicists’ Tournament in 1993? There have been references to the teams of Belarus, Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Moldavia, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

A.M. Well, the team of Ukraine was my team :-) . There was no other Ukrainian team. I clearly remember the teams of Belarus, Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Netherlands, Russia and Slovakia. I cannot definitely confirm the participation of other teams.

I.M. There have been indications that, all in all, 19 teams from 11 countries took part at the 6th IYPT. If confirmed, it would be a unique case in the entire IYPT history, meaning that one or several nations were likely to be represented with much more than 1 or 2 teams. There are concerns on the validity of these reports.

A.M. I vaguely recall Selective Fights where the teams were distributed in a ’strange’ (non-uniform) way. Theoretically, the number of 19 may be correct.

I.M. Was it a common practice of making reports with paper posters? Were there any teams that used transparencies and overhead projectors?

A.M. Usually, the reports at the All-Soviet and All-Ukrainian tournaments were made with paper posters. At the International Tournament, almost everyone used transparencies. It was considered a ‘gesture of desperation’ if someone wrote with a chalk on blackboard.

In 1993, the team of Netherlands brought a laptop with PowerPoint presentations. I am very doubtful of how they showed it. If I am not mistaken there might have been a technique of projecting the slides with a common overhear projector. Unfortunately I don’t remember that clearly, but it is even possible that they had a laptop with a transparent LCD panel that allowed projection to the screen when placed on the overhead.

I.M. Did the Russian remain the most used working language at the 6th IYPT?

A.M. Yes, almost every team spoke Russian at the Physics Fights. It was the working language of the Finals as well.

I.M. How was organized the interpretation for the Dutch team? Did the Organizing Committee supply interpreters?

A.M. Well, yes, the interpreters were available. However, they were senior university students or young researchers who have just passed their exam in English language. Unfortunately, it didn’t assist them to interpret complicated speech in real time. It was quite often that a certain juror assisted such an interpreter of even replaced him.

Once, I personally interpreted the Dutch report at a Physics Fight when we played together. It was humorous :-) .

I.M. Was there any interpretation for the Dutch team during the Finals?

A.M. I cannot say that for sure.

I.M. The ranking tables after the 6th IYPT are quite obscure. Can you recall the achievements of any teams?

A.M. If I am not mistaken, the best four teams were distributed in the following way:

  1. Georgia
  2. Ukraine
  3. Hungary
  4. Czech Republic.

I.M. What problems were discussed in the Final Fight?

A.M. I must say that at certain Tournaments of early 1990s, the Finals were held with absolutely new problems distributed in a day before the Final Fight. However, it was not a practice for IYPTs.

I did not make a single report at the Tournament of 1993, because no one challenged our team with ‘my’ problems. In the Final, we won a preliminary fight that allowed us choosing the sequence of stages. We announced that we would like to make report in the last stage. We had a prominently developed solution to the problem “Gagarin’s Record” that I was expected to present.

After certain tactical manipulations, the team of Georgia could challenge us with either the problem “Gagarin’s Record” either the problem “Capacitor/s” that we had already reported in the Selective Fights.

Unfortunately :-) , the Georgian team made an absolutely reasonable decision of not challenging us with “Gagarin’s Record”. So, we reported a problem on Capacitor/s and the Georgian team opposed us.

The Georgian team reported the problem “Dominoes” which proposed to study the propagation of a wave in the line of falling domino bones.

Problem No. 6 “Gagarin’s record”: “In April 1961 Yury Gagarin set a world record for the fastest round-the-world orbit space flight. Suggest the cheapest way of beating this record. Note that not every record may be officially recognized.”

Problem No. 8 “Dominoes”: “Dominoes are placed vertically at a small distance from each other in a long row on a table surface. Make the first domino fall and the “wave of the falls” will proceed along the row. Calculate and measure experimentally the maximum speed of this wave.”

I.M. Who was your team leader and could you recall the names of your team mates?

A.M. My team leader was Sergei Kolos. The captain of my team was Roman Stepanyan. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the names of other team mates, because I met them in the very last moment before the IYPT. As I have said, I was invited to join a team that I was not affiliated with before.

I.M. A number of problems at today’s tournaments are focused on the soft condensed matter physics, which is of common interest for you and me. There are many topics concerning polymer physics and physics of complex fluids (such as the rheological behavior of shear-thinning fluids, Kaye effect, Weissenberg effect.) Colloid solutions, surfactants and various capillary instabilities appear in problems every year. Were there any problems of this type in early 1990s?

A.M. Typically, there were not many ‘exotic’ problems. However, the topics in soft condensed matter appeared regularly. I recall a problem to study the form of a solidified stearin droplet after it fell from a large height into cold or hot water. There was a problem on the maximum speed of a toy ship propulsed by means of soap (perhaps, it was proposed to construct such a ship.)

Long-term educational influence of the Tournament

I.M. Did the Tournament leave positive impressions on you? Do you think it provided you with certain skills necessary in life?

A.M. Positive impressions? Definitely, yes. It was fascinating to travel to different cities, to communicate with people of the same age and the same interests, to compete etc. Skills in life? Probably, yes. But certainly not in science.

Several years after I entered the university, I became more or less indifferent to Olympiads and Tournaments. In my opinion, the form of the Tournaments that I observed when being a player, contributed to developing skills that were not quite important in science, and were harmful sometimes. In many cases, it was required to quickly think and to present yourself in a bright form, but not to draw validated conclusions.

Please, don’t get me wrong. If someone presented a solution with errors, these errors were immediately revealed. However, the background knowledge and substantial achievements of participants did not play as influential role, as certain irrelevant aspects did.

It would be very interesting for me to trace the biographies of the participants of the Tournaments of 1991-1993, in which I participated. I would be eager to find out the percentage of participants that became involved into scientific activities, and how successful they are nowadays. It is possible to detect these things with the reference indexes for their publications (Web of Science). I assume that the result would be depressing. Among my immediate acquaintances, there were many persons whom I considered much more intelligent than me. None of them is associated with scientific activities today.

I should notice that my partially negative perception of the Tournament is caused by nothing but this ‘distortion’, when the Tournament achievements failed to match the later scientific achievements of a certain person. This perception appeared much later.

When I was a player myself, I was sincerely fascinated with every new Tournament and they constituted the brightest events of those years.

I.M. I personally think that today’s YPT community apprehends your concerns very seriously, because it is of greatest importance to find a balance of competition (that motivates participants and is a cornerstone of any YPT) and highest scientific standards in very broad and nuanced sense.

A.M. If one assumes so, I would agree that concept of YPT is a leap towards “thoughtful analysis and considerable immersion into the subject”. It is then very important that the grades for a given research project are adequate. Otherwise, we may eliminate all enthusiasm of participants, event the greatest.

I.M. What was the atmosphere of the Tournaments of 1992 and 1993?

A.M. It is difficult to formulate an answer. Everyone had a great will to win and therefore the relations between teams were quite troubled, and hostile in certain cases. Throughout the tournament, when many teams were not passing to consequent Rounds, the mood and the atmosphere were progressively increasing. But that was not the case for the finalists :-) .

I recall the experience of the International Young Physicists’ Tournament of 1992. Then, the Georgian team did not pass to a certain Round (possibly, before Semi-Finals) and offered us to take advantage of their operating prototype of a Magnetic Suspender. It was assembled for demonstrations for the problem “Magnetic Suspender”. However, they seriously competed with our team before.

An element of competition was prevailing. Physics played a secondary role, unfortunately.

I.M. How attentively did the Jury consider the novelty and originality of solutions?

A.M. Well, my opinion is biased, by default :-) . In my opinion, if there were no evident faults in the solution, the attention was mostly paid to the clearness of presentation. I still recall the impressions of my own presentations. I was quite a weak, as a physicist. However, my ability to explain myself in a transparent way often led to my prevalence over other participants that were much stronger than me, in terms of physics. It pleased me and depressed me at the same time.

I.M. What was the weakest point of the Tournament concept, in your opinion?

A.M. If I consider the Tournaments that I personally attended, I think that the greatest problem was that they convinced the participants that every problem had a predetermined solution.

It might have been implicit. However, after the Finals, certain participants might have concluded that they just have seen a “best” or a “correct” “solution” of a problem.

When a person, who is very successful in this method of operation with science, faces real scientific work, he might experience physiological difficulties. At first, there is no guarantee that an answer exists. At second, even if it exists, it is never known (any problem is easily solved if you know someone has solved it before.) At third, the solution of a real problem might take several years, while a large portion of these years are gaps when you cannot obtain any result.

It is very uneasy if someone experiences such “failures” after he was repeatedly told that he was successful, he was winning at Olympiads and Tournaments and he should go into science.

But in reality, the reason for such problems is not a “bad luck” or a “lack of skills”, but simply wrong expectations of what a real science is.

I may be flawed with these assumptions, however :-) .

I.M. I cordially thank you on behalf of everybody who is interested in the history of IYPTs. Your personal memories and skeptical analysis are very important for today’s activists and organizers of the Young Physicists’ Tournaments.

A.M. Thank you for your questions. Of course, I don’t remember every detail and my answers are evidently not complete. I hope that one day I could also get access to several documents that might remain in Odessa. I very hope that in result I could help you.

Alexander Morozov was born in 1976. As a student at the Richelieu Lyceum (Odessa), he took part in several national and regional Young Physicists’ Tournaments, at the 5th IYPT (1992) and at the 6th IYPT (1993), where his team was a silver winner.

After graduating in 1995 from Odessa University (Ukraine) and receiving his Master’s degree from the same university in 1997, he researched into soft condensed matter physics and taught undergraduate courses in the University of Groningen (Netherlands).

In 2002, he defended his PhD thesis “Orientational Transitions in Block Copolymer Melts Under Shear Flow” in the group of Hans Fraaije. He worked as a postdoc at the University of Leiden on pattern formation and flow instabilities of polymer melts, discovering a so-called “subcritical transition” in Couette and Poiseuille flows, when the flow is linearly stable but non-linearly unstable. In January 2007, Alexander moved to the group of Mike Cates at the Universityof Edinburgh (United Kingdom) winning the fellowship from the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Alexander Morozov has co-authored over 20 journal articles. His main research interests include hydrodynamic instabilities and transition to turbulence in visco-elastic fluids, shear-induced phase transitions in block-copolymers, flows of dense granular matter, vesicles adsorption and also the Theory of Quartz Crystal Microbalance (QCM).

The interview was primarily taken between January 28 and February 3, 2008.

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