12 September 2019

Evgeny Tomashevsky: My Wife Motivates Me More Than Anything Else!

The Russian Championship winner answers Dmitry Kryakvin’s questions

– Evgeny, please accept my congratulations on your victory! How was the tournament unfolding for you?

– It was definitely one of my most epic competitions of recently! Indeed, I was not a frequent player in the first half of the year. Anyway, I did try to gather some new ideas and increase my motivation in the meanwhile. I was also busy preparing myself physically and chesswise.

– We did see the difference back in the Votkinsk part of the competition...

– It began with Votkinsk indeed. Now it feels as if the tournament was in some other life, while in fact, it started only ten days ago. My condition after the start was awful, honestly speaking. I chanced to get a winning opportunity against Alexey Sarana. I thought the game had no more life in an absolutely equal position, but my opponent somehow managed to create problems for himself all of a sudden. I missed a one-mover.  

It did not knock me off balance, though. However, the game with Dreev did. I was lucky in the opening in that Dreev went for an obviously bad line. This said, he was well aware of that himself, but it was a sort of mental block. It sometimes goes with too much of opening preparation. Having played 14…e5, he admitted recalling the move as a losing one.

Has this Cambridge Springs line of the Queen’s Gambit been ever tested before?

My game vs. Ipatov from the 2015 European Companionship has remained one of the model games. 14…e5 gives a substantial edge to White. Dreev’s 16...f6 was also a dubious followup, even if quite explainable from a human player's point of view in that you want to prevent checkmate. But it was the case of knowing too much that backfired on me. Going into the game, I secured my second's detailed explanations about 14…e5 and 16…f6. I was actually well prepared up until move 18. It has been long since I was that much better out of the opening. However, I mishandled it... I just needed a fresh take on the position. Had I calculated some lines instead, the game would have been over before long. However...

Instead of 20.Rхd3?, was 20.Rh3 an immediate killer?

Tomashevsky – Dreev

– It was, but I recalled that when preparing for the game there had been pointed out an importance of the rook moving to e3 and capturing on d3. Instead of calculating the lines, it resulted in me convincing myself for half an hour to take the pawn with the rook! Had I seen this position for the first time in my life, ten minutes would have probably been enough to sort things out in my favor. Instead of calculating a direct path to victory, and despite being aware of a strong rejoinder 20…Rf6, I ended up taking on d3 with the rook. I lulled myself into believing that something decisive was bound to turn up for me. However, Rf6 makes the position double-edged. An excellent technical player, Dreev managed to gain a foothold into the position, and I failed to take the better of him.

– And here came the rest day could not have come at a better time, right?

I was feeling down after this game, but the relocation to a new venue came to my rescue. It sometimes happens with the change of scenery.  Massive challenges were in store for me, including two games in a row as Black against Nikita Vitiugov and Ernesto Inarkiev. Further games promised a walk in the park neither, mildly speaking. I managed to stabilize my play after the relocation. We often guessed right about the opponent’s opening choice, although I found myself failing to recall all necessary moves more often than not. But it was quite a preparation that my coach and I had for each of the upcoming games. You see, it was hot not only over the chessboard! It is for this reason that it rather feels as if we had had more than eleven rounds.  

I was lucky to have had games with Vitiugov and Inarkiev not taking up too much of my energy. It was a rich position with Inarkiev, but we made many theoretical moves, and the game proved rather uneventful.

– Do you mean the perpet in the final position was still part of the home prep?

– No, but the gap between the end of home prep and the final position was not too wide. The thing is, up to move 20 there is a predecessor game Balogh – Rodshtein, which was a significant shortcut on the amount of calculation I needed to do. It was a quality game well played by both sides. These two games (against Vitiugov and Inarkiev) steered me back into the right direction.

Then lady luck smiled on me, and I managed to defeat Vladimir Fedoseev. Although it was a decent play from my side, the evaluation was oscillating between equal and better for White, and I had no real prospects of winning. The game gravitates towards a draw more often than not in such cases, but here the scales tipped heavily for White, and I managed to bring the point home. As you enter the plus zone in a tournament like this, and without suffering any defeats at that, you get real hopes of a successful future.

– The men's Superfinal is known to sometimes give a share of first with just plus one under your belt. How were the events unfolding from then on?

– There followed a normal draw with Matlakov. A victory over Artemiev was of high importance, which was probably my best game in the event. My opponents were also giving me chances in the encounters that followed. In-depth analysis suddenly shows that I missed a random chance to get a huge plus against Predke and Jakovenko. Honestly, I thought it was equality both times. The only bad position was against Motylev. Not just bad, I was simply losing.

Had Motylev played other than 38.Kf3, would you have been in deep trouble?

– I think White was winning more than once. I have not analyzed it deeply yet, but both the evaluation and trend of the game point to such a conclusion. In that encounter, I was not practical in terms of home prep. Although an interesting idea, 16…Nd4 burned much of my clock.


Motylev – Tomashevsky


You have to go over many lines, and it is hard to keep them all in your head afterward. When playing 16…Nd4, I was mostly reckoning with 17.Nхd4, and 17.Ne3 was never on my radar! I could have asked my second about 17.Ne3, which puts Black up to no problems at all if you know what you are doing. As opposed to it, I got carried away with a nice but incorrect idea, which gave me so many headaches afterwards. I was happy to bail out. The last round deserves special mention as I am still unwilling to think what would have happened had I missed such a crucial victory at such a crucial moment.

Overall, I think I had a decent event from the quality point of view. I mean the ideas and the amount of efforts I have put into the fight. However, I had problems with the thinking time distribution. It contributed to building up high stress and nervous tension. However, luck was on my side, and neither stress nor tension ended up taking their toll on the final result.

– Having mentioned your second on many occasions, let us now dwell on this person in more detail.

– Alexey Iljushin and I have been collaborating nonstop for almost nine years now. I try to have him alongside me at crucial competitions as he is the person creating a desirable psychological environment. He is a very positive man relieving his trainee of worries related to chess. His insight into chess is far above his rating! Meanwhile, certain drawbacks in calculation are easily corrected by modern engines! Not only is he my second, but my friend as well, which is of paramount importance. Not only can we study chess together, but spend time in each other's company or play football after hard-fought games.

It surprises me indeed that so few people would bring someone else to such important tournaments. Before the Superfinal, I did well at the Turkish League. It was well not so much in terms of the final result, but in terms of the quality of games. I went with my wife there, and I hope we will talk about her later on as I think my triumph in Izhevsk to be her success in the first place. I am greatly helped by presence of a close person at a tournament. This aspect seems to be greatly underestimated.

Ilyushin's share of this Superfinal success of mine is huge! Thus, I won three games in the g3 Grünfeld, in which Ilyushin had many interesting ideas prepared.

– What did your second tell you before the final decisive game?

– He is usually brief and to the point. He knows when to say something like take it easy. This is the right thing to say in moments like these. His approach is a philosophical one as he never builds up unnecessary tension. No words are necessary as the stakes are high. There were no words of admonition in the locker room, no slogans like “Saratov is looking at you.” It was all work peppered with jokes. Going into the decisive game, nothing beats that.

Maxim Matlakov, Evgeny Tomashevsky with his coach Alexei Ilyushin, and Nikita Vitiugov

– I would like to remind readers that your wife Lidia Tomashevskaya is a strong chess player, a U18 world champion back in her time.

– Although playing less frequently nowadays, she is still in chess. She is running many chess projects in Saratov that are related to coaching and refereeing. The most important thing, however, is that Lida is my main motivation! She never stops believing in me, no matter what. Even in those situations when I would abandon all hopes... However, my wife goes on supporting me, still looking for ways to improve things. Everything I did in my life this summer and spring paid off thanks to her, too. I have been on a diet since April. You might have noticed the difference...

– You have put down much weight indeed!

– We are talking about more than 15 kg. This, too, is all happening under her guidance. Omitting the medical nuances, suffice it to say that this is a broad program, psychological on the one hand and a purely physical diet on the other. And me eating dessert with you over a cup of coffee is quite a rare occasion in the first place!

Evgeny and Lidia in the opera

– Are you really feeling better after the diet?

– Yes, being an athlete, I thought I should try to improve outside the chessboard as well. Comparing the current with my peak results of 2015, when I was rated 2750, enabled me to see a pleasant difference. In April 2019, my weight was 96 kilograms, and back in 2015 it was 83-85 kilograms. Now I weigh 78!

My wife, of course, does not study chess with me, but she is constantly full of ideas in various fields, and her support is vital for me. Above all else, we take pleasure from being in each other’s company.

The outsiders were likely to think that everything was sad for Evgeny Tomashevsky, who has long since been playing anywhere. Many people thought I switched to coaching, which seems quite a natural thing to do. A sort of rumor has spread about me taking up a coaching job. In fact, I see nothing wrong with the coaching. I may take it up in due time as it seems to appeal to me. Nevertheless, I have been doing fine without it so far. If you are happy every day, some random failures will not bother you that much. Getting yourself in the right mindset is up to you as an athlete.

– By the way, how chess life is running in Saratov?

– The city is doing fine! I have long since received so many congratulations! I have got many congratulatory phone calls from the natives of Saratov. And not from chess players only. They are also coming from my friends and colleagues.

As for the chess life in Saratov, I do not know the picture well enough. Children's chess is on the rise, as far as I see. They run a huge number of tournaments on a permanent basis with many children participating in them. Back in my time, there used to be as many participants in all age groups as in the U10 group alone nowadays!  I wish we had more official support, though. But people are doing their best, and they love chess in the city, above all else.

– Evgeny, I remember your dad from back the U20 championship of 2003 in Essentuki. How are your parents doing? I think they are the most loyal and long-standing supporters of the Russian champion.

– My father is remembered by many players, indeed! Seizing the moment, I send best regards from my father to everyone who knows him!  He is an extremely positive person and is keeping an eye on all chess events. My mother is not so well known in the chess world, but she has been my most loyal supporter since my childhood years. I mean the most loyal and the most demanding one! I owe everything to my parents. Besides, now that Lida and I are married, I have wonderful mother- and father-in-law. I feel tremendous support from all other members of our "clan" - grandmothers, sisters, aunts... First of all, I am grateful to my family for all my victories!

As we always say in such cases, when Tomashevsky wins, the Tomashevsky family wins. Without fail.

– I cannot but mention that you are now part of the RCF ethics commission. Please tell us more about this commission's activities.

– The job is in full swing, once you have mentioned it. When I agree to do something, it is never for the sake of appearances. I had quite a serious think before joining the commission. However, its lineup did a lot to convince me to join.

– Is it made up of worthy people?

– They are decent people well known in the world of chess. Vyacheslav Borisov may be relatively unknown to broad public, but he is a wonderful and very competent person, always a pleasure to talk to. It is an honor to be part of such a team despite additional responsibilities associated with the job. I take the most active part in some cases, and sometimes they are lenient on me, and I thank my colleagues for this.

Overall, this job is quite a challenge in a sense that many ethical issues are really burning, such as cheating and anti-cheating. The good news is that the legal aspect is in safe hands of the commission chairman, Irina Vladimirovna Lymar, who is an outstanding specialist. It frees you to deal directly with the issue at question. I see my purpose of being part of the commission in that I can better convey the playing chess community's viewpoint on a particular problem. Overall, this is enriching experience. I do not know how long this experience is going to last, but I feel no regrets so far.  

– You have mentioned the issue of cheating. Have you ever had to deal with it yourself?

– I think I have, unfortunately. There have arisen suspicions about several players even this year. One of the latest sessions of the commission was about the Anapa tournament. The Puchkov-Khrushchev-Volkov case. It was a productive session in terms of exchange of opinions and developing a conceptual attitude towards the issue of cheating.

I seem to be in between both extremes of the existing spectrum. If we were to take ardent combatants with cheating on the one extreme, and indifferent or optimistic on the other, then I'm someplace in between. However, those who know me will likely place me into the category of “ardent”.

By and large, only conscience seems to stand between us and cheaters in the modern world. However, in the course of everyday life we never rely on conscience alone to protect us from crime, do we? The topic needs much time to be discussed. I am sure the problem has become an extremely painful one. I fear it will trigger some big explosion in the near future. That is, the problem will gradually shake the entire chess community from amateurs to elite players.

The problem is at least being addressed in Russia, the way I see it. We are gravely concerned with the cheating prevention measures, and Alexander Vasilyevich Tkachev is actively promoting them. We cherish a hope that the relevance of the issue is being fully recognized and will be dealt with accordantly. This is also a separate topic for discussion.

– Do you assess the situation as safer in Russia in this regard?

– The situation with the anticheating measures at the Russian events is better than at the international ones. Suffice it to recall the European championship... This is a disaster from the anticheating point of view! You have less worries when playing in Russia! Firstly, you know nearly everyone around here. Meanwhile, there is no end of fears when it comes to playing in many Swiss tournaments organized outside of Russia. You may fall victim to cheating at any time. I may sound like a broken record, but we are protected only by such a person's conscience more often than not. Armed with modern equipment, having your opponent deceived has never been that easy. Many open tournaments virtually lack any type of control. In Russia, this battle is in full swing, which is quite reassuring for me. Again, let's hope that the dedicated international commission, chaired by Konstantin Landa, is up to the task.


– FIDE has undergone significant changes. What is your take on the new team's performance?

– The World Cup is now free of a 20% tax collected by FIDE previously. Quite an achievement! However, the overall impression is still hard for me to make. The FIDE team is made up of well-known people and chess professionals and looks promising for that reason. I have no specific impressions so far, which is perhaps due to me having lately been preoccupied with own affairs. Participating in some significant tournaments will help me formulate my mind better.  

– Streaming online, Sergey Shipov mentioned more than once that nowadays all leading players were already analyzing with neural networks, and not just with analytical engines. Are you part of this process as well?

– Unless you analyze with advanced technologies, there is no progress for you at all. Neural networks have become a reality. It becomes ever stronger at that. However, one is likely to resort to the analytical means he/she is accustomed to. Stockfish does a good quality job. However, the advent of neural network has vastly influenced the field of preparation.

There is no mistaking its impact in games of leading players. That is, chess has changed so much that even Carlsen has switched from side- to mainlines almost exclusively. The magnitude of change has yet to be realized by us.

– What is your attitude towards the issue of frequent draws, for which the amateurs are constantly criticizing professionals?

– The thing is, the weight of theory is much greater now than it used to be a couple of years ago. It’s hard to believe now, and it was nearly impossible to believe back then (it seemed that a certain software performance threshold for the foreseeable future was not that far away), but almost everything in many games is sealed in the opening. A human factor is always to be reckoned with, as happened in my last round game in Izhevsk when my mind just refused to work. However, if a player rated at least 2700 is physically fit, has had a good sleep and has got an excellent pre-analyzed position, it will be hard to alter the course of struggle to outperform him. Games played at the highest level often see an unprepared or misjudging the opponent’s choice of opening player unable to sparkle the fight. Such a player may even end up resigning.

The reality of what is going on is likely beyond us. The magnitude defies our evaluation! It may even end up affecting chess for the better. Strange as it may sound, the number of draw will decrease. The workloads related to home preparation and over-the-board performance have obviously increased, same as requirements for players that have become tougher. Let us put it this way – even a year or two ago it was much easier to “stamp” draws. There are still many draws as, for example, in St. Louis, in which their abundance is explained by fatigue. We have to keep in mind an overloaded calendar and unwillingness to disclose ideas by many players. A lot more critical for the players World Cup is coming up, after all! With all due respect to the Grand Chess tour, I think the FIDE World Cup and Grand Prix carry a lot more weight with the top players. This is where the maximum amount of efforts and ideas is going to be invested into each game, and the win/loss statistics is to be taken from there for that reason.

Amateurs continue to criticize the many draws, as if we were still in the years 2010-2015, since nothing has changed for them. The engine has been and continues to be of mind-boggling strength for the human player, and it is otherwise hard to spot and evaluate minor nuances with the naked eye. However, chess is on a constant shift, almost on a daily basis, and you should keep pace with it. In modern chess, even a draw may cost you hours of homework. However, criticism is part of a normal process. When watching football, we sometimes lash out against national team players. Still, who are we and who are they?

– Does not keeping pace with the new in chess mean you are immediately out of the contest?

– Failing to do so is subject to swift and merciless execution. A slight slack in preparation will bring immediate troubles. A huge amount of work needs to be undertaken by a player himself unless he is backed up by a good team that is regularly supplying him with fresh ideas.  

– What do you think is in store for us? What will chess look like in some ten years from now?

– Chess was quite different ten years ago, let alone twenty. The future of chess in another ten years feels scary to think about... Will it remain as is after all these innovations? All in all, chess undergoes global and fast modifications. A player better accustomed to new requirements is going to be on top.  A young player with a deeper insight into these requirements will perform better.

– I still remember your opting for the Alekhine Defense in each and every game!

– That is how it was indeed! By the way, I found out last year that I had played my hundredth game in the Superfinal. A hundredth one! That is, it seems that only recently I was a junior player myself... As of now, the number of my Superfinal games is above 110.

– Still, are you not afraid to play and consider it a must to take up this challenge again and again, right?

– This is an outstanding event. I am neither Nepomniachtchi, nor Karjakin, nor Grischuk to have many elite tournaments to choose from. This is an excellent event for me, which gives me pleasure to be part of. Besides, I have had a good history of performing in the Superfinals – this tournament seems to suit me well. Let me add that the Superfinal is never an easy walk in the park. It has many principled and complex games in store for you. People would usually highlight the absence of 3-5 leading players, but I say that those coming here try to deliver their absolute best. Even if someone doesn’t succeed for various reasons, the killer drive and struggle tension are huge anyway.

– Let me steer our conversation into a slightly different direction. After your winning the last round game, I was looking up comments on Facebook to find out that especially triumphant were the fans of an intellectual game show What? Where? When? Do you keep doing a double-job as a chess and intellectual player?

– I seem to have reached my peak and max rating in What? Where? When?  Let us try to convert my intellectual WWW into chess rating. I think I am rated around 2400-2500 there. I might have been a better player if not for chess. I always compete with pleasure as I am part of an excellent well-knit team made up of interesting players in Saratov that is regularly playing and constantly improving. I have an excellent friendly team in Moscow as well. Ian Nepomniachtchi is a frequenter there, as well as Evgeny Margolin, a chess and a strong intellectual player, who is also our mutual friend with Ian.

– I seem to have seen you in the Russian championship standings table.

– We also participate in serious sports version of intellectual contests. This is perhaps the only world I am so deeply immersed into besides chess. I do it on a regular basis indeed.

– What about the computer involvement and cheating in WWW?

– It amazes me that this field is so underevaluated financially. Participating there are the cleverest national intellectuals, virtually geniuses from the point of view of erudition. At the same time, there is no specific prize pool (with the exception of a TV show, which does not correlate at all with the sports version of WWW). It explains the absence of cheating. This is an honest game! This is a closed community, with the participants having correct ideas, respecting the game and going to the start just for the sake of it. I admire it. It has a really stellar lineup of our times. It is a pleasure to know them rooting for me!  

– Have you met the heavyweights in intellectual competitions?

– Of course, I have played and communicated a lot with them. Maxim Oskarovich Potashev was the one giving us master classes when being our teammate. Let me add that I went to the same secondary school with Alexander Korobeinikov, one of the best in WWW nowadays.

– Fancy that!

– We went to the same school and chess circle. This is why I have known him for ages. Besides, I often get in touch with Sergey Shorin, a chess player of Krasnodar and a well-known editor of intellectual questions. I would like to specifically mention Boris Yefimovich Levin - he used to be the program's host when I debuted in the intellectual games, and then we met at the Olympiad opening in Baku. He recently came to Saratov for the final game of the season taking place as part of his author’s project “No Kidding,” where we had a lot of enjoyable time together. The list has many more names than I have mentioned above! There is no need not mention that I look up to these people in WWW and My Game. However, this is a wonderful world. I just like to play there, and this is an excellent hobby.  

– Let us go back to the Superfinal. How do you assess the Izhevsk part of the competition? Having gone through many Superfinals, you definitely know the difference.

– I had six Superfinals from 2005 to 2010, and then there was a break of four years caused by various reasons. This is my fifth event in a row since my return. By the way, these five years have been rich in medals – two gold and two bronze ones

This event should be praised as one of the best in terms of management. I have an interesting story connected with the 2019 Superfinal. I had an optimistic mindset going into it. Approximately a year before my first success in the 2015 Superfinal, I received a phone call from Sergei Rublevsky, probing me: “How do you feel about going to Chita?” I asked him: “Why go there?” He answers: “For a simul, a lecture and a sports festival!” I agreed immediately. I never regretted it - we had enjoyed our time there. There was also a Superfinal taking place in Chita shortly after.

– A sort of deja vu?

– It is. Back in 2017 it was Igor Burshtein asking me: “How do you feel about going to Izhevsk?” 

A sports festival with many children participating was also held there, and everything was organized perfectly. I had a great time there as well. Then they announced Izhevsk as a venue of the upcoming Superfinal, and I managed to take it.

Returning to the organization -– all latest Superfinals show this event's importance for the country's chess life and they are held on a large scale. I think the Izhevsk edition as one of the best. Each detail has been taken into consideration, and both RCF and the event organizer went great lengths to take care of the participants. The idea of holding chess festivals in the regions and museums seems to work just fine.

– The Soviet leading grandmasters must have known something when agreeing to travel around the country with simuls!

– What we see now is a real chess boom. I see it taking place in Saratov. Children are really looking forward to meeting a GM! If I imagine an encounter with a famous GM back in my childhood - I would be the one going there, and, perhaps, a few more like me...

It seems to me that playing a big role in chess promotion was the match between Sergey Karjakin with Magnus Carlsen and its coverage in mass media. It skyrocketed the prestige of chess! Everyone was willing to become a new Karjakin. Nowadays it is all about Nepomniachtchi. We need to keep it going!

– Were you ever recognized on the street? You appeared on TV as part of the program "One Hundred to One."

– I was. Now, the weirdest thing is that they recognized me not only in Saratov. A fresh example - I recently came to the Moscow bar to play WWW, and two girls from another team approached me to take pictures, motivating it with their willingness to take a selfie with a famous grandmaster! I understand that intellectual experts are more into intellectual type of activities, but I was surprised anyway.

As for "One Hundred to One," the program was recorded back in April and shown later after Izhevsk as there was quite a line of programs in the queue for airing. It was a wonderful program and a pleasant company: two teams of Sergey Karjakins challenging each other, pentathletes against chess players. I did not win that day, but enjoyed a great time and got great experience of meeting and socializing with interesting people, our Olympic and world champions - something to remember! The only thing I wish in terms of TV image is that it was about 15 kilograms ago...

A team of chess players 

– How do you assess the prospects of the young Russian players? While Kramnik has called time on his career and Karjakin being in search of a style that suits him better, all our leaders are no longer young after all. Do you think there will come a day when there is not a single Russian player on the top ten?

– We have them there now, don’t we? The recent years have seen Nepomniachtchi maturing into a truly top player both mentally and chesswise. His rich potential has never been a secret, and now Nepomniachtchi is a contender for the highest achievements. Is Alexander Grischuk in his best form now? Has he reached his horizons yet? Sometimes, working to improve your chess in 2019, you come to realize some of Grischuk’s ideas that go back to 2013. It has been the case even with this Superfinal! This man is bigger than life in chess!  Or, going into the Candidates tournament in Berlin, I remember people talking about Sergey Karjakin’s not the best shape. However, Karjakin came back from the minus zone all the way up to nearly becoming a challenger yet again with superb play in the second half of the competition. At least, in major events Karjakin is capable of being the Karjakin. What about our youngsters? Let us not forget our very young players as well. There is no room for pessimism, I believe.

– Nevertheless, the chess mass media is always heralding the advance of the Indian, Iranian, and Uzbek players. It looks like a sort of Eastern front advancing on you.

– I suggest we pay attention to the successful performance of our players instead. It’s just that when a young Indian wins something like a “Copenhagen Open”, it is presented as though it were almost a breakthrough in the world top ten. However, to make the headlines here in Russia, a person needs to take the Superfinal first. There is no lack of strong players at that. Nikita Vitiugov’s and Maxim Matlakov’s results testify to a consistently high quality. What about Dmitry Andreikin's coming to China and outplaying Ding Liren in a classical match as if seemingly effortlessly? What about the great Svidler?

I think we have the work with young players set on right track. Vladislav Artemiev’s performance is great, and Andrey Esipenko is about to grow into a superb player, not to mention many others. Therefore, I am not in the blues. This is perhaps because I have been in Russia all my chess life and know the harsh competitive environment.

– Have you ever given lectures in Sirius?

– Yes, they have a very professional team out there. Firstly, when it is one Vladimir Kramnik in charge of the project, everything will be delivered to the highest standards - this is a mark of quality. Besides, this is an outstanding team of coaches, consisting of Mikhail Shereshevsky, Konstantin Sakaev, and Vladimir Belikov. They are first-class specialists! Not only does Mikhail Shereshevsky give useful pieces of advice to children, he also helped me a lot during my difficult chess period: his advice, including about life in general, is always worth its weight in gold. When I was in Sirius, I saw children like it there, and I also received the most positive impressions myself. Sarana, Esipenko and our other leading young players have been there on many occasions. This is a powerful incubator effect!

How feasible is the idea of bringing up of top players on a large scale in the first place? It seems piece goods after all. The first step is to raise youngsters to a good level, and then take it from there. My decisive game in this Superfinal was played against Kirill Alekseenko, who I had given lectures to only awhile ago.

– What would you like to well-wish to the young players as a parting word?

– One needs to keep up working hard, above of all. It sometimes happens that a player can do well by exploiting his talents only. However, if you want to succeed, you need to take a proper approach. Besides, I wish them to use their brains, to give everything a good thought. The modern chess is not only about the time you invest in studying, but also about the material you use for your studies. In this regard, I always recall Yuri Razuvaev, who used to cite Smyslov in that one small change in the mechanism of thinking can be more effective than six months of work in the wrong direction.  

You always have to be on the lookout for offbeat approaches, to think all the time, to try new ideas to achieve something. This is a way to achieve a lot. Chess is a creative game, after all! Nowadays, everyone is armed with approximately equipotent engines, but winning again and again are same people, as a rule. They are only a few. Making integral part of the victory, besides talents, are brains and nerves.

By and large, the young players of today are hard-working professionals. The above mentioned Andrey Esipenko, my teammate from the Turkish league, is an enviably hard-working fellow. I think if he doesn’t slow down, he will definitely have everything playing into his hands in due time. Same can be said about Sarana, Alekseenko and others.

– You have mentioned Razuvaev, was his influence on you that strong?

– Yes, there is no arguing that. Even returning to this Superfinal, he was the one invariably advising me to employ the g3-setup against the Grünfeld. We had collaborated not so long, unfortunately. We began in 2007, and he passed away in 2012 after having been ill for a long time. However, even this relatively short period of time was enough for Razuvaev to have had such a tremendous impact on me that has persisted up to this day. As for the g3-Grunfeld, I have never employed it up to 2019, and won several games immediately when I did. I obviously needed time to catch up with some of Razuvaev’s ideas.

– I remember you as a true adherent of the 5.Bd2 line, followed by f2-f4 so as to prevent the undermining e7-e5.

– I have essayed various setups against the Grünfeld. I had interesting games against MVL in the 4.Bg5 line some time ago. The first game of importance employing the 5.Bd2 and f4 plan goes back to the Candidates tournament of 2013. It was “against us” (the Russian champion was assisting Boris Gelfand back then – ed.), this is why it has branded on my memory. The idea itself proved excellent. A lot has happened since then. Much in that line depends on particular moves, and the engine reveals them too easy to a curious person.  

Razuvaev was ahead of time in different areas. Not only did it have to do with giving pieces of advice, but with sorting things out in your life as well. His mental insight into life was very deep! He was never much of a talker. I am, for one, using many words to produce an impression. As opposed to this, his few words did a lot more than my many conversations. There are only few people capable of it. Besides Razuvaev, only few people managed to produce a similar monumental impression on me. One of them is the ex-rector of my university, Vladimir Alexandrovich Dines, who we have been keeping in touch with, fortunately. It was only today that he called to congratulate me on my success. If not for him, many of my victories would not have taken place. The same is true about my first coaches, Alexandra Yakovlevna and Alexei Nikolaevich Shestopyorovs, to who I am also extremely grateful. I need to praise my luck for wonderful and outstanding people that I met during my career.  

– Finally, here comes the last and most important question.

What are you going to do with your prize vehicle?

– I am neither a driver nor a car fan, but it is perhaps worth becoming both on this particular occasion. However, let’s wait and see, even if the “vehicle-enabled position” is unfamiliar, it is an excellent one, in which all lines should be carefully evaluated and the best one chosen!  

– Thank you for the interview, and I wish you good luck!

–Thank you for having me!


 Pictures by Eteri Kublashvili, Galiya Karjakina and Dmitry Kryakvin