1 September 2019

Olga Girya: Perfectionism Helps Me

The champion of Russia gave an interview to Eteri Kublashvili

- Olga, congratulations on your victory. You have worked for it for a long time, played in several Superfinals, but you couldn’t win any of them. How did it work out this time?

- This time, I played well from the first round onwards. I maintained decent positions and I liked the way I was playing. When I had seven points out of eight, I only needed 1.5 more points, but I began to get nervous. I lost with Black to Aleksandra Goryachkina, after which the fight for the first place tightened. Then there was a sense of déjà vu: we were playing a tie-break with Natalija Pogonina, just like last year. When everything was over, I watched it: there wasn’t much in the way of chess. I only had my last reserves of strength left, and nerves started getting to me.

- In the last round, you finished your game early and went home. Did you watch Natalija’s game? Were you worried?

- Of course I watched it, how could I not? I also prepared myself a little bit. Their game was very tense and I think Natalija just grabbed the victory. 

- How did you feel before the tie-break, considering that you had lost in Satka in an identical situation? Did you think about this at all?

- Well, somehow experience compensated for everything. I was a lot calmer this time. I felt that my nervous state in Satka was not repeated here. I played with more confidence and wasted less time, but of course I was nervous.

Tie-break for first place

- To be honest, it seems that you are getting stronger with each year. What do you feel is the reason behind this development in your career?

- It’s difficult to say that I am betting much stronger, since my rating two years ago was higher by about 50 points. I am only just beginning to recover it. Superfinals are a different story. My “favourite” place used to be fourth, in the sense that I almost always finished there. And so there were additional emotional stresses, especially last year, when I finished in the top three for the first time, because a list of failures impeded me, despite my desire to win a Superfinal.

- You obviously spend a lot of time on chess. How many hours a day do you devote to training? 

- On regular days, I train for three hours. However, every other day I work from morning until night. I would like to implement a timetable that I’ve developed over the last few months: 5-6 hours of chess per day, alongside physical activities (right now that is running,swimming and yoga). I only began to try this at the start of this summer, so I sometimes pause the routine. My habits of spontaneous training sometimes prove too strong.


Olga played as number 1 in Udmurtia

- If it’s not a secret, who do you work with?

- I don’t want to reveal my trainers, but I’m very grateful to everyone who’s helped me. During this tournament, I mostly prepared on my own, but it would have been much more difficult without some advice from certain people. But I like to prepare. My mother helps me a lot during tournaments which she attends, because she often says: “That’s enough, let’s go to eat and take a walk”. Soshehelpsmetoavoidover-preparation.

- How important for you is your close one’s support during a tournament?

- I think it’s revealing that my mother has been to the last two Superfinals, and I managed to split first place. It’s a very demanding tournament. If you play a bad game, your thoughts revolve around that. It’s necessary to have someone who will support you and distract you from negative thoughts with a conversation on other things. Often, mother would tell me about something and I would still be in my own world, so I would ask questions ten times over. I think it annoys her quite a bit, but I’m very grateful to her, since she is the best second I could ask for.

The awards ceremony. The Governor of Udmurtia Aleksandr Brechalov, Natalija Pogonina, Olga Girya with her mother Viktoria and Aleksandra Goryachkina

- Other than the title of champion you also won a Renault ARKANA car. Do you drive?

- I have a license, but they’ve been unused for three years. Right before the tournament, I recounted how to sit behind the wheel; I asked my father for permission to drive my parents to our dacha (summer house - ed.). But I think I absolutely have to drive now.

- One hundred percent. Is your dacha far away? How long did you drive for?

- No, no! I didn’t drive the whole way, only when the largest roads were behind us. I still can’t imagine how I will navigate the Moscow Ring Road.

- There is nothing too dangerous on the Ring Road.

- In Moscow too…I got my license in Vidnoe, where there are some jams, but mostly it’s calm and clear, with no bottleneck traffic lights.

- In Moscow, you just stand in traffic all the time.

- But there are some crossroads where I don’t understand where to go, who goes where, where is the light…

Evgeny Tomashevskiy and Olga Girya are holding certificates of Renault Russia

- Don’t worry, everything will come with experience. And with a navigator. I’d like to talk about your life story. You were born in Langepas, and this city lent its first letter to LUKOIL. How did you become interested in chess in an oil city?

- My father is a good children’s coach. He now works in the Pioneers’ Palace on Vorobyovy Gory. When I was young, I would sometimes attend competitions even if I wasn’t playing in them. And chess was taught at school in junior classes. Thanks to father, the city’s administration and the director of my school sometimes we were sent to tournaments. In 2005, we went to the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk as spectators, to learn the game. I think that happens rarely, and we owe it to our wonderful director- Nadezhda Fedorovna Koryavina.  

- Did you sense during childhood that chess would become your main profession?

- Yes, we began to travel and I started to win medals at Russian championships every year. But alas, I wasn’t able to demonstrate anything during European and world championships. But in 2006, I was invited to Moscow to study at the school for Olympic reserves and the medals started flying in from everywhere, including world championships. 

And here I want to say a big thank you to my trainers- Sergey Arkhipov and Valery Chekhov. 

We had a very strong group of girls, some of whom are playing in Superfinals today: Alina Kashlinskaya, Anastasia Bodnaruk and I. Anastasia Savina has moved to work in France. Studying at university was a big step forward in chess for us, and for me in particular. We also studied with Elena Tairova, who was a prize-winner at a Superfinal when she was just 14. On August 28thshe would have been 28; we were devastated to lose her and I think about her a lot- she was a wonderful chess player and a great friend.

- Yes…And then you enrolled in RSSU, didn’t you?

- Yes, I lived in university housing for a long time. Then the family moved to Vidnoe. During my time at university, I studied in the Anatoly Kaprov School with Alexander Kalinin, before working with Vladimir Belov.

- You moved from Ugra a long time ago, but do you maintain contacts with the region, besides a team?

- I represent the region and I often visit Khanty-Mansiysk. I’d like to take this chance to thank the President of the Ugra Chess Federation Vasiliy Filipenko, the director of the Ugra Chess Academy Galina Kovaleva and all the staff in the centre. That region supports its sportsmen better than any other, and I consider myself very lucky. Alas, I have no more relatives in Langepas. But I was recently invited there to award the best sportsmen of the year and give simuls at schools. I loved visiting my hometown and going back to the places of my childhood for a few days- it was a very emotional moment.

- Amazing! You seem to be very positive person. But it’s impossible to win without the sporting killer instinct. How do you combine these contrasting qualities within yourself? 

- Yes, the killer instinct is necessary in sport. 

- Do you have to transform your personality during games? How does that work for you?

- I think it helps that I’m a perfectionist. It helps me to work and to win.

- So it’s more important not to destroy your opponent as much as it is to show your best qualities?

- Yes, I have no desire to destroy anyone. But usually, when I set myself a task, I try to do everything to accomplish it.

Aleksandr Brechalov presents the award to the Russian champion

- During an interview you have in the Superfinal, you said that you focus yourself through music, sport and walks. Which musical and film genres do you prefer?

- I don’t have time to watch films during the tournament, unfortunately. But to distract myself, I listen to different podcasts of Arzamas radio, podcasts on books and I get recommendations from a program on literature. My brother reads a lot, and he suggests some things to me from literature, cinema, television and radio.

When it comes to music, I think father would be glad to know that I spent a lot of time in the Superfinal listening to Queen, because I never liked it when I was a child and he would play their songs. I wasn’t old enough, considering that I listened to Star Factory back then

- You took your energy from Queen while in Udmurtia, didn’t you?

- Yes, I did. I also like Russian rock and folklore, like Melnitsa. I generally like Russian music, so usually, I just turn on Yandex Radio and it selects something for me. So it’s difficult to identify someone so specific, but I would like to mention Melnitsa.

- You don’t have time for films during tournaments, but what about time outside of them? Maybe you’d recommend a TV series, since that’s what most people seem to be watching nowadays? 

- I try to watch most of the films that are released- going to the cinema is a great pastime of mine. But I haven’t yet taken to TV series, since they suck me in and I can’t stop. Someone recently recommended Love, Death and Robots to me- it’s about different problems of the future. But I rarely watch TV series.

- Yes, they are addictive. Do you have a favourite book?

- Yes, Jack London’s Martin Eden. I started reading this author’s works with this book and after, I wanted to read all of his books. I also like…But Martin Eden is certainly his finest. From the classics, I would point out Victor Hugo and Lev Tolstoy. I read War and Peacein one go as a grown-up. I also like pleasant books; I can’t tell you how many times I re-watched and reread Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings

- What about sport? You run, swim and practice yoga. Do you watch any competitions? Do you support any team or individual performer?

- I rarely watch sport, only when some large competition like the Olympics is on. Then I support all Russian athletes. But yes, I like running, as you saw for yourself. I’ve began to read about running, about sportsmen and marathon-runners. These people have an iron will and there is a lot to learn from them. I’m very interested in all that.  

- Do you plan to run a marathon or a half-marathon for yourself?

- To be honest, I spent six months last year preparing for a half-marathon, but it was cancelled at the last moment. After that, I didn’t have much time to run, but my dream of running a half-marathon remains; I think I’ll run one, but later. Right now, I’m running smaller distances, like 10 km and I try not to miss any runs that last 5-10 km.

- Welldone! Many take note of your stylish taste in clothes. When you go to a tournament, do you think through outfits for matches? Which brands do you like?

- Usually I start packing in advance. I think how much I need and I plan sets of clothes for each of the 11 rounds. But everything always ends at night, right before the flight, and I end up throwing everything I can see into the bag (laughs). It’s particularly hard to pick shoes, because I have a lot of them and I end up having to choose. 

I don’t have any favourite brands. It’s been a long time since I went shopping (laughs). I’m planning to put that right with some friends sometime soon. When we went on holiday to Italy, we visited some designer stores, so our break had both culture and shopping.

- That’s interesting; you travel a lot for work. Which countries and cities did you like most?

- To be honest, I just want to go somewhere and rest. I think my favourite place which I would revisit is Krasnaya Polyana, since it has both mountains and the sea nearby. 

I really enjoy being by the sea and I don’t mind which sea it is. It’s not that important for me to swim, but I’d like to know the sea is somewhere nearby. Right now, I rarely find time to take a whole two weeks for holiday, but we’ve recently started to take three-day breaks. I understood that three days was enough to see a city and if you spend the time well, it’ll seem like you’ve been there for an entire week. 

- Iagree, yes. Youmentionedsomeofyourfriends. Are there a lot of them in chess?

- Yes, most of my friends are from chess. 

- Who are you particularly close with?

- Mainly with people from my generation, who I grew up with. That would be Anastasia Savina, Alina Kashlinskaya, Valentina Gunina, Karina Ambartsumova, and Anastasia Bondarchuk. There are also girls with whom I’ve played in a German team, and they support me. They include Irina Zakurdjaeva, Julia Gromova, Anna Gvantseladze, and Dina Belenkaya. It’s difficult to name them all. 

Alina Kashlinskaya and Olga Girya

- How far in advance do you plan your schedule? For example, do you know where you’ll be in January?

- I usually plan ahead. I need a calendar, both for myself and because the chess academy requires it. But sadly, I often have to change it, deadlines are edited and I have to miss some of my plans. I was in a tricky situation just now, because I agreed to a certain number of stages in the Chinese league and one of them clashed with the Superfinal (while I thought it would be played at another time), so I have to miss one of these stages. But everything is pretty clear until the New Year.

- What are your upcoming plans?

- First of all, I’m attending a training camp. October will have the Russian rapid and blitz championships in Sochi. I don’t know about individual plans, but I will definitely play for a team there.

- For Urga?

- Yes. 

- Olga, thank you for the interview. Good luck!

- Thank you! 

Photos by Eteri Kublashvili, Dmitry Kryakvin and Andrey Pozdeev