Person of day - 17 APRIL 2023
Ekaterina Kovalevskaya was born in Rostov-on-Don and her trainer was IM Alexander Zakharov, a famous mentor and international master. Ekaterina made rapid progress and played for her country’s Olympic team by 20. In 1994, Kovalevskaya won her first Russian championship- she would win the second six years later, in 2000.
At the start of the new millennium, Ekaterina Kovalevskaya was one of the strongest female chess players in the world. In 2000 and 2001, Ekaterina won consecutive silver medals at the European championship. Her viscous positional style with an emphasis on the endgame was perfectly suited to knockout tournaments, in which she performed amazingly, making it to the semi-final of the 2000 world championship, final of the 2004 championship and quarter-final of the 2006 championship.
Ekaterina Kovalevskaya said the following about the 2004 world championship in Elista – “the tournament of her life”. “During the tournament, Roman Ovechkin was my main helper; he got so over-excited during the tie-breaker with Lagno that he watched the quarter-final with Kachiani through his fingers. I did warn him that our main competitors were still ahead of us; Kateryna Lagno is certainly a talented player, but, in a world championship, experience is decisive, and Ketino Kachniani is a mature, learned chess player that was far more dangerous than young Katerina.
There was another side to the match against Kachiani. When I play in the women’s Bundesliga, I spend a lot of time at Ketino’s home; I know her husband and children well. One can say that Ketino Kachiani and I are friends. And we supported each other in world championships. And here I was, having to focus on defeating a friend! I remember, when I was walking up to the chess board, I was scared not just to smile, but to even look at Ketino. Iwassoscaredoflosingmyfocus.
During the semi-final with Koneru, I lost my strength and my head gave out, but I had one hope left which helped me fight for the championship- a fighting spirit. And a significant one! I was helped enormously by Yuri Yakovich, the coach of Russia’s female Olympic team. When I was bitter after losing the second game, he approached me and said: “Katya, don’t be sad. The match will be won by the one who blunders last”. I understood these words very well and afterwards nothing surprised me in the tie-break. If we rationally assess those matches, it may be possible to lose one’s mind, but we played with hands rather than our heads. When there are 10 seconds left on the clock, the hand makes the move and the clock begins to count down another 10 seconds…in this situation, I could not imagine that I would be the last to make a mistake.
In the final I saw that both Stefanova and I lost all strength and that I could not alter the situation and drive the match home. The most telling game in that regards was the third- I won a pawn and saw that I had a good chance of winning, but reason told me: I cannot…I just can’t. Fortune favours sportsmen who fight until the end. Fortune favours warriors. But when you have no fight left in you, fortune turns away.”
Ekaterina Kovalevskaya played in four Olympiads with the Russian team - in 1994, 1998, 2000 and 2002. She also won the European team championship in 2007.
Several years, Ekaterina Kovalevskaya headed the Juniors’ Commission of the Russian Chess Federating and she performed rarely during that time. In 2011, Ekaterina returned to professional chess when she was nominated by her hometown for the women’s Grand Prix. To the amazement of many, one of the best Russian results was Ekaterina’s: she came third in Nalchik. Kovalevskaya continues to resist the onslaught of younger players successfully and she remains one of the best players in the country.
Ekaterina Kovalevskaya has one son with her husband, Alexander.